Aside for being an excuse to day-drink green beer, St. Patrick’s Day is a glorious opportunity to revel in Irish culture. So why not celebrate with a string of films that champion Irish story tellers, folk lore, songs, and—of course—pubs.
Circle of Friends (1995)
This endearing adaptation of Maeve Binchy’s coming-of-age novel told the story of three girls growing up in 1957 Dublin, making sense of life, love and loyalty. It also launched Minnie Driver and introduced the world to the creepy allure of Alan Cumming. Bonus: watch out for baby Littlefinger, Aidan Gillen!
Musicians (and real-life couple) Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová stole our hearts with the story of two star-crossed lovers in this low-budget but marvelous indie romance, playing a lonely busker and a single-mom/songwriter who come together to make beautiful music together. The pair went on to perform and win at the Academy Awards, for their Best Song, “Falling Slowly” (beating out three tracks from Enchanted!)
Animator Tom Moore’s enchanting fable centers on a noble young boy who braves a magical forest to complete an illuminated manuscript. There he befriends a spirited sprite and experiences the wonders of Ireland untamed, all while the threat of merciless Viking invaders hangs heavy.
Once writer/director John Carney’s charming musical follows a band of misfit teens who’re searching for themselves by trying on waves of ’80s song stylings. If you still haven’t watched this after all our raving about it, set it right today, boy-o.
Saoirse Ronan stars as an anxious Irish immigrant who leaves her small village for the opportunities promised in the Big Apple, specifically in 1950s Brooklyn. There she finds work, friendship, and love. But a family tragedy makes her question where her true home is. This is a radiant drama, alive with wonder and joy, and punctuated with pain. Don’t go another day without it in your heart.
No list of worthwhile Irish movies would be complete without offerings from the brothers McDonagh, who deliver cutting comedy that turns cursing into a fecking art form. Playwright turned writer/director Martin McDonagh awed critics and audiences alike with his feature film debut, a biting black comedy about a pair of Irish hitmen on the run. Dublin-born actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson star and shine.
John Michael McDonagh later cast Brendan “National Treasure” Gleeson as a loose-canon cop who never met a rule book he wouldn’t rather piss on than play by, in the odd couple crime-comedy that co-stars Don Cheadle as an uptight FBI agent. Watch these brothers’ movies back-to-back for a brilliant double-feature.
Kristy Puchko wanted to include Janeane Garofalo’s snarky Ireland-set rom-com The Matchmaker, but it’s not anywhere to be found on streaming! She left Leap Year off this list, because fuck that sexist bullshit.
Kristy Puchko is the managing editor of Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.