We’re all happy to do our part and stay at home to abide by restrictions, but let’s face it – being stuck inside can be boring, and even more so when, by now, you’ve probably binge-watched every series or film available on Netflix. If you’re looking for some films to watch that are based that bit closer to home, look no further – we’ve compiled a list of 10 great Irish films to watch over lockdown, so grab the popcorn and read on!
My Left Foot (1989)
Directed by Jim Sheridan, My Left Foot is based on the Christy Brown memoir of the same name and showcases Brown’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) uplifting and inspirational story. Born with cerebral palsy, his journey to becoming a writer and artist using just his left foot, with the help of his mother Bridget (Brenda Fricker), makes for a stunning tale of overcoming adversity. The film has received widespread critical acclaim, earning Day-Lewis and Fricker Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.
The Guard (2011)
Brendan Gleeson stars alongside Don Cheadle in this buddy-cop comedy film about an uptight FBI agent (Cheadle) who comes to Ireland to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring, teaming up with an unorthodox and foulmouthed Irish Garda (Gleeson) to crack the case. The film garnered critical acclaim upon its release and is currently the most successful independent Irish film of all time. A must-watch!
The Magdalene Sisters (2002)
The Magdalene Sisters portrays a dark period of not-so-long-ago Irish history, telling the story of four young Irish women and the horrific, cruel conditions they endure at the Magdalene asylums in 1960s Ireland. Written and directed by Peter Mullan, the film’s aim is to draw attention to the atrocities suffered by the many women who were placed in these asylums – the last one of which only closed its doors permanently in 1996. The Magdalene Sisters sheds a stark light on the inhuman treatment of these so-called “fallen women”, and with the recent publication of the Mother and Baby Homes report, it is clear more than ever that this is a story that still calls for widespread attention and education on the subject.
Dating Amber (2020)
Dating Amber, a comedy-drama directed by David Freyne, is a story of two closeted teenagers in 1990s Ireland and the fake relationship they form to convince their classmates of their heterosexuality. While the premise sounds somewhat wacky, there are some extremely moving moments to balance out the humour and Normal People’s Fionn O’Shea shines as Eddie, who struggles to accept himself and his sexuality. Dating Amber gives a spectacular representation of what it’s like growing up in a society that challenges anything that goes against the norm.
In the Name of the Father (1993)
Another renowned Irish film directed by Jim Sheridan, In the Name of the Father is set during the Troubles, and portrays the true story of the Guildford Four, four people who were falsely convicted of the 1974 Guildford pub IRA bombings, which killed four off-duty British soldiers and a civilian. This powerful drama shows their struggle to get justice, and Daniel Day-Lewis again outperforms as the lead role, earning himself an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Brooklyn is a romantic period drama set in the 1950s and follows Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young woman from Enniscorthy who emigrates to New York to find employment and better opportunities for herself. She soon finds herself settled with a job in Brooklyn, finding love in the process, but, when tragedy pulls her back to Ireland, she has to make an important decision. Ronan’s performance depicts the true heartbreak of emigration and makes Eilis’s struggle a recognisable one for many across the globe.
Hunger is another film on the list that’s set during the Troubles, but this historical drama directed by Steve McQueen focuses on the 1981 hunger strikes and features Michael Fassbender as IRA member and leader of the hunger strikes, Bobby Sands. A truly enlightening film for those that don’t know much about the strikes, Hunger depicts an honest portrayal of the prisoners’ struggle to regain political status from the British government and the aftermath of the hunger strikes.
The Commitments (1991)
An adaptation of the Roddy Doyle novel of the same name, The Commitments is up there as one of the classics of Irish cinema. The film focuses on Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) and the soul musical group he forms – the aptly-named The Commitments – and hones in on the difficulties the band face as they navigate their way through the Dublin music scene. Funny and full of some great tunes, The Commitments is still a staple of Irish film thirty years after its release.
The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)
The Wind That Shakes the Barley is another classic Irish war film, and the film that brought Cillian Murphy to widespread fame. It follows the story of Damien (Murphy) and Teddy (Páraic Delaney) O’Donovan, brothers who join the Irish Republican Army at the height of the Irish civil war, fighting for Irish independence from the United Kingdom, but soon find themselves on opposing sides. Although Damien and Teddy’s characters are fictionalised, the film still shows a raw representation of life in Ireland fighting in the civil war and showcases the turbulent social relations in Ireland which remained for many years to come.
Sing Street (2016)
Another musical-comedy classic to top off the list, Sing Street features the life of teenager Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) in 1980s Ireland, who decides to start a band – initially to impress a girl. Conor’s home life is less than perfect in the bleak pre-Celtic Tiger era of mass emigration and unemployment in Ireland, but he manages to find release through his band, and the exciting enthusiasm and great songs make for an instant feel-good classic film.