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Ireland has an impressive history of filmmaking. Directors such as Jim Sheridan and Neil Jordan are internationally renowned, and Irish actors have had huge success in the international film industry, including Pierce Brosnan, Brenda Fricker, Liam Neeson, and Gabriel Byrne.  Stunning locations have attracted foreign film productions such as Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan.  Ireland is a place where indigenous filmmaking talent can shine in a global entertainment medium.   The perception of Ireland and the Irish has been shaped by a multitude of film portrayals of Irish life and landscape, from American ‘super-productions’ to local, low-budget films.

Early Cinemalad from old Ireland

In 1909 Ireland’s first cinema opened in Dublin, the brainchild of author James Joyce. The Lad from Old Ireland (1910), a story about an Irish emigrant, was the first American film shot on location outside the USA.  One of the most notable Irish silent films, Irish Destiny (1926), followed the activities, and love story, of an IRA volunteer during the war of independence. The combination of politics, passion and postcard-views has been frequently repeated in subsequent films.

Foreign Productions in Ireland: Ireland as Location and Subject MatterIn the name of the father

 Perhaps the best known Irish film made by a foreign director is John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952), a love story between an Irish girl and a returned Irish-American (John Wayne). Though the film is often seen as the source of ‘Oirish’ stereotypes, it remains popular to this day. Other famous films made in Ireland include Ryan’s Daughter (1970), and more recently Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan.

Many films about Ireland have focussed on history and politics: Michael Collins, In the Name of the Father, Bloody Sunday.  But there is also a strong tradition of films which portray daily life in Ireland: The Commitments and The Snapper (based on novels by Irish author Roddy Doyle), Angela’s Ashes and Once (winner of the 2007 Oscar for Best Original Song).

Notable Irish Directors

Crying game Jim Sheridan has achieved great commercial and critical success from a relatively small number of films, which remain recognisably Irish in subject matter while appealing to a wider audience.  His first film, My Left Foot (1989), won Oscars for actors Daniel Day Lewis and Brenda Fricker.  Neil Jordan has made over 15 films, including literary adaptation The End of the Affair, historical epic Michael Collins, unconventional box office smash The Crying Game, and big-budget Hollywood horror Interview with a Vampire.

A group of younger directors are also establishing international reputations, including Paddy Breathnach (Man About Dog), Kirsten Sheridan, (In America),  Michael McDonagh  (The Guard),  and Martin McDonagh (In Bruges).

Notable Irish Actors

Ireland has also produced an impressive number of internationally renowned actors, including Richard Harris and Michael Gambon (the two actors to have portrayed Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films), Brenda Fricker, Pierce Brosnan, Saoirse Ronan, Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy and Chris O’Dowd.

Guard     In bruge     Saoirse ronan

‌‌‌(All images courtesy of the Irish Film Institute)