10 Great Irish Movies To Watch During Your St. Patrick’s Day Hangover
I may live in a land Down Under, but I was born and raised in Ireland, making today an extra important day for getting hammered. When you wake up and regret ever doing anything ever all you want is to curl up on your couch with a plate of potato bread (mix mashed potato with plain flour until doughy, roll it out and slice it up, fry it on a hot skillet brushed with flour), a mug of tea and something to watch. So let’s pick something thematic to watch.
For this list the movie has to be set in Ireland, be about Ireland or be featuring Irish characters and culture. The only reason we’d nix a potential entry is because of atrocious Irish accents – so no The Devil’s Own or Far and Away (not that they’re very good).
10 – Waking Ned Divine
Let’s start with something light. This very British comedy is a set in a tiny, rural town with a small population including the titular Ned Divine. When Ned wins the lottery he suffers a fatal heart attack, followed by the rest of the town pulling together to convince authorities that Ned is still alive so they can collect the winnings and split it between them. It’s a genuinely feel-good comedy with plenty of guffaws to be had, and a touching finale.
See Also: The Matchmaker – a predictable but fun romcom.
9 – War of the Buttons
Here’s one to watch with the whole family (although I’m worried about why your children are hungover). The story revolves around two gangs of children of different class backgrounds and from two villages compete to outdo each other in everything from raffle ticket sales to outright scuffles with the winning side claiming the shirt buttons from the losers (or ‘tosspots’). For the young’ns it’s a believable representation of childhood, something not often achieved in cinema, and for the older crowd it’s a poignant look at the nature of war.
8 – The Crying Game
At the time of release this movie got overshadowed by it’s plot twist (and if you don’t know it, try to remain in the dark). While the film has a lot to say on the subject of relationships it’s context makes it unique. When a member of the IRA encounters a man held prisoner by the group he promises to watch over his girlfriend, with whom he forms a relationship. It’s a powerful psychological thriller with the mother of all spanners being thrown into the mix.
7 – The Van and The Snapper
I’ve bundled these two together because the novels they were based on formed the 2nd and 3rd parts of a trilogy with each story focusing on a different member of a Dublin family. The films are not set up as sequels but carry the same quirky tone. The Van sees the father and his best friend by a chippie fan (something this country sorely needs) that winds up putting a strain on their friendship, and The Snapper sees the eldest daughter reveal her pregnancy but not who the father is. Both films a funny and provide an enjoyable insight into blue collar Ireland.
6 – Darby O’Gill and the Little People
Consider what a rich mythology it has, the fantastical side of Ireland rarely gets much screen time. The famed leprechauns that are often so associated with the country get their moment in the spotlight here when a old caretaker is forced to match wits with the mischievous little blighters. The effects work hasn’t all aged especially well but they’re still charming and there’s an appearance from a young Sean Connery. Watch out for that bloody banshee though.
5 – The Departed
The least Irish of the films in the list, being an American production featuring American actors sporting fake accents, but the rocking ‘Shipping Up to Boston’ over the opening titles more than sets the mood. Based on a Hong Kong movie where an undercover cop infiltrating a gang must ferret out a gang member working for the police. Scorsese transferred to action to the Irish gangs of Boston to great affect and it’s one of the best crime films of the modern age.
See Also: Gangs of New York – same director, same Leo, but winds the clock back a couple of generations.
4 – In the Name of the Father
We weren’t going to get far through this list without Daniel Day-Lewis turning up. This biographical, largely courtroom based drama sees Lewis as Gerry Conlon, one of four people falsely accused of an IRA bombing. Through brutal interrogation Conlon signs a confession, which leads to the imprisonment of both him and his father among others. It’s a damning indictment of the justice system and the measure taken to ‘stop’ terrorism. It feels more relevant than ever to the international audience.
See Also – Bloody Sunday sees James Nesbit leading a protest that turned violent, another terrible black spot on the countries recent history.
3 – In Bruges
A sleeper hit when it first turned up in cinemas, we see the embittered Colin Farrell and the excellent Brendon Gleeson as two hitmen from Ireland on holiday in the small, depressing town of Bruges, Belgium. Much of the comedy comes from Gleeson’s enjoyment of the ‘quint’ locale contrasted with Farrell’s boredom and the liberal amount of foul language that comes out of it. There’s a dark twist later in the film that changes the stakes substantially but it’s still a corker.
2 – The Boondock Saints
Every bit the cult classic, the Boondock Saints are two Irish twins who kill members of the Russian mob in defence, and then turn vigilante against organised crime. Their bloody spree through the city is packed with sharp wit and downlight glee in the madness that ensues. It’s like a funnier Reservoir Dogs with Willem DaFoe hamming it up as a detective and Billy Connolly playing a psychotic hitman.
See Also: Anything but the decade late sequel All Saint’s Day. It’s weak.
1 – The Commitments
This isn’t just a great Irish movie…it’s one of the best movies ever, period. Technically the first part of the trilogy that continued with The Van and The Snapper, it sees eldest son Jimmy Rabbitte responds to the 1980s music trends by putting together a soul band. As the popularity of the band grows, and they begin to eye the big leagues, the conflicts between the band members threatens to implode the group.
Backed by a brilliant soundtrack, filled with snappy one liners and directed with a sharp eye it’s a fantastic comedy with heart. You’ll love to hate the obnoxious lead singer (who was only 16 at the time of filming, if you can believe it) and delight in the banter between cast members. The ensemble also features early performances from Glen Hansard (the guy from Once and The Frames), Maria Doyle Kennedy (The Tudors and Orphan Black) and Andrea Corr in a non-singing role as Jimmy’s sister (all the Corr’s siblings do cameo in the film as various musicians). It’s impossible not to love this film.