‘And the Oscar goes to’: The 15 best movies to come from Ireland

July 14, 2019

The Irish have a sense of humor and wit second to none despite surviving centuries of misery — or maybe because of it. It might help get you in the proper mindset for an Open Championship in Ireland — to set the mood, if you will — if you watch some (or all) of these movies. You might notice that there are no Daniel Day Lewis films listed, and with reason: He may be the best actor of his or any other generation, and his movies about Ireland and the Irish are damned fine, but they are heavy going, and the goal here is to help you have more fun watching the Open, not to teach you how to make a shiv.

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The Quiet Man (1952)
There are two essential Irish movies; this Oscar winner is one. The supporting cast is so perfect you can ignore John Wayne in the lead. Barry Fitzgerald turns in one of the top comedic performances ever. There’s a fight so long it can’t be called a scene. Wayne is at his best as a punching bag for Victor McLaglen, who plays his nemesis. Perhaps the best opening line to any movie is delivered by Ward Bond: “I’ll begin at the beginning.”

Waking Ned Devine (1998)
This is the second essential Irish movie. You’ll laugh from the opening scene — which is genius — all the way through, with the exception of one rather moving moment during a funeral service. But good news, the person being eulogized isn’t dead! (That’s not a spoiler.)

The Commitments (1991), The Snapper (1993), The Van (1996)
These are the film versions of the “Barrytown Trilogy,” Roddy Doyle’s first three novels. They’re all a good watch, although The Commitments, about a guy who decides to start a band and interviews potential bandmates at his parents’ house, is probably the best of the bunch. The Snapper is about a woman who gets pregnant and won’t reveal who the father is, and The Van is about a fellow named Bimbo who loses his job and starts a food truck (with mixed results dealing with a deep fryer). If you haven’t read Doyle, you should. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha isn’t part of the trilogy but is a good one on its own.

Sing Street (2016)
Set in the time when music videos were taking over the world, a schoolboy meets a girl who is way too cool for him, and turns to the timeless solution of starting a band. This is the newest movie on this list, and even though the plot line is old, it’s damned funny.

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Top O’ The Morning (1949)
What would happen if the Blarney Stone were stolen? For starters, an insurance investigator from New York, played by Bing Crosby, would show up and start singing a lot.

The Yank (2014)
Finally, an Irish movie with Fred Willard! This is a satirical look at Irish Americans, filmed in County Clare, Dublin, and, of course, Cleveland. Cleveland?

The Closer You Get (2000)
This movie is confusingly sometimes called American Women, but either way the gist is some fellas in Donegal decide to run an advertisement in the Miami Herald to lure some women their way…and everyone in their small town quickly hears about their plan.

The Boys and Girl from County Clare (2003)
If you watch the films on this list, you’ll see a lot of actor Colm Meaney. He’s in this one, too. The gist is the bonkers stuff two brothers do to prevent each other from competing in an annual ceili (folk music) competition.

Good Vibrations (2012)
The story of Terri Hooley, a guy who opened a reggae music shop in Belfast to try to get folks to chill out during the Troubles, and ended up leading the glory days of punk rock on the local scene.

War of the Buttons (1994)
For your inner child. This flick is about “warring” children from two towns, and the victors in each battle take buttons, shoelaces and the like as booty. Their parents are not pleased!

Eat the Peach (1986)
In the incredibly awful 1964 film Roustabout, Elvis Presley not only delivers some comically bad karate chops, but also rides a motorcycle around the Wall of Death at a carnival. In Eat the Peach, two bored Irish guys see Roustabout on TV and decide to build their own Wall of Death. Great idea!

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The Informer (1935)
If — and only if — you want to watch something dramatic that doesn’t star Daniel Day Lewis, try this one. It won four Oscars, including Best Director for John Ford (the genius behind The Quiet Man). Set during the time of the Irish War of Independence, the film stars Victor McLaglen as Gypo Nolan, who rats out a pal in the IRA and, well…dundundun!

London Irish (2013)
Not a movie, and, sadly, only six episodes of this TV show were made. It’s a crime against comedy that they stopped there. The gang from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are nothing compared to this lot.

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