In the Name of the Father (1993)
This film has everything: an Irish director, heavy Northern Irish accents, jean jackets and Jim Morrison hair, Daniel Day-Lewis, the Troubles, a worried “Mammy,” Sinead O’Connor crawling involuntarily down your spine with her melancholic wailings, and of course, Daniel Day-Lewis.
Without a doubt, Colm Meaney’s greatest performance to date, as a vigilante garda hell-bent on ridding Dublin of its scumbags, a goal he can only reach with Clannad as his musical accompaniment. Other key players include Cillian Murphy, Deirdre O’Kane and the brown-sauce-tea-loving petty criminal, Colin Farrell.
Angela’s Ashes (1999)
If one is having a hard day, one must pause for a moment and consider the childhood of Frank McCourt. Your toothpaste ran out, you missed your bus and stubbed your toe? Well, Mr. McCourt lived in a single room with every member of his extended family; TB, polio and dyphteria were close relatives (by blood); and by the age of 18, he’d only seen the sun twice (three times at a push), through the varying degrees of rain that barraged his skull/tenement/Limerick city.
Steve McQueen’s Hunger objectively examines the internment of political prisoners during the Troubles in the 1980s, focusing primarily on the life and death of the leader of the H-Block hunger strikes, Bobby Sands. Although focusing on a violently political period of Irish history, Hunger showcases the human stories behind the well-known stereotypes of the Troubles: the prison guard, the young rebel, and the fearless leader.
In America (2002)
Jim Sheridan’s semi-autobiographical drama focuses on the hardships faced by an Irish immigrant family as they attempt to make a new life for themselves in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Nominated for an Academy Award, the film is most notable for the superb performances of its youngest cast members, the Bolger sisters, who play the family’s children.
My Left Foot (1989)
Daniel Day-Lewis’s versatility as an actor, Jim Sheridan’s subtlety as a director and Christy Brown’s extraordinary strength as an individual came together to create this magnificent drama, and when Brenda Fricker also came on board, history was made.
The Quiet Man (1952)
John Wayne plays a retired boxer who returns to reclaim his family farm in Inisfree. There he falls for (1) the sensationally beautiful Irish countryside and (2) the sensationally beautiful Maureen O’Hara. The greatest Irish tourism campaign ever launched.
The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006)
Set in Cork in 1920, during the Irish Civil War, the relationship between two brothers is shattered when they decide to fight for opposing sides. Ken Loach’s award-winning tale was one of the highest-grossing independent films ever made in Ireland, only topped by The Guard (2011).
Michael Collins (1996)
Think that you’re an unpatriotic pacifist? After 133 minutes of Neil Jordan’s 1996 über-sensational biopic, prepare to want to quash every Sasanach creatúr that crosses your path.
Dead Meat (2004)
Leitrim. Stifling seclusion, dense forestry, labyrinthine roads and impenetrable silence. How could we make this place worse? Flesh-eating bovine.
Pat Short portrays a seemingly simple petrol station attendant, Josie, disregarded by his peers due to his quiet, simple nature. When teenager David starts working with him the two develop a relationship. Josie begins to come out of his shell, but after a lifetime of stifled self-expression, his attempt to find intimacy leads him to make a decision that will change his life, permanently.
The Guard (2011)
The most successful Irish independent film to date, this black comedy tells the story of Galwegian garda Gerry Boyle, played by Brendan Gleeson, and a high-ranking FBI agent, played by Don Cheadle, who must put aside their differences (stemming mostly from Boyle’s cultural ignorance and casual racism) to investigate the murder of a young garda by a ruthless gang of drug traffickers.
Adam and Paul (2004)
Another black comedy, this time following the lives of two addicts living in Dublin. Their lives revolve around scoring and consuming heroin, leading to several dangerous predicaments. The film’s strongest theme is the persistence of man, however dismal the circumstances. Their misguided optimism and poorly disguised vulnerability make their characters almost lovable (well, as lovable as heroin addicts can be).
The Dead (1987)
John Huston’s last film (released posthumously) is testament to his dedication to his art. His adaption of James Joyce’s short story is one of the only commercially successful adaptions of Joyce’s work that doesn’t cause one to re-experience one’s dinner.
In Bruges (2008)
A cult classic, In Bruges proudly takes its place on this list of cinematic greats. It tells the story of two Irish hit-men (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson), who travel to the city of the title, where Gleeson is to execute Farrell, on the order of their boss. In Bruges also features a death scene to end all death scenes, involving a tower, some coins and Luke Kelly’s Raglan Road.