10 Award Winning Irish Films to Watch This St. Patrick’s Day

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According to an article in Variety magazine spotlighting Irish cinema, a decade ago Ireland had only two filmmakers anyone had heard of: Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan. Now though, Ireland can boast more than a dozen directors and writers with significant and growing international reputations. Ireland is now achieving filmmaking talent to match the kind of influence it has always enjoyed in the fields of literature and theatre. Following in the footsteps of Sheridan and Jordan comes a generation that includes such directors as Lenny Abrahamson, Conor McPherson, John Crowley, Martin McDonagh, John Carney, Kirsten Sheridan, Lance Daly, Paddy Breathnach and Damien O'Donnell. Ireland has also proved a popular location for shooting films, largely due to the tax-breaks. Let’s take a look at our picks for the top Award winning films from the Emerald Isle…..


These are in no particular order:


The Commitments (1991) – Best Irish film ever they say. Alan Parker has made some very diverse films (Midnight Express, Angel Heart, Mississippi Burning, Angela's Ashes) in his long career, but you can see that music is in his blood and one of his favourite themes (Bugsy Malone, Fame, Pink Floyd The Wall, Evita). A film adaptation of Roddy Doyle's novel of the same name, it is about working class Dubliners who form a soul band. Glen Hansard played Outspan Foster in this film, leading to playing the lead in another little musical film called Once. Please note, the key players in this movie were not chosen for their acting abilities, but rather for their musical talent. The film won the BAFTA Award for Best Film, as well as BAFTA Awards for Best Director, Best Editing (Gerry Hambling), and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy and for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing.


The soundtrack to the film, which included soul staples such as “In The Midnight Hour”, “Try a Little Tenderness” and “Mustang Sally”, sold 12 million copies. If you haven’t seen this film, you need to get your life together and go watch it!




Once (2007) – A little indie movie about an Irish busker who falls in love with a Czech immigrant; who thought it would be a worldwide hit? Once won Glen Hansard and his co-star (and real-life partner but I think they broke up now) Markéta Irglová an Oscar for Best Original Song in 2007 for “Falling Slowly”, and a stage version went on to become a hit on Broadway. The Broadway production of Once was nominated for a total of 11 Tony Awards, and it won eight of them including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Actor in a Musical. The film appeared on many North American critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007. You will fall quickly for this beautiful love story, we promise.





The General (1998) – Brendan Gleeson plays a real life Dublin gangster crime boss Martin Cahill, who was part anarchist, part 'ordinary decent criminal'. Adrian Dunbar plays his friend Noel Curley, and Jon Voight plays Inspector Ned Kenny. Directed by John Boorman, the scenes are well thought out and the acting solid in this film. However the film has a largely Irish cast deploying thick Dublin accents and Boorman chose to shoot it in black and white, which unfortunately gives you a movie which isn’t exactly going to jump out at international audiences. Not your typical A-List Hollywood crime melodrama, this movie is not for everyone, especially those looking for the typical Vin Diesel or Al Pacino crime flick. This is more like The Sopranos in the Irish slums.


The General was nominated for and won several awards, including Best Director at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival and the Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics.




The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2006) – This is director Ken Loach’s story of the divisions that came out of Ireland’s war of independence (1919–1922) and the Irish Civil War (1922–1923). Written by Paul Laverty, this drama tells the fictional story of two brothers, Damien O'Donovan (Cillian Murphy) and Teddy O'Donovan (Pádraic Delaney), who join the Irish Republican Army to fight for Irish independence from the United Kingdom. It takes its title from the Robert Dwyer Joyce song "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" a song set during the 1798 rebellion in Ireland and featured early in the film.


Widely praised, the film won the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. This is a truly great film and well deserving of the Palm D'Or. Loach's biggest box office success to date, the film did well around the world and set a record in Ireland as the highest-grossing Irish-made independent film ever, until surpassed by The Guard.




The Guard (2011) – This Irish comedy film was written and directed by John Michael McDonagh. It is the story of a vulgar Irish cop from West Ireland (Brendan Gleeson) and a straight-laced American FBI agent (Don Cheadle) uncovering police corruption among the former's superiors while probing a drug-trafficking ring. It is a witty, well-written film that makes its tone clear from the first scene. If you are a fan of In Bruges, Snatch, or Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, I think you will enjoy this one. I never thought Gleeson could top In Bruges but he is even better here. His character is the biggest smart-alec you've ever seen and Gleeson is a constant delight to watch. Gleeson was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture of Comedy.

Fun, intelligent, and genuinely hilarious, The Guard is a film you won’t regret seeing. It is the most successful Irish film of all time in terms of Irish box-office receipts for good reason.


Grabbers (2012) – Probably Ireland’s finest horror/comedy. When an island off the coast of Ireland is invaded by bloodsucking aliens, the heroes (Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Bronagh Gallagher and Russell Tovey) discover that getting drunk is the only way to survive. As a storm approaches, enabling hungry hatchlings access to the locals, an open bar kicks off a desperate bid for survival as drunk police and friends stagger to remain aware long enough to put a stop to the alien invasion. The creature effects – a combination of CGI and practical – are very effective and well done. The monster appears to be some sort of squid and possesses numerous tentacles (the 'grabbers' of the title). This is a movie for everyone – especially those who like a mixture of both horror and comedy!


At the Edinburgh International Film Festival, it was announced as one of the "Best of the Fest" of the 2012 line-up. At the Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival, it won the Audience Prize for Best Film, and at NIFFF, it won two awards: the Audience Award for best film and the Titra Film Award.


In the Name of the Father (1993) – Irish-British-American biographical courtroom drama film co-written and directed by Jim Sheridan. It is based on the true life story of Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis) who is wrongly accused as an IRA terrorist. Bullied by the British police, he and four of his friends are coerced into confessing their guilt of the 1974 IRA's Guildford pub bombings. Gerry's father (played by Pete Postlethwaite) and other relatives in London are also implicated in the crime. He spends 15 years in prison with his father trying to prove his innocence with the help of a British attorney, Gareth Peirce. The story is heart-breaking and shocking at the same time, all the more so when one realizes that these things actually DID happen. Although there have been some minor modifications for the purpose of the film, the backbone of the story is left intact. Be sure to see this film if you haven't, it will definitely stir your emotions and renew your faith in the human spirit.


It received seven Academy Award nominations: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Daniel Day-Lewis), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Pete Postlethwaite), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Emma Thompson), Best Director, and Best Picture.

The Field (1990) – The Field was directed by our old friend Jim Sheridan featuring stars Richard Harris, John Hurt, Sean Bean, Brenda Fricker and Tom Berenger. This was adapted from John B. Keane's 1965 play of the same name. If you're looking for a feel-good movie about leprechauns, this ain't it. Like his forefathers, Bull (played by Harris) is a tenant farmer who leases the farm from the young widow that is terrorized by son Tadgh McCabe (Sean Bean) who goes to her house every night to play tricks on her. This woman has had it and decides to put that land for sale in a public auction. Peter the American whose ancestors are from the area, arrives and wants to buy the land, but Bull isn’t having it. The ending will shock you. Get ready for a fantastic performance by the late Richard Harris, who also received an Academy Award and a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.







My Left Foot (1989) –This Irish drama film directed by once again Jim Sheridan and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Christy Brown, an Irishman born with cerebral palsy, who could control only his left foot. He grew up in a poor, working-class family, and became a writer and artist. The film also stars as his parents Ray McAnally and Brenda Fricker (Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress).  My Left Foot is a film that is uplifting without being sentimental, really showing a touching tale about the indomitable will of the human spirit to triumph against all odds. Daniel Day-Lewis gave the performance of a lifetime here and won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.


The film was also nominated for three more awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay for Shane Connaughton and Jim Sheridan, Best Director for Sheridan, and for Best Picture (losing out to Driving Miss Daisy). My Left Foot is a great movie in every sense, so add this to your DVR my friends!


SO many great films, any more you might add? Let us know in the comments!


Posted by Samaria S on 17th March 2015
Category: Review

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