The 21 best Irish films of all-time according to Rotten Tomatoes
Irish filmmaker Jim Carney struck gold again with this story of a young boy growing up in 1980s Dublin, who starts a band in a bid to escape a difficult family life.
33 Of The Best Irish Films Of All Time
What one person regards as a great flick another might think is shi… you get the picture.
In this guide, we’re showing you what we think are the best Irish movies of all time along with the Rotten Tomatoes score for each one!
Table of Contents
What we think are the best Irish movies of all time
Below, you’ll find everything from funny Irish movies and old Irish films to dramas, love stories and more.
There’s everything from ‘Man About Dog’ and ‘The Van’ to ‘A Bad Day For The Cut’ and some of the best Irish movies that have been on the go for decades.
1. Waking Ned (Rotten Tomatoes Score 84%)
Out of the many Irish films in this guide, Waking Ned is my absolute favourite.
This is fast-packed comedy directed by Kirk Jones that tackles the popular theme of what happens when someone in the village wins the lottery.
Best pals Jackie O’Shea (Ian Bannen) and Michael O’Sullivan (David Kelly) decide to pay their nouveau-riche neighbour a visit. Alas, they find Ned Devine dead from the shock.
The village puts their heads together to find a way to make the claim on Devine’s behalf with humorous results.
2. The Field (Rotten Tomatoes Score 43%)
You’ll see the Field top many guides to the best Irish movies, and for good reason.
Directed by Jim Sheridan, The Field follows the story of “Bull” McCabe (Richard Harris) who finds out that the land he has tended for 30 years is to be auctioned off.
McCabe is outbid by a rich American (Tom Berenger) who plans to build a factory on the site.
However, that’s just the start of the story as McCabe joins forces with son Tadgh McCabe (Sean Bean) in a bid to hold onto the land that means so much to him.
3. The Van (Rotten Tomatoes Score 38%)
This drama/ comedy starring Donal O’Kelly as “Bimbo” Reeves gives a lighthearted insight into the world of food trucks.
Directed by Stephen Frears, the plot follows Bimbo who is sacked from the bakery where he works and decides to run his own food truck.
His long-suffering friend Larry (played by Colm Meaney) finds Bimbo a trying boss but when some questionable practices mean they are closed down by the health inspector, their friendship comes apart too.
This is another one of those Irish films that’s easy to watch and that delivers a clatter of belly laughs throughout.
4. The Wind That Shakes The Barley (Rotten Tomatoes Score 90%)
Topping high in the popularity score, The Wind That Shakes the Barley is a war drama set in the early 1920s against the backdrop of the Irish War of Independence.
Damien (Cillian Murphy) is about to leave Ireland to study as a doctor in London but an attack by brutal Black and Tans (British Forces) leads him to fight alongside his brother Teddy (Padraic Delaney) in the IRA.
However, once the peace treaty is signed, Damien finds that he and his brother are estranged. Liam Cunningham plays a supporting role as Dan.
This is one of the best Irish films when it comes to review scores.
5. Intermission (Rotten Tomatoes Score 74%)
Ahh, Intermission. This is an absolute peach of a flick that often fails to make it onto many lists of the best Irish films.
Intermission is a lively crime comedy when Dubliner John (Cillian Murphy from Peaky Blinders) suggests a trial breakup with his girlfriend (Kelly MacDonald).
She moves on to date a banker and John teams up with small-time crook Lehiff (Colin Farrell) to rob the bank in revenge.
Not all goes to plan as police unravel the plot. Ably directed by John Crowley with a strong cast and storyline.
6. The Commitments (Rotten Tomatoes Score 89%)
Based on the novel by Roddy Doyle, the Commitments is one of the more iconic Irish comedy films. It follows music promoter Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) starts his own R&B group in Dublin.
He brings together an all-white band who, despite an inherent lack of experience with R&B, manage to get themselves noticed.
That is, until the perils of fame and fortune create fractures right before their big break.
irected by Alan Parker and starring Johnny Murphy as Joey “the Lips” Fagan on trumpet and Angeline Ball as singer Imelda Quirke.
7. The Young Offenders Movie (No Rotten Tomatoes Score)
The Young Offenders is an Irish comedy written directed and co-produced by Peter Foott. It started its life as a series and quickly became one of the most popular Irish TV shows to hit our screens.
Set in Cork, friends Conor MacSweeney (Alex Murphy) and Jock Murphy (Chris Walley) could almost be twins.
They steal bikes and head off on a road trip in search of a missing bale of heroin worth €7 million. After many twists, misunderstandings and adventures, the loveable layabouts end up with a predictable arrest.
Filmed in Cork and along the Wild Atlantic Way, it’s loosely based on a true story! If you like to go off Rotten Tomatoe scores, this is one of the best Irish films ever made.
8. A Bad Day For The Cut (Rotten Tomatoes Score 92%)
This 2017 Mystery Thriller directed and co-written by Chris Baugh is a tale of revenge with an interesting twist.
Middle-aged Irish farmer Donal (Nigel O’Neill) sets out to see justice done when his elderly mother Florence (Stella McCusker) is murdered during a home invasion.
It leads Donal into an unfamiliar criminal underworld as the truth about his mother is uncovered.
I watched this a few years back after seeing it ranked as one of the best Irish films on Rotten Tomatoes – I’ve watched it several times since and it never fails to disappoint.
9. Veronica Guerin (Rotten Tomatoes Score 53%)
Veronica Guerin is one of the most famous Irish movies for good reason. It tells the horrific story of what happened to Guerin, an investigative journalist, while she was investigating Dublin’s underworld.
Cate Blanchett gives a notable performance as Irish journalist Veronica Guerin in this 2003 biographical crime drama.
This moving biographical tale was directed by Joel Schumacher and co-stars Gerald McSorley, Ciaran Hinds and Brenda Fricker.
10. The Secret of Kells (Rotten Tomatoes Score 90%)
Set in the days of the Vikings in a remote Irish woodland, The Secret of Kells is an animated fantasy film about the making of the famous 9th century illustrated manuscript known as the Book of Kells.
Abbot Cellach (Brendan Gleeson) prepares defences against the Vikings while his nephew Brendan (Evan McGuire) seems oblivious to impending doom as he works on manuscripts at the local monastery.
Illuminator Aidan (Mick Lally) gives Brendan a series of magical tasks. This first part of a folklore trilogy is directed by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey.
While this is regarded as one of the best Irish movies for kids, it’s also a great watch for adults!
11. The Guard (Rotten Tomatoes Score 94%)
This side-splitting all-Irish comedy thriller stars the rough but roguish Irish Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) in cahoots with FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle).
They team up in a bid to uncover police corruption while investigating a drug-trafficking ring. Violence inevitably ensues. Directed and written by John Michael McDonagh (The Guard and Calvary).
If you’re looking for funny Irish films that are easy to follow, this is a great option.
12. Angela’s Ashes (Rotten Tomatoes Score 52%)
Winner of Best Director for Alan Parker (Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Awards), Angela’s Ashes is a 1999 drama based on the true memoir originally penned as a biography by Frank McCourt.
Frank’s mother Angela McCourt (Emily Watson) gives birth to Margaret who dies shortly afterwards and Angela slips into depression. Frank and his brother begin their fight for survival before facing eviction.
Co-stars Joe Breen, Ciaran Owens, and Michael Legge play the part of Frank McCourt in various stages of his life. The story sees him emigrate to America and begin a new life.
13. Once (Rotten Tomatoes Score 97%)
This musical drama is a charming story of love set in Dublin with a modern musical score.
Vacuum repairman by day and and street musician by night, Guy (Glen Hansard) meets Czech immigrant (Marketa Irgova). Together they embark on writing songs that reflect their blossoming romance.
Directed by John Carney, it’s one of the more romantic Irish films and a couple of the tune from it feature in our guide to the best Irish songs.
14. My Left Foot (Rotten Tomatoes Score 98%)
Expectations are low for Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis) when he is born with cerebral palsy. He is paralysed until the age of five when a miracle occurs.
He then finds himself able to write with chalk using his left foot. Tirelessly supported by his mother (Brenda Fricker) Christy becomes a painter, poet and author.
Directed by Jim Sheridan, the film netted the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
15. The General (No Rotten Tomatoes Score)
Another of the fact-based biographical movies set in Ireland, The General starts with the murder of the violent criminal Martin Cahill (Brendan Gleeson).
Pursued for his crimes by Ned Kenny (Jon Voight), as Cahill lies dying he recalls his life as a child on the streets of Dublin.
Flashbacks take him from life as a petty thief to crime boss, masterminding armed robberies. Released in 1999 and directed by John Boorman.
16. Michael Collins (No Rotten Tomatoes Score)
Directed by Neil Jordan, Michael Collins is a biographical period drama based on the life story of Irish revolutionary and politician Michael Collins (Liam Neeson).
He led the struggle for Irish independence in the early 20th century and was eventually shot in an ambush after the 1916 Easter Rising.
Informative historical biography which won the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival. Co-starring Aidan Quinn, Stephen Rea, and Julia Roberts as Collins’ lover Kitty Kiernan.
If you’ve in the mood for good Irish films that’ll give you a sense of Ireland’s past, I can’t recommend this one enough.
17. The Snapper (Rotten Tomatoes Score 97%)
Bursting with likeable characters, The Snapper is a comedy drama surrounding 20-something Sharon Curley (Tina Kellegher) who lives at home with her mum Sharon (Ruth McCabe), dad Dessie (Colm Meaney) and a clutch of brothers and sisters.
Unexpectedly finding herself pregnant, the hunt is on to name the father with embarrassment all round in the devoutly Catholic household. Directed with great humour by Stephen Frears.
18. Darby O’Gill And The Little People (Rotten Tomatoes Score 100%)
One of the most popular Irish themed movies to be released in the last 20 or so years is this fantasy movie directed by Robert Stevenson was produced by Disney in 2004.
Darby O’Gill (Albert Sharpe) is fired from his job and replaced by handsome Michael McBride (Sean Connery).
Returning home, O’Gill meets Brian, the leprechaun king (Jimmy O’Dea) and is granted the traditional three wishes. However, they do not bring the results he hoped for.
19. Bloody Sunday (Rotten Tomatoes Score 92%)
Based on the events of Bloody Sunday, this powerful drama recreates the events that took place in Derry on January 30 1972 (watch the trailer).
Activist Ivan Cooper (James Nesbitt) leads a peaceful protest that ends in slaughter when British soldiers open fire on the crowd leaving 13 dead and 14 wounded.
Shot in the style of a documentary, this historical drama was directed by Paul Greengrass with Nicholas Farrell as Brigadier Maclellan and Tim Pigott-Smith as Major General Ford.
This is one of the most impactful movies about Ireland and, regardless of how many times you watch it, the horrors of what took place never fail to hit home.
20. Some Mother’s Son (Rotten Tomatoes Score 69%)
Written and directed by Irish filmmaker Terry George, Some Mother’s Son is based on the true story of the 1981 hunger strike at the Maze Prison.
Bobby Sands (John Lynch) leads the protest claiming that IRA prisoners should be treated as prisoners of war, not criminals.
The mothers of two of the hunger strikers, Kathleen Quigley and Annie Higgins, (played movingly by Helen Mirren and Fionnula Flanaghan) fight to save their sons’ lives in this historic account during The Troubles.
21. Philomena (Rotten Tomatoes Score 91%)
If you’re looking for Irish themed movies, this next one packs a punch. Meet Philomena (Judi Dench), now late in life and still searching for the son she was forced to give up for adoption 50 years before.
BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) takes up her cause and travels with her to America in search of Anthony, becoming close in the shared process.
Sensitively directed by Stephen Frears, it’s a moving drama and deserving BAFTA award-winner (Best Adapted Screenplay).
22. Man About Dog (No Rotten Tomatoes Score)
This fast-packed comedy caper directed by Paddy Breathnach tells a tale of three losers Mo Chara (Allen Leech), Scud Murphy (Ciaran Nolan) and “Cerebral Paulsy” (Tom Murphy) in West Belfast.
Forced to leave their home town after racking up 50 grand in debts to a bookie, they hit the road.
It’s hard to describe this one without giving too much away, but the trailer above will give you a sense of what to expect.
23. Brooklyn (Rotten Tomatoes Score 97%)
OK, this one doesn’t fall into the ‘Movies About Ireland’ category, but Brooklyn follows a journey that countless Irish men and women took and continue to take.
This rich period drama has more than a touch of romance. Directed by John Crowley, it follows young Irish immigrant Eilis Lace (Saoirse Ronan) as she carves out a new life in Brooklyn in the 1950s.
Homesickness fades with new love but eventually she has to choose between the two countries and the life each has to offer. Outstanding performances by Ronan and Emory Cohen.
24. I Went Down (Rotten Tomatoes Score 84%)
Starring Peter McDonald as the newly released jailbird Git Hynes, this fresh drama comedy is directed by Paddy Breathnach. Dropping in to visit his best friend Anto (David Wilmot), Git has to defend his friend as he is attacked by debt enforcers.
After injuring the nephew of the Dublin gangster, Git is forced to return to a life of crime, working for the syndicate on an assignment with Bunny Kelly (Brendan Gleeson) in which everything goes awry.
This is one of the best Irish films in the last few decades, in my opinion, but you don’t hear it talked about that often.
25. Calvary (Rotten Tomatoes Score 38%)
The tense storyline of Calvary is led by the soft-hearted priest James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson) who delivers an outstanding performance as he wrestles with unexpected controversy from his parishioners, culminating in a death threat.
Directed by John Michael McDonagh, this comedy drama also stars Chris O’Dowd as Jack Brennan and the lovely Kelly Reilly as Fiona.
26. Sing Street (Rotten Tomatoes Score 95%)
More a musical than a comedy, Sing Street is directed with heart by John Carney as the talented cast fly through the script.
Dublin teenager Cosmo (Ferdie Walsh-Peelo) tries to carve out a new life for himself in Dublin in the 1980s. He forms a rock and roll band to impress aspiring model Raphina (Lucy Boynton).
They engage on a heart-warming journey of love, accompanied by a score of nostalgic 80s hits.
27. The Quiet Man (Rotten Tomatoes Score 91%)
Next up is one of the most famous Irish movies of all time – The Quiet Man. Departing his classical Western genre, John Wayne stars as Sean Thornton in this romantic boxing drama.
After killing his opponent in the ring, Thornton returns to Ireland from the USA seeking a quiet life.
When he runs into Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen) and his sister Mary Kate (Maureen O’Hara) life is anything but simple.
28. In The Name Of The Father (Rotten Tomatoes Score 94%)
Based loosely on the story of The Guildford Four, In the Name of the Father is a biographical drama about the life of unemployed petty criminal Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis).
He flees to England only to find himself and friend Paul Hill (John Lynch) are suspects when a nearby pub is blown up by the IRA.
He spends the next 15 years trying to clear his name. Nominated for Academy Award for Best Actor, among many other nominations.
29. Into the West (Rotten Tomatoes Score 77%)
Living in poverty in Dublin, Ossie and Tito (Ciaran Fitzgerald and Ruaidhri Conry respectively) live with their alcoholic father (Gabriel Byrne).
Life takes a turn for the better when their grandfather (David Kelly) arrives with the gift of a magical horse Tir na nOg.
Splendidly directed by Mike Newell, Into The West family-friendly adventure story for all ages.
30. Hear My Song (Rotten Tomatoes Score 90%)
Fast-talking charmer Mickey O’Neill (Adrian Dunbar) is a shady nightclub owner struggling to save his business.
He books Irish tenor Josef Locke (William Hootkins) for a money-making gig only to find the singer turns out to be an impersonator.
When the real singer turns up out of exile (Ned Beatty), O’Neill finally begins to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This comedy-come-romance is directed by Peter Chelsom.
31. The Banshees of Inisherin (Rotten Tomatoes Score 97%)
The Banshees of Inisherin is one of the newest Irish films and it has just taken home three Golden Globe Awards.
Set on a fictional island off the coast of Ireland, the story follows two friends, Colm Doherty (Gleeson) and Pádraic Súilleabháin (Farrell), entering a… ‘new chapter’ of their relationship.
This is a dark comedy/drama and it showcases Ireland’s scenery in a way that few movies have achieved (see our guide to where was The Banshees of Inisherin filmed in Ireland).
32. The Crying Game (Rotten Tomatoes Score 94%)
Director Neil Jordan manages to deliver a shocking twist in this mystery thriller starring Stephen Rea as IRA member Fergus.
He bonds with a kidnapped British soldier Jody (Forest Whitaker) who in return promises Fergus he will visit his girlfriend Dil (Jaye Davidson) when he returns to London.
He becomes romantically involved with her adding to the secrecy and suspense. Miranda Richardson and Adrian Dunbar star as IRA members.
This is one of a handful of top Irish movies I watched for the first time this year and very much enjoyed.
33. The Magdalene Sisters (Rotten Tomatoes Score 91%)
Directed by Peter Mullan and based on true events, The Magdalene Sisters is a drama about three teenage girls sent to an asylum in 1964.
Their “crimes” include Rose (Dorothy Duffy) being pregnant and unmarried and Bernadette (Nora-Jane Noone) who was caught flirting.
They dream of escaping from their tough life under Sister Bridget (Geraldine McEwan).
What good Irish movies have we missed?
I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some good Irish films from the guide above.
If you have a place that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!
FAQs about the best Irish films
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are some funny Irish movies for kids?’ to ‘What old Irish movies are worth a look?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
What are the best Irish movies to watch?
This will be completely subjective, but some good Irish films to consider are The Field, The Van and the brilliant Waking Ned Devine.
What are some great funny Irish films?
Some of the best funny Irish movies, in my opinion, are The Young Offenders, The Guard, The Commitments and Intermission.
What should I watch on St Patrick’s Day?
This will depend on what kind of Irish movies you’re into, but The Wind That Shakes The Barley is a great watch if you want to get a sense of Ireland’s past.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.
The 21 best Irish films of all-time according to Rotten Tomatoes
BY: Irish Post
January 17, 2022
ROTTEN TOMATOES represents the most trusted measurement of quality for movies on the internet today and that’s certainly the case when it comes to Irish film.
All 21 of the Irish films that features on this list have been certified fresh via the review aggregation website’s fabled Tomatometer, but only five had earned a 100% rating.
Read on to find out the very best Irish cinema has to offer – these are The 21 best Irish films of all-time according to Rotten Tomatoes.
21. The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2007) – 88%
Cillian Murphy made his name as the star of this engaging drama about two brothers fighting a guerrilla war against British forces during the Irish War of Independence.
20. In America (2003) – 89%
Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton starred as guilt-stricken Irish immigrant parents in Jim Sheridan’s film, trying to make a new life in Hell’s Kitchen while mourning the loss of a child.
19. The Magdalene Sisters (2003) – 90%
Peter Mullan’s film won the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival. It tells the story of three young Irish women struggling with the harsh conditions of the Magdalene Sisters Asylum.
18. Philomena (2013) – 91%
Judi Dench earned Academy Award and Bafta nominations for Philomena, the story of a woman searching for the son taken away from her decades ago in an Irish convent.
17. The Secret of Kells (2010) – 91%
Inspired by the real-life Book of Kells Latin manuscript containing the four Gospels of the New Testament that resides in Dublin, this animated was also nominated for an Oscar.
16. The Commitments (1991) – 91%
Based on the Roddy Doyle novel of the same name, The Commitments is all about the rise and rapid fall of cinema’s greatest band. Funny and full of great songs.
15. The Quiet Man (1952) – 91%
John Wayne wows in this engaging tale of an Irish-American;s journey to reclaim his family’s Irish homestead. Wayne later described The Quiet Man as his favourite film.
14. Frank (2014) – 92%
Inspired by the character created by the late comedian Chris Sievey, this musical drama is notable for having all of its music performed by the actors on screen for real.
13. Bloody Sunday (2002) – 92%
Long before his Bourne films, director Paul Greengrass directed this dramatization of the Irish civil rights protest and subsequent massacre on that fateful day in January 1972.
12. Sing Street (2016) – 95%
Irish filmmaker Jim Carney struck gold again with this story of a young boy growing up in 1980s Dublin, who starts a band in a bid to escape a difficult family life.
11. The Guard (2011) – 95%
John Michael McDonagh’s distinctly Irish buddy cop crime caper remains the most successful independent Irish film of all time and is well worth a watch.
10. In The Name Of The Father (1993) – 95%
Jim Sheridan recruited Daniel Day-Lewis to star as Gerry Conlon in this powerful real-life tale about the man falsely implicated for an IRA bombing plot in Belfast.
9. Brooklyn (2015) – 97%
A rich period drama boasting a brilliant performance from Saoirse Ronan and stellar script from Nick Hornby, Brooklyn will tug on the heartstrings of emigrants on both sides of the Atlantic.
8. Once (2007) – 97%
Shot on a budget of just $150,000 over 17 days, Once tells the simple love story of Dublin busker and Czech flower girl. It’s songs and authenticity helped the film bag an Oscar.
7. The Snapper (1993) – 97%
Another Roddy Doyle adaptation, The Snapper tells the funny and poignant story of a small-town girl who gets pregnant and the fallout. Colm Meaney shines in a film lauded by critics.
6. The Crying Game (1992) – 97%
Neil Jordan courted controversy with this story about a British soldier kidnapped by IRA terrorists. Famous for featuring arguably one of the biggest twists in cinema history.
5. The Irish Pub (2013) – 100%
Documentary filmmaker Alex Fegan visits a variety of pubs all over the Ireland, dissecting the institution of the Irish pub and what goes on behind the scenes.
4. Darby O’Gill And The Little People (1959) – 100%
This classic Irish family favourite focuses on a wily old codger and his battle of wits with the king of the leprechauns, while attempting to find a suitable husband for his daughter.
3. Cardboard Gangsters (2017) – 100%
Rising star John Connors writes and stars in this gritty gangster drama which was made on a shoestring budget but earned rave reviews and Irish Film and Television Academy Awards.
2. The Young Offenders (2016) – 100%
(BBC Three / The Young Offenders)
Now a highly successful TV series on RTE, The Young Offenders started life on the big screen, with a crime comedy inspired by a real-life tale of cocaine heist gone awry.
1. My Left Foot (1990) – 100%
Made famous by Daniel Day-Lewis’s method acting madness, My Left Foot is the story of Christy Brown, who fought back afrom cerebral palsy to forge a career in art and writing.
** Originally published April 26, 2018