20 Best Movies to Watch From Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland

Staff & contributors

Nothing Compares weaves a poignant story about one of the most misunderstood artists of our time, Sinéad O’Connor. The iconoclast first made waves in the '80s with her catchy music, but she quickly reclaimed the reins of her own fame and used her platform to champion marginalized causes, long before pop stars were expected to do so. 

The documentary zeroes in on this part of O’Connor's life: what prompted her to music and how she used it as a tool of activism. The answers are multi-faceted and handled here with extreme grace. Like the many from her generation, O’Connor struggled with religion and abuse, such was the Catholic Church's hold on Ireland at the time time. 

The film contextualizes her once-shocking moments and reveals how they were all grounded on things she cared about. It’s a beautiful piece of work that reassesses and redeems a wronged artist who was ahead of her time.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Music

Actor: Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Chuck D, Gay Byrne, George H. W. Bush, Joe Pesci, John F. Kennedy, John Maybury, Kathleen Hanna, Kurt Cobain, Michael Hutchence, Peaches, Pope John Paul II, Sinéad O'Connor, Skin, Tim Robbins

Director: Kathryn Ferguson

Rating: Not Rated

, 2007

Once is about a vacuum cleaner/repairman/street musician and a florist in a boy-meets-girl-then-makes-music tale of love, friendship, family, and freaking great music. You can just feel the passion from this simple but charming low-budget movie capturing the chemistry of music making. The film's music will make your skin tingle and hair stand on end. How good is it? In addition to the film winning an Oscar for its music, the Broadway musical version has won 8 Tonys. In short - get ready for a sonic masterpiece!

Genre: Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: Darren Healy, Geoff Minogue, Gerard Hendrick, Glen Hansard, Hugh Walsh, Mal Whyte, Marcella Plunkett, Markéta Irglová

Director: John Carney

Rating: R

Set in 1650 against the backdrop of the English colonization of Ireland, Wolfwalkers follows the story of Robyn, a young apprentice hunter who arrives in Ireland with her father to wipe out the last wolf pack. Completing the “Irish Folklore Trilogy,” Tomm Moore’s film is a tale of sisterhood, friendship, and acceptance told with phenomenal artistry. Beautifully animated, with warm autumn colors and refined attention to detail, the film is beyond pleasing to the eye. The outstanding voice work from Honor Kneafsey and Eva Whittaker, along with a well-written and emotionally compelling story, make Wolfwalkers a unique animation experience for young viewers and adults alike. 

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Drama, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Aoibhin Murphy, Ben Andrews, Eva Whittaker, Honor Kneafsey, Jerome Burelbach, John Morton, Jon Kenny, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Nora Twomey, Paul Young, Richie Cody, Sean Bean, Simon McBurney, Tommy Tiernan, Vince Drews

Director: Ross Stewart, Tomm Moore

Rating: PG

You might expect a movie about the Irish struggle for independence from the British Empire during the 1920s to be a sweeping historical epic a la Braveheart, but The Wind That Shakes The Barley is instead a heartbreaking miniature portrait of the human impact that the brutal occupation has on the residents of a small County Cork village. Cillian Murphy is superb as Damien O’Donovan, a young medical student who is about to up sticks for London when he witnesses first-hand the savagery of British forces on his neighbors. Galvanized into action, he joins the local branch of the IRA, which is led by his brother Teddy (Pádraic Delaney).

What makes The Wind That Shakes The Barley so potent isn’t just its depiction of the fierce local rebellion that Damien and his comrades wage against the British forces — it’s also its gutting exploration of the cyclical war that began to rage amongst the freedom fighters once the British left. As Damien puts it, “It's easy to know what you're against, quite another to know what you're for” — a dilemma that wedges the two brothers apart to bitter ends.

Genre: Drama, War

Actor: Aidan O'Hare, Alex Dee, Anthony Mark Streeter, Antony Byrne, Bill Hurst, Cillian Murphy, Colin Parry, Damien Kearney, Denis Conway, Frank Bourke, Frank O'Sullivan, Gerard Kearney, Keith Dunphy, Liam Cunningham, Mark Wakeling, Martin Lucey, Mary Murphy, Myles Horgan, Neil Alan Taylor, Noel O'Donovan, Orla Fitzgerald, Pádraic Delaney, Roger Allam, Sabrina Barry, Scott Peden, Sean McGinley, Shane Casey, Siobhan McSweeney, Tom Charnock, William Ruane

Director: Ken Loach

"Many's the person missed the opportunity to say nothing and lost much because of it."

The Quiet Girl takes the troubled, reserved nature of Cáit (Catherine Clinch) as she's swallowed by the discord in her evergrowing family, who treats her as an outcast, and fills the film with her serene, observatory perspective. Long sequences with little to no dialogue and an expansive countryside give way to the emotional thrum of this found-family drama. The simplicity in every frame befits a child's innocence, and every visual and sonic decision reinforces that wonderfully. Loving and nurturing a child is a straightforward concept, and The Quiet Girl never complicates it. Without saying much, it says it all. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aine Hayden, Andrew Bennett, Carolyn Bracken, Carrie Crowley, Catherine Clinch, Joan Sheehy, Kate Nic Chonaonaigh, Marion O'Dwyer, Michael Patric, Neans Nic Dhonncha

Director: Colm Bairéad

The Young Offenders is a comedy about two Irish teenagers who go on a 160km bicycle trip to salvage 7 million euros worth of lost cocaine. As they sit on a hill overlooking their city, they imagine what they would do with that money. The answer is building a house that has lava lamps, “big gold walls”, Spanish girls, and an English butler to wake them up every morning with the phrase “what’s happenin’?”. You get the vibe. It’s is a silly movie, although the premise is actually based on a real-life event where cocaine from a capsized smuggling boat washed up on the Irish coast. The Young Offenders wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s a sweet funny movie, half slapstick and half plot, which sports an infinity of highly quotable one-liners.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Alex Murphy, Chris Walley, Ciaran Bermingham, Dominic MacHale, Emma Willis, Hilary Rose, Judy Donovan, Michael Sands, P.J. Gallagher, Pascal Scott, Peter Foott, Shane Casey

Director: Peter Foott

Rating: N/A

The Siege of Jadotville is a different kind of war movie. It doesn’t recount famous battles or portray renowned heroes - instead, it’s about heroes and events that went completely unnoticed. Namely, the Irish 35 Battalion ‘A’ Company - a group of youngsters who are sent out on a U.N mission to the Congo. What was supposed to be a simple positioning quickly becomes one of the most sought-after locations and the battalion of 150 ‘war-virgins” find themselves up against 3000 mercenaries led by experienced French commandants. And what a tribute this film is: it’s well-paced, powerfully shot, and the acting, led by Jamie Dornan on one side and Guillaume Canet on the other, is absolutely perfect.

Genre: Drama, Thriller, War

Actor: Ashish Gangapersad, Charlie Kelly, Conor MacNeill, Conor Quinlan, Danny Sapani, Emmanuelle Seigner, Fiona Glascott, Fionn O'Shea, Fionn O'Shea, Gérard Rudolf, Guillaume Canet, Jamie Dornan, Jason O'Mara, Jason O'Mara, Jordan Mifsud, Luc Van Gunderbeeck, Mark Strong, Michael McElhatton, Mikael Helmuth, Mikael Persbrandt, Mike Noble, Richard Lukunku, Ronan Raftery, Sam Keeley

Director: Richie Smyth

Rating: Not Rated, TV-MA

The Guard played by Brendan Gleeson is a new character in cinema that appeals to the funny bone inside all of us. A character like this can make any movie lovable. It also features Don Cheadle playing an FBI agent who is in town to solve a crime under Gleeson's jurisdiction. An overall great movie with great writing. Please note, for those who have a hard time understanding different accents, subtitles are advised.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Brendan Gleeson, Conor Moloney, Darren Healy, David Pearse, David Wilmot, Dominique McElligott, Don Cheadle, Fionnula Flanagan, Gary Lydon, John Patrick Beirne, Katarina Čas, Laura Hitchings, Laurence Kinlan, Liam Cunningham, Liam O'Conghaile, Mark O'Halloran, Mark Strong, Mícheál Óg Lane, Owen Sharpe, Paraic Nialand, Pat Shortt, Ronan Collins, Rory Keenan, Sarah Greene, Wale Ojo

Director: John Michael McDonagh

Rating: R

The Breadwinner is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. The animation is magical as it seamlessly jumps back and forth between Parvana's stark reality and richly detailed fantasy. It's a wonder to just look at, but it's a tapestry brought to life by the story at the center of it. 

Set in 2001, at the height of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the film follows Parvana, a young girl driven to desperate measures to keep her family alive. Because of the violent restrictions imposed on women (they’re not allowed to buy, sell, study, or practically do anything without a male chaperone), Parvana disguises herself as a boy so she can work for a living. The more she gets away with it, the bolder her attempts get. It's a story of survival and standing up, but it's also a sobering reminder of what fundamentalism is capable of doing (or more accurately, ruining). As long as cruel systems like this are taking place in the world, Breadwinner remains essential viewing for all.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Family, War

Actor: Ali Badshah, Ali Hassan, Ali Kazmi, Kanza Feris, Kawa Ada, Laara Sadiq, Noorin Gulamgaus, Nora Twomey, Saara Chaudry, Salaman Hamidkohzad, Shaista Latif, Soma Bhatia, Soma Chhaya

Director: Nora Twomey

Rating: PG-13

This animated movie is absolutely wonderful. It’s an Irish production, and the drawings/graphics are so beautiful and different from what you usually see in this genre. This alone, along with the music, would be good reasons to watch this.

But what really makes this worth your time is the story – it’s about a boy dealing with the loss of his mother. He embarks on an adventure into a parallel world of feelings to save his sister.

I found it to be refreshingly original, sometimes quite intense (I cried, but I easily cry), and heartwarming. The details are great. And I love the way the story was interwoven with Irish mythology, making it magical.

Genre: Animation, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Brendan Gleeson, Colm ÓSnodaigh, Colm O'Snodaigh, David Rawle, Fionnula Flanagan, Jon Kenny, Kevin Swierszcz, Liam Hourican, Lisa Hannigan, Lucy O'Connell, Pat Shortt, Paul Young, Tomm Moore, Will Collins

Director: Tomm Moore

Rating: PG

This is a touching saga based on the plight of the women labelled as "fallen" that the Magdalene Laundries housed in Ireland. The movie grips you by the throat right from the first minute and the sense of injustice to women that characterizes the entire length of the film only rarely eases up to give you room to appreciate the emotional complexities that each individual character represents. The stories of Margaret, Bernadette and Rose and the people they meet inside the Magdalene Laundry will force you to ask time and again during the movie, "Why?" and "Who are they to?". You will share in Bernadette's sense of outrage, in Rose's compassion and Margaret's acute fear of the church, of speaking up and asking for justice. So much so, that you may even find yourself identifying with (or at least understanding) Crispina's questionable grasp on reality. Worst of all, the devout Catholic establishment that this was, hypocrisy and corruption ran through its every vein, adding to the shock and resentment that builds towards the, for the lack of a better word, captors of our protagonists. The Magdalene Sisters is a tribute to one of the forgotten chapters in a long history of injustice to women and an absolutely moving one at that. It does not fail to utterly horrify while it also warms your heart.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Anne-Marie Duff, Britta Smith, Chris Patrick-Simpson, Daniel Costello, Dorothy Duffy, Eamonn Owens, Eileen Walsh, Eithne McGuinness, Frances Healy, Geraldine McEwan, Mary Murray, Nora-Jane Noone, Peter Mullan, Phyllis MacMahon, Stephen McCole

Director: Peter Mullan

Rating: R

Emily (Evanna Lynch), a strange, unique girl does not receive the long awaited letter from her father on her birthday. Sick of worrying, she decides to break away from home to visit him in the psychiatric institution where he stays. The plan requires the help of Arden (George Webster), a boy from school who is ready to drop everything and accompany her on a journey that quickly becomes as adventurous as it is heartfelt. In this film, director Simon Fitzmaurice take will take you on a trip through the beautiful Irish landscape to find nothing else but simple and true love.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ali White, Ally Ni Chiarain, Barry McGovern, Cathy Belton, Declan Conlon, Deirdre Mullins, Evanna Lynch, George Webster, John Travers, Martin McCann, Meghan Jones, Michael Hough, Michael Smiley, Millie Donnelly, Stella McCusker

Director: Simon Fitzmaurice

Rating: Not Rated

, 2014

A really weird and also heartwarming movie about Frank, the leader and singer/songwriter of a crazy band. He really grows on you with his big head. If you like movies with that funky edge (like Scott Pilgrim) this is especially something for you! Either way and regardless of your preferences, you'll find Frank to be a sweet, sincere, likable and clever comedy.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Abe Martell, Alex Knight, Bruce McIntosh, Carla Azar, Chris McHallem, Domhnall Gleeson, François Civil, François Civil, Hayley Derryberry, Jordyn Aurora Aquino, Katie Anne Mitchell, Kevin Wiggins, Lauren Poole, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mark Huberman, Matthew Page, Michael Fassbender, Michael James Ford, Moira Brooker, Morse Bicknell, Paul Butterworth, Phil Kingston, Scoot McNairy, Tess Harper, Travis Hammer

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Rating: R

Filmed in Paul Greengrass' signature documentary style, Bloody Sunday captures one of the worst tragedies in Northern Ireland's recent history with stunning attention to detail and a single-minded focus that most thrillers only dream of having. But this film doesn't dress up its violence with Hollywood flashiness or contrived suspense. Everything is presented in a matter-of-fact way (and over the course of just one day), emphasizing how unjust the balance of power was between the Irish citizens and the British Army. It's a remarkably realistic reenactment that should inspire plenty of angry tears, having already made a mark by winning the prestigious Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Allan Gildea, Christopher Villiers, David Clayton Rogers, David Pearse, Gerard Crossan, Gerard McSorley, James Hewitt, James Nesbitt, Kathy Kiera Clarke, Mary Moulds, Nicholas Farrell, Tim Pigott-Smith

Director: Paul Greengrass

, 2015

Shrooms director Paddy Breathnach has als dipped his toes in romcoms and thrillers, but this queer Bogota-set drama has a lot of tenderness in its heart. Micro-budget and full of life as the name suggests, Viva is an inspiring story that centers around Jesus (Héctor Medina) and his own individuation. A hairdresser with the talent of a drag performer, he assumes the role of Viva in the weekend cabaret. As warm and open as his father is detached and somber, Jesus is a likeable protagonist with the vulnerability and dedication to follow his dream, that no wonder the film made the Oscar shortlist in 2016.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Héctor Medina, Jorge Perugorría, Laura Aleman, Luis Alberto García, Luis Manuel Alvarez, Mark O'Halloran, Renata Maikel Machin Blanco

Director: Paddy Breathnach