Top 10 Irish Actors in Film

Ireland as a place for Irish actors in cinema can be seen within both minor and major roles, and in films of the past, more recently and upcoming films. With that in mind, it’s worth having the conversation of which Irish actors are the best of the bunch in film discourse. And that’s exactly what this top ten Irish actors in film list aims to achieve, as will be delved into below. 

1. Cillian Murphy

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Image: Good Morning America

Cillian Murphy is a topical pick for his past starring role in Peaky Blinders (2013-2022) as Tommy Shelby (the show’s lead character) to begin with one example. Reviews of his performances from The Dark Knight trilogy to Peaky Blinders have been acclaimed as him being “driven by his craft, bringing an intensity to every part”. His beginning in acting was initially with a smaller Irish two-character stage drama titled Disco Pigs (2001), before being featured in films like 28 Days Later (2002), Inception (2010), and Dunkirk (2017).

He currently has an upcoming role in the Christopher Nolan biopic film Oppenheimer as Dr. Oppenheimer himself, which releases July 21st 2023.

2. Barry keoghan

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Image: NME

Within recent years, Barry Keoghan is another Irish actor that has also built an exemplary repute for himself. One standout example is in a deleted scene in The Batman (2022), in where Robert Pattinson’s Batman confronts Keoghan’s unnerving and sickly Joker in wanting an insight on The Riddler’s psyche and motivations in his killings. He will also feature in its sequel The Batman Part II in 2025, and has previously featured in The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), The Green Knight (2021), and most recently, The Banshees of Inisherin (2022).

Barry was recently cast in the upcoming sequel to Gladiator (2000), Gladiator 2 (coming November 22nd, 2024) as the antagonist of the film, Roman Emperor Geta.

3. Paul Mescal

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Image: Radio Times

Famed for his role in the TV series Normal People (2020) as Connell, Paul Mescal has an established presence as an Irish actor in film too. He recently was in a film titled Aftersun (2022), playing the role of Callum in a father-daughter drama, a role heralded as him being “frighteningly good as a tortured soul, trying hard to shield Sophie – and himself – from his despair.” Paul Mescal also happens to be in the Gladiator 2 cast alongside fellow Irish actor Barry Keoghan as well. 

Mescal is cast as Lucius, the son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen), who now is a grown man as the story takes place years after the first Gladiator film ended.

4. Colin Farrell

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Colin Farrell is a pick on this list of top ten Irish film actors that has been in a broad range of films both small and big alike. One of his most acclaimed performances as the hitman Ray in the film In Bruges (2008), is heralded “as a wonderfully fresh take on a familiar genre” with its use of black comedy. His filmography consists of acting in films films such as Minority Report (2002), Seven Psychopaths (2012), and The Batman (2022) to list but a few.

Farrell is next set to star in the sequel to The Batman: The Batman Part II (2025), which is set to release October 3rd, 2025 with him as one of the villains known as The Penguin.

5. Pierce Brosnan

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Image: Syfy

Similarly to the previous pick on this list, Pierce Brosnan is another Irish actor with a robust resume of roles in film. By far amongst his standout roles is his part as James Bond in Goldeneye (1995), which was acclaimed as “a franchise peak” in one opinion piece, and often associated fondly with its Nintendo 64 video game adaptation of the same name. Other films Brosnan has starred in are his other James Bond films like The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Die Another Day (2002), as well as other non-Bond films such as Mamma Mia! (2008), The Ghost Writer (2010), and Black Adam (2022).

He currently has an upcoming role for the Netflix film The Out-Laws, which releases July 7th, 2023.

6. Saoirse Ronan

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Image: BBC

As an actress in this list, Saoirse Ronan is acclaimed for subtly conveying “the complex inner life of the characters she portrayed”. A prominent role for her where she does this is in Lady Bird (2014), a film that follows the coming-of-age story of a teenage girl as she’s due to finish high school. Ronan’s other films she has acted in include The Lovely Bones (2009), Little Women (2019), and See How They Run (2022).

An upcoming film Ronan will be in is a film called The Outrun, which comes out in 2023.

7. michael Fassbender


Image: IMDb

Michael Fassbender is an Irish actor selected for this list due to the critical acclaim surrounding his performances. The film Jane Eyre (2011) is one such case where Fassbender plays the role of Rochester, which was appraised as him bringing to Rochester “a charisma that is weathered that inviting.” Fassbender has also starred in films from Inglorious Bastards (2009), to the X-Men films like X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), and the more divisive newer entries in the Alien franchise like Prometheus (2012), for instance.

At the moment, Fassbender is due to be in a film releasing titled The Killer, which is slated for a 2023 release.

8. Evanna Lynch

Image: TV Guide

The film franchise Harry Potter is synonymous with the name of Evanna Lynch, as she gains the repute from playing the supporting character Luna Lovegood in the films. Besides Harry Potter though, what earns Evanna her fame and positive press are performances such as in My Name is Emily (2015), where she brings “an angular eccentricity that suits the role perfectly”. Besides Harry Potter and My Name is Emily, Lynch has also been in films like G.B.F (2013), Addiction: A 60’s Love Story (2015), and the short film Bus Girl (2022).

For Evanna, she will be in a film releasing soon titled James and Lucia, with no set release date, but is in production as of this time of writing.

9. Daniel Day-Lewis

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Image: RTE

Yet another award-winning and revered Irish actor placed on this list is Daniel Day-Lewis. A standout performance from his films is his performance in There Will Be Blood (2007), where he plays a prospector named Daniel Plainview, appraised as being “beyond praise as the misanthropic, egomaniacal, desperately lonely oilman.” Other roles he is well-known for include My Left Foot (1989), The Crucible (1996), and Lincoln (2012), for example.

Daniel Day-Lewis is currently retired though, with his last performance being in Phantom Thread (2017) before he retired.

10. Kenneth Branagh


Image: Luke Bartolo’s blog

Doubling up as both an Irish actor and director, Kenneth Branagh offers the best of both worlds. In terms of his acting, Kenneth has been met with praise for his performances in Shakespeare adaptations like Hamlet (1996), where he plays Hamlet himself “with conviction, pathos, and gravitas.” He has also been in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), Murder on the Orient Express (2017), and Tenet (2020) besides his other films and Shakespeare adaptations.

Kenneth is acting and directing an upcoming Agatha Christie adaptation of A Haunting in Venice, which releases September 15th, 2023.

Does this list feel representative of the best Ireland’s acting talent has to offer? Where do you agree/disagree with the list especially? Be sure to sound off in the comments below!

Matthew Lehane
Matthew Lehane

An upcoming MA graduate in New Media and Digital Culture in Utrecht University, with a BA in English, Media and Cultural Studies from IADT, and a QQI Level 5 qualification in Arts, Culture, and History from DFEI. The topics written (and edited) to date for Babylon Radio range from film, tourism, and photography, with a broader range to come during this internship and in future work.

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