12 of the best Irish films (and no, P.S. I Love You is not on the list) Written by Katy Harrington
The very dodgy trailer for new Irish film Wild Mountain Thyme got everyone talking for the wrong reasons – the accents, the daft plot and why is Emily Blunt dressed like it’s 1920 and covered in mud all the time? So, we asked an Irish writer to chose some of the greatest Irish movies that deserve to be celebrated (and watched). Here are a few of her favourites to watch now.
Us Irish are a fairly sound bunch most of the time, but there are a few things that get on our nerves – people who have never been to Ireland giving you a history lesson about the Famine is one, and doing terrible Irish accents (NB: no native of the island has ever said “top of the morning to you” and no one ever will) is another.
The latter became a hot topic once again lately when the trailer for a new film,
Wild Mountain Thyme was released, with all of the cast doing a disservice to the nuanced accents of our land. The movie adds to the growing list of terrible Oirish films that butchered the medium and the accent ( Far and Away, P.S I Love You, Leap Year…)
It’s a shame that tripe like
Wild Mountain Thyme gets so much attention because really for a small island we’ve actually produced some cinematic crackers. So to right the wrongs of all the bad Irish movies, I’ve chosen some of my favourites for you to enjoy now.
Oh, and a note to Hollywood: stop making all this terrible paddywhackery ‘faith and begoorah’ nonsense or we will unleash our deadliest weapon…we will send you Jedward.
My Left Foot
Do not be put off by the fact this 1989 movie has aged a little, because the incredible true story of young Christy Brown (an Irish writer and painter who had cerebral palsy and was able to write/draw using only one foot) more than makes up for it.
Not only does it star arguably the best actor the world has even seen (Daniel Day-Lewis) there’s also a mesmerising performance by the immense Brenda Fricker as Christy’s feisty Irish mammy. Day-Lewis won an Oscar for this role, and while the debate around able bodied actors playing roles of people with disabilities rages on, this film is an undisputed Irish classic.
There will not be a dry eye in the house.
Rent it from The BFI here
The Wind That Shakes The Barley
If you want to understand the Irish ‘problem’ you could do worse than watching this epic drama from director Ken Loach.
The Wind That Shakes The Barley tells the tale of two brothers torn apart by the Irish revolt against the British. Corkman Cillian Murphy’s icy blue eyes won the Cannes Palm D’Or prize for their performance in this role…just kidding. But truly, the film did win and deservedly so for its glorious cinematography and barnstorming performances that bring the haunting screenplay to life.
Rent or buy it on Amazon Prime here
If you love
Derry Girls you’ll adore this adorable coming of age story set in Dublin in the 1980s.
The story is simple and one every Irish person (including this one) knows all to well – a young lad with big dreams escapes his strained family life by starting a band and moving to London. Add 80s hair, fashion and soundtrack (think The Cure, Duran Duran) and you have the sincerely gorgeous
Starring the ubiquitous Aiden Gillen and the too-good-to-be-true Jack Reynor as the best older brother ever, this warm, funny and honest show is just what you need right now.
Rent it from the BFI here
OK so this one has a touch of the diddley-i about it but it’s still a good watch if you are in the mood for nostalgia, flat caps and the one thing that Irish people care about most (no, not pints) LAND!
You might think this came out in the ‘60s but it was actually released in 1990 (written and directed by Jim Sheridan) and stars the masterful Richard Harris, John Hurt, Sean Bean, oh and look there’s Brenda Fricker again. What a ledge.
Plot summary: When a widow decides to sell the eponymous field and an “outsider” comes in to try and buy it things KICK OFF. You can watch it on YouTube for free and the comments underneath will give you an idea of the love out there for this Irish gem.
Watch it on YouTube
Waking Ned Devine
Time for something more upbeat and another Irish passion (playing the Lotto!).
This cute country men vs city slicker, David vs Goliath story of very bad luck is pure Irish joy. The story is deliciously mischievous – old man Ned Devine wins the Irish national lottery, but there’s one one problem, Ned’s dead baby and so ensues an elaborate plot to claim his winnings and get one over on the ‘man’.
Waking Ned Devine will remind you of the true value of friendship and it’s very, very funny.
And it’s only 99p to rent on Apple TV. Winner.
Rent or buy on Apple TV
The Magdalene Sisters
Ireland makes depressing films because it has a very dark past. The true evil perpetrated by the Catholic church (both priests and nuns) on the impoverished and vulnerable people it was supposed to care for and protect is examined in this chilling film about the Magdalene laundries (real places for ‘fallen women’ run by nuns, now closed down but which continue to haunt their victims and Ireland to this day).
I’m not selling this well am I? But really, if there is one film on this list I implore every woman to watch it is this. Despite the gruelling subject matter there is light in this incredible film thanks to the superb cast that includes Anne Marie Duff and the criminally underrated Irish actress Laura Jane Noone.
The Magdalene Sisters is unforgettable. Irish cinema at its vey best.
Buy or rent it on YouTube here
Can pasty white Irish people sing Aretha, Al Green and Otis? You are damn right they can and lord do they in this blistering adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s famous novel of the same name.
Set in the northside of Dublin, Jimmy Rabbitte aspires to manage the world’s greatest band, with only one music in mind: soul. Rabbitte forms his band of misfits and to everyone’s surprise, they are really bloody good. But just as everything is coming together on stage, the whole thing starts to fall apart behind the scenes.
The Commitments is a rite of passage, we won’t let you into the country ‘til you’ve seen it, and you’ll be bleeding glad you did.
Buy it here on Google Play
The Butcher Boy
Back to dark comedy (it’s all we do really).
The Butcher Boy is a masterpiece from director of The Crying Game, Neil Jordan.
With the genius that is Stephen Rea and the most incredible acting from a very young Eamonn Owens as the notorious Francie Brady, this movie is based on the sensational novel by Pat McCabe and includes a cameo by Sinead O’Connor as the Virgin Mary – what could be more Irish that that?
Wait till you see what Francie does to Mrs Nugent!
Rent or buy it here on YouTube
How many songs do you know where the opening bars can make you bawl your eyes out? Well,
Falling Slowly is that song (it won an Oscar FFS) and Once is that movie.
If you haven’t seen this low-fi Irish love story you are in for a treat. Set in Dublin, Glenn Hansard (of Irish band The Frames) plays a love lorn busker who falls for a Czech girl (the insanely talented Marketa Irglova) who only happens to have the voice of a bloody angel. Then life happens and they are pulled apart.
The mastery of John Carney’s picture (he also did
Sing Street) is it is so simple and unflashy you don’t quite expect it to slap like it does. And it does.
Prepare for your heart to be ripped in two and prepare to love every minute of it.
Rent it on Google Play now
In The Name Of The Father
We started with Danny Day-Lewis and we’ll end with him.
Set in the wake of the (real) 1974 Guildford Bombings,
In The Name Of The Father tells the true story of the innocent Irish men arrested charged and imprisoned for a crime they never committed.
The story of their fight for justice will have you out of your seat.
DDL is sensational obviously, but Pete Postlethwaite’s performance as his father Giuseppe Colon is a masterclass that must be seen. Oh and check out a young and sexy as hell Emma Thompson as their gutsy lawyer.
Buy it on YouTube here
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