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If you’re Irish, come into the TV room!
16 Mar 2015 : Paul Byrne
The IFTA-winning drama Calvary starring Brendan Gleeson has become an Irish classic, despite only being released last year
As Paddy’s Day approaches, we recommend ten of the best when it comes to the Irish on screen. Naturally, we couldn’t fit all the truly great Irish films on such a short, chronological list. Other special mentions of course go to The Field, The Boxer, The Guard, Intermission and The Butcher Boy, among many others.

1 - THE QUIET MAN (John Ford 1952/129mins)

The returning hero, moving back to the oul’ sod, moving into a thatched cottage in a West of Ireland village made up almost entirely of crafty old sods, and one fiery redheaded colleen who boasts grand child-bearing hips and a neat right hook. Sure and begorrah, could you ask for more out of life...?

2 - DARBY O’GILL & THE LITTLE PEOPLE (Robert Stevenson 1959/93mins)

Hollywood turns the diddley-aye-potatoes all the way up to 11 for this ridiculous – and ridiculously charming - slice of Oirish hokum that Sean Connery must blush over. The director later became a Disney regular, helming the likes of Mary Poppins (1964) and The Love Bug (1968), which are a far cry from his 1943 breakthrough, with the Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine-led adaptation of Jane Eyre. It’s amazing what a little leprachaun dust can do to a career...

3 MY LEFT FOOT (Jim Sheridan 1989/103mins)

The movie that put both Jim Sheridan and the Oscar-gobbling Daniel Day Lewis on the map, My Left Foot told the powerful story of Dublin artist Christy Brown, who didn’t let his cerebral palsy stop him from becoming a noted painter and writer, and wit. Managing to be both deeply moving and hilarious funny, My Left Foot’s huge success would spur Jim and Daniel on to even greater heights, with 1993’s true-life prison drama In The Name of The Father.’


With the mighty Alan Parker (Midnight Run, Mississippi Burning) behind the camera, the rather funny Dublin novelist Roddy Doyle on script duties (with a little help from Brit legends Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais), and a bunch of unknowns playing an unknown Dublin soul band, The Commitments was also going to be something special. Mix that Dublin humour with some southern soul, and you’ve got yourself a global feelgood hit that’s hard to resist.

5 - THE CRYING GAME (1992)

Neil Jordan is one of Ireland’s most intriguing filmmakers, shifting not only between genres and budgets (Interview With The Vampire being a far cry from Breakfast On Pluto; Michael Collins being somewhat removed from The Butcher Boy, The End Of The Affair and The Good Thief), but also art forms. The alternative careers as a novelist and a poet may explain the surprising depth Jordan brings to his films, and never more so than with this Oscar-winning IRA-set noir thriller. Famous for that extra added little twist.

6 - THE SNAPPER (1993)

Doyle may have scored big internationally with The Commitments, but if it’s pure undiluted Dublin humour you’re looking for, you might be better off checking out the Curley family as they cope, in their own inimitable, foul-mouthed way, with young Sharon getting more than two thumbs up. And up the duff. Colm Meaney has rarely been better, and he’s aided and abetted beautifully here by the likes of Tina Kellegher, Ruth McCabe and everyone’s favourite lecherous milkman, Pat Laffan.


You couldn’t have a list of great Irish films without touching upon the 800 years of oppression by our dastard neighbours, England. And who better to capture that sibling rivalry than Nuneaton’s finest, the legendary Ken Loach. Charting the different paths two Cork brothers take during the Irish War of Independence, Loach being Loach, he goes deeper than mere flag-waving here.

8 - ONCE (2006)

Ah, sure, what would Paddy’s Day be without a good sing-song. And there are plenty of good songs to sing in this small little film that could. The film went on to become a Top 5 hit in the US, thanks somewhat to a ringing endorsement by one Steven Spielberg. Led by two musicians - The Frames frontman Glen Hansard (who played Outspan in The Commitments) and Marketa Irglova (whose only other acting credit is reprising this role for The Simpsons) - and directed by another (John Carney having been The Frames’ bass player), Once plays like a familiar old LP, full of charm, and love. Oh, and some songs.

9 - ADAM & PAUL (2014)

Lenny Abrahamson’s breakthrough film plays like Midnight Cowboy as written by Samuel Beckett, two Dublin junkies spending an eventful day trekking the city in the hope of getting a fix. Or even just a Twix. Sharing the lead acting duties are Mark O’Halloran (who also wrote the script) and Tom Murphy (who tragically passed away in 2007), both more than rising to the occasion in this intoxicating mix of the comic and the tragic. Which is the mix of life itself, of course, but Adam & Paul hits upon some sad universal truths here about the human condition without ever feeling contrived or overtly political. A true modern classic.

10 - CALVARY (2014)

Playwrights-turned-filmmaking brothers John Michael and Martin McDonagh may err on the side of over-confidence, but they do occasionally deliver the goods. Just as Martin overcooked his Hollywood debut, the noir comedy Seven Psychopaths, John went for the crude laughs in his breakthrough film, 2011’s The Guard. Calvary is a different kettle of fish though, with The Guard’s leading man Brendan Gleeson - pretty much Ireland’s Jeff Bridges - playing a smalltown priest who has come to realise that smalltown Ireland really doesn’t want him around anymore. Which may explain why, in the opening confession box scene, he’s been given till Sunday to get his affairs in order, before the unknown confessor shoots him dead.

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