St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner, but what if you'd just as soon not spend the weekend getting drunk with the rest of the western world? Why not fire up a movie marathon instead? Here are 14 Irish-themed movies to help you get in the holiday spirit.
'The Quiet Man' (1952)
Who says a western has to take place in the desert? This film has all the ingredients of a great, classic western, including director John Ford and John Wayne playing a rough-edged but noble character trying to leave his past behind him. The only real difference is the lush, green setting and the fact that the climax features a fistfight rather than a shootout.
'Darby O'Gill and the Little People' (1959)
Initiated by a trip Walt Disney took to Ireland, “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” (based on a novel by Herminie Templeton Kavanagh) is an all-ages exploration of Irish folklore and a chance to see a very early performance by a very young Sean Connery. Sure, this isn’t the greatest movie ever but it’s the only one on this list to actually feature leprechauns and hey, that’s something, right?
'Barry Lyndon' (1975)
The legendary Stanley Kubrick directing a period piece set in 18th Century Ireland? There's no way that doesn't belong in a St. Patrick's Day marathon. Ryan O'Neal stars as a charming rogue who marries his way into aristocracy and struggles with what comes next. It didn't exactly light the world on fire back in 1975, but nowadays it's widely regarded as one of Kubrick's best.
'My Left Foot' (1989)
"My Left Foot" kicked off a trend where Daniel Day-Lewis starring in a film automatically equaled an Oscar nomination. Not that he didn't earn his first Academy Award here. Day-Lewis is incredible as Christy Brown, a man born with cerebral palsy who manages to overcome adversity and become a successful writer and artist. It helps that the film manages to tell Brown's story without relying on sap or melodrama.
'Far and Away' (1992)
If you don't mind turning off your brain (which probably isn't hard for most inebriated movie watchers on St. Patty's Day), then "Far and Away" is a great addition to any marathon. Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise star as two Irish immigrants seeking love and fortune in America. The plot is simplistic, but the gorgeous cinematography is something to behold.
'Michael Collins' (1996)
Before he built a reputation for playing middle-aged action heroes, Liam Neeson had quite a knack for period dramas. Neeson stars in this biopic about Irish revolutionary Michael Collins. It's not the most accurate account of the Irish Civil War, but an engaging one nonetheless.
'Good Will Hunting' (1997)
What happens when a hard-edged kid from South Boston turns out to be the next great mathematical genius? Can he shrug off that enormous chip on his shoulder long enough to seize his opportunity? "Good Will Hunting" remains an incredibly watchable movie even two decades later, boasting tremendous performances from both Matt Damon and the late, great Robin Williams.
'Gangs of New York' (2002)
With Martin Scorsese directing and Daniel Day-Lewis starring as a flamboyant villain named Bill the Butcher, there was no way this film wasn't going to be an instant classic. "Gangs of New York" offers a gripping look at gang warfare and racial tensions in Civil War-era New York City. It also started a long, fruitful partnership between Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio.
'The Departed' (2006)
"The Departed" is always worth a watch at St. Patrick's Day or any other day of the year. Inspired both by Hong Kong classic "Infernal Affairs" and real-life Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, the film offers a suspenseful game of cat and mouse as an undercover cop and a crooked detective try to ferret each other out while jack Nicholson chews a whole bunch of Boston scenery.
'Tristan & Isolde' (2006)
This romantic drama was basically marketed as "the original Romeo and Juliet." And while hardly at the level of the best Shakespeare adaptation, it at least offers an engaging love story set against the backdrop of Dark Ages-era Britain and Ireland.
'In Bruges' (2008)
"In Bruges" is equal parts black comedy and crime thriller, and the resulting combination is a lot of fun. Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell are hilarious as two hitmen sent to languish in Bruges after botching a job.
'The Secret of Kells' (2009)
"The Secret of Kells" has a lot to offer animation buffs. It draws from the imagery and mythology of an illuminated manuscript, resulting in an animated film very different from the usual flashy, slapstick fare you'll find in cinemas. It's an Oscar-worthy animated film, and likely would have won in 2010 if it didn't have the misfortune of running against Pixar's"Up."
"Calvary" is a film that manages a very delicate balancing act. It's a black comedy that juggles some very sensitive subject matter. It's also a movie that both tackles the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandals while at the same time arguing for the importance of the priesthood. Without a star as capable as Brendan Gleeson, it might not have come together as well as it does.
"Brooklyn" is sumptuous, sentimental drama about a young woman leaving Ireland behind and finding a new live and a new love in 1950's New York. It often feels like a relic from a bygone era, but that's hardly a bad thing. The film is also a welcome reminder that Saoirse Ronan is one of the brightest young talents in the film industry right now.
'Sing Street' (2016)
Director John Carney, direct of 2007's "Once," made an even stronger musical, one that follows a group of outcasts at a Dublin Catholic school in 1985. The coming-of-age story resonates strongly, but the real star of the show is the music itself. The original compositions perfectly recreate the pop music of the time and blend seamlessly with familiar fare from the likes of Duran Duran and The Cure.