Critic's Picks: 10 Best Irish Films for St. Patrick’s Day

7:10 AM 3/17/2016

by Neil Young and Leslie Felperin

THR critics Neil Young and Leslie Felperin rank their favorite Irish movies, from an ethnofictional doc to a foot-stomping soul musical to an Oscar-winning biopic starring Daniel Day-Lewis, and more.

Courtesy of Photofest
  1. 10
    10

    Calvary

    2015

    Courtesy of Photofest

    We deliberated long and hard over which McDonagh brother to choose for this gallery — Martin McDonagh, writer-director of In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, or John Michael McDonagh, whose credits include The Guard and Calvary. The latter won by a whisker for his searing drama about a good country priest (Brendan Gleeson) facing atonement for the sins of the clergy. Gleeson’s son Domhnall, clearly a chip off the old block in terms of talent and work ethic, is chilling as a murderous convict. — L.F.

  2. 9
    10

    The Secret of Kells

    2009

    Courtesy of Cartoon Saloon

    There’s a strong animation tradition in Ireland going back to the days of Don Bluth, but this jewel of a film suggests that flair for graphical storytelling could be traceable back to the country’s own dark age history. Tomm Moore’s exquisite fable imagines a magic-infused backstory to explain how The Book of Kells, the famous illuminated manuscript, came into being. Moore would go on to direct the equally splendid 2014 Oscar-nominee Song of the Sea. — L.F.  

  3. 8
    10

    Adam & Paul

    2004

    Screengrab

    Last year’s Room may have put Lenny Abrahamson on the map in the U.S., but the writer-director already a few crackers under his belt by the time he "made it." All are excellent in different ways, but this debut is something special, a picaresque comedy-drama that plays like a lost Samuel Beckett play on smack. — L.F.  

  4. 7
    10

    Intermission

    2003

    Courtesy of Photofest

    More than a decade before achieving international success with Brooklyn, John Crowley made a barn-stormingly promising debut with this energetic, Dublin-set, blackly comic multi-strander. First among equals in the impressive ensemble: Castleknock's Colin Farrell, whose lusty closing-credits rendition of The Clash's "I Fought the Law" confirmed he's much more than a pretty face. — N.Y.

  5. 6
    10

    My Left Foot

    1989

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Jim Sheridan's searingly unsentimental adaptation of the inspirational autobiography by cerebral palsy sufferer Christy Brown saw longtime Irish resident Daniel Day-Lewis win the first of his three best actor Oscars, with native Dubliner Brenda Fricker also taking supporting actress honors as his mother Bridget. — N.Y.

  6. 5
    10

    The General

    1998

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Brendan Gleeson had played character roles in over a dozen films by the time he made this sharp black-and-white biopic of Martin Cahill, one of Ireland’s most famous criminals, but it arguably represents the actor’s big breakthrough. Longtime Eire resident John Boorman captures the wit and grit of Dublin life, and includes a scene where his own house is burgled by Cahill, as it was in real life. — L.F.

  7. 4
    10

    Michael Collins

    1996

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Epic and muscular in every sense but, like its eponymous hero, not without its flaws, director Neil Jordan’s long-nursed passion project tells the story of one of the great heroes of the 1916 Easter Rising, played here with blazing charisma by Liam Neeson. Indeed, everyone in the cast is in top form here, from Alan Rickman as Eamon De Valera and Julia Roberts as Collins’ lover to Stephen Rea, Aidan Quinn, Ian Hart, Brendan Gleeson and Jonathan Rhys Myers in key supporting roles. — L.F.

  8. 3
    10

    The Commitments

    1991

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Alan Parker's infectiously entertaining tale of a north Dublin soul outfit, based on the novel by acclaimed writer Roddy Doyle, won the BAFTA for best film, was named the best Irish movie ever made in a 2005 poll, and has spawned an entire mini-industry of touring bands cashing in on the picture's enduring, toe-tappingly feel-good appeal. — N.Y.

  9. 2
    10

    The Dead

    1987

    Courtesy of Photofest

    John Huston relocated to Ireland in 1952 amid Hollywood's "anti-American" witch-hunts, taking full citizenship there in 1964. But he returned to the USA for his valedictory film, a delicate and haunting adaptation of James Joyce's classic short story, whose interiors were shot in a warehouse in Valencia, California. Proof once again that Ireland, in cinematic terms, is often primarily a state of mind. — N.Y.  

  10. 1
    10

    Man of Aran

    1934

    Courtesy of Photofest

    America's "father of documentary" Robert Flaherty traveled to the most rugged western islands off the coast of Galway to shoot this rousingly atmospheric — but almost entirely fabricated — chronicle of hardship among wind-blown fishing-folk. It lives on as a controversial and influential masterpiece of boundary-blurring "ethno-fiction." — N.Y.

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