We published a guide to the best movies on Netflix Ireland a little while back. While writing it, it surprised me how many top Irish movies aren’t actually on Netflix.
In the interest of nudging more people towards Irish movies, we’ve researched and written a guide to the best Irish films that are available to watch in 2020.
Expect everything from old school classics (like Into The West) to more modern-day blockbusters (like The Wind That Shakes The Barley) in the guide below.
If you’re stuck for something to watch and you fancy cracking into some movies about Ireland or some movies set in Ireland, you’ll find LOADS of both below.
In the title of each movie, you’ll find the year that it was released along with the Rotten Tomatoes review score (the %).
The best Irish movies (in my opinion)
I love movies. But I’d say that I’ve watched about 50% more shite ones than good ones, and that’s probably being overly kind.
In this first section, I’ve whacked in what I think are the best Irish movies out there. There’s a bit of old and new in this section, with a little bit of something to tickle every fancy.
1. Waking Ned – 1999 (83%)
Out of the many Irish films in this guide, Waking Ned is my absolute favourite. This is a beautifully shot Irish movie that’ll have you laughing and on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.
The movie is set in rural Ireland and it follows the best friend duo of Jackie O’Shea (Ian Bannen) and the brilliant Michael O’Sullivan (David Kelly).
The two lads discover that someone in their little Irish village has won the lotto. The movie follows Jackie and Michael as they embark on a quest to find the winner.
2. Intermission – 2003 (73%)
Ahh, Intermission. This is an absolute peach of an Irish movie that often fails to make it onto many lists of the best Irish films.
This is probably what you’d regard as a black Irish comedy that’s set in Dublin City. It’s funny, dark and romantic (OK – maybe only a tiny bit romantic) all rolled into one.
The movie follows the story of many different characters but goes in-depth on two in particular: the first is a mad rogue criminal who’ll do anything for a few quid (played by Colin Farrell).
The second is a regular Dub played by Cillian Murphy who broke up with his missus and is now heartbroken. The two worlds collide and they come up with a ploy to rob the bank.
I probably made a balls of describing this. Hit play on the trailer above. It’ll do a far better job than me… This is one of my favourite movies set in Ireland. It’s funny and easy to watch. Perfect for a Sunday night.
3. The Field – 1990 (43%)
So, whatever arsehole rated the field so low (43%) needs a big aul kick up the hole. The field is one of the most iconic Irish movies ever made and it’s well worth a watch.
If you’re not familiar with it, The Field is a play that was written by John B. Keane and dates back to 1965. Director Jim Sheridan adapted it to film in 1990.
It stars Richard Harris, John Hurt, Sean Bean, Brenda Fricker and Tom Berenger and it follows the story of an American who travels to Ireland to buy a field that has been run by the same family for many years.
4. The Wind That Shakes The Barley – 2007 (89%)
The Wind That Shakes The Barley is, in my opinion, one of the best movies about Irish independence that has ever been made.
I’ve watched this movie 6 or 7 times and I’d happily watch it many times more. It follows the story of two brothers as they fight together against British force during Ireland’s battle for independence.
After a treaty is negotiated, the Irish civil war erupts across the country and the two brothers find themselves on opposite sides.
This is a mighty Irish movie and one that people should watch before visiting Ireland. It’s historically accurate and offers an insight into one of the most turbulent times in Ireland’s history.
5. The Van – 1996 (38%)
OK, I’m beginning to completely disregard Rotten Tomatoes… 38%… I can’t understand how this has been rated so low. Madness.
The Van is a BRILLIANT Irish film that’s set in Dublin in the 1990s. It was released in 1996 and it’s based on the novel of the same name by Roddy Doyle.
The movie follows two friends as they buy and clean up an old chip van. The first is “Bimbo”, a chap that has just lost his job. He uses his redundancy money to buy an old chip van.
He brings on his best mate, Larry, to help him sell the chips. The business starts off well, mainly thanks to Ireland’s success at the 1990 World Cup, but the friendship soon becomes strained.
This is another one of those Irish films that’s easy to watch and that delivers a clatter of belly laughs throughout.
6. Bad Day For The Cut – 2017 (92% – the most slept on Irish film in my opinion)
This. Movie. Is. Incredible. A friend recommended this to me last year when it just came out. I gave it a lash one Friday night and I couldn’t get over how good it was.
The story follows an Irish farmer as he embarks on a quest (a bloody one, at that) to avenge his Mam’s murder. He quickly discovers that she had a dark side.
This is a brilliant Irish movie that weaves through the criminal underbelly of Belfast City. You’ll be on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
7. Man About Dog – 2004 (72%s)
This is another cracking Irish comedy that’s packed with laughs (often at the expense of Scud Murphy).
The story follows three friends that are constantly down on their luck. One of the friends has amassed a hefty £50,000 gambling debt and is stuck in a rut with no money and even fewer prospects.
The trio decides to head south on a quest to see a man about a dog. Mayhem ensues. This is another of my favourite movies set in Ireland that doesn’t get anywhere near the credit it deserves.
8. Black ’47 – 2018 (78%)
If you’re looking for Irish movies about the Famine, whack the brilliant Black ’47 on your to-see sharpish list.
Black ’47 is set in the year 1847 at a time when Ireland was in the grasp of the Great Famine. The drama follows the story of an Irish ranger who has spent time fighting for the British Army.
He abandons his post to return to Ireland and reunite his family. When he returns, he discovers that his mother has died of starvation and that his brother has been hanged by the British, after he stabbed a bailiff that tried to evict him from his home.
Black ’47 is a story of revenge that’ll offer an insight into the horrors that were experienced in Ireland during the Great Famine.
9. Veronica Guerin – 2003 (53%)
Veronica Guerin was an Irish journalist that was murdered in 1993 by criminals after she published news stories that exposed their dark activities.
Director Joel Schumacher released a biographical crime movie starring Cate Blanchett in 2003 that brings the harrowing story to light.
The story follows Guerin as she investigates the drug trade in Dublin for the Sunday Independent newspaper. The film follows Guerin as she moves around Dublin to unearth the truth.
10. My Left Foot – 1990 (97%)
My Left Foot is a movie that we were shown about 20 times over the years in school. It follows the story of Christy Brown and was directed by Jim Sheridan and stars Daniel Day-Lewis.
This is a warm and moving true story that centres on Christy Brown, a man born into an impoverished home with cerebral palsy.
Christy is a talented writer and a painter. This could easily be a downbeat movie, but it isn’t – there’s plenty of humour and it’s a cracking watch from start to finish.
11. The General – 1998 (82%)
Next up is one of the more well known Irish gangster movies. The General follows the story of Dublin criminal Martin Cahill (Brendan Gleeson).
Cahill, one of Ireland’s most infamous criminals, managed to pull off a number of daring heists in the early 1980s and managed to avoid getting caught by an Garda Síochána.
During one particular heist, Cahill got his hands on a number of paintings, which he sold to the Ulster Volunteer Force.
When the IRA got wind of this, they ordered his assassination. The movie follows Cahill as he dodges the Gardai and the IRA.
Funny Irish films that’ll give you a giggle
This section of our guide is all about funny Irish films. I’ve spent the last 20 minutes watching the trailers for these and they’ve reminded me how many brilliant comedies have come out of Ireland.
You’ll find tales about everything from rural Gardai and stag parties to drug addicts and more in the section below.
12. The Guard – 2011 (94%)
I watched this over the last couple of months for the third time – it’s deadly! The Guard was written and directed by John Michael McDonagh and it has a heavyweight cast including Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong and Liam Cunningham.
The story follows a by-the-book FBI agent (Don Cheadle) who travels to a small village in rural Ireland to investigate a drug trafficking case.
The story follows Sergeant Gerry Boyle (a regular drinker and an occasional drug user) as he and his colleague investigate a murder.
Later in the movie, at an FBI briefing about four Irish drug traffickers, Boyle recognises one of the men believed to be awaiting a large shipment of cocaine to be his murder victim. A joint investigation follows.
13. The Commitments – 1991 (88%)
You’ll regularly see the Commitments top best Irish movie lists and, after watching it, you’ll understand why. This is an adaption of the 1987 Roddy Doyle novel of the same name.
Released in 1991, this musical comedy-drama is set on Dublin’s Northside and it tells the story of a young lad named Jimmy Rabbitte.
Rabbitte is a music fanatic who’s dreaming of bringing together the next big thing on the Irish music scene. He assembles a group of youths after advertising in the local paper.
The story that follows is nothing short of excellent. This is a cracking Irish movie that’s (mostly) suitable for all ages.
14. The Young Offenders – 2016 (100%)
If we’re going off Rotten Tomatoes ratings, the Young Offenders tops the list as the best Irish movie of all time, scoring a whopping 100%, which is pretty unheard of.
The story follows best friends Conor and Jock, two dense teenagers from Cork. The lads hear that a drug-trafficking boat has capsized off the coast of Cork and that 61 bales of cocaine, each worth €7 million, have been seized by the Gardai.
Then word gets around that a bale has gone missing. The two lads steal a pair of bikes and go off on a quest to find the missing bale of cocaine.
15. Adam & Paul – 2004 (85%)
I remember going to see this movie after school on a Wednesday when it was released in 2004. That feels like a lifetime ago!
Adam and Paul is a comedy-drama that follows a day in the life of two Dublin heroin addicts as they float around Dublin City trying to score some gear.
Over the course of their journey, the two boys run into a clatter of unsavoury characters and make some terrible attempts at stealing stuff to sell for drugs.
16. War of the Buttons – 1994 (92%)
This one brings back a heap of nostalgia for me. The War of the Buttons was released many moons ago, in 1994. It’s a drama film set in Ireland that gives its fair share of laughs and is packed with action.
The story follows two rival gangs in a village in Cork – the Ballys (the working class gang) and the Carricks (the middle-class gang). It’s told by Marie, a former Bally girl.
The war between the two gangs begins when both meet on a bridge and insults are thrown. The Bally gang responds by defacing a Church in the Carrick’s town.
The Bally’s then capture the leader of the Carrick’s, Geronimo, and steal the buttons from his shirt. The Carrick’s then do the same to Fergus, the leader of the Bally’s. Then the war of the buttons begins.
17. The Stag – 2013 (57%)
The Stag is one of those films that gets hammered by critics, but it’s the perfect film for a Sunday night when you’re looking for something easy-to-follow that gives its fair share of laughs.
The story follows Fionnán, a lad that’s due to be engaged but under no certain terms wants any form of stag do. In fact, he’d happily join the hen.. yea, he’s a bit of a tool.
Ruth (Amy Huberman), the bride-to-be, coaxes one of his friends into organising one. He agrees and tries to do everything possible to stop Ruth’s nutcase brother (known as The Machine) from attending.
However, The Machine tracks the group down as they head off into the Wicklow Mountains and mayhem and hilarity ensue. Watch the trailer for this one.
Iconic movies about Ireland and its past
The third section of this guide is wedged with iconic movies about Ireland and it’s turbulent past. The films below mainly revolve around Ireland’s war for independence.
There are a number of incredibly well written and shot films about this period of Irish history. You’ll find 4 of the best below.
19. Bloody Sunday – 2002 (92%)
Bloody Sunday focuses on the events of, leading up to, and following January 30th, 1972. It was on this day, in a town in County Derry, that a peaceful protest took place.
The march was led by a civil rights activist named Ivan Cooper (played by the brilliant James Nesbitt). Out of nowhere, cowardly British soldiers opened fire on the defenceless crowd.
13 innocent people were killed and 14 were wounded. Bloody Sunday is shot like a documentary and it follows Ivan Cooper through his movements on the now infamous day.
20. Michael Collins – 1996 (77%)
If you’re in search of some of the best Irish movies for St. Patrick’s Day, carve out some time to watch Michael Collins. This is a 1996 historical biopic that stars Liam Neeson as Michael Collins.
For those of you not familiar with Michael Collins, he was an Irish patriot and revolutionary who was killed during the Irish Civil War.
This movie will be an eye-opener for those of you who have little understanding of Britain’s involvement in Ireland, how Irish people suffered at their hands, and how we fought back.
21. Hunger – 2008 (90%)
Hunger is another great watch. It focuses on the 1981 hunger strikes that were held by Republican prisoners in the north of Ireland.
This is a historical drama that was directed by Steve McQueen and that stars the fantastic Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, and Liam McMahon.
Fassbender stars as Bobby Sands, a Provisional IRA freedom fighter who led the second IRA hunger strike. Why? He wanted to regain political status after it had been taken away by the British government in 1976.
If you’re looking for films about Ireland’s history that are well worth the watch, try Hunger. You won’t regret it.
22. Some Mother’s Son – 1996 (69%)
This is another one for those of you looking for movies about the IRA. This story takes place in 1981 and it follows a woman named Kathleen Quigley (Helen Mirren).
Quigley is an Irish teacher who is shocked to learn that her son Gerard (Aidan Gillen) has been arrested for being part of the IRA.
After being thrown in prison, Gerard and a friend named Frank Higgins take part in a hunger strike. While Kathleen worries about her son’s wellbeing, she strikes up a friendship with Frank’s mother who’s a firm supporter of her son’s actions.
Loads more top Irish movies
I’ll level with you – I couldn’t find a category for most of the below Irish films, so I’ve whacked them all into the fourth section of this guide.
Below, you’ll find everything from dark comedies and Irish mob movies to thrillers and musicals. Dive on in!
23. Calvary – 2014 (89%)
Calvary is one of the more recent Irish films out there. It follows the story of Father James (Brendan Gleeson), a priest from a small Irish town.
One day, in confession, Father James receives a threat to his life. The would-be-killer says that he’ll kill the priest in a week’s time.
Although concerned, Father James tries to go about his business over the coming days, but this proves tricky as he is confronted by a number of challenges, from both his daughter and the people of his town.
This is a great watch. It’s dark, funny and, at times, moving. You could pair this up with The Guard if you fancied a Gleeson binge.
24. Angela’s Ashes – 1999 (81%)
Angela’s Ashes is an adaption of the best-selling autobiography by Frank McCourt. It follows the story of a young lad named Frankie and his family as they try to escape poverty.
The movie kicks off with the family living in Brooklyn, but they soon return to Ireland after one of Frankie’s siblings passes away. When they arrive home, they realise the situation in Ireland is worse than it was before they left.
Frankie’s dad is from Northern Ireland and this makes his search for a job in the south difficult, regardless of the fact that he fought for the IRA.
If you have the choice to read the book or watch the movie, read the book – it’s far better, in my opinion. That being said, the movie is still a good watch!
25. Philomena – 2013 (90% – one of the best Irish themed movies)
In 1952, an Irish teenager named Philomena (played by Judi Dench) became pregnant out of wedlock.
As was the case with many young women in a similar situation at this time, she was sent to a convent run by Nuns. Her baby was taken away from her and put up for adoption in the US.
Philomena searches for her son over the course of 50 long years. It’s not until a former journalist named Martin Sixsmith (played by Steve Coogan) hears of the story, that things gain momentum.
26. Sing Street – 2016 (95%)
If you’re looking for Irish movies for kids, look no further than the highly reviewed Sing Street, set in Dublin in the early 1980s.
The movie follows a sensitive young lad named Conor as he struggles to cope with a tense home life while also dealing with a less than hospitable environment in his new school.
Then, one day, Conor falls head over heels for a girl he spots at the school gates. To get her attention he pulls together a group of friends to form a band. A bit of magic follows.
27. In America – 2003 (89%)
This is one of those movies about Ireland and emigration that will hit a chord with many people across the world.
It follows the story of an Irish couple named Johnny and Sarah who, after the passing of their son Frankie, emigrate illegally to America with their two kids.
The family move into a a tenement surrounded with drug addicts and other troubled people. The couple do what they can to make things work, and offer support to those around them.
This is one of the more sad and touching Irish films out there. It’s a story that’ll be felt by many who’s families left Ireland in hope of building a brighter future.
28. Brooklyn – 2015 (97%)
Brooklyn tends to get listed among the top Irish movies of the 2000s. The story follows Eilis Lacey (played by Saoirse Ronan) as she moves to, unsurprisingly enough, Brooklyn.
She arrives in New York homesick but eventually finds her feet and gets a job while starting to study as a bookkeeper. She falls in love with an Italian lad and it seems like her new life is all going to plan.
However, her sister back at home passes away and she decides to return to Ireland temporarily. What follows is an interesting tale that’ll keep you gripped till the end.
29. Once – 2007 (97%)
Once is an Irish romantic drama that’s set in Dublin. It follows a young musician who fixes hoovers (vacuums) by day and plays music on the street of the capital by night.
One day, he meets a Czech woman playing the piano. They become friends and she helps him put together a collection of music that he can bring to London to hopefully land a record deal.
I haven’t seen this one in years. I remember not liking the storyline but loving the music. I’m pretty sure I had the soundtrack on an old MP3 player.
30. The Quiet Man – 1952 (90% – one of the best old Irish movies)
The Quiet Man is an old Irish movie that follows a chap named Sean Thornton (played by John Wayne) who accidentally killed an opponent during a boxing match.
Thornton leaves American and returns to Ireland, hoping to buy his family’s land and live the rest of his life in peace. When he buys the land, he angers Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen), who had been eyeing the property for a long time.
Things get complicated when Thornton begins a romance with Danaher’s sister, played by Maureen O’Hara.
31. The Crying Game – 1992 (94%)
This is another one for those of you looking for movies about the IRA. The story follows an odd friendship between an IRA volunteer (Fergus) and a kidnapped British soldier (Jody).
The hostage-taking goes arseways and Fergus leaves Ireland for London, where he seeks out Jody’s (the British soldier) lover.
He then develops a very random relationship with Jody’s lover, who knows nothing about his involvement with the IRA. This one has enough twists and turns to keep your attention until the very end.
32. Darby O’Gill And The Little People – 1959 (100%)
This is an Irish movie for kids. Actually… it’s a movie for kids and people that have smoked a load of the green stuff.
Jokes aside, this is one of the few Irish themed movies that has racked up a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, which is pretty damn impressive.
The story follows Darby O’Gill, who has just been fired from his job and doesn’t want his daughter to discover that his position has been nabbed by a handsome younger man.
On his way home, he falls through a portal to the land of the little people where he meets the leprechaun king. He then somehow ends up bringing the leprechaun home with hIm.
The leprechaun grants Darby three wishes. As you’ve probably already suspected, all does not go to plan.
33. The Magdalene Sisters – 2003 (91%)
The Magdalene Sisters follows the story of 3 young women who are sent to a Magdalene Asylum in 1964. The asylum is run like a prison and the girls are made to do hard labour.
The girls endure agonising punishments which leaves them both physically and mentally drained. They soon realise that the only way out of the Magdalene convent is to escape.
This is one of the best Irish films that covers the horrific conditions that many young women endured when they were sent to Magdalene institutions. A harrowing watch.
34. The Secret of Kells – 2010 (91%)
This is another one of those mad old Irish movies for kids that has insanely good reviews online. The movie is set in remote woods in the Irish countryside.
The story follows Cellach (played by Brendan Gleeson) as he readies a fortress for a looming attack by Vikings. Cellach’s nephew Brendan, who has no interest in the battle, works secretly as an apprentice in the local monastery.
As the Vikings prepare to attack, Brendan is recruited by a revered illuminator to complete a number of dangerous (and magical) tasks.
35. Into the West – 1992 (77%)
Into The West is another old Irish movie that I associate with Christmas, even though I’m reasonably sure that I’ve never watched it at Christmas…
The story begins with a gigantic white stallion appearing to a traveller and his two grandsons in an unnamed Irish slum. The younger of the two grandchildren is the only one that’s able to tame the stallion and ownership falls to him.
The kids and the stallion are forced to move into the apartment of their alcoholic father until the Gardai remove them. In a dodgy deal, the stallion is given to a wealthy horse breeder.
36. In The Name Of The Father – 1993 (94%)
This is another one for those of you on the lookout for movies about the IRA. The story revolves around the bombing of the Guildford Pub in London in 1974.
A man from Belfast named Gerry Conlon has admitted to the police that he was London on the day of the incident but claims that he’s innocent and has no interest in politics.
He and three others, known as the Guildford Four, are believed by the police to be part of the IRA. The four are pressured into signing a statement of guilt, even though the have alibis for when the bombing took place.
Irish mob movies
The final section of this guide tackles Irish mob movies, all of which are set in America and that star characters of Irish descent.
From the recently released The Irishman to some older classics, you’ll find a few Irish gangster movies below to keep you happy.
37. The Irishman – 2019 (96%)
Martin Scorsese’s long-ass movie The Irishman is now arguably the best Irish mob movie of all time.
The story follows Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a former labour union high official and hitman who learned his trade while serving in Italy during the second world war.
It was in the early 1950s that Sheeran became involved with the infamous Russell Bufalino and his crime family. If you’re in search of LONG Irish mafia movies, check this one out.
38. Gangs of New York
Gangs of New York is another Irish mob movie. It was released in 2002 and was directed by Martin Scorsese.
The story is set in the New York slums in the mid-1800s and follows an orphaned Irish-American by the name of Amsterdam Vallon, as he returns to an area known as the Five Points.
It was here that his father, an Irish priest, was killed during a fight between an Irish gang and those that call themselves ‘the Natives’.
Aside from Cameron Diaz’s horrendous attempt at an Irish accent, this movie is a decent watch. Well worth lashing on one evening.
What classic Irish movies have we missed?
Is there an Irish movie or a couple of movies about Ireland or set in Ireland that we’ve missed? If so, let me know below.
Writing the guide below has opened my eyes in ways to the many deadly Irish films there are out there.
It has also made me realise how many terrible movies there are out there… but that’s another story altogether. Cheers for reading!