Top Irish Films to Watch

Pierce Brosnan, televisions Remington Steele at the Berkley Court Hotel Dublin during the filming of a new series of his show, 20/11/1986
••• ndependent News and Media/Getty Images

Irish films, or those at least set on the Emerald Isle, might be the most pleasurable way to prepare for your vacation. But whether you are planning a holiday or just interested in Ireland in general, movies can be a great way to explore the country from your armchair. From the whimsical to the brutally realistic. Here are our ten top picks of movies you should see ... but be aware that this a very personal list! Some classics such as "Ryan's Daughter" and "Man of Aran" are missing, as are "The Field" with the inimitable Richard Harris and the rather uneven "Patriot Games" based on Tom Clancy's novel. 

  • 01 of 10

    Liam Neeson stars as the "Big Fellow" himself while Alan Rickman delivers an icy performance as ally-turned-enemy de Valera. Filmed in Dublin and the Wicklow Mountains this biopic focuses on the War of Independence, the partition and the ensuing Irish Civil War (plus love-interest Julia Roberts). It is historically not always 100 percent correct, but "gripping stuff" nonetheless.

  • 02 of 10

    John Wayne is the famed boxer returning from the USA to Connemara to live a quiet life, which local rivals try to hinder and the flame-haired Maureen O'Hara considerably complicates. The film has made the village of Cong into a Mecca for fans and complete package tours are available, despite half the cast being as "Stage Irish" as possible.

  • 03 of 10

    Limerick still has the nickname "Stab City" due to numerous incidents involving sharp, pointed implements - but is has come a long way from the depressing grayness of Frank McCourt's childhood. Robert Carlisle acts in the seemingly perpetual rain and visitors taking the "Angela" tours offered in Limerick today tend to be disappointed if the sun shines.​

  • 04 of 10

    Ned Devine plays the lotto, wins the main prize - and in a rather untimely manner dies before cashing his new riches in. His village neighbors decide to commit a little sin of omission, not telling the lotto bosses that Ned is now the late Mr. Devine. Because, after all, why should not the village get the money? Pity that this hilarious Irish comedy was actually filmed on the Isle of Man.

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  • 05 of 10

    Ken Loach's powerful dramatization of the Irish struggle for independence follows the "career" of a young, reluctant rebel. While the jury is still out on the historical accuracy of the film, the depiction of events should be taken with a grain of salt.

  • 06 of 10

    Pierce Brosnan took time out from Her Majesty's Secret Service to star as a father trying to be a single parent in mid-20th-century Ireland. Based in part on real events, this at times very melodramatic film highlights the inequalities and bigotry of Irish society during those years.

  • 07 of 10

    Pure feel-good Disney fare based on Irish myths and legends. Switch all critical faculties off and enjoy Walt's version of Ireland, all leprechauns and likely lads and lasses! Small children might be scared by the odd phantom and banshee. Adults might be more scared by a young Sean Connery's stab at musical fame.

  • 08 of 10

    This part-thriller, part-psychodrama film has one of the most confusing twists and is watchable for this alone. The story of a colored British soldier being taken hostage by Republicans is disturbing and raises a number of questions about the conflict in Northern Ireland.

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  • 09 of 10

    Investigative and campaigning journalist Veronica Guerin took on Dublin's drug lords in the early 1990s - they retaliated by killing her in a shooting that certainly sent a message to all enemies. Cate Blanchett stars as the doomed journalist and is seen at actual locations in and around Dublin. Watchable despite the ultimately glum ending. More than a decade after Guerin's death her murder is still unsolved and Dublin's gangland in better shape than better before.

  • 10 of 10

    The Magdalen Laundries provided shelter and work for "fallen girls" ... in theory at least. In practice, a religious order built a viable economic empire on nothing less than slave labor provided by girls and women in their "care". Based on the story of the Magdalen Laundries, this film explores one of the most disturbing aspects of Irish life in the 20th century.