Ireland is a melting pot of creativity. With arts and culture running through the very fibres of our being (alongside good banter and Guinness), it comes as no surprise that actors worthy of world-stage recognition come from our humble island, warmly known as the Emerald Isle. Here are the top 10 Irish actors of all time; we salute you!
10. Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Having hailed from a wholesome town in County Cork, Jonathan Rhys Meyers was first headhunted by casting agents for a part in War of the Buttons. Although he did not succeed in getting the part, the experience opened up a whole new avenue for him: the performing arts.
He is most remembered for his roles in Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Match Point (2005), Mission: Impossible III (2006), and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his performance of Elvis Presley in the biopic, Elvis (2005).
9. Maureen O’Hara
Maureen O’Hara is Ireland’s golden-girl from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema. Born in Ranelagh, County Dublin in 1920, she went on to become one of Ireland’s treasures.
Her most acclaimed performances (to name but a few) would include The Quiet Man (1952) and The Wings of Eagles (1957). In both, she was cast alongside John Wayne and directed by John Ford.
8. Brendan Gleeson
Brendan Gleeson is an iconic Irish actor and film director best known for his roles in Braveheart (1995), Mission: Impossible 2 (2000), Gangs of New York (2002), the Harry Potter films (2005–10) and Assassin’s Creed (2016), amongst many others.
Born, raised and residing in Dublin, this true local is a local hero and has been nominated for BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards. He has won numerous awards including IFTA Awards, BIFA Awards and an Emmy Award for his contribution to the arts.
7. Pierce Brosnan
Pierce Brosnan is an Irish-American actor who was born in Drogheda, County Louth. His most noteworthy role was as James Bond in four titles of the secret agent film series. Other films of note include Dante’s Peak (1997) and Mamma Mia! (2008).
He has been an Ambassador for UNICEF Ireland since 2001; he has been nominated for a series of awards and was also awarded an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by the Queen of Britain for his contribution to the arts in 2003.
6. Cillian Murphy
This Cork-born Irish actor has dominated the world stage since his entrance into the world of acting in the late 1990s. Top credits include 28 Days Later (2002), Red Eye (2005) and The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005–2012).
He is most widely known today for his lead role in BBC period drama Peaky Blinders (2013-present) as well as his role in Dunkirk (2017).
5. Chris O’Dowd
Irish funnyman, Chris O’Dowd was born in County Roscommon. Having made his first appearance in the British comedy The IT Crowd, Chris O’Dowd quickly climbed the totem pole to Hollywood success.
Top credits include Bridesmaids (2011), and This Is 40 (2012), as well as his New York Broadway debut in Of Mice and Men (2014).
4. Richard Harris
Richard Harris was a stage and film actor and singer from Dublin, Ireland. His most critically-acclaimed role was as King Arthur in Camelot (1967) for which he received an Academy Award for Best Actor nomination. Other memorable titles include Unforgiven (1992) and his role as Albus Dumbledore, head of Hogwarts, in the first two Harry Potter films.
3. Liam Neeson
Hailing from County Antrim in Northern Ireland is Liam Neeson, one of the country’s most-recognised actors. Top film credits include The Bounty (1984), The Mission (1986), Schindler’s List (1993), Batman Begins (2005), the action thriller series Taken (2008–2014) – to name but a few.
2. Domhnall Gleeson
Son of the previously mention Brendan Gleeson is our very own, Domhnall Gleeson. Having followed in the thespian footsteps of his father – his brother Brian Gleeson is also a tremendous actor – Domhnall Gleeson broke only the scene in 2001.
Since then, it has only been steady sailing to Hollywood A-list. Top titles worth mentioning are the Harry Potter film series (2010–2011), About Time (2013), Ex Machina (2015) and Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017). He has been nominated for a list of accolades, and won quite a few, too.
1. Saoirse Ronan – The Cream of the Crop of Irish Actors
Saoirse Ronan is arguably Ireland’s most successful actor. As an Irish-American, she was born in New York, but lives between Dublin and the United States.
She has a steady stream of awards under her belt; in fact, she has been nominated 93 times to date and has won a whopping 46 awards! Top credits go for Atonement (2007), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Brooklyn (2015) and Lady Bird (2017).