Ireland has a deep, rich, and complicated past, one full of intrigue, heroism, tragedy, and bloodshed. It’s no surprise so many films are inspired by Irish history.
Ireland has had many important historical moments, events, and pieces of history that have shaped this nation we call home for better and worse. Given Ireland’s famous love of storytelling, it’s little wonder many great films about Irish history have been made.
Whether you are a history buff looking for all the details or just someone genuinely curious about the history of the Emerald Isle, then we believe these films are for you!
In this article, you’ll find our list of the top 10 films about Irish history.
10. Veronica Guerin (2003) – a woman’s conquest for the truth
Veronica Guerin follows Irish journalist, Veronica Guerin, a reporter for The Sunday Independent. As a journalist, Veronica was successful in exposing some of Dublin’s most powerful crime barons and drug lords in 1996 before being assassinated by those criminals who she had exposed.
9. The Magdalene Sisters (2002) – a gritty look at religious-order abuse
The Magdalene Sisters film is fictional, but it is inspired by real events. The film is based on the stories of sufferers at the hands of religious orders in Ireland during the sixties and, more specifically, those who suffered under this abuse of power in the Magdalene laundries.
8. Bloody Sunday (2002) – the chilling account of a dark day
Bloody Sunday is a dramatisation of the Irish civil rights protest march and the massacre by British troops which took place on January 30, 1972.
The film shows the tragic events of that day and the aftermath that followed through the eyes of former SDLP politician, Ivan Cooper, who lead the anti-internment march that developed into the massacre.
7. Maze (2017) – the biggest prison break since WWII
The Maze tells the story of the prison escape of 38 IRA prisoners from Northern Ireland’s infamous Maze prison in 1983. It was the biggest recorded successful prison break in Europe since World War Two.
6. Hunger (2008) – about the hunger strikers’ protest for equality
Hunger is a film that both dazzles and challenges the viewer. The plot revolves around Bobby Sands, the IRA volunteer and MP who led an IRA hunger strike in the Northern Ireland Maze prison to regain political status for republican prisoners.
5. Black 47 (2018) – a no-holds-barred Irish famine tale
Black 47 is set in 1847 when the great famine (1845-1849) was at its height. The death toll was so bad that the year became known as Black 47. The film follows a returning Irish soldier of the Connaught Rangers who abandons the British army to seek revenge on those responsible for the deaths of his family.
While this tale is fictional it provides a great insight into what the famine was like and the terrible effects it had on Ireland and its people.
4. Siege at Jadotville (2016) – a war film displaying Irish heroism
Siege at Jadotville recounts the true story of Irish peacekeeping troops serving in the Congo. In 1961 they were besieged by overwhelming enemy forces which led to a six-day standoff against French and Belgian mercenaries. The film perfectly highlights a proud moment of heroism in Irish military history.
3. In the Name of the Father (1993) – the true story of the Guildford Four
In the Name of the Father tells the true-life story of the Guildford Four, four people wrongly convicted of the 1974 IRA Guildford pub bombings. The film reveals the police and prison force torture the four went through and the efforts of an English lawyer fighting to free them.
2. Michael Collins (1996) – the journey to Irish Independence
Micheal Collins, directed by Neil Jordan, is a historical biopic of the life of Micheal Collins, the Irish revolutionary who successfully led a guerrilla war against the British Empire. Michael Collins helped negotiate the creation of the Irish Free State and led the National Army during the Irish Civil War.
The film shows the grittiness and violence of the war for independence and the heartbreaking events of the Irish Civil War.
1. The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006) – a brutally honest war movie
The Wind that Shakes the Barley is set against the backdrop of the Irish War of Independence and the following Irish Civil War. It’s hailed as one of the best and most brutally honest war-dramas ever produced.
The film, directed by Ken Loach, is a truly heartbreaking story that accurately reflects the trials and tribulations Ireland and her people went through in their fight for freedom.
Watching any of these ten films about Irish history will help you become an Irish history buff well able to hold your own in any historical discussion.