I love being Irish. The music, the food, the beer, the customs and traditions and of course all Irish pubs along the Jersey Shore. Yes, working in an area dubbed “The Irish Riveria” has definitely bolstered my love of my Celtic roots. However, the seeds of this Irish love were planted when I was but a wee lad. The film — 1959’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People, starring a young Sean Connery. I had pretty much erased this film from my mind until my cousin brought it up the other day. It scared the shamrocks out of me, as there’s a horrifying scene with a banshee. It still creeps me out, but then luckily for me my “Irish” film experiences have been nothing solid gold ever since. So for all my fellow Irish and all those who are only Irish on March 17 here are some emerald isle inspired films to check out this March.
1. The Quiet Man (1952)
Starring: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Victor McLaglen, Ward Bond
Director: John Ford
This movie started it all for me. John Wayne plays, disgraced Irish-American boxer Sean Thornton, who has retired from the ring after accidentally killing his opponent. This the heaviest part movie for as soon as Wayne hits the Emerald Isle, the film becomes a rollicking punch-in-the-face, raise-a-pint and woo-your-bonny-lass film created by the king of the Western, John Ford. This film was my inspiration for my love of tweed Irish hats (which are oh-so trendy these days).
2. The Departed (2006)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg
Director: Martin Scorsese
It’s ironic that two extremely Italian artists- Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese, created not one, but two great films about the Irish. This film, based on the Asian crime dramas The Infernal Affairs, revolves around two South Bostonians (DiCaprio and Damon) who are working as moles for the State Police and the Irish mob respectively. Brilliant camera work, dynamite acting and enough classic rock and Dropkick Murphy’s music to make Guinness course through your veins, make this not only a classic Irish film, but a highly re-watchable Scorsese flick.
3. Gangs of New York (2002)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Brendan Gleeson
Director: Martin Scorsese
Three words: Daniel.Day.Lewis. His portrayal of Bill the Butcher is one of the most brilliant, consuming and charismatic performances ever to grace to the silver screen, second only to his own performance in There Will Be Blood. Of course, Leo’s no slouch here either and neither is the brilliant supporting cast, highlighted by Irish actors Liam Neeson and Brendan Gleeson.
4. Boondock Saints (1999)
Starring: Sean Patrick Flannery, Norman Reedus, Billy Connolly, Willem Dafoe
Director: Troy Duffy
Okay, this isn’t Citizen Kane, but what Boondock Saints is, is a blood and guts, run and gun, smart alecky, over-the-top action thriller that has captivated the hearts and minds of college students across the US. Laced with bucket of bullets and blood, Roman Catholic quotations and in-your-face swagger to it, it’s hard not to love it.
5. Michael Collins (1996)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, Julia Roberts, Alan Rickman, Stephen Rea
Director: Neil Jordan
If Gangs of New York is all about Daniel Day-Lewis, Michael Collins is all about Liam Neeson. Watching the stoic, intense and always awesome Neeson give speeches in a town square sends chills down your spine. If you’re an Irish history buff this is a good piece to enjoy. Alan Rickman’s Eamon de Valera is also another reason to check this film out.
6. Patriot Games (1992)
Starring: Harrison Ford, Sean Bean, Anne Archer, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Phillip Noyce
Probably one of Harrison Ford’s last great movies (The Fugitive being his last). Here, Ford debuts as CIA analyst Jack Ryan, who has become a reluctant hero after defusing an IRA attempt to assassinate a British noble. All seems well and good, but a rogue IRA maniac (the excellent Sean Bean) is hellbent on taking Ryan and his family out as payback for killing his little brother. Featuring an awesome “night vision” sequence, this is a tough, masculine action flick that is definitely worth watching.
7. Blown Away (1994)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Tommy Lee Jones, Lloyd Bridges, Forrest Whitaker
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Most people forget about this 1994 action flick, probably because it came out during the Speed phenomenon. This film revolves are Boston bomb squad ace James Dove (Jeff Bridges) whose crew is being systematically taken out by IRA bomber Ryan Gaerity (Tommy Lee Jones), a man from Dove’s past. Thrilling action sequences, a salty performance from Llyod Bridges and a U2-heavy soundtrack make this a really good sleeper film.
*Special Mention for the Lassies:
P.S. I Love (2007)
Starring: Hillary Swank, Gerard Butler, Harry Connick Jr., Kathy Bates
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Like any good Irish comedy, P.S. I Love You is sad, cute, fun, charming and rough around the edges. New York widow Holly (Swank) is sent letters from her deceased husband (Butler) that instruct her on how to lead a happy life without her. Butler’s funny and macho performance combined with the rolling hills of Ireland and a pretty solid script make the film one any couple can watch on a romantic St. Patty’s night.