6 Best Irish Movies Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors

You might expect a movie about the Irish struggle for independence from the British Empire during the 1920s to be a sweeping historical epic a la Braveheart, but The Wind That Shakes The Barley is instead a heartbreaking miniature portrait of the human impact that the brutal occupation has on the residents of a small County Cork village. Cillian Murphy is superb as Damien O’Donovan, a young medical student who is about to up sticks for London when he witnesses first-hand the savagery of British forces on his neighbors. Galvanized into action, he joins the local branch of the IRA, which is led by his brother Teddy (Pádraic Delaney).

What makes The Wind That Shakes The Barley so potent isn’t just its depiction of the fierce local rebellion that Damien and his comrades wage against the British forces — it’s also its gutting exploration of the cyclical war that began to rage amongst the freedom fighters once the British left. As Damien puts it, “It's easy to know what you're against, quite another to know what you're for” — a dilemma that wedges the two brothers apart to bitter ends.

Genre: Drama, War

Actor: Aidan O'Hare, Alex Dee, Anthony Mark Streeter, Antony Byrne, Bill Hurst, Cillian Murphy, Colin Parry, Damien Kearney, Denis Conway, Frank Bourke, Frank O'Sullivan, Gerard Kearney, Keith Dunphy, Liam Cunningham, Mark Wakeling, Martin Lucey, Mary Murphy, Myles Horgan, Neil Alan Taylor, Noel O'Donovan, Orla Fitzgerald, Pádraic Delaney, Roger Allam, Sabrina Barry, Scott Peden, Sean McGinley, Shane Casey, Siobhan McSweeney, Tom Charnock, William Ruane

Director: Ken Loach

"Many's the person missed the opportunity to say nothing and lost much because of it."

The Quiet Girl takes the troubled, reserved nature of Cáit (Catherine Clinch) as she's swallowed by the discord in her evergrowing family, who treats her as an outcast, and fills the film with her serene, observatory perspective. Long sequences with little to no dialogue and an expansive countryside give way to the emotional thrum of this found-family drama. The simplicity in every frame befits a child's innocence, and every visual and sonic decision reinforces that wonderfully. Loving and nurturing a child is a straightforward concept, and The Quiet Girl never complicates it. Without saying much, it says it all. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aine Hayden, Andrew Bennett, Carolyn Bracken, Carrie Crowley, Catherine Clinch, Joan Sheehy, Kate Nic Chonaonaigh, Marion O'Dwyer, Michael Patric, Neans Nic Dhonncha

Director: Colm Bairéad

This animated movie is absolutely wonderful. It’s an Irish production, and the drawings/graphics are so beautiful and different from what you usually see in this genre. This alone, along with the music, would be good reasons to watch this.

But what really makes this worth your time is the story – it’s about a boy dealing with the loss of his mother. He embarks on an adventure into a parallel world of feelings to save his sister.

I found it to be refreshingly original, sometimes quite intense (I cried, but I easily cry), and heartwarming. The details are great. And I love the way the story was interwoven with Irish mythology, making it magical.

Genre: Animation, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Brendan Gleeson, Colm ÓSnodaigh, Colm O'Snodaigh, David Rawle, Fionnula Flanagan, Jon Kenny, Kevin Swierszcz, Liam Hourican, Lisa Hannigan, Lucy O'Connell, Pat Shortt, Paul Young, Tomm Moore, Will Collins

Director: Tomm Moore

Rating: PG

, 2017

This moving biopic is about Maud Lewis, the legendary Canadian painter who suffered from arthritis. In the film, Maud gets away from her controlling family by finding a job as a live-in housekeeper for a local fish peddler. It is there where she begins to paint, before marrying the fish peddler in spite of their different personalities. Sally Hawkins, who plays Lewis, brings undeniable spark and soul to the role, for which she had to undergo an astonishing physical transformation.

Maudie is a beautiful and uncomplicated film that challenges the conventions of marriage and relationship roles, while at the same time celebrating Maud Lewis’ paintings and life’s simple pleasures.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Billy MacLellan, Brian Marler, David Feehan, Ethan Hawke, Gabrielle Rose, Greg Malone, Kari Matchett, Kate Ross, Lawrence Barry, Marthe Bernard, Nik Sexton, Sally Hawkins, Zachary Bennett

Director: Aisling Walsh

Rating: PG-13

With his dad in jail and mom lost to a drug overdose, Michael lives a lonely life with his grandpa in Dublin.

A minor drug bust sends him to jail for three months and implicates his grand-father with a gang.

Michael Inside uses this brief period of incarceration to offer commentary on the Irish underclass, both inside prisons and out. It's a tough watch that aims for realism and doesn't miss.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ally Ni Chiarain, Dafhyd Flynn, Frank Berry, Hazel Doupe, John Burke, Lalor Roddy, Moe Dunford, Robbie Walsh, Shane Gately, Steve Blount, Steven Blount

Director: Frank Berry

Rating: N/A

In 1980s Dublin, a young Irish catholic-school boy, whose family is facing financial problems starts his own band with the sole objective of impressing a mysterious femme fatale. The film takes you on a beautiful and witty journey through the band’s path to success and our protagonist’s quest in conquering his love all to the rhythm of some of the biggest 80’s pop-rock hits and the band’s own original soundtrack. Without a doubt this film is the long awaited passion project of filmmaker John Carney (Once, Begin Again).

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: Aidan Gillen, Ben Carolan, Des Keogh, Don Wycherley, Eva-Jane Gaffney, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Ian Kenny, Jack Reynor, Karl Rice, Keith McErlean, Kelly Thornton, Kian Murphy, Kyle Bradley Donaldson, Lucy Boynton, Lydia McGuinness, Marcella Plunkett, Maria Doyle, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Mark McKenna, Paul Roe, Percy Chamburuka, Peter Campion

Director: John Carney

Rating: PG-13