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Irish Films to Watch This St. Patrick’s Day

Cliffs of Moher on the western coast of IrelandWhile some of us around the country are anxiously waiting for spring to arrive amidst piles of snow, the nation’s favorite drunken holiday has snuck up on us and provides us the perfect reason to raise our spirits (pun intended!) Regardless of whether you know the true nature and history of this holiday, St. Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate all things Irish, to wear all things green and orange, and the only day of the year you can legitimately get a “green beer.” For those of us that aren’t apt to party, though, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the seventeenth day of March, and that includes my personal favorite – watching movies.
From comedies to dramas to musicals and beyond, here are 10 films inspired by Irish history, folklore, culture, and more that can make every feel just a little bit Irish or even inspire a trip to the beautiful country. As someone who has been there, I would recommend traveling to Ireland regardless!

The Boondock Saints (1999)

A cult classic for film fans, The Boondock Saints tells the tale of the MacManus twins (Sean Patrick Flanery and pre-Walking Dead Norman Reedus) as they set out to remove evil from the city of Boston, all while being chased themselves by the FBI. Accompanied by Willem Dafoe as the FBI agent in tow, this action film is just that – full of action!

Leap Year (2010)

Starring redhead Amy Adams and Matthew Goode with a quite convincing Irish accent, Leap Year is about that one day at the end of February – the 29th – that pops up every four years on our calendars. While the purpose of this leap day is to make sure that our seasons continue to come around when we expect them to, the day is also chock-full of traditions, history, and superstitions, including the one that is the topic of this film: a day in which women are free to propose marriage to men, and according to said tradition, men must accept it! A cute little rom-com with a full predictable ending, Leap Year provides lovely shots of the Irish scenery as Adams’s character “Anna” treks across the island country in an attempt to snatch her man.

The Departed (2006)

Another film set in Boston (which, of course, is a common setting for many Irish-related films), this Scorcese-directed, “cops vs. mafia” action film stars many big name actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, and Martin Sheen, amongst others. While not much of Ireland is apparent in this film other than Irish relations in Boston and supposed crime in the area, Scorcese provides an intriguing story that keeps viewers on their toes and includes an ending that I’ll bet you probably didn’t see coming.

Irish Immigration

Because there are quite a few of them, these movies about Irish immigration are being lumped together. From another Scorcese-DiCaprio pairing in Gangs of New York (2002), Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s Far and Away (1992), recent Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen’s Hunger (2008), and Irish original In America (2002), these films tell the stories of the trials and tribulations of Irish immigrants coming to the United States including the early years of immigration in 1863 to the more recent times of 1982.

Once (2006)

This “modern day musical” takes us to the streets of Dublin and immerses us into a Guy meets Girl story… literally! The characters of this musical are unnamed, simply referred to as Guy and Girl. Once follows Guy and Girl as Girl helps singer-songwriter Guy create a demo disc that he hopes to take to London to start a music career. And, as is expected, a romance emerges between our characters as they reminisce about lovers past.

The Secret of Kells (2009)

At Trinity College’s Treasury, located within the college in Dublin, there lies a book called the Book of Kells – an 9th-century illuminated manuscript that contains four gospels in Latin of the New Testament, amongst other texts. The Secret of Kells, the only animated feature on this list, retells the story of the boy said to be behind this famed book. Of course, because of its animated nature, this French film adds a dash of fantasy to the story with mythical creatures brought to life


The Luck of the Irish (2001)

Admit it, you know you’ve seen this incredibly cheesy Disney Channel Original Movie. Starring Ryan Merriman as the unknowing half leprechaun-half human main character, The Luck of the Irish is a stereotypical story of leprechauns, gold coins, high school sports, and a smidgen of Irish competition history and folklore. If anything, watch this movie for a dash of nostalgia for the old made-for-TV movies we all secretly loved.

The Boys from County Clare (2003)
In an ode to traditional Irish music (don’t worry, this one is not a musical), The Boys from County Clare – also called The Boys & Girl of County Clare – is about a pair of brothers that compete against one another in an All-Ireland Traditional Music competition in the 1960s. And, as always, there’s a (insert Irish accent here) fair lass caught in the middle of it.

The Secret of Roan Inish (1994)

Through true Irish fashion, The Secret of Roan Inish provides viewers with an interesting telling of Irish legend and lore. Set in Donegal, Ireland, a young girl by the name of Fiona learns about a local legend that one of her ancestors had married a selkie, which in simple terms is essentially a seal that can turn into a human. Along with the story that her brother had been swept away into the sea years before, the idea that her family believes he is being raised by seals/selkies, and amidst spotting a naked little boy on the Isle of Roan Inish, Fiona set out to reveal the mystery that surrounds the supposedly abandoned island.

King Arthur (2004)

Alright, alright. This popular legend is not of Irish descent, but it makes the list for good reason. As with many other films on this list, many scenes of  King Arthur were shot in Ireland, providing breathtaking views of the Irish countryside set in the medieval times of knights and roundtables. Starring Clive Owen as the title character, as well as Keira Knightley as Guinevere and Ioan Gruffud (better known as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic in the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four films) as Lancelot, this version of King Arthur provides copious amounts of eye candy for the ladies in the audience, and equal amounts of sword fighting action for the guys. Need I say more?

Bonus Movie:Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) – The only thing that you need to know about this oldie, and ultimately the best reason to watch it this St. Patrick’s Day, is that this film stars a young Sean Connery… and he sings!

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Rachel Policano

Writer - Reviews & Features
Journalist/writer, Photographer, Designer. I'm obsessed with all things music, films, books, fashion, and travel. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr for more!

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