10 Movie Recommendations For St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patricks Day 10 Movie Recommendations For St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day isn’t exactly a day associated with movies, as opposed to say Valentine’s or Halloween. It’s of course much more closely linked to drunkenness, debauchery, and drunken debauchery. And, to some extent, Irish stuff. I guess.

I’m not tremendously invested in the holiday but I was recently asked what some good movies appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day might be. Thinking about an answer to that made me realize just how many terrific Irish or Ireland-related movies there have been, especially during the 1990s and onward.

Now as far as I know, I have no Irish blood in me, nor am I all that familiar with Irish customs or culture, nor am I terribly serious about finding the definitive list of movies related to Ireland or anything like that; I’m actually probably just perpetuating a ton of horribly reductive stereotypes. But if pressed, here are movies that I think are pretty great, and would not ruin your weekend if you were to watch them, and there’s even an off chance they could put you in an Irish or Irish-American spirit. I don’t know man, whatever. I’m drunk already.

Enough dilly-dallying, here’s 10 movies for you to watch this St. Patrick’s Day weekend, if you’re not out celebrating the way it’s evidently meant to be celebrated. They’re even good if you’re sober.

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1) The Boondock Saints

Boondock Saints 10 Movie Recommendations For St. Patrick’s Day

If there’s one movie that captures the wild energy of Celtic punk music, it’s The Boondock Saints, a movie that from the opening titles is absolutely electric. Crowds in 1999 weren’t too keen on it during its initial release but it’s easy to see why this movie has become a cult favorite in the years since. The McManus twins are somewhat enigmatic from the start, a little bit reminiscent of the Salamanca twins in Breaking Bad, only 13 years earlier.

But then the more we’re shown, the more there is to this odd little movie. Their violent pursuit of justice and some kind of religious truth to their work is incredibly compelling, as are some of the action set-pieces utilizing some rare slow motion that’s used to great effect. Then there’s the Willem Dafoe character, who is all over the map, in a good way. As the man hunting down the brothers, his conflicted response to understanding their mission corresponds with our own, and with the various interviewees at the end of the film. The main feature of this movie is that it pops, jumping off the screen with life. That’s how it plays for me, anyway. It seems like the perfect summation of a day that honors Irish-American spirit.

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2) Once

Once1 10 Movie Recommendations For St. Patrick’s Day

For those wanting something more Irish and less American, one of the finest Irish movies to be made in the last decade was the Academy Award-winning Once, released in 2006. If The Boondock Saints captures Celtic punk, this movie is all about Irish folk rock. Having become a fan of Damien Rice following the release of Closer in 2004, the Glen Hansard character seemed like a familiar stranger when I first got the chance to see this movie.

Music is central to Once, as are the streets of Dublin. The strongest scene in the movie is a simple one, the two main characters walking down the city street and coming upon a music store, where they stage an impromptu jamming session, producing just incredible sound in this tiny shop. This is subtly done, but the scene is shot and cut beautifully, making the most of the power of the music being created before our eyes. The quick shot of the shop owner smiling to himself as he listens is the kicker. It’s a softer, sweeter and a little sad as a film, but as a whole, and in particular a couple of the music-making scenes, it’s sure to warm your heart and be easy on the ears.

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3) The Secret of Kells

The Secret of Kells 10 Movie Recommendations For St. Patrick’s Day

Going even deeper into Irish tradition, this animated movie from 2009 is a little abstract, a little slow and meditative, but its color and music and storytelling is mesmerizing once you get into it. The Secret of Kells deals with mystical elements in a magic forest with a fairy and it’s all about this boy’s quest to continue the work on a book—the Book of Kells which is actually quite famous but it’s possible to enjoy the movie without knowing the specifics—so it’s quite odd is what I’m trying to say.

Visually the film’s just incredibly captivating, steeped in green, white and orange colors, featuring some pretty gorgeous animation work. It’s not your typical Irish folk tale story on film; it’s not Brave. It’s something all to itself, an attempt to capture traditional Irish art on the screen, influenced by stuff like Mulan in terms of its visual style, bringing the ethnic traditional look to the animation. It’s not one of the flashiest titles on this list, but it may be the most beautiful.

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4) The Departed

The Departed 10 Movie Recommendations For St. Patrick’s Day

If you want flashy, The Departed will give you flashy. It’ll give you so much more than that too. This is another movie that has a punk attitude to it, complete with Dropkick Murphys music in the soundtrack. It takes place in the same city as The Boondock Saints, Boston, so it naturally features Irish mob figures like Jack Nicholson’s boss man, Frank Costello, and Irish-sounding cops, among whom is the scene-stealing Mark Wahlberg.

This movie is perhaps most notable for its weaving plot, in which the police and mobsters both have someone on the inside of each other’s organization, so it calls to mind themes of doubles and such. Seeing Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio playing characters who are playing characters is as enjoyable as it sounds. It may be less influenced by Irish persuasions that by the spirit of Boston, but really, that’s such a fine distinction I’m not sure it’s even visible when your vision has been blurred by green beverage.

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5) In Bruges

In Bruges1 10 Movie Recommendations For St. Patrick’s Day

Now here’s a movie. In Bruges came out in 2008 and not a lot of people saw it then, and it’s surprising how few have seen it now. It’s one of those movies that people are surprised by, no matter what they’ve heard about it. It’s just kind of surprisingly really good.

Why would it be good to watch on St. Patrick’s Day? Mainly, its main players, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, two Irish hitmen who are sent to Bruges, Belgium to await their next assignment. Gleeson is sort of synonymous with “great Irish actor”; I think he’s in like 4 movies in this list in fact. And then Colin Farrell puts in a beautiful performance as the team member racked with Irish Catholic guilt and trying to get on with his work while processing this horrible thing he did. That alone is fairly compelling.

Their dynamic is hilarious, two very different characters with differing takes on the city they’re in. But then it goes dark, and gets crazy, and takes on a whole new energy that you didn’t expect, and leads down a series of developments toward a conclusion that’s a little bit insane, and suddenly you’re like oh, I see what all the fuss is about. Any excuse to see and recommend this movie is worth it, and St. Patrick’s Day is as good an occasion as any. It has Brendan Gleeson!

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6) Michael Collins

Michael Collins 10 Movie Recommendations For St. Patrick’s Day

This one may be less appealing but it’s a solid mid-90s film with Liam Neeson in its title role. You can’t go too wrong with that. Michael Collins is another chronicle of some Irish history, more recent and probably more accurate than that of The Secret of Kells, although it came under scrutiny for some of its own liberties. Nevertheless, as 90s historical biopics go, it’s pretty well done, and a bit less of a constant downer than another Irish revolutionary movie, 2008’s Hunger.

Instead of a beautiful man starving himself to death, we have a beautiful man leading the charges and bringing the British Empire to its knees. He does it with the usual blustery speeches and being generally defiant of his superiors, making friends with some of the dudes on the other side, that sort of thing. The film itself is nothing earth-shattering, particularly by today’s cinematic standards, but a decent watch and historically informative regarding Michael Collins and his role in Irish independence. Maybe just fast forward through the scenes with Julia Roberts and her accent.

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7) My Left Foot

My Left Foot 10 Movie Recommendations For St. Patrick’s Day

Irish Director Jim Sheridan and the incomparable Daniel Day-Lewis have teamed up for some pretty terrific little projects including In the Name of the Father, The Boxer, and their first collaborative effort, My Left Foot. It’s what won Mr. Day-Lewis his first of three lead actor Oscars, and it’s one of those performances where you see it and you’re like oh, yeah, that one’s the winner obviously.

The story itself is quite compelling, detailing the life of Christy Brown, an Irish artist with severe cerebral palsy. It chronicles his life’s progression from being born with his condition, and growing into his adult life becoming a writer and artist. I guess that’s pretty much it. Oh, and he uses his left foot to do a bunch of things.

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8) The Fighter

The Fighter 10 Movie Recommendations For St. Patrick’s Day

Did you know? Famous boxer Micky Ward, played in The Fighter by Mark Wahlberg, was given the nickname “Irish Micky Ward” during his career as a fighter. The movie portrays his comeback, but just like Wahlberg stole the show in The Departed, the city of Lowell, where Micky hails from, steals this movie.

There aren’t many movies that feature a specific setting this prominently, or effectively, or importantly to understanding the entire story. The heavily Irish area Micky Ward comes from shapes much of his identity and ambitions, and is reflected by the people around him, particularly his family. This adds to the pressure he has going into his big comeback fight, just more odds he has to overcome, but at the same time, he can’t divorce himself from this part of his identity. Lowell is as much a part of him as anything else. And coming to terms with this part of his identity is key to his finding success again. The theme of regional identity as it pertains to an area driven by Irish immigration seems appropriate for the season.

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9) The Fugitive

The Fugitive 10 Movie Recommendations For St. Patrick’s Day

The Fugitive is just awesome. Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford in their element, Ford as a man on the run for a crime he didn’t commit and Jones the marshal tasked with bringing him in. Pretty straightforward stuff but executed terrifically, especially for its 1993 context.

Of course, the reason it is worth watching on St. Patrick’s Day is same reason it’s appropriate to watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on Von Steuben Day: both movies feature a parade celebrating those respective events. John Hughes thought it appropriate to have a parade with German dancers, and The Fugitive director Andrew Davis evidently also thought it would be a nice aesthetic tough to have Irish lady dancers. So the movie features a scene with the Harrison Ford character finding cover in the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade. You can watch the rest of the movie and forget about it, but then you’ll see the St. Patrick’s Day sequence and think oh hey, that’s like the thing that’s happening right now in my life and feel connected in a way that would not have happened had you watched The Fugitive on any other day of the year. So there’s that.

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10) Patrick

Patrick 10 Movie Recommendations For St. Patrick’s Day

Maybe the one movie to watch in order to educate ourselves on what the actual day of St. Patrick’s Day is meant to be about is the documentary Patrick from 2004. It’s narrated by Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne as the voice of Saint Patrick, so you know it has some serious credibility in terms of Irish talent. Apparently the guy was Welsh. Who knew! I say that we should watch it and educate ourselves because I have not seen it but it seems to be the only substantial documentary on the subject and it might be a good idea to watch it and get an idea of the history and context for the day. But I know what you’re asking: will this somehow enhance the beer I’ll be overconsuming this day every year? I can’t help but think the answer is yes. I’ll know when I watch it. Then maybe I’ll have an idea of what the day is actually all about, and feel dumb for recommending these movies with no knowledge of what Ireland is about.

But that’s for later. For now, pass me a mug.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/bobby.afrasiabi Bobby Afrasiabi

    What, no State of Grace?

    What’s more Irish than a bunch of Hell’s Kitchen’s gangster (based on the Westies) drinking, cursing, fighting, and killing, while saving the best for a gunfight in the middle of St. Patty’s Day…in New Yawk!

    No other film made me wish I had a leather jacket, unwashed hair, and penchant for chain smoking while holding a brew as much as State of Grace.