Happy March 1st! I’ve officially allowed myself to put the countdown on for Paddy’s Day (as if I haven’t been mentally crossing off the days since I arrived), and for the next few weeks, everything I write, everything I dream of will focus on Ireland and this absolutely wonderful day.
This week, in order to really get you in the mood for Paddy’s Day, I’ve compiled a list of Irish television programs and movies that, in my opinion, are extremely and amazingly Irish. No, this list does not comprise of movies like P.S. I Love You, or Leap Year (though you might as well throw them into the mix), but the focus here is on Irish movies produced/set/and by the Irish and which focus on the real, true Ireland that exists today as well as the history that has made it so.
Each listed title will show the IMBD ratings, but are listed in accordance to my own personal preference. No, this is not a list of all the possible Irish programs and movies out there, or of all the one’s that I myself have seen, but these are the ones I found worthy enough to make the cut. If you’re pressed for time, and can only pick a handful of these items to choose for your viewing pleasures, my recommendation would be to watch a few episodes of Love/Hate and Mrs. Brown’s Boys,* with nightly previews of The Magdalene Sisters, The Commitments, Intermission, and Philomena. Needless to say, you can’t go wrong with any of these picks, so I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did and that they help bring out your inner Irish well enough for the big day!
1. Love/Hate (2010-present)
If you loved Sons of Anarchy, you’ll love this gritty crime-based drama that focuses on Dublin’s criminal underworld. Love/Hate depicts the violence of gang crimes and drug addictions. As of now, it has five seasons with only 6 or 7 episodes per season. You’ll be as addicted to this show as Debbie is to heroin. It’s absolutely brilliant, hilariously smart, and will have your pulse racing until the very last episode.
“I’ve my funeral song picked out n’ all. Guns N’ Roses – Mass is over, priest does his thing, holy water on the coffin and BANG! Welcome to the fucking jungle.”
2.Mrs. Brown’s Boys (2011-present)
Honestly the funniest thing since the Trailer Park Boys, Mrs. Brown’s Boys is a sitcom of an Irish family from Dublin, and the triumphs and pitfalls of their daily lives. It was created and written by stand-up comic Brendan O’Carroll, (who, himself, plays the infamous Agnes Brown), and to compare, is sort of like Mrs. Doubtfire, but dirtier, funnier, and way more Irish! If you’re looking for a laugh, this is the show for you. Could not recommend it highly enough.
“And as the hurricane said to the palm tree: hold onto your nuts, baby, this ain’t no ordinary blow job.”
3. The Magdalene Sisters (2002)
This film follows three Irish women as they endure dehumanizing abuse from the Magdalene Sisters Asylum. This story is based on true events, as these laundries served as intuitions which housed “fallen women” who were placed here by their own families when thought to be engaging in things from dressing too provocatively to getting pregnant. With the knowledge that the last of these Magdalene Laundries was so recently closed in 1996, this movie will really open your eyes to the influences of the Catholic Church in Ireland.
“I’d commit any sin, mortal or otherwise, to get the hell out of here.”
4. The Commitments (1991)
Based on the novel by Roddy Doyle, this movie tells the story of working-class individuals in Dublin who try to bring soul music to the city by starting up their own band. With the desire to manage the world’s greatest band, Jimmy Rabbitte starts auditioning members for the band, while the movie follows this inspiring formation, the band’s rise to stardom, and all the complications that come along with it.
“The Irish are the blacks of Europe, and Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland, and the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once, say it loud: I’m black and I’m proud!”
5. Father Ted (1995-1998)
The best known and laughed about series in Ireland, Father Ted is a sitcom about three priests who were exiled to Craggy Island for various embarrassing incidents, and follows their lives within the parish. As a parody of many Catholic stereotypes, this is an absolute must-watch and is as much of the Irish culture as is the shamrock.
“Drink! Feck! Arse! Girls!”
6. Intermission (2003)
They say that the Irish don’t do movies all that well, but the one thing they do perfectly is black comedy, and this film shows just that. Intermission tells the story of a variety of inter-relate losers and their paths of greed, love and violence. It’s like the Irish NYE and Valentine’s Day movies.
“Here’s your coffee, would you like some sugar?”
“Don’t want sugar. Got any brown sauce?”
7. Philomena (2013)
As a nice follow up to the Magdalene Sisters, this film follows the devastations that the convents in Ireland have created and is based on the true story of Philomena Lee. A political journalist picks up a story of Philomena’s search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent. Many women in Ireland have gone through similar experiences, being forced to give up their own children, and this film shines a bright light on the recent repercussions.
“I think if Jesus were here right now, he’d tip you out of that fucking wheelchair and you wouldn’t get up and walk.”
8. In Bruges (2008)
After two Irish hit-men experience disastrous consequences on the job, Ken and Ray are told to hide away in Bruges awaiting further orders from their boss, Harry. While Ken finds Bruges to be the fairytale of his dreams, Ray couldn’t like it less and wants nothing more than to get away as well follow the hilariously devastating events that unfold over the course of their stay.
“Maybe that’s what hell is, the entire rest of eternity spent in fucking Bruges.”
9. Angela’s Ashes (1999)
Based on the autobiography by Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes follow the experiences of Frankie and his family as they try to escape the poverty endemic in Limerick. This movie serves as a depiction of poverty in the 1940s and the realities that many Irish families had to endure at the time.
“Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse still is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”
10. The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006)
Set in the 1920s, when a young doctor named Damien O’Donovan is about to leave Ireland to work in London, he changes his mind after seeing the abuse of commoners by the British security forces and joins the IRA brigade instead, which is commanded by his brother Teddy. Political events are later set in motion that eventually tear the two brothers apart. This film, as well as the next, help to further your understanding of the history between the Irish and British and the formation of the IRA.
“It’s easy to know what you are against, but quite another to know what you are for.”
11. Michael Collins (1996)
Also set in the 1920s, and a great movie to watch just before The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Michael Collins helps lead the IRA in the fight for independence from the British. Based on the iconic man himself, this movie depicts the life of Michael Collins and the fallout by the signing of the treaty.
“You’re seven minutes late, Mr. Collins.”
“You’ve kept us waiting 700 years. You can have your seven minutes.”
12. The Guard (2011)
As the most successful Irish film of all time according to box-office receipts, this film is about a small town Irish guard who is partnered up with an up-tight FBI agent to help investigate the international cocaine-smuggling ring. Some more black comedy coming right at you!
“I’m Irish, sir. Racism is part of my culture.”