We are finishing up the last few jobs in the workshop today and are nearly ready to down tools and relax for Christmas. Since the wintery weather is well and truly here, there’s no better way to spend the dark and dreary evenings than by settling down on the couch with a warm drink, a soft blanket and a good movie (that's our plan anyway). Luckily, Ireland has a booming film industry that has produced classics year on year, widely popular both on home turf and all over the world. Some of Hollywood’s most revered actors were born and bred on the Emerald Isle – Collin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Saoirse Ronan and Michael Fassbender (a Kerryman of course!), to name just a few - and countless Irish writers and directors are celebrated too. In short, our talent in the film industry is not to be overlooked, and if you’re looking for some excellent films to watch over the Christmas holidays, we’ve compiled 15 of the best Irish movies to make the decision of what to watch (somewhat) easier.
1. The Snapper
Starring regular Irish favourite Colm Meaney in the lead role, The Snapper is the film adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s classic and hilarious novel of the same name. The film focuses on Sharon Curley, the 20 year old daughter of a Dublin family, who becomes pregnant. When she refuses to name the father, the family become the subject of gossip in the neighbourhood, and must learn in their own unique and highly entertaining way to support her. Often touted as one of the greatest Irish films ever, The Snapper is the epitome of Irish humour and wit.
2. The Field
The Field is another adaptation, this time of a play by John B Keane (who was from my home town Listowel). It tells the story of Bull McCabe, an ageing Irish famer who works on a rented field that has been used by his family for generations. When the widow owner of the field decides to sell it, he goes to dramatic and sinister lengths to keep it. Starring the brilliant Richard Harris as Bull McCabe and Sean Bean as his son Tadhg, this is a truly compelling drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the credits roll.
3. My Left Foot
My Left Foot tells the incredible story of Christy Brown, a man born with cerebral palsy in 1930s Dublin. Part of a working class family, Brown had little access to the medical care he needed in his early life, but still learned to control his left foot and use it to unleash his amazing creative talents despite the hardships faced by both him and his family. Daniel Day Lewis won an Oscar for his portrayal of Christy, while the film received several more nominations and was heaped with praise from critics all over the world.
4. The Quiet Man
Although a lot of Irish people view The Quiet Man as little more than a portrayal of the worst Irish stereotypes, this 1952 film is largely credited as the first significant Irish film and the one that kick started the Irish film industry. Directed by John Ford with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in the lead roles, it tells the story of an Irish-American who returns to his homeland to reclaim his family’s birthplace. It was filmed on location around Mayo and Galway, particularly the small town of Cong, which is still a tourist attraction today because of its links with the film.
5. Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday explores the darker side of Irish history, namely the events that occurred in Derry city on 30th January 1972 when British Army paratroopers fired on demonstrators at a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march through the city, killing thirteen people. The film is known for its startlingly raw and realistic portrayal of the events from an eye-witness perspective – in fact, it only includes one piece of music over the closing credits; U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday. A must see for anyone with an interest in recent Irish history or top notch film making.
6. Veronica Guerin
Veronica Guerin tells the real life story of the Irish journalist who was murdered by drug lords after investigating their activities and publishing multiple exposes on them in the Irish media. Guerin, played by Cate Blanchett, is portrayed as a trailblazing investigative journalist who takes her life in her hands in the name of telling the truth. The film gives a sharp insight into the realities crime journalists face today as well as the underground drugs scene in operation in Ireland, and makes for compelling, if tragic viewing.
7. The Commitments
Another Roddy Doyle adaptation, The Commitments focuses on the same working class family as The Snapper, this time recounting the adventures of young Jimmy Rabbitte. Aspiring to manage the world’s greatest band, Jimmy assembles a soul band sets them on the path to superstardom – until their egos get in the way. Full of typically Irish humour, this film proved so popular that it now has its own musical stage production and the original movie soundtrack was a number one hit in several countries. Included in the cast are several Irish musicians who also went on to achieve widespread fame, including Glen Hansard of The Frames and The Corrs.
8. In Bruges
Along with The Guard, In Bruges is definitely the most popular film to come out of Ireland in the last decade. This black comedy stars Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell as two hitmen sent to the small Belgian town of Bruges after Farrell’s character Ray accidentally kills a child during an operation. A series of comedic, tragic, and very twisted events follow in a complicated tale that explores themes like morality, humanity, and of course, death. As well as that, the film is a love letter to the stunning town of Bruges itself – five minutes in and you’ll be booking a flight there!
9. Adam and Paul
Adam and Paul is just one of acclaimed director Lenny Abrahamson’s masterpieces (he also has recent hits Frank and What Richard Did under his belt). Centred on two drug addicts in Dublin, it tells the story of the trials and tribulations they go through during a single day in a bid to score some heroin. Although it has an overall humorous tone, in the end this is a hard-hitting film that exposes the lengths addicts will go to to get their fix and the powerful hold heroin can have on good people.
10. The Guard
In The Guard, Brendan Gleeson gives an outstanding performance as a flawed Garda who gets involved in a complicated string of drug murders in a quiet town in the west of Ireland - when an FBI agent (played by Don Cheadle) arrives, things get even more intense. The film has the same type of black humour as In Bruges, and was widely acclaimed by critics and regular ‘joe soaps’ alike. A favourite in many Irish homes since its release in 2011, the dramatic, cliff-hanger ending is sure to spark plenty of debates for first time viewers.
Intermission is a gem of a film from 2003, starring several Irish acting superstars including (once again) Colin Farrell, Colm Meaney, Cillian Murphy and Deirdre O’Kane. Farrell in particular won particular praise for his portrayal of a petty Dublin criminal, very far removed from his previous roles up to that point. The film features several characters with interconnecting stories, centred around a recently broken up couple. Although a work of fiction, it is shot in a documentary style. On its release, Intermission was the most successful independent Irish film ever, although sadly it didn’t achieve the same success worldwide.
12. Michael Collins
Michael Collins is exactly what you expect; a historical biopic about the Irish revolutionary who died during the civil war in 1922. Even today Collins is still regarded as a martyr and Irish hero, so naturally this is a film of epic proportions starring more than a few Hollywood stars; Liam Neeson, Julia Roberts and Alan Rickman to name a few. It tells the human story of Collins’ life as well as the wider background of the Irish struggle for independence – if you’re a history buff, a fan of Oscar worthy biopics, or just have family or ancestors from that time, this is one for you.
13. The Butcher Boy
The Butcher Boy is another classic Irish film from the 1990s. Directed by Neil Jordan and adapted from a Patrick McCabe novel of the same name, it tells the story of Francie Brady, a young boy in 1960s Ireland who struggles with his own sanity amid his increasingly dysfunctional family, with hilarious and tragic results. The film caused a flurry of controversy upon its release due to an appearance by singer-songwriter Sinead O'Connor as a fould mouthed Virgin Mary, but the lead actor, 14 year old Eamonn Owens was heaped with praise for his debut performance.
Once is one of the very few (if not the only) Irish musical films. Starring renowned Irish singer songwriter Glen Hansard and former bandmate Marketa Irglova, who co-wrote and performed all of the music featured in the film, it tells the story of a Dublin busker who befriends and forms a bond with a flower seller from the Czech Republic. The film's title track, 'Falling Slowly' won an Oscar for Best Song among other awards, and made an incredible $21 million US dollars worldwide. Not bad for a film that was produced on virtually no budget using non-professional actors!
15. Waking Ned
An Irish family favourite, Waking Ned is a comedy starring the amazing David Kelly in the lead role. When word spreads that the winner of the national lottery was someone from a tiny village, local residents form a strategy to discover who the winner was – they eventually figure out is was a man named Ned, who died from shock on realising he won. Naturally, they decide to claim his winnings for themselves, with highly entertaining consequences. Although filmed on the Isle of Man, the film is set entirely in Ireland. It is well known not just here but throughout the UK too, where it grossed almost £1 million in its opening weekend.
While we have you, why not take a look at our jewelry, handmade in Ireland?