50+ of the Best Irish Movies to watch before you visit Ireland

50+ of the Best Irish Movies to watch before you visit Ireland

Best Irish Movies

The list keeps growing

There have been many movies about Ireland that are not actually filmed in Ireland.  There are also movies that are filmed in Ireland but are not about Ireland such as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Barry Lyndon, The Italian Job and King Arthur to name a few.

I have spent many years collecting my favourite movies about Ireland and this is my personal list of the best Irish movies (that are actually filmed in Ireland and are about Ireland) to watch to feed your need for that wicked sense of humour a bit of craic and some incredible vistas and landscapes.

40 movies filmed in Ireland to watch

These Irish movies, or films as the Irish call them are all set in Ireland and filmed in Ireland movies – it is not meant to be definitive by any stretch of the imagination but I have seen all of these and although some are not brilliant pieces of cinematic art they can be great fun, tragic, educational and above all will allow you to see Ireland in all its glory, good and bad.

Ryan’s Daughter is also not included in this list as it is a film about an English Romance. However it is credited with kick-starting Dingle’s, and indeed Irish, tourism through a three-hour international advert worth its weight in gold. Ryan’s Daughter also brought a profound social and economic change to a region ravaged by emigration and pervasive poverty from which fishing and hardscrabble farming were the only escape.

A view to the Sperrins from Clady, near Magherafelt. The Sperrins Region is located in the centre of Northern Ireland, stretching from the western shoreline of Lough Neagh in County Tyrone to the southern portions of County Londonderry. The distinctive glaciated landscape of the Sperrins constitutes one of the most idyllic geographical areas of rural Ireland and has many waymarked ways and cycle routes.

Are you planning your trip to Ireland – here is everything you need to know

There’s lots more information to be had on this site if you love Ireland as I do. Have a little fun with my Dublin Don’ts and Dublin Do’s before you go and check out the neighbourhoods in Dublin or where to dine.

How to find your ancestors in Glasnevin cemetery

Would you like to move to Ireland?

50+ of the best Irish movies

No Irish movies list would be worth anything without beginning with the classic Irish film starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Probably the most famous of Irish movies…..not to mention the greatest Irish movie of all time some would say….

The Quiet Man

A retired American boxer returns to the village of his birth in Ireland, where he finds love. If you can like the Facebook page for The Quiet Man – they are working to save the cottage used in the film which was abandoned and left to rot for several years.

 

Take the opportunity when you visit Ireland to stop at the home of the Quiet Man Cong 

50+ of the Best Irish Movies to watch before you visit Ireland

Agnes Brown

The unexpected death of her husband sends a woman and her seven children, ages 2-14, into emotional turmoil and financial crisis in 1967 Dublin. The TV series Mrs Brown’s Boys was based on this movie, written by Brendan O’Carroll who now stars as Mrs Brown in the wildly popular TV show. One of my personal favourite Irish movies.

 

Leap Year

Anna Brady plans to travel to Dublin, Ireland to propose marriage to her boyfriend Jeremy on Leap Day, because, according to Irish tradition, a man who receives a marriage proposal on a leap day must accept it. The film was shot in County Wicklow, Dublin, County Mayo and County Galway, with filming taking place in and around the Aran Islands, Connemara, Temple Bar, Georgian Dublin, Wicklow National Park and Olaf Street, Waterford.

 

50+ of the Best Irish Movies to watch before you visit Ireland
Wicklow National Park lake

PS I LOVE YOU

A young widow discovers that her late husband has left her 10 messages intended to help ease her pain and start a new life. Ignore Gerard’s lousy Irish accent. County Wicklow locations include Blessington Lakes, Lacken, Wicklow Mountains and The Sally Gap.

 

50+ of the Best Irish Movies to watch before you visit Ireland

Waking Ned Devine

When a lottery winner dies of shock, his fellow townsfolk attempt to claim the money. Not actually filmed in Ireland but one of the great Irish movies nevertheless.

 

American Women or The Closer You Get

Irish lads send an ad to the Miami Herald inviting fit and enticing women, between the ages of 20 and 21, to live in their isolated Donegal village. Filmed in Kincasslagh which is where the famous Irish singer Daniel O’Donnell hails from. We found this movie by accident and it has become one of our favourites in our list of Irish movies.

 

50+ of the Best Irish Movies to watch before you visit Ireland

The Boys & Girl from County Clare

In 1965, Jimmy McMahon and his group of Liverpudlians plot to win the annual céilí music competition in Ireland. Sadly most of this was filmed on the Isle of Man.

 

Evelyn

1953. Desmond Doyle is devastated when his wife abandons their family on the day after Christmas. His unemployment and the fact that there is no woman in the house to care for the children.

 

Circle of Friends

‘Circle Of Friends’ is set in 1950’s Ireland. The movie focuses on Benny Hogan and her best friend, Eve Malone. The story centres around Benny and Eve as they enter student life at Trinity Uni.

 

Into the West

Grandpa Ward gives a horse he found to his grandchildren, who keep it in their tower-block flat in Dublin. The horse is stolen from them, and the two young boys set out to find it and flee on it. Filming locations included: Wicklow Mountains, Ballymun, Dublin, the beaches of Mayo and Connemara.

 

50+ of the Best Irish Movies to watch before you visit Ireland

The Playboys

A young woman, Tara Maguire (Robin Wright) scandalizes her provincial Irish village in the 1950s by having a baby out of wedlock and refusing to name the father. This was filmed in the writer’s home village of Redhills, County Cavan.

 

Dancing at Lughnasa

Five unmarried sisters make the most of their simple existence in rural Ireland in the 1930s. Dancing was filmed in the Wicklow Mountains and is part of the Irish Movie Tour in the area.

 

Rory O’Shea: Inside I’m Dancing

When the kinetic Rory moves into his room in the Carrigmore Residential Home for the Disabled, his effect on the home is immediate. Most telling is his friendship with Michael, a young man with cerebral palsy and nearly unintelligible speech. Somehow, Rory understands Michael and encourages him to experience life outside the confines of home.

 

5 Minutes of Heaven

The story of former UVF member Alistair Little. Twenty-five years after Little killed Joe Griffen’s brother, the media arrange an auspicious meeting between the two.

 

High Spirits

When Peter Plunkett’s Irish castle turned hotel is about to be repossessed, he decides to spice up the attraction a bit for the ‘Yanks’ by having his staff pretend to haunt the castle. Dromore Castle, County Limerick, stood in for Castle Plunkett in the film.

 

50+ of the Best Irish Movies to watch before you visit Ireland
Drow69 [CC BY-SA 3.0 creative commons

An Everlasting Piece

Colm is a Catholic and George is a poetry-loving Protestant. In Belfast in the 1980s, they could have been enemies…

 

Breakfast on Pluto 

In the 1970s, a young trans woman, Patrick “Kitten” Braden, comes of age by leaving her Irish town for London, in part to look for her mother and in part because her gender identity is beyond the town’s understanding.

 

Da 

A New York playwright is summoned to Ireland to bury his father (his “Da”).  Filmed in Dalkey and Bray county Dublin.

 

Fifty Dead Men Walking 

Based on Martin McGartland’s shocking real-life story.

 

Good Vibrations 

A chronicle of Terri Hooley’s life, a record-store owner instrumental in developing Belfast’s punk-rock scene.

 

In the Name of the Father 

A man’s coerced confession to an IRA bombing he did not commit results in the imprisonment of his father as well. An English lawyer fights to free them.

 

Michael Collins 

Neil Jordan’s historical biopic of Irish revolutionary Michael Collins, the man who led a guerrilla war against the UK, helped negotiate the creation of the Irish Free State and led the National Army during the Irish Civil War. Try to ignore the absolutely horrendous accent of Julia Roberts.

 

My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown 

Christy Brown, born with cerebral palsy, learns to paint and write with his only controllable limb – his left foot.

 

Ondine 

An Irish fisherman discovers a woman in his fishing net whom his precocious daughter believes to be a selkie. Filmed in the gorgeous area of County Cork, Bere Island, Dursey Island and Puleen were some of the locations.

 

Want some different do’s when visiting Dublin?

Once 

A modern-day musical about a busker and an immigrant and their eventful week in Dublin, as they write, rehearse and record songs that tell their love story.

 

50+ of the Best Irish Movies to watch before you visit Ireland
Grafton Street, where buskers play all-day

Philomena 

A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman’s search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.

 

Some Mother’s Son 

Based on the true story of the 1981 hunger strike in a British prison, in which IRA prisoner Bobby Sands. This was filmed in Skerries, Fingal and around County Dublin.

 

Sing Street 

A boy growing up in Dublin during the 1980s escapes his strained family life by starting a band to impress the mysterious girl he likes.

 

The Boxer 

Young Danny Flynn is released from prison after 14 years after “taking the rap” for the IRA and tries to rebuild his life in his old Belfast neighbourhood.

 

The Commitments 

When Jimmy Rabbitte wants to start a band, he has open auditions at his house.

 

The Field 

“Bull” McCabe’s family has farmed a field for generations, sacrificing endlessly for the sake of the land. The ambush scene was filmed at. Aasleagh Falls just north of Leenane village. The Falls are actually in Mayo and are part of the estuary of the River Erriff, which flows past Leenane and into Killary Harbour, home of Ireland’s only Fjord, where much of the film was made.

 

The Guard 

An unorthodox Irish policeman with a confrontational personality is partnered with an up-tight F.B.I. agent to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring.  This was filmed dominantly in Lettermore,  Galway.  Filming took place over a six-week period in Connemara, Leitir Móir, Leitir Mealláin (Lettermullen), An Spidéal, and Bearna with some scenes for filming in Wicklow and Dublin.

 

The Wind That Shakes the Barley 

Against the backdrop of the Irish War of Independence, two brothers fight a guerrilla war against British forces. Filmed mainly in West Cork around the town of Brandon.

 

The Crying Game 

A British soldier is kidnapped by IRA terrorists. He befriends one of his captors, who is drawn into the soldier’s world.

 

The MatchMaker

Marcy is an assistant to Senator John McGlory, who is having problems with a re-election campaign. Desperate for Irish votes. The Matchmaker was filmed in Inishmore, Aran Islands, County Galway in particular Roundstone.

 

The Secret of Roan Inish 

10-year-old Fiona is sent to live with her grandparents in a small fishing village in Donegal, Ireland. The Secret of Roan Inish was filmed on the rugged coastline of Donegal, near Portnoo and Rossbeg, in northwestern Ireland. The perfect Irish children’s movie.

 

Titanic Town

A Belfast housewife takes up the peace cause which causes her family trouble with IRA sympathizers.

50+ of the Best Irish Movies to watch before you visit Ireland

Veronica Guerin 

An Irish journalist writes a series of stories about drug dealers.

 

The Van 

The third instalment of Irish author Roddy Doyle’s ‘Barrytown Trilogy’, following ‘The Commitments’ and ‘The Snapper’.

The Snapper

Set in Ireland, Sharon Curley is a 20-year-old living with her parents and many brothers and sisters.

 

These films were recently recommended to me by a member of the Ireland Travel Tips forum and they are brilliant

Eat the Peach

Two young Irish men are watching an old Elvis Presley movie in which a carnival cyclist performs an act called the Wall of Death. Transfixed, they decide to put together their own “Wall of Death.”

 

War of the Buttons

The children of Ballydowse & Carrickdowse engage in battles in which they cut off the buttons, shoe-laces, belts and braces of their captured opponents. This gets their opponents in trouble with parents. They go to battle in mass groups of dozens, wielding sticks & Slingshots. It’s a battle of strategic skills for the opposing leaders, Including one scene in which the principal gang uses an ancient war trick to overcome their opponents with successful and itchy results.

 

A Love Divided

The true story of a Catholic man and his Protestant wife, and the events resulting in the Co. Wexford, Ireland community when the wife decides she doesn’t appreciate being forced to send their daughter to a Catholic school, despite the local priest’s insistence she is bound by the pre-marriage agreement she signed to raise any children as Catholic.

 

The Treaty

This is another great Irish movie that a reader brought to my attention. Sadly I can’t find it anywhere to watch or purchase so I’m going to check my local library you never know your luck.

In 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty between the unrecognised Irish Republic and the British government is concluded after high-stakes negotiations. It stars Julian Fellowes (he of Downton Abbey fame) plays Churchhill,  and Brendan Gleeson plays Michael Collins. It was a made for TV movie as an  RTÉ – BBC co-production.

And here’s another one This is My Father IMDb says about the film:

“Widowed Kieran Johnson is a lonely, middle-aged, Chicago-based high school history teacher who feels disconnected to his life. He decides to take a trip to his mother’s small old hometown of Kilronan, County Galway, Ireland after he discovers an old photograph of her, she who now cannot speak due to a stroke, with a man he has never seen.”

The film features Aiden Quinn and James Caan, Stephen Rea and John Cusack. Filmed in Ballynockam Wicklow, Dublin, Offaly and County Kildare. Again another one I can’t find so I’m checking the library.

Another reader favourite How to Cheat on the Leaving Cert is a 1998 independent Irish film directed by Graham Jones, in which six teenagers devise a plan to cheat in their Leaving Certificate final school examinations. The film was shot in black and white after being hailed by critics it sent out on theatrical distribution. Many well known Irish faces made cameo appearances and some commentators regard the 2004 American film, The Perfect Score, as a remake.

New Irish Films 2018

Black 47

This film took over €1 million in the Irish box office making it the highest-grossing Irish film of the year. Set in Ireland during the Great Famine, the drama follows an Irish Ranger who has been fighting for the British Army abroad, as he abandons his post to reunite with his family.

Black ’47 was filmed in Galway, Wicklow and County Kildare. Harristown House in Brannockstown, County Kildare was used for the Irish Constabulary barracks. Russborough House and Hollywood Village in Wicklow were central to many of the scenes. Connemara in Galway was used as the vast unspoiled backdrop for the rural scenes.

Rosie

A brilliant film on the housing crisis in Ireland. Rosie is trying to keep her family together when the landlord sells the house she is renting and as a result, she becomes homeless. Filmed in and around Dublin.

So there you have it my favourite Irish movies and some that my readers have suggested that I am working on watching. This is a great list to get you set for your visit to the Emerald Isle.

Fan of the History Channels epic drama the Vikings? Visit the sites where Vikings is filmed in Ireland

25 thoughts on “50+ of the Best Irish Movies to watch before you visit Ireland”

  1. No ‘Eat the Peach’
    No ‘War of the Buttons’
    No ‘A love devided’

    Think you need to make it a top 50,

    In your defence, I now have some New Irish films to look for…

    ?

  2. Best Irish Movie ever is Waking Ned Devine (1998) – starring Ian Bannen & Fionnuala Flanagan, director Kirk Jones.

    1. Many of them you can find on Netflix, and you can also find them on line but you will have to download them. Amazon is also pretty good for picking up the DVD’s at a very cheap price these days as well.

  3. Thomas Vaughn

    I have a large collection or Irish movies. You’ve given me several to add to it. Thanks much

  4. Thanks so much for this list!
    Another one that I remember watching many years ago in my leaving cert history class was the film ‘The Treaty’ but I don’t think it ever became a big hit and must have been a low budget one. But I do remember enjoying it at the time as it as it had good actors and seemed accurate on the sequence of events at s crucial time in Ireland a hundred years ago – the much more famous high budget Neil Jordan film made afterwards, ‘Michael Collins’ must surely have been inspired by it?

    1. Thanks for letting me know about this one I looked it up and it looks really interesting. I think Brendan Gleeson is completely underrated as an actor he is superb and interestingly it also features Julian Fellowes who wrote the Downton Abbey series and movie. Sadly it seems to be one of the movies forgotten by everyone and not available to purchase anywhere so I’m going to check my local library and see if I can find it. I will add it to the article as well just in case people can find it.

  5. Maureen Provost Ryan

    You missed “This is My Father” with James Caan and Aidan Quinn. SO good! Very moving!

  6. the omission of this is my father is ridiculous, not to mention how to cheat in the leaving cert, you should make it 50

    1. I didn’t omit This is my Father if you read the post it is the last film in the list. Now I did not know about How to Cheat in the Leaving Cert and have rectified that so now it is the last film on the list.

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