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
Independent 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, there are Irish movies for every genre. Here are our ten top picks of movies set in Ireland that you must see!

However, 10 movies are not enough to really capture Irish filmmaking. 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" and plays Michael Collins 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. Naturally, there is an added love-interest played by Julia Roberts. It is not always 100% historically accurate, but the storyline is absolutely gripping.

  • 02 of 10

    John Wayne is the famed boxer returning from the USA to Connemara to live a quiet life, though his hometown rivals try to stir up trouble and the flame-haired Maureen O'Hara is a considerable distraction. The film has made the village of Cong into a Mecca for fans and there are even complete package tours based around the cinematic classic. It is a great Irish film, even if more than half the cast was just pretending to be Irish. 

  • 03 of 10

    Limerick still has the nickname "Stab City" but it has come a long way from the depressing grayness of Frank McCourt's childhood. The film stars Robert Carlisle, who seems to always be caught out in the rain. The great Irish movie brings visitors flocking to take "Angela" tours which are offered in Limerick today.

  • 04 of 10

    Ned Devine plays the lotto, wins the main prize and that dies in a truly untimely manner before cashing in on his new riches. His village neighbors decide to commit a little lie of omission and agree that they will simply not tell the lotto bosses that Ned is now the late Mr. Devine. Because, after all, why shouldn't the village get the money? Waking Ned Devine is a hilarious Irish comedy but it 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. The jury is still out on the historical accuracy of the film and the depiction of events in this Irish movie should be taken with a grain of salt, but it is a compelling film. 

  • 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 melodramatic film highlights the inequalities and bigotry of Irish society during those years. It is a good Irish movie for understanding the cultural perspectives of the not-so-distant past.

  • 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 but this is one of the best Irish movies for kids. Though, adults might also be 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. Without giving away too much, this is the story of a British soldier being taken hostage by Republicans. The movie is fairly 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 claimed to provide shelter and work for "fallen girls" ... but this was simply a front. In practice, the religious order took advantage of the 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.