The 21 Best Irish Movies

Get your St. Patty's Day party started right with the 21 best Irish movies.

Chuck Walton

By Chuck Walton

Best Irish Movies

© 20th Century Fox / courtesy Everett Collection

If you're home today with green beer and popcorn, here are our recommendations for celebrating St. Patty in the most cinematic way possible: the 21 best Irish movies streaming now (one for each year to the legal US drinking age).

The Commitments

Director Alan Parker (“Pink Floyd: The Wall”) brings a rollicking edge to the tale of a struggling young soul band called the Dubliners. Nearly 30 years after its release, it’s still the perfect party-starter for St. Pat.

The Commitments Poster

The Commitments

Music / 1991 / R

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My Left Foot

Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t just his generation’s greatest actor. He’s also a true Irishman (technically, Irish & British citizenships) through and through, and he’ll appear on our list a couple more times. Here, he’s Christy Brown, an artist with cerebral palsy who can only move his left foot. And move it he does – all the way to the Academy Award for Best Actor.

My Left Foot Poster

My Left Foot

Biography / 1989 / R

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The Departed

A remake of the also-excellent Hong Kong thriller “Infernal Affairs,” Martin Scorsese’s take on the Boston Irish mob features all kinds of moles, snitches, black humor and top performances from an all-star cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg. Like a cherry on top, Jack Nicholson completes the circle in full scenery-chewing glory as top crime boss Francis “Frank” Costello.

The Departed Poster

The Departed

Crime Drama / 2006 / R

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Once

Want to see a Dublin-set romance that’s one of the greatest musical love stories ever told? The key to this film, about a couple of struggling musicians who meet cute and then continue to evolve, is that their connection is actually real (the two really were falling for each other during the moviemaking).

Once Poster

Once

Drama / 2006 / R

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Darby O'Gill and the Little People

A few years before he was 007, Sean Connery starred as charming young Dubliner Michael McBride, who’s been tasked with replacing aging caretaker (and our protagonist) Darby O’Gill (Albert Sharpe). If that’s not enough to add to Darby’s misfortunes, the man's also somehow been captured by leprechauns. Lots of colorful, kid-safe adventures ensue.

Darby O'Gill and the Little People Poster

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Fantasy / 1959 / G

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In Bruges

One of Colin Farrell’s best performances and movies, this blackest of hit men comedies stars Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as a couple of Irish assassins who are forced to hide out in Belgium. As a result, they gradually start to fall for its local charms, while keeping their distance from Ralph Fiennes as their ultra-agitated employer.

In Bruges Poster

In Bruges

Action / 2008 / R

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The Boondock Saints

Norman Reedus, years before shotgunning his way through “The Walking Dead,” took the mantle of an A-list vigilante alongside his fellow co-hort and thespian Sean Patrick Flannery. Here, they’re Boston-based Irish Catholic twin brothers who’ve had enough of the despicable gangsters ruining their town. What to do? Fight fire with more fire – plus bullets. Lots of bullets.

The Boondock Saints Poster

The Boondock Saints

Crime Drama / 1999 / R

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In America

Irish auteur Jim Sheridan (writer/director/producer) tells an affecting tale about an Irishman (Paddy Considine) who relocates his family to New York to realize his dream of becoming an actor. It’s anything but a fantasy life for the unit, though, as he and his long-suffering wife (Samantha Morton) experience daily torments and memories of a family tragedy.

In America Poster

In America

Drama / 2002 / PG-13

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Michael Collins

Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game”) directs this historical tale about Michael Collins (Liam Neeson), who led the efforts of the Irish Republican Army to achieve independence from Britain in the early 20th century. Later, Collins is faced with a moral dilemma after he negotiates a treaty with the British and is asked to betray his former friends.

Michael Collins Poster

Michael Collins

Drama / 1996 / R

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The Crying Game

Number 10 on our list is also from director Neil Jordan, who caused a stir with this early ‘90s Miramax title about an IRA member who develops an unexpected relationship with the girlfriend of a British soldier his group had kidnapped. Issues of race, gender, sexuality and nationality all play out in this Oscar-nominated picture – along with a most memorable title tune.

The Crying Game Poster

The Crying Game

Thriller / 1992 / R

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Bloody Sunday

Paul Greengass, the action maestro behind the second and third “Bourne” movies, achieves an equally tense and riveting movie experience with this documentary-like re-telling of the events of January 30, 1972, when a peaceful protest march in the Northern Irish town of Derry exploded into a massacre where British soldiers fired upon the crowd, killing 13 and injuring 14 more.

Bloody Sunday Poster

Bloody Sunday

Drama / 2002 / R

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The Secret of Kells

A critically acclaimed animation that’s equal parts history, magic and Celtic mythology, “Kells” tells the story of a young Irish calligrapher who’s recruited to complete a number of dangerous tasks as his community prepares for an attack by approaching Vikings.

The Secret of Kells Poster

The Secret of Kells

Animated / 2009

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In the Name of the Father

Four years after “My Left Foot,” director Jim Sheridan and actor Daniel Day-Lewis re-teamed for the story of Irishman Gerry Conlon, a small-time petty thief who left Belfast for England and was wrongly accused of bombing a British pub. For the next 15 years, Conlon was forced to fight for his life, and clear his name.

In the Name of the Father Poster

In the Name of the Father

Docudrama / 1993 / R

Sing Street

From “Once” director John Carney comes another gem that combines authentic sentiment with some great music. This time, the setting is Ireland in the 80s, where a likeable young lad sets out to start his own pop band, discover his identity, and of course, win the heart of an equally likeable young woman.

Sing Street Poster

Sing Street

Music / 2016 / PG-13

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Waking Ned Devine

The ‘90s were a good time for fun indie comedies (e.g. – “The Full Monty,” “Swingers,” “Trainspotting,” etc.) and “Waking Ned Devine” is no exception. It’s a totally charming tale about two loveable blokes who conspire with their townsfolk to take the lottery winnings after a local hits the jackpot, suffers a heart attack and dies before he can collect the prize. Now it’s up to them to convince the officials that there’s a “new” Ned Devine.

Waking Ned Devine Poster

Waking Ned Devine

Comedy / 1998 / PG

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Brooklyn

Academy Award-nominated Saoirse Ronan stars here as an Irish immigrant making her way through 1950s New York. It’s a heartfelt drama that’s equally old-fashioned, gritty and romantic at the same time, and an instant reminder why Ronan’s been nominated for Oscars three times over.

Brooklyn Poster

Brooklyn

Drama / 2015 / PG-13

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The Boxer

The third time’s still a charm for filmmaker Jim Sheridan and Daniel Day-Lewis, taking on a complex story about a former IRA member and pugilist named Danny Flynn, who tries to escape his violent past, but is constantly pressured by political forces and operatives that threaten to destroy him and his new relationship with a woman and her young son.

The Boxer Poster

The Boxer

Drama / 1997 / R

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The Secret of Roan Inish

A family film from acclaimed indie filmmaker John Sayles (“Return of the Secaucus 7”), this magical movie concerns a young girl named Fiona who hears folklore about the selkies – seals that can shed their skins and become human. After returning to her family’s homeland on the island of Roan Inish, Fiona believes she’s discovered her long lost brother, who may have been taken by the selkies and is now living by the sea.

The Secret of Roan Inish Poster

The Secret of Roan Inish

Drama / 1994 / PG

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Circle of Friends

In the ‘90s, Chris O’Donnell did stints in all types of movies, from the excellent “Scent of a Woman” to the less-so “Batman & Robin.” Minnie Driver also made a name for herself in high profile movies like “Sleepers” and “Good Will Hunting.” Here, they’re both equally effective in a smaller film that recounts the highs and lows of a trio of young women in 1950s Ireland, and the dapper doctor’s son who becomes a part of all their lives.

Circle of Friends Poster

Circle of Friends

Drama / 1995 / PG-13

Gangs of New York

While it’s not quite as across-the-boards-successful as “The Departed,” Scorsese and DiCaprio’s earlier collaboration alongside stalwart Daniel Day-Lewis, is plenty enthralling as blockbuster, bloody entertainment about early 20th century New York and the conflicts that occurred for Irish immigrants trying to stake their claim to the American dream.

Gangs of New York Poster

Gangs of New York

Drama / 2002 / R

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Far and Away

His accent’s a little iffy in spots, Tom Cruise is plenty earnest and intense (which granted, is a given for the guy in any role) as an Irishman who fancies fellow countryman Nicole Kidman and travels to America with her in search of land and a better life. After the aspiring pugilist loses a big match, the couple’s forced to come up with another way to gather the funds to make it out west. But they don’t call him Top Gun for nothing. Along with epic filmmaking from veteran Ron Howard, “Far and Away”’s a fine enough capper for any Irish celebration.

Far and Away Poster

Far and Away

Drama / 1992 / PG-13

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About the Author

Chuck Walton

Chuck Walton

Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.

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