Before visiting a new country, a great way to get excited for your forthcoming trip is to watch some movies set in the country you are going to. And Ireland is no exception. There are a huge array of Irish films and in this post we are haring with you the best movies set in Ireland to watch before you visit. These are some of the best films set in Ireland to watch, even if you aren’t going to Ireland!
*This post contains affiliate links, which may include Amazon affiliate links. To read more about affiliate links, please visit my Disclosure Policy page.
From love stories set in Ireland to movies based on fiction books set in Ireland, getting ready to visit Ireland has never been easier from the comfort of your own living room. Watching a film based in a country you are about to visit can be a great way to build the excitement for your forthcoming trip. With this list of some of the best movies set in Ireland, you will soon be eager to jump on that plane bound for the Emerald Isle. Let’s dive in to find out our choice of best films set in Ireland that you need to watch before you go!
Best movies set in Ireland to watch before you go
The Quiet Man
This 1952 classic starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara sees a Pittsburgh Irish-American, Sean, travel to his birthplace to purchase his family’s former farm. He falls in love with a beautiful red-haired woman, Mary Kate, whose brother is set against their union. The film follows the story of their love and the trials and tribulations of their relationship with the meddling of her brother. Enjoy scenes of the lush green landscape of Ireland.
This 1970’s romantic drama is set on Ireland’s Dingle peninsula. The film follows the story of the only daughter of a publican who is bored with life in the sleepy Irish village she calls home. When an English officer is the only customer in her father’s pub on her first day serving, an affair soon starts which leads to lives unravelling and betrayal of the worst kind. Although this is a British film, this had to be included in my list thanks to the beautiful Dingle Peninsula scenery. This film was a double Oscar winner and starred Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles and Christopher Jones.
My Left Foot
One of my all-time favourite Irish drama films set in Ireland, My Left Foot is a double Oscar winner from 1989 with Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker winning awards for their amazing performances as Christy Brown and his mother Mrs Brown, respectively. The movie follows the story of Christy Brown, a boy born with cerebal palsy and both his and his family’s struggles. From being thought of as mentally slow as a child, Christy is nurtured by his mother and a dedicated teacher to become a talented artist and writer using only his left foot. This film is based on the real-life story of Christy Brown. Watch out for my favourite scene involving some profanities with his doctor.
In the Name of the Father
Another film staring Daniel Day-Lewis, and also featuring Pete Postlethwaite and Alison Crosbie, this 1993 Jim Sheridan movie follows the story of the Guildford Four, wrongly accused and convicted of the bombing of a London pub in Guilford in 1974 and their fight to prove their innocence despite signing confession under duress. With Gerry Conlon (Day-Lewis) and both his father Guiseppe (Postlethwaite) in prison for the bombings (Guiseppe on charges of making the bomb used in the attack), it falls on Gerry’s mother to find a new lawyer to take on the case. What follows is the true story of the fight to prove the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven’s innocence. Despite being set mostly in London, this is a must-watch film.
As one of the best dramatic comedy movies set in Ireland, The Guard is a 2011 film starring Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle and Mark Strong. With scenes from Connemara, the film sees a small-town Irish cop (Gleeson), or Garda Siochana, with an unorthodox approaching to policing, not helped by his confrontational and subversive humour, partnered with an FBI agent (Cheadle) to investigate a large international drug-smuggling ring. Gleeson is the perfect actor to plays this cantankerous member of the Gardai and his performance is great.
The Wind that Shakes the Barley
The Wind that Shakes the Barley is a 2006 film starring a young Cillian Murphy (famous now for The Peaky Blinders TV series), Padraic Delaney and Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones). Set during the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War, the film follows the story of two brothers from County Cork, who join the Irish Republican Army to fight against the British Army for Irish independence. Despite a treaty being signed with the British, peace is short-lived, and a civil war ensues which sees countrymen pitted against countrymen, and even brothers against brothers. The film takes its name from the song of the same name which is set during the 1798 rebellion in Ireland and which is featured early on in the film.
The Commitments (The Snapper and The Van)
Fiction books set in Ireland, and which have been turned into great films, include The Commitments, The Snapper and The Van, known as the Barrytown Trilogy. All three novels by Roddy Doyle were turned into comedy movies (set in Ireland). The Commitments, a 1991 film, is the most famous of the trilogy which follows the rise and fall of a Dublin-based soul band, The Commitments.
The 1996 Neil Jordan film, Michael Collins, is a biographical period drama film starring Liam Neeson as the historical Michael Collins, the man who lead the Irish National Army during the Irish Civil War and helped negotiate the creation of the Irish Free State. Enjoy scenes in Cork and famous spots across Dublin City.
Based on the Frank McCourt memoir of the same name, Angela’s Ashes details McCourt’s childhood after his family are forced to move from the United States back to Ireland because of financial difficulties, mostly caused by his father’s alcoholism. The film chronicles his young life in the 1930’s and 1940’s in Limerick, the difficulties the family faced and Frank’s struggle to earn money to return to America. The film was released in 2000 and features scenes shot in mostly Limerick and Cork, with some from Dublin and Wicklow too.
I Went Down
I Went Down is a 1998 film featuring Brendan Gleeson and Peter McDonald. Despie only being released from prison, Git (McDonald) rescues a former friend from a beating at the hands of loan sharks. Now in trouble with a mob boss, Git is sent by the boss to Cork with another shark, Bunny Kelly (Gleeson) to find a man and deliver him to someone else. This tough assignment is sometimes more than they can handle as they race from place to place trying to catch the “friendly face” they’ve been tasked with finding. Might not be to everyone’s tastes but features scenes in Dublin, Kildare and Offaly.
Currently unavailable in the US. Buy it here in the UK.
Dancing at Lughnasa
This 1998 film, adapted from the 1990 Brian Friel play, is told by a young boy. He tells the story of growing up in a fatherless home with his unmarried mother and her four spinster sisters in 1930’s Ireland. A star-studded cast including Meryl Streep, Michael Gambon, Cathy Burke and Rhys Ifans, it was mostly shot in County Wicklow.
PS I Love You
PS I love you is a novel by Cecelia Ahern and was the first of her books that I read and loved. It has since been adapted and turned into a great romantic movie set in Ireland. When Holly’s husband Gerry dies of an illness, she travels to his homeland of Ireland with two friends where she is gradually met by ten letters he has left her which help her slowly move forward after her devastating loss. Each one ends with “PS I Love You”. While in the film only Gerry is Irish, in the book both Holly and Gerry are Irish. It is a heart-warming story featuring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler, and was filmed mostly in County Wicklow.
This 2003 film, with a cast that includes Colin Meaney, Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy and Kelly McDonald (from Trainspotting), it follows the trials and tribulations of urban love with some hilarious comedy scenes shot around Dublin and Wicklow. From break-ups and make-ups to a botched robbery, Intermission is a great Irish film to watch.
Waking Ted Devine
This hilarious comedy from 1998 sees a coastal village in rural Ireland sent spinning when two elderly friends find out someone in the village has won the Irish lottery. When they discover the winner has died as a result of the shock, they and the rest of the village go to great lengths to dupe the lottery officials so everyone can share in the winnings. With twists, turns and close calls, it’s one of the best comedy films set in Ireland, although it was shot on the Isle of Man.
The Secret of Roan Inish
A 1994 film based on the novel by Rosalie K. Fry, the story follows a young 10-year-old girl who is sent to live with her grandparents in a small fishing village in Donegal, near the island of Roan Inish. While there she learns the story of the island, which local legend says the Selkie live, seals who can turn into humans. Years earlier, her brother washed out to sea in his cradle as a baby and the family believe he is being raised by Selkies. The girl sets out to discover if it is true.
The Crying Game
Starring among others Stephen Rea and Forest Whitaker, The Crying Game is a 1992 film by Neil Jordan. Fergus (Rea) is a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and has been tasked with guarding a kidnapped British soldier (Whitaker). When the hostage-taking goes wrong, Fergus escapes to London where he becomes involved in the life of the British soldier’s lover. The lover knows nothing of Fergus’ IRA involvement but nor does she share a secret of her own with him. The film features scenes from County Armagh in Northern Ireland and County Meath in the Republic of Ireland.
Far and Away
A 1992 film which features Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, the plot sees a young Irish couple in the 1890’s flee Ireland for America with a dream of owning land in the big land giveaway in Oklahoma. However, they struggle to survive, retain land and are then faced with the woman’s parents arriving from Ireland to take her back with them. Includes scenes shot in County Kerry, Wicklow and Dublin.
One of my favourite Irish crime-drama films, this movie tells the real-life story of reporter Veronica Guerin. Released in 2003, and starring Cate Blanchet as Veronica Guerin, this film follows the life and death of Guerin, a journalist for the Sunday Independent newspaper in Ireland. Guerin reports on the escalating drugs problems in Dublin and Ireland and as result comes to the attention of the crime lords involved. Despite warning shots at her family home, she continues her pursuit to uncover the gangs and their leaders involved in the illegal importing of drugs into Ireland. In 1996, Guerin was murdered, and I remember the news reports of her murder while still living in Ireland. A great crime film which shows some of the seedier parts of Dublin and the drugs problems which the city has faced for decades.
A 2000 film centred around 16-year-old IRA volunteer Brendan Behan (political activist and writer) who, in 1941, embarked on a bombing mission from Ireland to Liverpool. When his mission is thwarted, he is arrested and imprisoned in a Borstal, a reform institution for young offenders. During his time in borstal he is forced to live with people he considers “the enemy”. The film follows his journey and the twists and turns that force him into self-examination.
Another film featuring Brendan Gleeson as the main figure, this 1998 film set in Dublin, Ireland tells the real-life story of Martin Cahill aka The General, a Dublin crime-boss who pulled off two daring robberies in Ireland with his team which resulted in unwanted attention from the Irish police (Garda Siochana), the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force). The film depicts his rise and fall. For me, Brendan Gleeson will always be The General.
Based on the Irish novel “The Mammy” by Brendan O’Carroll, this 1999 dramatic romantic comedy set in Ireland tells the story of Agnes Brown. After the unexpected death of her husband and left with seven children ranging in ages from 2 to 14 years of age, Agnes and her family are forced into emotional and financial crisis. The story follows the family’s trials as they borrow from a loan shark and then face having to pay him back. With Angelica Houston as Agnes and featuring an appearance from singer Tom Jones, Agnes Brown is a great Irish film set in Dublin to watch before you go.
So, there you have it, some amazing movies set in Ireland to watch before you go. While some are set between both Ireland and another country, all feature scenes filmed in the country and are based on the story of Irish people and their lives.
Cath is an Irish expat now living in Portugal. She regularly returns to Ireland to explore more of the wonderful island with her family.
Travel Around Ireland is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. To learn more about affiliate links, read my Disclosure Policy here.