My Top Five Irish…Movies!

Given that Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast is currently tipped for Oscar glory (fingers crossed for Ciaran Hinds!) I thought I’d share my Top Five Irish Movies for this week’s Reading Ireland Month prompt.

Bad Day for the Cut

Bad Day for the Cut is a blinder of a revenge thriller set on a farm in Northern Ireland. It follows a mild-mannered farmer who sets out to seek revenge after the brutal murder of his elderly mother. What he finds is a world of violence and brutality that he can’t understand and a secret about his family that will shake him to his core. Bad Day for the Cut manages to be darkly funny, emotionally satisfying and a sharp, twisty thriller to boot and features a scene-stealing turn from the brilliant Susan Lynch.

The Dead

The Dead is a real family affair, directed by the legendary John Huston, adapted by his son Tony (from the James Joyce short story) and starring his daughter Angelica. It is almost a real-time transcription of Joyce’s slice-of-life tale about an upper-middle class couple, Gretta and Gabriel Conroy (Anjelica Huston and Donal McCann) attending a fancy musical evening among the leisured professional classes of Edwardian Dublin. Over the course of the evening, Gabriel and Gretta come to realise that their marriage is haunted by a presence from the past. The Dead is old-fashioned, almost like a filmed play, but the two stunning central performances and the emotional charge of Joyce’s story come together to create a masterpiece.

The Crying Game

I went to the Belfast premiere of The Crying Game at the Belfast Arts Festival in 1992, which was introduced by Stephen Rea and Neil Jordan. No one in the audience knew anything about the film and by the end we were all sitting in stunned awe. I watched The Crying Game again recently and it is still a really powerful story of the unlikely friendship between a British soldier and a member of the IRA gang who has kidnapped him. Subtly exploring issues of race, gender and politics at a time when Hollywood was still resistant to such themes, Jordan’s film is about so much more than it’s famous ‘twist’. Jordan won an Oscar for the screenplay and Jaye Davidson became the first British person of colour to be nominated for an Oscar.

You can read a fascinating interview with Neil Jordan and Stephen Rea on the 25th anniversary of The Crying Game here.

The Commitments

When The Commitments was being filmed in Dublin in 1990, everyone I knew was auditioning for a part so by the time it was released in 1991, the buzz in the city was hard to avoid. Based on Roddy Doyle’s novel of the same name and directed by Alan Parker, The Commitments tells the story of Jimmy Rabitte, an unemployed Dublin boy who decides to put together a soul band in the fictitious ‘Barrytown’. Featuring a cast of relative unknowns who were cast for their musical ability, The Commitments is a riotous, joyous comedy about following your dreams and is the cinematic definition of ‘feel-good’.

In Bruges

When my husband and I went to see In Bruges we were sharing the cinema with two old ladies, who only lasted thirty minutes due to the constant, hilarious, colourful swearing. Martin McDonagh has gone on to Oscar-winning heights since this debut which follows two hapless hit men who are waiting in Bruges (‘it’s like a fucking fairytale’) for further instructions from their bosses after a hit has gone badly wrong.

Featuring fantastic performances from Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell and an unforgettable turn from Ralph Fiennes, In Bruges is darkly funny, heartbreakingly moving and eminently quotable. ‘Alcoves, you have this word?’, ‘it’s only Jesus’ blood’, and ‘you hit the Canadian’ are all regularly used in my house…

If I think about this list for any longer, I’ll probably change my mind and add five more! Have you seen any of my choices? Let me know what your favourite Irish movie is in the comments below.

Ireland Month

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

53 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I am with you with In effing Bruges and The Commitments. Brendan Gleeson is superb in The Guard and Calvary too, and he’s a fine Duncan in the new Coen Macbeth. However, Belfast has gone straight to the top of my Irish movie list – love Ken, loved the film.


  2. I actually studied “The Dead” for a class on Literature to Film adaptations in my first year of uni. And In Bruges is great fun. (Have you seen Gleeson in Calvary? Possibly the most depressing movie I’ve ever seen, but amazing nonetheless.)


  3. The Commitments is one of those perfect music films that is unforgettable. I’d love to see that again. I hadn’t heard of any of the rest, but I’m definitely off in search of In Bruges. Your story about the two old ladies at the cinema is hilarious. I wonder how they survive life in Ireland. All my Irish friends swear like troopers. Undoubtedly the older generation was more genteel and they probably thought it would be a lovely romantic comedy set in a picturesque city. Oh dear.


  4. I have not seen any of these movies but in honour of Reading Ireland, I hope to watch at least two of them this month. I will have to see what I can find on the various streaming apps I have.


  5. LOVE In Bruges and The Crying Game. Aside from those I’d add The Wind that Shakes the Barley (if we’re counting it, since the director is English…) and Calvary. So many great Irish films!


  6. Only commitments, but The Crying Game sounds excellent and I’d like to see The Dead, since I really enjoyed the short story and Angelica Houston is fab in everything! I have seen The Wind that Shakes the Barley which could go on your next list!!


  7. And I’m the third to mention The Wind That Shakes etc… I actually watched it again with my German nephew last year (half-Irish) who knew little of Irish history and was totally bowled over by it, bought 12 DVDs of the film to take home with him to distribute to friends and has ordered another 10! My favourite in your list is In Bruges and I’d like to offer The Disappearance of Finbar which is quirky, funny and sad all at the same time. Do catch it if you haven’t seen it. Oh, and a shout out to The Guard – and Belfast is brilliant!


  8. I’ve only seen In Bruges, which was a bit uneven, but so odd and charming as well! I was 12 when The Crying Game came out and unfortunately the constant jokes were all I knew about it, you sure make it sound good.

    This is shameful given my ancestry, but I find Irish accents pretty hard to understand in movies, thank goodness for subtitles!

    I’m working on my top 5 now…


  9. I agree about The Wind That Shakes the Barley, it’s the greatest film about Ireland (English director, however). I too loved The Dead, I remember seeing it when it came out and sitting agog at its brilliant, final scene, though the whole thing is brilliant.

    Both Daniel Day Lewis films, but My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father are great films.

    Have you read Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland? (Fascinating connection to Stephen Rea, who was married to Dolours Price.)


  10. I once saw Brendan Gleeson pottering around a square in Venice. He must have been staying in a similar location to us because we kept seeing him about. But we were too star struck to say anything. I loved him in The Guard and Calvary, too. In Bruges is fab but I’m still scarred by Ralph Fiennes playing a sweary-mouthed gangster. Lol.


      • Where do you stand on Hunger? I watched it recently and never seen anything so grim.

        But other Irish movies I have loved are Sing Street, Once, Brooklyn and The Snapper. Having an Irish partner means I have been exposed to Irish movies/books/music more than I might normally otherwise have experienced over past 21+ years (and he’s been influenced by my antipodean stuff). Funnily enough there’s an Irish Aboriginal event on this weekend… which seems odd but actually makes a lot of sense because they share a history of oppression.

        (Also, for some reason WP decided to stop following your blog — and a bunch of others — but have rectified now. )


      • I actually haven’t seen Hunger as I’ve never felt in the right frame of mind for it. I do love The Snapper – I have a real soft spot for Colm Meaney. I didn’t realise your partner was Irish!


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