7 best Irish movies to watch for St. Patrick's Day

Cillian Murphy in The Wind That Shakes the Barley
(Image credit: Alamy)

There’s so much more to Irish movies than Darby O’Gill facing off against the king of the leprechauns or John Wayne dragging Maureen O’Hara over hill and dale in "The Quiet Man." 

Over the years, the country with a proven gift for telling a good yarn has contributed some of the most endearing and entertaining films to modern cinema. If you’re not in the mood for a loud and raucous parade, you might consider celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by settling in on your couch (maybe with a nice mug of Irish coffee?) and checking out some of the best Irish movies available to stream.

'Sing Street'

John Carney, who also directed the Oscar-winning "Once," is no stranger to creating films with music at their heart. "Sing Street" tells the story of Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a reserved teenager from Dublin who, after being sent to a rough, Catholic-run high school, impulsively claims to be the lead singer of a band in order to impress a beautiful girl (Lucy Boynton). After she shows interest, he has no choice but to actually start a band, ultimately finding an unexpected creative outlet and aptitude for music. The performances from the young, largely untested actors are incredibly charming, but the real star of the show is the film’s soundtrack, with catchy original tunes from start to finish.

Watch on Tubi

'Ryan’s Daughter'

When people think of quintessential Irish films, "Ryan’s Daughter" is probably pretty high on the list. Filmed on location on the picturesque Dingle Peninsula, it takes place in the midst of World War I and follows an Irish schoolteacher (Sarah Miles) who, despite being married, takes up with a British officer. "Ryan’s Daughter" may not have been particularly well-received by critics, but it ended up winning two Academy Awards — one for its breathtaking cinematography and one for John Mills’ performance as Michael, an intellectually disabled villager who discovers their affair. Over the years, "Ryan’s Daughter" has become a beloved addition to Irish cinema, and if you find yourself in the Dingle area, you can see many of the locations where the film was shot.

Watch on Tubi


OK, so technically only about half of "Brooklyn" actually takes place in Ireland. But it captures the Irish immigrant experience, of leaving everything you love behind and trying to build a new home in a foreign land, incredibly well. "Brooklyn," based on a novel by Irish author Colm Tóibín, stars Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey, a young woman who emigrates to New York in the early 1950s due to a lack of opportunity in her sleepy hometown. At first, she is homesick, devastatingly so, but the longer she spends in Brooklyn, the more she begins to embrace her new life — especially her charming Italian-American boyfriend, Tony (Emory Cohen). When she returns to Ireland on an unexpected visit, she finds herself torn between two worlds. Dreamy and romantic, "Brooklyn" is a love letter to the Irish immigrant journey.

Watch on Max

'The Wind That Shakes the Barley'

If you’ve only just discovered Cillian Murphy in 2023’s "Oppenheimer," now is a perfect time to dig deeper into his filmography and tackle one of the most interesting performances of his early career. Murphy stars in "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" as Damien O’Donovan, a promising young doctor who becomes caught up in the Irish War of Independence in the 1920s. Although initially, he plans on leaving Ireland to study in London, the brutality his friends and neighbors face from an occupying British force convinces him that he must stay and fight. "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" is a devastating film, but it’s also an important one, and Murphy’s performance makes it clear that he is one of the finest actors of his generation.

Watch on AMC Plus

'The Banshees of Inisherin'

What would you do if your best friend in the entire world all of a sudden decided that they had no interest in interacting with you ever again? An ode to the anxiety that lives within all of us, "The Banshees of Inisherin" stars Colin Ferrell as Padraic, a simple but warm-hearted Irishman who wants nothing more than a quiet life with his friends and family, and Brendan Gleeson as Colm Doherty, his former friend whose growing sense of melancholy leads him to abandon Padraic in favor of more intellectual pursuits. With a bleak and uniquely Irish sense of humor, "The Banshees of Inisherin" captures not just the fallout between a pair of friends, but in its own way attempts to use this broken relationship as a metaphor for the conflict within Ireland itself.

Rent/buy on Amazon or Apple

'In the Name of the Father' 

Based on a true story, this powerful movie from 1993 stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Gerry Conlan, who was imprisoned after being coerced into confessing that he took part in the 1974 IRA bombing in Guilford, England. Also sent to prison is his father, Giuseppe (Peter Postlethwaite). While in jail, Conlan works to prove his innocence, helped by a sympathetic lawyer (Emma Thompson), who discovers that the prosecutors have been withholding evidence. 

The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. Unfortunately, it won none, as it had the luck to go against Philadelphia, Schindler's List, and the Piano. - MP

Rent/buy on Amazon or Apple


Before "Sing Street," Cartney made this wistful, charming drama that is as powerful of a love story as you can get. While busking in the streets of Dubling, a struggling musician (Glen Hansard) meets a young woman (Marketa Irglova) selling flowers. When she reveals that she plays piano, they play one of his songs together at a nearby music store. 

It turns out that he's nursing a broken heart, while she has a child and a long-distance husband. Still, they bond over their passion for making music. After recruiting a few other band members, they spend all night recording a demo for him to take to London. - KW

Rent/buy on Amazon or Apple

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Audrey Fox is a features editor and film/television critic at Looper, with bylines at RogerEbert.com, The Nerdist, /Film, and IGN, amongst others. She has been blessed by our tomato overlords with their coveted seal of approval. Audrey received her BA in film from Clark University and her MA in International Relations from Harvard University. When she’s not watching movies, she loves historical non-fiction, theater, traveling, and playing the violin (poorly).

With contributions from