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15 Best Movies About Ireland

These movies about Ireland show its lush landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture, from sweeping historical epics to intimate contemporary dramas, they capture the essence of the Emerald Isle, weaving stories that reflect its complex identity.

Movies About Ireland

These films delve into the heart of the Irish people, their struggles, triumphs, and enduring spirit.

Being half-Irish on my mother’s side I find a strong connection within me for these movies about Ireland and I have seen them all. The first one on this list is my personal favourite.

The Commitments (1991)

The Commitments is a musical comedy-drama film that is a gritty, humorous portrayal of working-class life in Dublin and the struggles of a group of young musicians trying to make it in the music industry.

The story follows Jimmy Rabbitte, a young music enthusiast who dreams of managing the world’s greatest soul band. Living in the working-class Northside of Dublin, Jimmy assembles a motley crew of musicians, many of whom have little experience but share a passion for music. The band, dubbed “The Commitments,” started to gain traction, performing classic soul hits from artists like Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, and Otis Redding.

As the band experiences the highs and lows of rehearsals, gigs, and the tensions that come with fame, personal conflicts and egos threaten to tear them apart. Despite their growing local popularity, internal strife and the challenges of the music business test their resolve.

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

The Banshees of Inisherin is a dark comedy-drama that reunites McDonagh with actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, who previously worked together on the critically acclaimed film In Bruges (not set in Ireland which is why it’s not included here).

Set on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland, the film tells the story of lifelong friends Pádraic Súilleabháin and Colm Doherty. Their friendship takes a dark turn when Colm abruptly decides to end their relationship, leaving Pádraic devastated and confused.

As Pádraic struggles to understand Colm’s decision, the situation spirals out of control, leading to unexpected and tragic consequences.

Belfast (2021)

Belfast is a coming-of-age drama film written and directed by Kenneth Branagh. The film is a semi-autobiographical depiction of Branagh’s own childhood, set against the backdrop of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Set in late 1960s Belfast, the story follows a young boy named Buddy (Jude Hill) as he navigates the complexities of life during a tumultuous period. Buddy lives with his loving family, which includes his mother (Caitríona Balfe), father (Jamie Dornan), older brother (Lewis McAskie), and his grandparents (Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds).

The film captures the everyday joys and struggles of Buddy’s life, highlighting the warmth of his family and community amidst the escalating sectarian conflict. As violence erupts in the streets and tensions rise, Buddy’s family faces difficult decisions about their future and their safety. The narrative is interwoven with Buddy’s personal experiences, his innocent crushes, and his dreams, offering a poignant contrast to the surrounding turmoil.

Michael Collins (1996)

Michael Collins is a historical biopic chronicling the life of Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins. The film provides a dramatic depiction of Collins’ role in the struggle for Irish independence in the early 20th century.

Plot Summary

The film follows Michael Collins from the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising through the subsequent years of guerrilla warfare against British rule, culminating in the negotiation of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the outbreak of the Irish Civil War.

  • Easter Rising: The film begins with the failed 1916 Easter Rising, where Collins and other leaders are captured. Upon release, Collins becomes a central figure in the Irish Republican Army (IRA), advocating for a guerrilla warfare strategy against the British.
  • Guerrilla Warfare: Collins masterminds a campaign of guerrilla tactics, including ambushes and assassinations, targeting British forces and collaborators. His efforts contribute significantly to the pressure on Britain to negotiate.
  • Anglo-Irish Treaty: Under political pressure and seeking a resolution, Collins is sent to London to negotiate the Anglo-Irish Treaty. The treaty grants partial independence to Ireland, creating the Irish Free State but keeping Northern Ireland under British control. This compromise leads to a split among Irish leaders.
  • Civil War: The treaty’s signing sparked a civil war between pro-treaty forces, led by Collins, and anti-treaty factions, including his former ally Éamon de Valera (Alan Rickman). The film portrays the internal conflict and Collins’ attempts to unify the country.
  • Assassination: The film ends with the tragic assassination of Michael Collins in 1922, highlighting his legacy and the complex nature of his political and military strategies.

Wolfwalkers (2020)

Bear with me on the next three on this list as they are animated movies but are excellent to watch to get an insight into Irish mythology. Wolfwakers is actually one of my favourite movies about Ireland.

Wolfwalkers is an animated fantasy film produced by the Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon. It is the third instalment in Moore’s “Irish Folklore Trilogy,” following The Secret of Kells (2009) and Song of the Sea (2014) (see below for those). The film has a compelling story and deep roots in Irish mythology.

Set in 1650s Ireland, during the Cromwellian conquest, the story follows Robyn Goodfellowe, a young English girl who moves to Kilkenny with her father, Bill Goodfellowe (voiced by Sean Bean), a hunter tasked with eradicating the last wolf pack.

Robyn longs to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a hunter, but her life changes when she befriends Mebh Óg MacTíre, a free-spirited girl who belongs to a mystical tribe known as Wolfwalkers. Wolfwalkers have the ability to transform into wolves while their human bodies sleep. Mebh’s mother, Moll MacTíre, the leader of the Wolfwalkers, is missing, and Mebh is determined to find her.

As Robyn and Mebh’s friendship deepens, Robyn discovers her own connection to the Wolfwalkers and the natural world. She is torn between her loyalty to her father and her new understanding of the wolves and their plight. The film builds to a dramatic confrontation involving the townspeople, the wolves, and the authoritarian Lord Protector.

The Secret of Kells (2009)

The Secret of Kells is a 2009 animated fantasy film inspired by Irish mythology and history, specifically the creation of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin.

Set in the 9th century, the film follows the young Brendan, who lives in the Abbey of Kells, a remote medieval outpost under threat from Viking invasions. Brendan is the nephew of Abbot Cellach (voiced by Brendan Gleeson), the stern leader of the abbey who is focused on building a wall to protect it from the marauding Norsemen.

Brendan’s life changes when he meets Brother Aidan, a master illuminator who arrives at Kells with the legendary but unfinished Book of Iona. Aidan encourages Brendan’s artistic talents and tasks him with helping to complete the book. This mission leads Brendan into the enchanted forest outside the abbey walls, where he encounters mythical creatures and faces various challenges.

In the forest, Brendan befriends Aisling, a fairy-like forest spirit who aids him in his quest. Together, they confront the dark forces that threaten both the book and their world, including the fearsome Crom Cruach, a monstrous serpent.

Song of the Sea (2014)

Song of the Sea is the second film in Moore’s “Irish Folklore Trilogy,” following The Secret of Kells (2009) and preceding Wolfwalkers (2020). The film is inspired by Irish mythology and folklore, particularly the legend of the Selkies.

The story follows a young boy named Ben and his mute younger sister, Saoirse, who live in a lighthouse with their father, Conor (voiced by Brendan Gleeson). Their mother, Bronagh, disappeared mysteriously on the night of Saoirse’s birth.

Ben is resentful of Saoirse, blaming her for their mother’s disappearance. However, he soon discovers that Saoirse is a selkie, a mythical being who can transform from human to seal. On Saoirse’s sixth birthday, she finds a seashell horn and a white selkie coat, which allows her to transform into a seal and swim in the ocean. This discovery sets them on a magical journey to save the fairy folk and uncover the secrets of their family’s past.

Their adventure takes them through a world filled with mythical creatures, including the owl witch Macha, who turns creatures into stone to rid them of their emotions, and the Great Seanachaí, a storyteller with a thousand faces. Along the way, Ben learns the importance of his sister, the value of their heritage, and the true story of their mother.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)

The Wind That Shakes the Barley is a war drama film set during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) and the Irish Civil War (1922-1923). It examines the political and social upheaval of the time through the experiences of two brothers.

The story is set in rural County Cork, Ireland, in the early 1920s. The film follows Damien O’Donovan (Cillian Murphy), a young medical student who is about to leave for London to continue his studies. However, after witnessing brutal acts of violence by British Black and Tans, he decides to stay and join his brother, Teddy O’Donovan, in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to fight for Ireland’s independence from British rule.

Damien and Teddy become key figures in the guerrilla war against the British forces, participating in ambushes and attacks. The film portrays the camaraderie among the fighters and the sacrifices they make for their cause. After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, which created the Irish Free State and granted limited independence while keeping Northern Ireland under British control, the brothers found themselves on opposing sides.

Teddy supports the treaty, seeing it as a pragmatic step toward full independence, while Damien views it as a betrayal of their ideals and continues to fight against the Free State. This rift leads to heartbreaking conflict and personal tragedy, reflecting the broader civil war tearing Ireland apart.

Black ’47 (2018)

Black ’47 is a historical drama film directed by Lance Daly. Set during the Great Irish Famine (1845-1852), the film is a gritty and intense portrayal of one man’s quest for justice and revenge in a time of great suffering and hardship.

The film follows Feeney, an Irish Ranger who has been fighting for the British Army abroad. Disillusioned by the British cause, Feeney deserts and returns home to Ireland, only to find his homeland ravaged by the famine. His family has been decimated by disease and starvation, and those who survive are oppressed by brutal landlords and their agents.

Feeney’s mother has died of starvation, and his brother has been executed by the British for resisting eviction. Enraged by the injustices inflicted on his family and fellow countrymen, Feeney embarks on a path of vengeance. He begins targeting those he holds responsible for his family’s plight, including landlords, law enforcers, and collaborators.

In response to Feeney’s actions, the British authorities dispatch Hannah, a hardened soldier who previously fought alongside Feeney, to track him down. Hannah is accompanied by a young English officer, Pope, and an Irish translator and guide, Conneely. As the pursuit intensifies, the film explores themes of loyalty, justice, and the brutal realities of colonial rule.

The Secret of Roan Inish (1994)

The Secret of Roan Inish is a fantasy-adventure film that is steeped in Irish folklore and tells a poignant story of family, loss, and rediscovery.

The film is set in post-World War II Ireland and follows Fiona, a young girl sent to live with her grandparents, Hugh and Tess, in a small fishing village. Fiona’s family has a long connection to the nearby island of Roan Inish, which means “Island of the Seals.” The island was abandoned by the family years ago, but it remains a place of mystery and legend.

Fiona learns about her family’s history and the folklore of Roan Inish, including the story of her younger brother, Jamie, who was swept out to sea in his cradle and never seen again. The locals believe that the island is inhabited by selkies, mythical creatures that can transform from seals into humans. Fiona becomes convinced that Jamie is still alive and living among the selkies on Roan Inish.

Determined to find her brother and bring him home, Fiona frequently visits the island, uncovering secrets about her family’s past and the connection between her ancestors and the selkies. Her belief in the magic of Roan Inish grows stronger as she experiences strange and wondrous events, leading to a heartwarming conclusion.

The Irish Pub (2013)

Ok, this one isn’t a movie but an excellent documentary you should watch.

The Irish Pub offers a heartfelt exploration of the role of the traditional Irish pub in Irish culture and society, capturing the essence of these iconic establishments and the communities they serve.

The film takes you on a journey across Ireland, visiting various pubs in towns and villages throughout the country. Through interviews with pub owners, patrons, and locals, the documentary delves into the rich history, cultural significance, and enduring appeal of the Irish pub.

Each pub featured in the film has its own unique character and charm, reflecting the diversity of Irish pub culture. From cosy village pubs steeped in tradition to bustling city establishments frequented by tourists and locals alike, the documentary showcases the vibrant atmosphere and sense of community that defines the Irish pub experience.

As the interviews unfold, themes of friendship, storytelling, music, and the passing down of traditions emerge, illustrating the integral role that pubs play in Irish social life. The film celebrates the warmth, hospitality, and sense of belonging that patrons find in their local pubs, as well as the enduring connections forged over pints of Guinness and lively conversation.

Calvary (2014)

Calvary stars Brendan Gleeson as Father James Lavelle, a good-hearted priest who becomes the target of a parishioner’s vengeful threat during confession.

The film opens with Father James Lavelle hearing a confession from one of his parishioners, who reveals that he was sexually abused by a priest as a child. The confessor informs Father James that he plans to kill him in one week’s time, not because he is a bad priest, but because he is a good one, and his death will make a more powerful statement.

Over the course of the week, Father James goes about his duties in the small Irish coastal village, trying to discern the identity of the would-be killer while grappling with his own inner turmoil and the complexities of his relationships with the villagers. As the deadline approaches, tensions rise, and Father James confronts the dark secrets and moral dilemmas of the community he serves.

The Magdalene Sisters (2002)

The Magdalene Sisters is based on the true stories of young women who were sent to Magdalene Asylums, also known as Magdalene Laundries, in Ireland during the 20th century. These institutions, run by Catholic nuns, were intended to reform “fallen” women, often for reasons such as unwed pregnancy or perceived promiscuity.

The film follows the lives of three young women—Margaret, Bernadette, and Rose —who are sent to a Magdalene Asylum in Ireland. Each woman has faced different circumstances that have led to her placement in the asylum.

Inside the institution, the women endure harsh treatment, including physical and psychological abuse, forced labour in the asylum’s laundry facility, and strict discipline enforced by the nuns. Despite the oppressive conditions, the women find solace and support in their friendship with each other.

As they navigate the challenges of life in the asylum, the women grapple with feelings of shame, guilt, and defiance. They are determined to survive and maintain their dignity in the face of institutional cruelty and societal stigma.

My Left Foot (1989)

My Left Foot is based on the autobiography of Christy Brown, the film portrays his life and struggles as an Irishman with severe cerebral palsy, who learned to write and paint using only his left foot.

The film chronicles the life of Christy Brown (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) from childhood to adulthood in Dublin, Ireland. Born into a large, working-class family, Christy is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a condition that severely limits his movement and speech, leaving him with control only over his left foot.

Despite the challenges he faces, Christy’s determined mother, Bridget, refuses to institutionalize him and encourages his education. With the support of his family, especially his mother and brother, Christy learns to communicate by using his left foot to type on a typewriter. He discovers a talent for writing and painting, defying the expectations of those around him.

As Christy grows older, he faces discrimination and prejudice due to his disability, but he perseveres, finding success as an author and artist. Along the way, he forms meaningful relationships, including a romantic one with his nurse, Mary.

Once (2007)

Once is a romantic musical drama film set in Dublin, Ireland, that follows the unlikely romance between a street musician and a Czech immigrant as they bond over their love of music and navigate their personal struggles.

The film centres on a street musician known only as “Guy” and a young Czech immigrant referred to as “Girl”. Guy is a talented singer-songwriter who performs on the streets of Dublin, while Girl sells flowers and looks after her young daughter.

One day, Girl comes across Guy playing guitar on the street and is captivated by his music. Despite their initial awkwardness, the two musicians strike up a friendship and soon discover their shared passion for music. As they spend more time together, they begin collaborating on songs and recording demos in a local music studio.

As their creative partnership deepens, so does their emotional connection. However, both Guy and Girl are grappling with personal challenges and romantic entanglements that threaten to derail their burgeoning relationship. Ultimately, they must confront their fears and uncertainties in order to pursue their dreams and find happiness.


And those are the best movies about Ireland that I recommend to watch…

They films span a range of genres and styles, offering a multifaceted view of Ireland, from its historical struggles and cultural heritage to its modern-day vibrancy and enduring spirit.

For more on Ireland have a look at the 15 best documentaries about Ireland.

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