HAPPY SNOW DAY FROM NEW ENGLAND!!! The luck of the Irish is upon us this weekend as St. Patrick’s Day approaches on Saturday, March 17. If you’d like to skip the booze binge and partying in green for a more laid back night of entertainment I’ve got you covered. Once in a while I like to do fun lists of recommendations and today is one of those days. There are plenty of films that are fitting of the most Irish holiday of the year (in the Untied States at least). Whether you’re looking for comedy, action, horror, animation or romance you can find an Irish themed movie in nearly every genre to enjoy and I’m here to give you my recommendations. So let’s ditch the competition and cynicism for a change. These are my picks for the Top 10 Films Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.
For this list no genre is off limits here. As long as the film has an Irish flavor to it or takes place in Ireland it works for this list. The films weren’t just considered for their quality (because as you’ll see they’re not all the most celebrated movies in the world) they were also considered due their heavily Irish themes and characters and in some cases their ability to capture the lore and mythology of St. Patrick’s Day. The order of these films are not necessarily representative of the quality of these movies or their relevance to the holiday, but rather these movies are ordered as my ten personal favorites for St. Patrick’s Day. In some ways these movies are goofy plays on traditions while others are more grounded in realism and drama. Regardless these are the ten films I felt were best for the occasion.
I hope at least one of these films offers you an idea of entertainment for St. Patrick’s Day this weekend. What is your favorite movie to watch for the greenest holiday of the year? Let me know in the comments below and enjoy the list.
Starting this list is a romance film set in Dublin and released in 2007. “Once” is a charming love story about two struggling musicians who strike up a romance through their joint love of music. Exploring the styles of modern Irish music with international flair this love story packs subtlety and real-world emotional weight that most modern romances fail to capture as the two leads, both musicians in real life, bond over their love of the art and find themselves falling for each other even as outside factors keep them from fully exploring the romance. The soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy and the film’s lead song “Falling Slowly” earned it an Oscar so if nothing else the music is worth watching this film to experience. I had considered adding “The Commitments” to this list, but when challenged to pick one of these two Irish musicals to recommend for St. Patrick’s Day I felt “Once” was a more well-rounded movie with a touching story that tugs at the heart and speaks to the dreamer and the hopeless romantic in all of us with beautifully produced music, an Irish flair and the spectacular sights of Dublin as its backdrop.
9. “Angela’s Ashes”
The beauty of making my own lists is sometimes I get to be a bit biased in my picks and this is one of those times. “Angela’s Ashes” is an often overlooked Irish-set film from 1999 based on the 1996 memoir by Frank McCourt. The story revolves around McCourt’s childhood after his family is forced to move back to Ireland in Limerick due to financial struggles in the United States. As the film progresses we see the difficult childhood McCourt had to endure as he sought a way to make his return to the land of dreams. Along the way McCourt and his family endure the loss of his other siblings, his father becomes an alcoholic and Frank takes on several jobs to earn his keep and support his mother all the while trying not to become the failure and monster his father became. It’s a touching story about the impact of the American Dream abroad, the bonds and roadblocks of family relationships, and the growth and maturity of a young man in 1930s and 40s Ireland. It’s a coming of age story and a historical piece all in one so if you’re looking for something culturally significant to celebrate the holiday this is a good place to start and it won’t be the last such film on this list.
8. “The Quiet Man”
In the mood for a classic? Try this 1952 offering from John Ford who won the Best Director Oscar for his work in this visibly stunning masterpiece. The film stars the legendary John Wayne as an Irish-born American boxer who returns to the village of his birth in Ireland where he falls in love but finds himself at odds with locals and his love interest’s brother leading to cultural misunderstandings that come between the pair. Offering a peak into Irish customs and culture while also presenting the beautiful landscape of Ireland, ‘The Quiet Man” offers laughs, heart and atmosphere and remains today an underrated gem set in the Irish countryside. It’s a perfect offering for those looking for experience one of the legendary films of its time, one that is preserved in the National Film Registry, and see a performance by one of the greats, John Wayne, that helped solidify the Irish boxer stereotype in American films. It’s beautiful to look at and it’s a story you won’t soon forget that fits perfectly in any St. Patrick’s Day must watch list.
7. “In the Name of the Father”
I had a lot of Daniel Day-Lewis movies in my shortlist for this top ten, but I chose to only pick one to add because otherwise he’d make up a quarter of the list. The one I chose to include is “In the Name of the Father”, a film starring Day-Lewis as a man falsely convicted of being a part of the Guildford pub bombings in England. While not fully set in Ireland, this is still an important and critically loved film worth checking out as it chronicles a controversial, and still rather timely, issue of terrorism and the public’s need to find someone to blame. The real life bombings, commissioned by the Provisional IRA, killed four British soldiers and a civilian and led to the conviction of four innocent people wrongfully accused of the attack. Packed with drama, suspense, and realism “In the Name of the Father” offers a peak at terror from a different country and serves as a real-life cautionary tale. It’s a fantastic historic piece with many different layers to appreciate and it’s the perfect choice for anyone looking for a little more dramatic flavor for their holiday. Honorable mentions to Day-Lewis’ other three Irish-based movies “My Left Foot”, “Gangs of New York”, and “The Boxer” which are all also worthy viewings for the holiday if you get the chance.
If “In the Name of the Father” doesn’t do it for you, maybe a more brutal historical drama will. Enter “Hunger”, a 2008 British-Irish film that, along with “300”, helped put Michael Fassbender on the map. It’s a short film that chronicles the experiences of Bobby Sands, a participant in the Provisional IRA’s 1981 hunger strike as well as the no wash protest led by Brendan Hughes. Receiving widespread acclaim, this film is a brutal look at the hunger strike and its aftermath and provides an eye-opening perspective from the other end of the struggle utilizing individuals within the IRA for its main narrative. It humanizes the supporters of the controversial terrorist group and focuses on the human aspects within us all, making it both inspirational and insightful. While maybe too brutally honest for some looking for more lighthearted enjoyment for St. Patrick’s Day, this is another historical story that you might want to consider checking out to see a contentious time in Ireland’s history from a new perspective.
5. “Darby O’Gill and the Little People”
Now we’re getting into films that fit the jollier themes of St. Patrick’s Day. “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” comes from Disney as a tale of a jolly Irishman who engages in a battle of wits with none other than leprechauns. It’s a fun little story that takes the lore of leprechauns and Irish folktales and brings them to life on screen as a man has to trick the tricksters. Filled with love, magic, wishes and pretty much every other cliché you can think of for St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland this underappreciated gem is a perfect family movie for the holiday complete with the likes of Albert Sharpe, Sean Connery and Jimmy O’Dea to make it feel even more Irish (alright Connery is Scottish but you get the point). Charming and fun, this small little film is often considered among the better live action offerings in Disney’s earlier years and even though to may be overlooked most of the time, St. Patrick’s Day feels like the perfect time to dust off this gem and give it a watch.
The newest film on this list, “Brooklyn” is a 2015 drama that made waves upon its release and earned numerous nominations at the Oscars. Considered one of the best films of that year this romantic drama focused on a Irish immigrant, played by the talented Saoirse Ronan, who moves to 1950s Brooklyn and falls in love. However, her past catches up with her forcing her to decide between her new life in American and her old life in her Irish home. Not only does this film focus on a woman who experiences the struggles and discomfort of immigration, she then has to return to Ireland for a family matter and finds herself being coaxed into staying forcing her to decide between which life she wants to live, the one steeped in tradition or the new adventure in America. All the while a love story is mixed in as her American love interest struggles to keep the relationship going from a distance. It’s an amazingly balanced drama with many different concepts explored and could serve as the perfect stay-at-home date movie for your St. Patrick’s Day if you choose to embrace it. It’s culturally aware and offers looks at both American and Irish backdrops with a pitch perfect love story and an coming-of-age theme all mixed in for some enjoyable spice.
If this list was based purely on quality then “Leprechaun” would certainly not be this high, but a big part of being on this top 10 is whether or not these films would be a fitting viewing for the holiday in my opinion and “Leprechaun” fits the bill more than most as it takes a legendary creature associated with the Irish-themed celebration and turns him into one of the most iconic B-movie killers of all time. The 1993 horror classic is known mostly for being the big-screen debut of Jennifer Aniston, but it spawned a horror series and today is a cult classic with gratuitous gore (for the time) and a memorable little demon of a monster that strikes fear into the characters and the audience. Every holiday seems to have that one horror entry you can turn to in order to add some spooks and bloodshed to your celebration and for St. Patrick’s Day this is that film. Is is cheesy? Absolutely. Is it good? Well to a certain kind of horror fan. Is it a classic must-watch during the holiday? You bet ya, and it will probably make you think twice before you go searching for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
2. “The Secret of Kells”
Before I get to my top recommendation for the holiday, I put a more family-friendly entry and the only animated film on this list at number two. “The Secret of Kells” is an Academy Award nominated 2009 movie that sports beautiful animation and an engaging story about a young apprentice who is recruited to complete a series of tasks as Vikings close in on his village in Kells in Ireland. Based on the origin story of the “Book of Kells”, an illuminated manuscript Gospel book, and inspired by Irish poetry this magical adventure is littered with references and influences from many parts of Irish culture from religion and art to the backdrop and lifestyle. It’s a fun experience with a visually pleasing style and memorable story that earned it rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. It’s enough to satisfy young viewers and the young at heart and perfectly emulates the charm and spirit of Irish folklore that has fascinated the world for generations. If your St. Patrick’s Day plans are to simply chill with the kids for a night, pop in this lovely film and enjoy the evening together. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
1. “The Boondock Saints”
Ask almost anyone whose seen this movie and I guarantee most of them would pick this film as their quintessential Irish-themed movie of choice. While it never actually visits Ireland, “The Boondocks Saints” takes place during and around St. Patrick’s Day and follows two Irish-American brothers (one played by Norman Reedus in his pre “The Walking Dead” days) who take justice into their own hands and go on a violence-laden killing spree to clean up the streets of their city. Filled with over-the-top and, at times, hilarious moments of violence and a self-referential formula paying tribute to other action movies, “The Boondock Saints” has evolved from cult classic to an action staple since its debut in 1999. It’s popularity introduced a new generation of film fans to Irish concepts and cultural symbols while its quotable lines are often used by those who aren’t really Irish, but want people to think they are. While “The Boondock Saints” may not be on the top of everyone’s must watch list today due to the ongoing debate about gun violence in pop culture, if you can get past the politics this film as THE must watch for American audiences this time of year as a film that mixes culture and fun into a tight package that grabs your attention and never lets go. It’s my favorite movie to watch for the holiday, and that’s why it’s my #1 recommendation.