The best movies and TV shows to watch on St. Patrick’s Day
There’s nothing quite like St. Patrick’s Day for celebrating all things Irish. And there’s no doubt that many of us will be taking part in some of the many rituals that have sprung up around the holiday, especially in the States where entire cities practically shut down for the annual parade, entire rivers are dyed green, and schoolchildren are pinched within an inch of their lives for forgetting to “wear the green” on March 17.
But many of us aren’t really feeling the parades (or the day-long marathon of drink that often goes with it). If you’re an introverted type with a bit of Irish in you there’s still a way of celebrating without waking up the next morning thinking you’ve been cursed by the little folk. So cook up some corned beef and cabbage or shepherd’s pie and curl up in front of your TV. Here’s our list of some of the best Irish movies and TV shows to celebrate St. Pat’s with.
Once went on to inspire a musical but the source material is an absolute treasure of a small film. The story focuses on Guy, played by Glen Hansard, a vacuum repairman and street musician, and Girl, a Czech immigrant flower girl who also aspires to be a singer-songwriter. The pair begin collaborating and fall in love and then they begin to break your heart. The film is mostly music, with each song describing another point in the burgeoning romance. If you want to sing on St. Patrick’s this is your film — as long as you don’t mind a bit of ugly crying as well.
Waking Ned Devine
This comedy classic was a hit in the ’90s but remains an undiscovered gem for many in the States. A farce with a uniquely Irish bent, Waking Ned Devine tells the story of a group of friends who conspire to split up the winnings of their dead friend’s winning lottery ticket amongst their fellow townspeople. When a National Lottery Inspector appears to make sure the win is legal everyone must conspire to keep the money in the town – to hilarious effect.
You don’t have to be of drinking age to celebrate the day! Families with wee ones will love Puffin Rock and its adventures of a family of puffins living on the titular island off of Ireland’s north coast. Made by Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon, the series is voiced by a mostly Irish cast and narrated by The IT Crowd‘s Chris O’Dowd.
Speaking of O’Dowd, don’t sleep on Moone Boy, the series he co-wrote and starred in for Sky One. O’Dowd stars in the semi-autobiographical comedy and plays Seán Caution Murphy — the imaginary best friend of the protagonist, 12-year-old Martin Paul Moone — who is growing up in County Roscommon in the rural West of Ireland in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Martin copes with life through his enormous imagination and his drawings which come to life through animation.
The Secret of Roan Inish
If you want to explore the mystical side of Ireland and don’t want to put up with the insanity of another installment in the Leprechaun franchise, check out The Secret of Roan Inish. The story focuses on the legendary selkies — seals that can shed their skins to become human — and a girl named Fiona who is sent to live with her grandparents and cousin in a small Irish fishing village near the island of Roan Inish — supposedly the home of the selkies.
Want to inject a little soul into your St. Pat’s celebration? Look no further than this perfect marriage between Dublin working-class angst and Motown soul of the 1960s. Northside Dubliner Jimmy Rabbitte is a young music fanatic who places an advert in the local paper seeking to form an American-style soul band. As the band assembles, the motley crew of working-class players negotiate the pitfalls of fame as they begin to become the most popular act in town.
The Secret of Kells
The Secret of Kells might be the most Irish of all the movies on this list, combining Irish history, mythology, and an incredible animation style inspired by the Celtic illumination of The Book of Kells, a medieval manuscript of the four gospels. As the Irish prepare for a Viking invasion, 12-year-old Brendan is recruited by a master script illuminator to help complete the magical book. Brendan must seek aid from the fairies that dwell in the forest and befriends a young fairy, Aisling. But can she help him complete the book in time to repel the invasion?
Derry Girls follows four Irish girls (and one English boy) trying to lead a semblance of a regular teenage life, while also growing up in the shadows of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. But it has little in common with the other fraught representations of the era. Derry Girls became Channel 4’s biggest hit in years when it came out in 2018 and the show has gained international success now that it’s available on Netflix. And it’s definitely worth the hype, easily one of Netflix’s funniest offerings.
If you care to indulge in some of the black humor the Irish are world famous for, look no further than The Guard. Resolutely politically incorrect Gerry Boyle, played by The Banshees of Inisherin‘s Brendan Gleeson, an officer of the Garda Síochána national police, finds himself teamed up in an unlikely pairing with FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) in an effort to track down an international cocaine ring. Darkly hilarious and often profound, this Irish take on the buddy cop genre manages to rev up from one to eleven in its third act and will have you laughing and cringing all along the way.
Part romance, part immigrant experience, Brooklyn is an underrated sleeper that captures the bittersweet interior struggle of wanting the opportunities of a new life while longing for the sweetness of home. Saoirse Ronan plays Ellis Lace – a young Irish immigrant living in 1950s Brooklyn yearning to return to her family and her hometown of Enniscorthy when she finds herself entangled in a new romance. This heartstring-puller brilliantly depicts the experience of having your heart torn between the future and the past.