11 Shows & Movies To Introduce Irish Culture

by Kelli Mutchler

Hollywood has long portrayed the Irish as freckly leprechauns with inaccurate accents, or dark haired villains who sound oddly English. Before you depart for your internship in Ireland, organize a marathon of proper Irish films that don’t minimize or stereotype the country. The following 11 movies and television shows are recommended by the Irish themselves as top cinema to introduce their culture:

Clusters of streets signs in Ireland

Clusters of streets signs is just part of an Irish experience. These movies can help direct your introduction prior to an internship in Ireland. Photo Courtesy of Kelli Mutchler

1. Love/Hate (2010)

Roped into the same category as such highly-applauded shows like The Wire, Underbelly, and The Sopranos, this TV series unearths Dublin’s post-economic-boom underworld. Beginning with a violent shooting in Episode 1, Love/Hate is an intense mix of fear, humor, tragedy, and humanity that runs for a brief total of four episodes in the first season. With viewers clamoring for more, the Irish drama is now in its fourth season on RTE 3 (Channel 3 of Ireland’s National Television). Most Irish consider it one of the best, and most factual, depictions of the capital city’s seedier side.

2. Once (2006)

Never expect a happy ending to an Irish love story, they’re too practical for “ever-afters”, Once is the closest you’ll get. Still, the storyline and soundtrack are beautiful and the film won an Academy Award for the music created by its main characters. The story introduces a local busker, or street performer(Glen Hansard, vocalist and guitarist for the Irish band The Frames) and a poor immigrant. The film follows the two as they discover love through a chance musical connection. It offers a glimpse of the daily struggle for Dublin’s poor, but not hopeless, residents.

3. The Commitments (1991)

Another musically-acclaimed movie, this is the story of Jimmy Rabbitte and his quest to form a soul band from Dublin’s working class. It features a cast of little-known actors with big voices.  Though the unsavory, gritty characteristics of the band members are shared in equal screen time with their brilliant performances, the overall theme is one of optimism and big dreams. It is based on the trilogy by Irish author Roddy Doyle.

4. The Snapper (1993)

This is second of the Roddy Doyle trilogy and plays off the religious culture of Ireland’s big, strict, Christian families, The Snapper follows 20-year-old Sharon Curley as her pregnancy out of wedlock shocks the town and sets tongues wagging.

Mountain in Ireland

5. The Van (1996)

This is the third and final movie based on Doyle’s books. In this, two friends try to avoid the dole (Ireland’s welfare system) by buying and running a fish and chips van. It received weaker reviews than the previous two films in this loose series, but it is still considered by most Irish as a witty take on the daily warfare of Ireland’s lower socioeconomic classes.

6. Intermission (2003)

Dublin is once again the setting for a mingled, intertwining story of individuals and couples, and the actions that affect them all. It’s a story of consequences, played out by a recognizable cast including Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy, and Colm Meaney. It’s a bit love story, a bit action, a bit crime drama, tied together with that typical dry Irish humor.

7. Mrs. Brown’s Boys (2011)

This TV show, now in its third season, has fans all over the English speaking world. Set in the home of Mrs. Brown (played by male comedian Brendan O’Carroll), the show is filmed live around loose plots incorporating mum Brown and her extended family. Expect to laugh out loud as Mrs. Brown bumps into camera men, forgets her (his) lines, and mistakes scene exits with other characters. It’s got the spirit of Mrs. Doubtfire, with a lot more sass and swearing.

8. Waking Ned (1998)

How far would you go to win a fortune? This is the question asked by Waking Ned (also released as Waking Ned Devine). When lucky Ned wins the lottery, but unfortunately dies from the shock of such good news, the villagers of Tullymore scheme to keep Ned’s prize money away from lottery officials. Cute and quirky, this movie shows off the positive and negative relationships of close-knit, small-town Ireland.

9. My Left Foot (1989)

Daniel Day-Lewis won his first Academy Award for Best Actor in this based-on-a-true-story of Christy Brown. Born with cerebral palsy, Brown is disregarded by his working-class neighbors; only his mother has faith in his ability to overcome the obstacles ahead. Brown eventually learns how to paint using only his left foot. Inspiring and heartwarming, it’s a tribute to the hardworking Irish spirit.

Castle Blarney, Ireland

10. Into the West (1992)

A classic, Into the West is that film every Irishman denies watching, but probably adored as a child. It’s a companionable tale of two brothers who are given a horse by their grandfather. The family are Travelers, a distinctive minority group in Ireland. When their horse disappears, due to the poor decisions of their alcoholic father, the boys run away to rescue their stallion. While the movie can be an introduction to the Traveller culture, be aware that it is still a fictional script and not free from stereotypes.

11. Father Ted (1995)

Father Ted is a beloved and bemusing Irish Catholic priest running a parish on Craggy Island with two other outlandish Fathers and a chipper, nosy housekeeper. The quartet gets into all sorts of accidental laugh-traps while attempting to go about their daily business. Sadly, the actor playing Father Ted died after the third season, cutting short this comical but thoughtful sitcom of the country’s religious culture.

If you think you now have the correct knowledge of the Irish culture and tradition, check out our internship programs in Ireland and experience everything firsthand.