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32 Best Irish Movies to Watch for St. Patrick’s Day

Rich in history, humor, and heartwarming tales, these Irish movies are perfect for a St. Patrick's Day movie marathon.

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The best Irish movies to watch on St. Patrick’s Day (or any day of the year)

St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday where people cheerfully celebrate Irish culture and enthusiastically honor their Irish roots. Many participate in fun St. Patrick’s Day traditions on March 17, like wearing green, cooking classic St Patrick’s Day recipes, and sharing St. Patrick’s Day quotes in celebration of good times and good fortune. There are several ways to celebrate Irish culture and recognize Irish history on St. Paddy’s Day in the comfort of your own home, and hosting a movie marathon filled with the best Irish movies is one everyone will enjoy.

How we chose the best Irish movies

We based our list on a number of factors, from critical and commercial success to depictions of important historical events in Ireland. Some movies will make you belly-laugh, and others will educate you about the complex history of the Emerald Isle.

Many of these films also showcase key elements of the Irish spirit, like resilience, bravery, passion, love, whimsy, and humor. There’s a little something for everyone, from family-friendly flicks to gritty dramas that get your heart racing. Stream the movies below for some good laughs, mysterious thrills, and meaningful looks at key historic moments and the people who influenced them. Make sure you also read up on these St. Patrick’s Day memes that are just too relatable.

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My Left Foot

Released: 1989

Rated: R

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker

Based on the incredible true story of Irish writer and painter Christy Brown, My Left Foot is a comedy-drama filled with healthy doses of grit and heart. Daniel Day-Lewis gives a stellar performance as Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy but learned to write and paint with his left foot. The film was a hit with audiences and critics, earning several Academy Award Nominations. Lewis and Brenda Fricker each took home an Oscar in 1990 for their roles; Lewis for Best Actor and Fricker for Best Supporting Actress. It’s easily one of the best Irish movies to come out in the 20th century. After you’re done watching, consider reading Brown’s autobiography of the same name (and browse through these other outstanding autobiographies, too.)

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The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Released: 2006

Rated: Not rated

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Pádraic Delaney

The Wind That Shakes the Barley is one of those powerful Irish movies that stays with you after the credits roll. It’s about two brothers (Delaney and Murphy) who fight in—and are later divided by—the Irish War of Independence. Political turmoil and familial loyalty are just a few of its compelling themes, and Murphy’s impressive performance showed us he had serious acting chops years before Peaky Blinders (one of the best shows on Netflix) debuted. In addition to winning the Palme d’Or (the highest prize) at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, the film is Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with a solid score of 90 percent on the Tomatometer. 

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Belfast

Released: 2021

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Jamie Dornan, Caitríona Balfe, Jude Hill 

There’s a reason the world is buzzing about Belfast, which racked up seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Writer-director Kenneth Branagh drew inspiration for the film from his childhood in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. His family lived in Belfast when The Troubles, a tumultuous period in Northern Ireland’s history, began in 1969. Seeing this violent time unfold through the innocent lens of a child clinging to the warm ideation of his community is equally heartwarming and heartbreaking. It’s easily one of the best movies to come out in 2021, and one you must add to your go-to streaming list.

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The Secret of Roan Inish

Released: 1994

Rated: PG

Starring: Jeni Courtney, Mick Lally, Eileen Colgan

Looking for an Irish movie for the whole family to watch? Add The Secret of Roan Inish to your movie lineup. It’s about a young girl named Fiona (Jeni Courtney) who tries to solve the fantastic mysteries surrounding her family. Selkies, a small island, and a missing baby brother are just a few of those puzzling mysteries. You’ll admire Fiona’s positive determination in this whimsical fairy tale embedded with Irish folklore.

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Once

Released: 2007

Rated: R

Starring: Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová

Once is a romantic musical drama about a fateful week filled with little moments of budding romance—and soul-touching music—for an Irish street performer and a Czech pianist. The movie was a hit among critics and audiences upon release, with one of its songs, “Falling Slowly”, earning the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2008; its soundtrack also earned a Grammy nomination. Start streaming now to see what happens when fate and music intersect.

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The Guard

Released: 2011

Rated: R

Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle

The Guard is one of the most successful independent Irish movies ever made—and once you start streaming, you’ll completely understand why. The thriller-comedy follows a crass Irish cop (Gleeson) and a play-by-the-books U.S. FBI agent (Cheadle) who team up to investigate a global drug-smuggling operation. It’s a buddy-cop flick filled that brilliantly combines gritty crime and dark comedy for a truly unforgettable story.

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Intermission

Released: 2003

Rated: R

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Colin Farrell, Kelly Macdonald, Colm Meaney

If you’re looking for a movie that combines Irish dark humor and greedy crime with a touch of genuine romance, Intermission is the movie for you. Follow the story of a young Dublin man (Murphy) who, while on a “break” with his girlfriend (Macdonald), gets tangled up in a scheme with a petty criminal (Farrell). Energetic and refreshing, this Irish star-studded flick will hook you from the start.

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P.S. I Love You

Released: 2007

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Gerard Butler, Hilary Swank

While technically not set in Ireland (although there is a trip to the countryside in the movie), P.S. I Love You is a romantic drama that wonderfully highlights how fiercely the Irish love—even after death. Follow the story of Holly (Swank), a young widow who receives letters from her Irish husband (Butler) to help her move on after his passing. The lovely cast (including Lisa Kudrow, Harry Connick Jr., and Kathy Bates) gives the film character, entertaining the audience as Holly copes with grief and tries to go on with life at the wishes of her late love. Fair warning: it’s a bit of a tearjerker.

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Brooklyn

Released: 2015

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson

Brooklyn, based on the novel of the same name, is sure to become one of your most beloved Irish movies to watch. It’s about a young Irish woman (Ronan) who immigrates to Brooklyn in the 1950s. While adjusting to her new life and battling the aches and pains of homesickness, she starts a passionate romance with a man (Cohen), which helps her new surroundings feel more like home. However, when she’s called back to Ireland, she must choose between the life she had and the life she’s creating.

Filled with heart-tugging drama and romance, Brooklyn was a critical and commercial success, with many considering it one of the best films to come out in 2015. Plus Ronan’s performance is simply incredible—she did earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, after all. The film also snagged two additional Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

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Angela’s Ashes

Released: 1999

Rated: R

Starring: Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir by Irish-American writer Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes tells the story of a family trying their best to make it through truly harrowing times as they return to 1930s Ireland from Brooklyn. Start streaming now to see how their gripping story unfolds.

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Cardboard Gangsters

Released: 2017

Rated: 18+

Starring: John Connors, Fionn Walton

Scoring an impressive 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer, Cardboard Gangsters is a crime-drama flick that takes you on a ride from beginning to end. It’s about a group of young men who try to take over the drug trade in Darndale, an area in northern Dublin. It was a big success upon release, and it was the most popular Irish film of 2017.

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The Luck of the Irish

Released: 2001

Rated: TV-G

Starring: Ryan Merriman, Timothy Omundson, Marita Geraghty

The Luck of the Irish is a Disney Channel original movie that’s a great family-friendly streaming option for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s about a teenager (Merriman) who, after losing his luck, finds out he’s part leprechaun and has to save his family from the grasp of an evil leprechaun (Omundson). Filled with jokes and important lessons about family and heritage, The Luck of the Irish stands the test of time as a great kid-friendly Irish flick.

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The Magdalene Sisters

Released: 2002

Rated: R

Starring: Nora-Jane Noone, Dorothy Duffy, Anne-Marie Duff

One of the things that makes The Magdalene Sisters so compelling—and heartbreaking—is that it’s based on true events. The film follows the story of three young women sent to a Magdalene asylum in 1964, a place where “fallen” women were housed and forced to do labor in horrific conditions. Admittedly, it’s a heavier film to stream, but it’s also a critical success that definitely warrants your attention.

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The Commitments

Released: 1991

Rated: R

Starring: Robert Arkins, Angeline Ball, Andrew Strong, Michael Ahern

If you’re looking for a musical filled with comedy and drama, add The Commitments to your streaming list ASAP. This cult classic tells the story of a Dublin boy (Arkins) who, after realizing there’s a criminal lack of music in Dublin, puts together a blue-collar Irish soul band. The kicker? No one in the band has much experience…but they do have a ton of heart and raw talent.

The film (which is based on Roddy Doyle’s novel of the same name) wasn’t an immediate commercial success, but it became a sleeper hit with a dedicated fanbase. It saw critical success, too, ultimately earning several British Academy Film Awards in 1992 as well as snagging an Academy Award nomination for Best Film Editing.

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The Hole in the Ground

Released: 2019

Rated: R

Starring: James Quinn Markey, Seana Kerslake

The Hole in the Ground is a scary Irish movie guaranteed to send chills down your spine. It’s about a mother who’s convinced her young son has been replaced by an imposter after he briefly went missing in the woods. Scary movie enthusiasts are sure to love it.

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Michael Collins

Released: 1996

Rated: R

Starring: Liam Neeson, Julia Roberts, Alan Rickman

One of the most powerful Irish movies to watch is Michael Collins, an autobiographical movie about the legendary Irish revolutionary leader. Neeson gives a passionate performance as Collins, a politician and military leader fighting for independence in tumultuous early 2oth century Ireland. If you’re a fan of The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Michael Collins is right up your alley as an epic period piece.

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Wolfwalkers

Released: 2020

Rated: PG

Starring: Sean Bean (voice), Honor Kneafsey (voice)

Wolfwalkers is an animated fantasy film about a young hunter and her father who travel to Ireland to hunt the last wolf pack. Things change, though, when they meet the member of a tribe that’s said to transform into wolves. It’s a movie that entrances you from the beginning and takes you on a fascinating journey that leaves you in awe.

Wolfwalkers earned rave reviews from audiences and critics alike. The flick scores a remarkable 99 percent on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer and was nominated for a slew of awards, including Best Animated Feature at the 2021 Academy Awards. It won the Best Irish Film award at the Dublin Film Critics’ Circle Awards in December 2020 and has won several other coveted critics’ awards. It’s sure to become a movie night staple in your home in no time.

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The Secret of Kells

Released: 2009

Rated: Not Rated

Starring: Brendan Gleeson (voice), Evan McGuire (voice), Mick Lally (voice)

After watching Wolfwalkers, stream another flick from director Tomm Moore’s collection—The Secret of Kells. It has a little of everything—a young hero, adventure, Irish folklore, and a captivating tale of magic and fantasy.

The Secret of Kells boasts remarkable animation and enchanting storytelling, which grabbed the attention of both audiences and critics. It earned several awards, including the European Animated Feature Award at the British Animation Awards in 2010. It was also nominated for prestigious awards like Best Animated Feature at the 2009 Annie Awards and Best Animated Feature at the 2010 Academy Awards.

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Sing Street

Released: 2016

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Maria Doyle Kennedy

Filled with music, a budding romance, and heartwarming performances, Sing Street is one of those Irish movies you’ll want to watch over and over. It takes place in 1985 and follows a Dublin teen who forms a band to win over his crush. It’s filled with heartfelt performances and nostalgic ’80s tunes you’ll happily sing along with.

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Darby O’Gill And The Little People

Released: 1959

Rated: G

Starring: Sean Connery, Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro

This Disney Irish movie is the perfect choice for a wholesome family movie night. It’s a whimsical adventure that centers around an eccentric man who stumbles into the land of the little people and a leprechaun king. The man asks the leprechaun king for three wishes, but things don’t exactly go to plan. Strap in for a fantastical and completely charming ride.

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The Snapper

Released: 1993

Rated: R

Starring: Tina Kellegher, Ruth McCab, Colm Meaney, Brendan Gleeson

The Snapper is a comedy-drama about a young woman who gets pregnant but won’t reveal who the father is. This massive secret sends her tight-knit family into a frenzy, and, well…complications emerge. You’ll find yourself delighted while the drama (and laughs) unfold. The film scores 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer—once you start watching, you’ll totally get why.

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Bad Day For the Cut

Released: 2017

Rated: Not Rated

Starring: Nigel O’Neill, Susan Lynch, Józef Pawlowski

This crime-thriller follows a middle-aged farmer who seeks revenge after his mother is murdered. He encounters twists and turns along the way, and finds out his mother may not have been the woman she claimed to be. Start streaming now to see if he gets the revenge he craves.

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Hunger

Released: 2008

Rated: Not Rated

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Liam McMahon

When it comes to Irish movies based on true events, Hunger is one that’s tough—but important—to watch. It chronicles the 1981 hunger strike conducted by Irish republicans held prisoner in Northern Ireland. Fassbender stars as Bobby Sands, a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who leads the hunger strike. Fassbender’s performance and Steve McQueen’s brilliant director debut will leave you in awe.

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The Crying Game

Released: 1992

Rated: R

Starring: Stephen Rea, Forest Whitaker, Jaye Davidson

The Crying Game is a thriller and mystery that sucks you in from the get-go. It’s about an IRA member (Rea) who grows close to a captive British soldier (Whitaker). He makes a promise to visit the soldier’s girlfriend (Davidson), and when he does, he gets tangled up in a new world. The flick was nominated for an impressive six Academy Awards and took home the Best Screenplay honor. Start streaming now for an unexpected ride.

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In the Name of the Father

Released: 1993

Rated: R

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite, Emma Thompson

Based on the true events surrounding the Guildford Four— who were wrongly convicted for the Guildford pub bombings in 1974—In the Name of the Father sheds light on heavy topics like social injustice and wrongful imprisonment. Daniel Day-Lewis gives a powerful, screen-stealing performance as Gerry Conlon, a man who spent 15 years behind bars after being falsely convicted of participating in the bombings. The film earned a whopping seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor.

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Black ’47

Released: 2018

Rated: R

Starring: Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Jim Broadbent

Black ’47 takes us back to 1847, a year that’s widely considered the worst year of Ireland’s Great Famine. It’s about an Irish soldier who, after fighting for the British Army, decides to go back to Ireland to reunite with his family…but soon, his mission turns to revenge. It’s a tough situation to watch unfold, but you can’t help but stay along for the fast-paced ride. This gripping tale of revenge and survival saw commercial and critical success—and it’s an Irish movie you won’t soon forget.

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Waking Ned Devine

Released: 1998

Rated: PG

Starring: Ian Bannen, David Kelly

For a feel-good Irish comedy to stream, add Waking Ned Devine to your list. It’s about a group of small towners who, after one of their own dies from shock after winning the lottery, try to scheme their way into claiming the cash. Get ready to actually laugh out loud with this darling movie.

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Bloody Sunday

Released: 2002

Rated: R

Starring: James Nesbitt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Nicholas Farrell

Bloody Sunday is a film based on the actual events of the Bloody Sunday shootings that happened in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1972. The way it’s shot makes you feel as though you’re witnessing the terrifying ordeal unfold right before your eyes, sucking you in from the very beginning. Powerful and heartbreaking, Bloody Sunday is one of the most unforgettable—and important—Irish movies to watch.

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Evelyn

Released: 2002

Rated: PG

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Vavasseur

If you’re looking for an Irish drama, Evelyn is a tearjerker that captures the fierceness of a father’s love. Brosnan stars as Desmond Doyle, an Irish father who fights to get custody of his children back after their mother leaves the family. It’s loosely based on Doyle’s real-life story and shows just how far a parent will go to protect their kids.

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Bobby Sands: 66 Days

Released: 2016

Rated: Not Rated

Starring: Martin McCann (narrates excerpts from Bobby Sands’ journal)

Bobby Sands: 66 Days is a documentary that looks into Bobby Sands’ hunger strike, using writings from his journal and testimony to paint the picture of his determination and sacrifice while imprisoned. The documentary features interviews with historians, journalists, and those who knew Sands to examine the impact of his legacy. It’s a truly riveting documentary you don’t want to miss.

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Wild Mountain Thyme

Released: 2020

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Jon Hamm, Christopher Walken

Let’s be honest: We all have room in our hearts for a heartfelt romantic comedy/drama. Wild Mountain Thyme combines feel-good laughs with sweet romance to tell the story of a farmer (Blunt) who desperately wants to be with her oblivious neighbor (Dornan). Things start to change, though, when his father (Walken) wants to sell his farm to his nephew from the States (Hamm). A star-studded cast and a Hallmark-esque setup make this a great film for hopeless romantics to stream.

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Ordinary Love

Released: 2019

Rated: R

Starring: Liam Neeson, Lesley Manville

If you’re looking for more romantic drama to stream after Wild Mountain Thyme, watch Ordinary Love, starring Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville. They play a long-married couple who try to live life in the midst of a cancer diagnosis. The beautiful romantic film isn’t frilly or show-stopping, but still perfectly captures the beauty that comes with long, committed love—even during difficult times. With critical praise and an impressive Tomatometer score of 93 percent, Ordinary Love is a must-watch Irish film to watch with your special someone.

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Kelly Kuehn
Kelly Kuehn is an associate editor for Reader’s Digest covering entertainment, trivia and history. When she’s not writing you can find her watching the latest and greatest movies, listening to a true crime podcast (or two), blasting ‘90s music and hiking with her dog, Ryker, throughout the Finger Lakes.