While not as popular around the world as its English neighbor, the Irish film industry is packed with talent, exemplified by riveting titles like The Banshees of Inisherin. With the critically acclaimed tragicomedy enjoying its much deserved success and picking up several trophies this awards season, there has been renewed interest in all the glorious releases Ireland has to offer.
The Banshees of Inisherin stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as Pádraic Súilleabháin and Colm Doherty, a pair of lifelong friends whose relationship hits a major snag in the road when the latter seemingly ends their friendship out of nowhere. Determined to save their bond by all means, Pádraic enlists the help of his sister Siobhán and a local boy named Dominic, but Colm’s determination proves a difficult hurdle.
The film, which was directed by Martin McDonagh, has been on the receiving end of significant praise for its direction, musical score, and the performance of the actors. Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan star as Siobhán and Dominic respectively, and have also garnered acclaim for their portrayals. The Banshees of Inisherin was hailed as one of the best films of 2022, and has earned several awards and nominations, most recently picking up the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy, Best Actor for Farrell, and Best Screenplay.
For a wonderful foray into the world of Irish talent and cinema, here are 10 more films to dive into.
What better way to kick off this list than with the initial collaboration between McDonagh, Farrell, and Gleeson? In Bruges is a 2008 black comedy-drama that served as McDonagh’s directorial debut, and Farrell and Gleeson star as Ray and Ken, a pair of Irish hitmen hiding out in Bruges, Belgium after a botched mission. However, when their boss Harry — played masterfully by Ralph Fiennes — asks Ken to kill Ray, things take a hilariously awful turn. In Bruges was a critical success, and as if a foreshadowing of what was to occur 15 years later, Farrell picked up the Golden Globe in 2009 for his performance, while the film earned an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay.
A staple in Irish cinema, this independent war drama received critical acclaim upon release in 2006. The film follows a fictional account of two brothers in the heat of Ireland’s War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. Cillian Murphy and Pádraic Delaney star as Damien and Teddy O’Donovan, with supporting performances from Liam Cunningham and Orla Fitzgerald. Praised for its intense dramatic scenes carried by the emotional performances of the actors, The Wind That Shakes The Barley earned numerous awards and nominations, including the Palme d’Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.
Belfast — the 2021 drama directed by Kenneth Branagh — quickly became the most acclaimed film in his catalog. With a whopping seven nominations at the 94th Academy Awards, and taking home the trophy for Best Original Screenplay, Belfast was one of the most lauded films of 2021. Based on his childhood in the titular city of Northern Island, the film follows a young boy as he navigates life and family at the start of The Troubles. With wonderful performances from Caitríona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds, and the rising talent Jude Hill, Belfast is a film that packs a ton of heart.
The Guard may have come out in 2011, but this laugh-out-loud buddy cop comedy still holds the record for the most successful independent Irish film ever. Gleeson once again shines on screen, this time as the impudent and unserious Sergeant Gerry Boyle who is unwillingly partnered up with the strict FBI Agent Wendell Everett, played by Don Cheadle. As the two team up to investigate a drug trafficking case, their contrasting personalities make for some hilarious clashing. The Guard marked the initial pairing of Gleeson and director John Michael McDonagh – who worked together a couple years later on Calvary. The actor has also worked with John’s brother Martin on the aforementioned In Bruges, and 2022’s The Banshees of Inisherin.
In this thrilling crime drama, Nigel O’Neill stars as Donal, a simple Irish farmer who takes matters into his own hands and sets out on a revenge mission after his elderly mother is murdered. What results is an exciting and bloody adventure that shows the lengths even the mild can go to for love.
A romantic fairytale starring Colin Farrell as a fisherman who stumbles upon a beautiful girl in his fishing net, Ondine is a gorgeous tale that borrows elements from stories of the mythological creature, the Selkie. The Irish film was praised for its scenery, escapism, and fantasy, and the performances of Farrell and the rest of the cast.
Black ‘47 is a dark and gritty period drama set during the Irish Famine. Hugo Weaving stars as Hannah, an Irish soldier fighting for the British Army who decides to desert his post and return to his family. The film received positive reviews for the settings, direction, and the acting performances, particularly that of Weaving.
Another entry with the brilliant Gleeson, Calvary is a moving dramedy about a kind, small-town Irish priest named Father James. One fateful day, during confessionals, a mysterious man shares that he will murder Father James as revenge for being abused by another priest when he was a child. Now troubled with the news, the good priest has to tackle not only the challenges of his town, but the many ills of the Catholic Church.
Another light entry on this list is the Irish drama A Date for Mad Mary, which stars Seána Kerslake as the titular character who has just been released from prison and has to find a date for her best friend’s wedding. Taking on the challenge head on, Mary begins a journey to find love, and while the film remains an underrated gem, it became a critical darling.
Wild Mountain Thyme might not have ended up on any critics’ “Best Of” lists, but the on-screen pairing of Jamie Dornan and Emily Blunt proved particularly delightful to watch. The romantic comedy follows two neighbors who fall in love but are caught up in harsh land disputes that threaten to halt their budding romance.