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The Best Irish Movies to Watch on St. Patrick’s Day

Get your green on with these 13 sweeping dramas, wry comedies and romantic tearjerkers

spinner image Colin Farrell in the film "The Banshees of Inisherin," Saoirse Ronan in the film "Brooklyn" and Daniel Day-Lewis in the film "In the Name of the Father"
(Left to right) Colin Farrell in "The Banshees of Inisherin," Saoirse Ronan in "Brooklyn" and Daniel Day-Lewis in "In the Name of the Father."

For some, St. Patrick’s Day is all about donning the green, wandering down to the pub, ordering a pint of Guinness and dialing up the Clancy Brothers on the jukebox. But you know what else is a great way to celebrate the holiday? Cozying in and streaming a film that celebrates the Emerald Isle or explores the Irish immigrant experience here in America. Here are 13 Irish movies to stream this St. Patrick’s Day.

The Banshees of Inisherin (R, 2022)

Hey, an In Bruges reunion! Brendan Gleeson, 68, and Colin Farrell reteam with writer-director Martin McDonagh, 53, for this charmingly quirky dramatic comedy that racked up nine Oscar nominations. Set on a remote, wind-lashed island off of the western coast of Ireland, the story centers on a pair of longtime mates Colm (Gleeson) and Pádraic (Farrell) who, for some inexplicable reason, sever their friendship. It’s hardly mutual. Colm just decides one day that he doesn’t like his buddy anymore. The confused Pádraic does everything he can to mend things while everyone on the island offers their unsolicited two cents. Both stars are absolutely note-perfect, as are Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan in smaller but no less vivid roles that bring the odd rural rhythms of the tiny Irish community — and breathtaking island scenery — to life.

Watch it: The Banshees of Inisherin on Max

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Belfast (PG-13, 2021)

Kenneth Branagh, 63, travels back in time to the place of his youth — Belfast, 1969. Mostly shot in gorgeous black and white, Branagh’s lyrical valentine tells the story of a 9-year-old boy named Buddy (the adorable Jude Hill) and his working-class family who get swept up in the political and cultural turbulence of the times. Caitríona Balfe and Jamie Dornan are excellent as Buddy’s concerned parents, while Judi Dench, 89, and Ciarán Hinds, 71, soar like a pair of generous and frisky wise old owls as Granny and Pop. This is as personal as personal filmmaking gets; it sparkles like an emerald.

Watch it: Belfast on Amazon Freevee

Brooklyn (PG-13, 2015)

Saoirse Ronan was nominated for a best actress statuette for her performance in this beautiful, melancholy and hopeful immigrant’s tale. And after watching it, you’ll probably agree that it’s a crime that she didn’t win. Ronan, who grew up in Ireland, plays a young Irishwoman with a head full of dreams who leaves her parochial small town behind and ventures across the Atlantic to start a new, exciting life in 1950s New York City. Of course, the big city hardly embraces her with smiles and open arms as she chases after the American dream. But her homesickness soon starts to fade when she meets a blue-collar Italian immigrant (Emory Cohen channeling Stanley Kowalski). Life in her adopted homeland is looking up … until she has to return to Ireland due to a family tragedy and is forced to decide which country is truly her home. Thanks to Ronan, Brooklyn belongs right next to Avalon and The Godfather: Part II in the pantheon of movies about the immigrant experience.

Watch it: Brooklyn on Max

The Departed (R, 2006)

Martin Scorsese’s best picture winner isn’t set in Ireland, but it does take place in our closest approximation, South Boston. This crackling cat-and-mouse game stars Leonardo DiCaprio as an undercover cop assigned to infiltrate the neighborhood’s Irish mafia while Matt Damon, 53, plays a young, streetwise gangster who infiltrates the state police to channel intel back to the mob’s menacing, hair-trigger boss (Jack Nicholson, 86). Like a fuse lit at both ends, it’s only a matter of time before these two moles finally intersect and the whole thing goes kaboom. Loyalty on the mean streets is obviously a theme that Scorsese, 81, has trafficked in before, but The Departed shows us a director at the top of his game.

Watch it: The Departed on Prime Video

Far and Away (PG-13, 1992)

This old-fashioned immigrant epic by Ron Howard, 70, got a pretty thorough dressing down when it was initially released, but the years have been slightly kinder to it — and not just for its nostalgic value as a time capsule of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s decade as husband and wife. Cruise, 61, plays a poor, scrappy tenant farmer in late-19th century Ireland; Kidman, 56, is his landowner’s spoiled, rebellious daughter. Their mutual hatred slowly melts into opposites-attract passion after they run off to America together to start new lives. The best part of the movie is its thrilling Western land rush; Howard’s romantic adventure can skew corny while the accents are a tad Lucky Charms-ish. But hey, we all occasionally find ourselves in the mood to curl up on the sofa with some corn and Lucky Charms.

Watch it: Far and Away on Prime Video

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In America (PG-13, 2002)

Based on the personal experiences of writer-director Jim Sheridan, 75, as a struggling immigrant actor in the 1980s, In America stars the always welcome Paddy Considine, 50, as the patriarch of a family that moves to New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen and finds America to be less welcoming than advertised. Samantha Morton costars as his wife, who puts up with more than should be thrown at any one person. Like the best — or at least the most honest — immigrant stories, Sheridan’s film toggles between moments of triumph and tragedy, humor and hardship, lightness and darkness.

Watch it: In America on Prime Video

In the Name of the Father (R, 1993)

You could program a St. Patrick’s Day mini-marathon with just films starring Daniel Day-Lewis, 66. There’s My Left FootGangs of New York and this searing true story directed by Jim Sheridan. Hands down the greatest actor of his generation, Day-Lewis (who holds British-Irish dual citizenship) stars as Gerry Conlon — a small-time thief falsely accused of engineering the IRA bombing of a London pub. The film chronicles Conlon’s 15 years behind bars as he desperately tries to prove his innocence with the help of a British attorney. If that sounds like you should get ready for a depressing sit, think again, because Day-Lewis is at the peak of his formidable powers in this one. Which is really saying something.

Watch it: In the Name of the Father on Prime Video

Michael Collins (R, 1996)

Born in Northern Ireland, Liam Neeson, 71, turned out to be ideally cast as the famous (and infamous) Irish Republican hero of the 1920s. Directed by Neil Jordan, 74, whose film The Crying Game could just as easily be on this list, Michael Collins is epic in the best sense of the word, showing the complex trajectory of its protagonist’s methods and goals as his belief in violent civil war matures into a desire for peace. Full of passion, tragedy and, yes, even romance, Jordan’s film feels much more alive than any dry history lesson thanks to an excellent supporting cast that includes Alan Rickman, Stephen Rea, 77, Aidan Quinn, 65, and Julia Roberts, 56.

Watch it: Michael Collins on Prime Video

Once (R, 2007)

Music expresses what words cannot in writer-director John Carney’s charming, Dublin-set romance about two striving songwriters who meet, connect and discover that one plus one makes more than two — it makes musical magic. Glen Hansard, 53, and Markéta Irglová are note-perfect as, respectively, a street busker with big dreams and a pianist hamstrung by her family. But all of the couple’s incandescent meet-cute sparks take a back seat to the tunes they come up with together, including the Oscar-winning “Falling Slowly.” Once is full of passion, inspiration and dreams of wanting more out of life. It’s also about the power of music as salvation — not to mention flat-out heartwarming. For more Ireland-set storytelling, also check out Carney’s 2016 Sing Street.

Watch it: Once on Prime Video

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Ondine (PG-13, 2009)

Think of this gentle fairy tale as Splash set on the rocky Irish coastline. A tender, low-key Colin Farrell stars as a recovering alcoholic who lives with his daughter in a fishing village. Then, one day, a beautiful and mysterious young woman gets caught in his usually empty nets as he’s pulling them in. Is she a mermaid, an accident, a fantasy? Whatever the case, Ondine (Alicja Bachleda-Curuś) brings him luck — her presence (and cooing voice) seems to make the fish leap right onto his trawler. This is a children’s story that was made for grownups, full of heart, whimsy and surprising emotional depth.

Watch it: Ondine on Peacock

The Quiet Man (1952)

No list of St. Patrick’s Day movies would be complete without this John Ford classic that brings John Wayne to the Emerald Isle. Wayne, who was the De Niro to Ford’s Scorsese, is surprisingly affecting here as an American boxer named Sean Thornton who decides to retire to the rural Irish village where he was born. Not all of the locals are sold on the Yank. But one important one is: Maureen O'Hara’s fiery Mary Kate, who falls in love with Thornton over the blustery, bare-knuckle protests of her overprotective brother (Victor McLaglen). In the film’s action-packed — and quite funny — climax, the two settle things with a good old-fashioned donnybrook, which has become a cinema classic.

Watch it: The Quiet Man on Prime Video

The Secret of Kells (2009)

Today, animation has become synonymous with the computer-generated confections from Pixar. And while those films are terrific, their look can get a little samey after a while. If you’re looking for a throwback to the wonders of old-school hand-drawn animation, check out this enchanting treasure about a young boy who ventures into an enchanted forest, an ancient book that holds the mystery of secret powers and a mystical Irish world that feels like a waking dream. The Secret of Kells is a beautiful reminder of the transporting power of animation created without ones and zeros. It’s pure magic.

Watch it: The Secret of Kells on Prime Video

Waking Ned Devine (PG, 1998)

In the tiny rural village of Tullymore, some lucky soul has won the Irish National Lottery. But who? Well, it turns out the winner is none other than Ned Devine, an old codger with a bum ticker who is so shocked by the news of his windfall that he keels over and dies. With no relatives to leave his new fortune to, the townspeople band together and hatch a giant ruse to pretend Ned is still alive so they can collect and share his loot. Thin as a wafer but just as delicious, Waking Ned Devine is like Cocoon meets Weekend at Bernie's … but much more easygoing and delightful.

Watch it: Waking Ned Devine on Apple TV

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