20 BEST Irish films of all time, RANKED (2024)

Ireland has a reputation for its talent in filmmaking, gaining domestic and worldwide acclaim. So, here are the 20 best Irish films of all time.

20 BEST Irish films of all time, RANKED (2024)

Spanning an impressive number of decades, Irish movies have long been the subject of critical acclaim and conversation.

In particular, in the last several years, there have been several movies made by a team of Irish directors, writers, and actors that have been the talk of the industry.

From movies featuring an all-Irish cast to those made by Irish talent, let’s delve into our list of the 20 best Irish films of all time.

Ireland Before You Die’s fun facts about Irish movies:

  • In 2022, An Cailín Ciúin became the first Irish language movie to be nominated for an Oscar.
  • Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Liam Neeson are just a few of Ireland’s best actors.
  • Directed by Robert J. Flaherty, Oidhche Sheanchais is notable as the first Irish language sync sound film.
  • The Irish film industry has been recognised across many prestigious award ceremonies, including Daniel-Day Lewis winning the Academy Award for Best Actor in My Left Foot and The Banshees of Inisherin receiving multiple nominations.

20. Bloody Sunday (2002) – an important historical Irish movie

Bloody Sunday is one of the best Irish films of all time.
Credit: Imdb.com

Starring one of Northern Ireland’s most famous faces, James Nesbitt, Bloody Sunday follows the true story of activist Ivan Cooper as he leads a protest march in Derry on 30 January 1972 against the law on preventive detentions.

As a devastating result, the British army attacked and killed 13 unarmed protestors. This is a harrowing movie that details one of the bloodiest events in Ireland’s dark history.

READ MORE: See where Bloody Sunday ranks on our list of the best films about Irish history

19. Belfast (2021) – an award-winning hit film

Belfast ranks as one of the best Irish films of all time.
Credit: imdb.com

Kenneth Branagh’s 2021 movie Belfast draws directly from his own experiences growing up in the city.

The movie chronicles the life of a young boy and his family as they navigate the troubling times of the late 60s in Belfast. It stars Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Ciaran Hinds, and Jude Hill and took home the Oscar that year for Best Original Screenplay.

LEARN MORE: Check out IB4UD’s article on the top 10 facts about Jamie Dornan you never knew

18. Black ‘47 – the Great Famine

Set during the Great Famine.
Credit: imdb.com

Black 47 is a 2018 film set in Ireland during the Great Famine. The drama film follows an Irish Ranger who has been fighting for the British abroad and his decision to abandon his post and return home.

The film’s name, Black 47, comes from the phrase used to describe the worst year of the famine, 1847.

17. Good Vibrations (2012) – a true story

Good Vibrations is one of the best Irish films of all time.
Credit: imdb.com

Good Vibrations stars Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Adrian Dunbar, and Liam Cunningham, and tells the story of renowned Belfast record-store owner Terri Hooley.

Terri Hooley was instrumental in developing Belfast’s punk-rock scene, and the film tells the story of how he took Northern Irish punk music to the wider world.

16. War of the Buttons (1994) – a feel-good classic

War of the Buttons is a feel-good classic.
Credit: imdb.com

Anybody who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s is bound to have fond and familiar memories of the classic War of the Buttons.

Released in 1994, it depicts the story of rival gangs of Irish kids who engage in battles where the goal is to get the buttons off their captured opponents.

A feel-good comedy-drama based on the French novel La Guerre des Boutons by Louis Pergaud, this is one to watch when you want something light and funny.

15. Calvary (2014) – a must-watch

Calvary is one of the best Irish movies of all time.
Credit: imdb.com

Next on our list of the best Irish films of all time is Calvary. Calvary stars Brendan Gleeson as Father James, a good-natured priest in a small Irish town who becomes threatened by a troubled parishioner.

Directed by John Michael McDonagh, the movie also stars Chris O’Dowd, Domhnall Gleeson, and Kelly Reilly.

14. The Quiet Man (1952) – one of the world’s favourite Irish films

Starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.
Credit: imdb.com

Starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, The Quiet Man is a romantic comedy-drama by John Ford that tells the story of a boxer returning to Ireland from America after accidentally killing an opponent in the ring.

Filmed in Cong, County Mayo, and County Galway, be ready for questionable Irish accents in this one.

RELATED: Do you agree with Ireland Before You Die’s choices for the best Maureen O’Hara films of all time?

13. The Wonder (2022) – an intriguing tale

The Wonder is one of the best Irish films of all time.
Credit: imdb.com

An intense psychological drama starring Florence Pugh, The Wonder tells the fascinating story of a young “fasting girl”, a girl who claims she can miraculously survive without eating.

Florence Pugh is an English nurse sent to Ireland just after the Great Famine to watch the girl and her family and to report her findings to a council of local dignitaries.

Pugh leads an ensemble cast that includes Tom Burke, Niamh Algar, Elaine Cassidy, Dermot Crowley, and Anna O’Donnell.

12. The Guard (2011) – a hilarious Irish movie

The Guard is a hilarious Irish film.
Credit: Imdb.com

Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle star in this comedy movie written and directed by John Michael McDonagh.

Gleeson plays Sergeant Gerry Boyle, an Irish police officer with unusual methods, who is forced to team up with American FBI agent Wendell Everett, played by Don Cheadle, to take on an international drug smuggling gang that is threatening his town.

This hilarious movie is certainly one of the best Irish movies of all time.

11. Nowhere Special (2020) – one of the best Irish films

A story of a dying father on a mission to find a good family for his three-year-old son to be adopted into when he dies, Nowhere Special is one of the best Irish films of the last decade.

A truly heartbreaking tale of John, played by James Norton, a window cleaner in his thirties who has found himself in one of the worst positions imaginable. 

The acting from Daniel Lamont is incredible for such a young age, and bonus points for James Norton being able to pull off a very good Northern Irish accent.

10. 71 (2014) – an intense drama

71 is one of the best Irish films of all time.
Credit: imdb.com

Starring Jack O’Connell as a British soldier abandoned and trapped on the streets of Belfast after a lethal riot.

The movie follows his fight to survive the night while highlighting ongoing conflict on both the Catholic and Protestant sides.

9. Mickybo and Me (2004) – heart-warming and heartbreaking

An iconic Irish film.
Credit: imdb.com

Directed by Terry Loane, based on the stage play Mojo Mickybo by Owen McCafferty, Mickybo and Me is a heartwarming, heartbreaking movie that tells the tale of two boys from opposite sides of Belfast who strike up a friendship at the start of the Troubles in 1970s Northern Ireland.

The pair share an obsession with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance, which leads to them abandoning their lives in war-torn Belfast for a brighter future in Australia.

The story that unfolds is hilarious and heartbreaking and draws from many real-life incidents that occurred during this tumultuous time in Northern Ireland.

8. In Bruges (2008) – one of the funniest Irish films of all time

In Bruges is one of the best Irish films of all time.
Credit: imdb.com

Starring Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell as hired assassins, In Bruges is equally dark and hilarious and is definitely one of the best Irish movies of all time.

Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, In Bruges was shot on location in Bruges, Belgium, and has the uncanny ability to make you laugh out loud one minute and gasp in horror or shed a tear the next.

READ MORE: The top 10 best Colin Farrell movies, RANKED

7. Hunger (2008) – immensely important

A look at an extraordinary time in Irish history.
Credit: imdb.com

Hunger is a 2008 historical drama feature film about the true events of the 1981 Irish hunger strike. Michael Fassbender plays the famous Bobby Sands.

Sands was one of many prisoners who first participated in the “dirty protest” in pursuit of recognition as political prisoners. He was the first one in the group to die as a result of the hunger strike.

The movie depicts an unforgettable portrayal of life inside the infamous maze prison during this shocking era of the Troubles.

6. Once (2007) – a story of love

An Irish story of love.
Credit: imdb.com

Once stars singer/songwriter Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová as two struggling musicians on the streets of Dublin.

The movie was awarded the Oscar for Best Original Song for ‘Falling Slowly’ and the soundtrack was up for nomination at the Grammy Awards.

While the pair played lovers in the movie, they also fell in love in real life, and the movie mimicked a dramatised version of their own musical pairing. Hansard and Irglová made up the folk-rock duo The Swell Season.

5. Michael Collins (1996) – a great performance from Niam Neeson

Michael Collins is one of the best Irish film of all time.
Credit: Imdb.com

Directed by Neil Jordan, Michael Collins is a 1996 biographical drama war film that tells the story of Irish revolutionary Michael Collins.

Liam Neeson plays Collins in the film as he fights and struggles to motivate the National Army to fight during the Irish Civil War. 

READ: See IB4UD’s choices for the top 10 best Liam Neeson articles, ranked in order

4. An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) (2022) – an Irish language film

An incredible Irish language movie.
Credit: imdb.com

An Cailín Ciúin is hands-down one of the best Irish movies of all time, despite only being released in 2022. The movie made history when it became the first-ever Irish language film to be nominated for an Oscar, and deservedly so.

It’s a coming-of-age drama about a little girl who is sent off to live with distant relatives for the summer. 

The juxtaposition of her own dysfunctional family compared to the quiet, healthy life she leads over the summer is uplifting and heartbreaking all at once. This is one Irish movie that will tug right on your heartstrings.

3. The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) – one of the latest Irish films

Banshees of Inisherin received widespread acclaim.
Credit: imdb.com

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell team up once more with Martin McDonagh once more to bring us The Banshees of Inisherin.

The film is set on the fictional island of Inisherin off the west coast of Ireland, set in the 1920s to the backdrop of the Irish Civil War.

It follows the story of lifelong friends Colm and Padraic and the uprooting of their relationship when Colm decides he no longer wants to be friends with Padraic.

Colm warns Padraic to heed his warnings when he says their friendship is well and truly over, which leads to shocking consequences for them both.

2. In the Name of the Father (1993) – a harrowing tale

In the Name of the Father is one of the best Irish films of all time.
Credit: imdb.com

In the Name of the Father is a 1993 biographical crime drama that tells the real and grim true story of the Guildford Four, when four people were falsely accused of the 1974 Guildford pub bombings that killed four off-duty British soldiers and one civilian.

The screenplay is an adaptation of Gerry Conlon’s autobiography Proved Innocent: The Story of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four.

The movie is a masterclass in acting and historical context, providing an up-close-and-personal insight into the interrogations and forced confessions that were not singular to the Guildford Four case during the era of the Troubles. 

1. The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006) – dark and important

The Wind That Shakes the Barley tops our list of the best Irish films.
Credit: imdb.com

Directed by Ken Loach, written by Paul Laverty, and starring Cillian Murphy, Padraic Delaney and Liam Cunningham, The Wind That Shakes the Barley is a very important film on Irish history and the very real events that took place during the War of Independence from 1919 to 1921 and the Irish Civil War from 1922 to 1923.

The story follows the tale of two brothers fighting side by side against the British for Ireland’s independence. However, when a treaty is negotiated, the boys find themselves fighting on opposing sides. 

An award-nominated, award-winning movie, The Wind that Shakes the Barley is considered by many to be the best Irish film of all time.

Other notable mentions

My Left Foot is a notable mention for the best Irish films of all time.
Credit: imdb.com

A Bump Along the Way (2019): Hilarious and light-hearted, A Bump Along the Way follows the story of Pamela, a 44-year-old single mum who gets pregnant after a one-night stand. This hilarious movie stars Bronagh Gallagher.

Arracht (2019): Arracht is an Irish period drama set during the Great Famine in Ireland. It tells the story of a local man who takes in a stranger at the behest of a local priest.

Evelyn (2003): In the movie, Desmond’s wife leaves him and their three children after Christmas 1953. The story then shows Desmond, played by Pierce Brosnan, trying to get all of his children back after they are taken to separate orphanages.

The Commitments (1991): Based on the Roddy Doyle novel of the same name, The Commitments tells the story of a jazz band made up entirely of the Irish working class.

My Left Foot (1989): Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, My Left Foot tells the story of a man diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at birth who learns to paint and write with his left foot.

Your questions answered about the best Irish films of all time

Read our article on the best Irish films of all time and still have some questions? Then we have you covered! Below, we have outlined the most frequently asked questions about this topic from our readers and online. 

What is the highest-grossing Irish film of all time?

Interestingly, Brown’s Boys D’Movie holds the record for the biggest gross on the opening day of an Irish film in Ireland. However, some of Ireland’s most successful films worldwide include The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Michael Collins.

Are there any good Irish movies on Netflix?

There are some great Irish movies on Netflix. We actually have a list of them here.

Are there any movies about the IRA?

There are several Irish movies that include storylines about the IRA, including The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Michael Collins, ’71, Hunger, and In the Name of the Father.

MORE IB4UD ARTICLES ON IRISH FILMS AND MOVIES

Ireland in 10 movies: films that tell the story of Ireland’s history, culture and beauty

The 10 best Irish films according to Rotten Tomatoes

10 brilliant Irish films that only Irish people know about

The 20 best Irish movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime right now

Top 10 best Irish movies of all time, ranked

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