While clearly St. Patrick’s Day is more about pints of Guinness than it is about movies, here’s a list of 10 films that, in one way or another, celebrate the Emerald Isle. Perfect for those fed up with Irish-fueled debauchery — or who need material to invent drinking games for at-home celebrations.
Bloody Sunday (Paul Greengrass, 2002)
If you’re having a rough post-St. Patrick’s Day Sunday, let Paul Greengrass put things in perspective with his vivid, compelling “Bloody Sunday.” Taking on the 1972 “Bloody Sunday” shootings in Derry, the film uses the citizens’ version of the events to tell story in a pseudo-documentary style. Winner of the audience award at Sundance and the Golden Bear in Berlin, this powerful film provides an Irish history lesson to match your Irish hangover.
The Commitments (Alan Parker, 1991)
Voted the best Irish film of all time by a 2005 poll sponsored by none other than Jameson Irish Whiskey, the film adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s beloved novel — and its soundtrack — were cultural sensations back in the early 1990s. And with good reason. The story of a group of unemployed Dubliners who form a soul band, “The Committments” is a charming, joyous ode to the power of music. Featuring a cast of then-unknown actors and musicians, it also launched the careers of none other than Colm Meaney, Glen Hansard and The Corrs.
The Crying Game (Neil Jordan, 1992)
By now you probably know the big twist (or have already seen the film), which admittedly takes a bit away from the “Crying Game” experience. But even with that knowledge, “The Crying Game” is an exceptional psychological thriller worth revisiting. Starring Stephen Rea, Miranda Richardson, Forest Whitaker and Jaye Davidson, the film follows a IRA member who becomes romantically intertwined with the girlfriend of one of his prisoners. One of Harvey Weinstein’s earliest Oscar triumphs, the old Miramax turned this into a sleeper hit and best picture nominee via a very clever campaign revolving around the film’s big reveal.
Hunger (Steve McQueen, 2008)
The film that introduced many of us to both Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender, the duo’s pre-“Shame” collaboration is the newest entry on this list. Continuing the trend of filmmaking influenced by The Troubles, “Hunger” takes place during the 1981 Irish hunger strike. It follows Bobby Sands (Fassbender), the imprisoned IRA volunteer who led the second IRA hunger strike. Not exactly an easy film to stomach (especially in its final act), it might be the least-hangover friendly film on this list.
Intermission (John Crowley, 2003)
What would an Irish-themed film list be without something starring Colin Farrell? Alongside Cillian Murphy, Kelly MacDonald, Shirley Henderson and the aforementioned Colm Meaney, Farrell leads an exceptional ensemble in this dark comic gem. Set in Dublin, it follows the lives of a group of mostly nasty people whose lives interwine via both romance and crime. Seen by few in its limited 2003 release, its wicked tone is perfectly suited to compliment some St. Patrick’s Day weekend debauchery.
Once (John Carney, 2007)
Starring Glen Hansard as a Dublin busker and Marketa Irglova as the young Czech immigrant flower seller he falls in love with, “Once” features some of the most affectionate original songs (one of which, “Falling Slowly,” won an Academy Award) ever heard in an indie film — Irish or otherwise. So if you’d like to give your St. Patrick’s Day a boost of uplifting Irish musical romance, look no further. Endlessly charming, “Once” has already become a genuine Irish classic.
The Magdalene Sisters (Peter Mullan, 2002)
A fictionalized account of “the Magdalene Laundries,” Peter Mullan’s harrowing film shows where women who were labelled “fallen” by their families or society (for flirting with boys, getting pregnant out of wedlock or even being raped) were sent in 1960s Ireland. Exploring institutional cruelty placed on women via the Catholic Church of Ireland, this winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival gives us yet another glimpse into Ireland’s dark history.
My Left Foot (Jim Sheridan, 1989)
The debut film from veteran Irish director Jim Sheridan (whose “In The Name of the Father,” “The Boxer” and “In America” are surely strong runners up to this list), “My Left Foot” was recently brought back into mainstream conversations thanks to clips of actress Gabourey Sidibe proclaiming her love for it during this year’s Academy Awards. And it’s clear to see where the enthusiasm is coming from. Itself an Oscar winner for best actor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and best supporting actres (Brenda Fricker), this true story of an Irishman born with cerebral palsy is a powerful, riveting biopic deserving of both Sidibe’s praise and your St. Patty’s Day time.
The Snapper (Stephen Frears, 1993)
The second adaptation from Roddy Doyle’s “Barrytown Trilogy” novels on this list (the other being “The Commitments”), and the third to star Colm Meaney, Stephen Frears’ “The Snapper” follows a young woman (Tina Kellegher) who gets pregnant but refuses to tell anyone in her family who the father is. Her family comes to accept it anyway, and what results is a delightful, funny ode to an Irish family.
The Wind That Shakes The Barley (Ken Loach, 2006)
Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, Ken Loach’s war drama is set during the Irish War of Independence, and stars Cillian Murphy and Padriac Delaney as two brothers who join the IRA to fight for Irish independence from the United Kingdom. Gripping and thought-provoking, it’s one of Loach’s best films and one of the more challenging options on this list — and not exactly Irish hangover material. Unless nothing says waking up after 10 pints of Guinness like “winner of the Palme d’Or.”