Ireland is rich in character and history alike and so too are many of the films that take place there. The most recent examples are Colm Bairéad’s “The Quiet Girl,” about a 9-year-old girl sent to spend the summer with distant relatives on an isolated farm, and Martin McDonagh’s multi-Oscar-nominated “The Banshees of Inisherin,” which uses the feud between two friends as an analogue for the Irish Civil War of the early 1920s.
Other titles such as 1993’s “In the Name of the Father” and 1996’s “Some Mother’s Son” incorporate the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and Ireland’s fight for independence into their respective narratives. (These are the best movies based on real events or people.)
Of course, not every great film set in Ireland is concerned with the island’s various political struggles. Take Jim Sheridan’s 1989 biopic “My Left Foot,” for example, which follows real-life artist Christy Brown and stars Daniel Day-Lewis in one of his most impressive roles. More than an award-winning classic, it helped usher in an entire wave of Ireland-based films throughout the 1990s, including two more collaborations between Sheridan and Day-Lewis. (Day-Lewis is among the actors who retired far earlier than anyone expected.)
To determine the best films set in Ireland, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of March 2023, weighting all ratings equally. Only movies set fully or partially in Ireland or Northern Ireland were considered.
As there’s really no wrong point of entry into Ireland’s unique culture and history, one can reliably start with any of the movies on our list. Some are informative while others are entertaining and most are a bit of both. If nothing else, they help provide an illuminating window into life on the Emerald Isle.
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