6 essential Irish films to watch on Netflix

Updated / Wednesday, 11 Apr 2018 10:25

By Derek O'Connor

If you're in the mood for some of the finest Irish cinema of recent years, then you'll find that Netflix has a surprisingly generous selection of quality homegrown fare.

Here, then, are some choice pickings from the ever-expanding (and simultaneously contracting) Netflix pile... 

Handsome Devil

Writer/Director John Butler's tender coming-of-age tale is an unlikely buddy comedy-drama set in a posh Dublin rugby school, where mismatched teen duo Fionn O’Shea and Nicholas Galitzine (two fine young actors, whom you'll be hearing a lot more from) overcome their own differences, and the narrow-minded prejudices surrounding them, to find friendship and challenge the status quo. It's an inspirational, feelgood tale featuring an outstanding ensemble that includes Andrew Scott, Amy Huberman (hubby Brian O'Driscoll served as a consultant on the rugby sequences) and Ardal O'Hanlon, one that makes for a perfect double-bill another acclaimed Irish movie, Sing Street - more on that one below. 

The Young Offenders

Ahead of the forthcoming TV series picking up on the further adventures of dim-but-lovable Corkonian chancers Conor and Jock, why not revisit the Irish box-office smash that introduced them in a memorable - and utterly hilarious - fashion? Writer/Director Peter Foott put himself on the map with his videos for Rubberbandits; he brings the same anarchic energy - and visual pop - to this caper comedy, inspired by a real-life incident involving the seizure of 1.5 tonnes of cocaine off the Irish coast near Mizen Head in 2007. Truth be told, it all falls apart (albeit in a highly entertaining fashion) before the final whistle, but the winning performances from Alex Murphy and Chris Walley - as the most lovable would-be drug dealers in screen history - make this one sing. While we're on the subject of singing...

Sing Street

The final film (thus far) in John Carney's trilogy of musical dramas about dreamers shooting for the stars is an quasi-autobiographical tale set in the '80s, about a posh teen (newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo - so many talented young Irish actors right now!) whose life is turned upside-down after his parents decide to separate, swapping his comfortable fee-paying school for the local Christian Brothers establishment on Synge Street - hence the title. Our music-loving misfit finds escape in music, forming a band so he can rope in the girl of his dreams (Lucy Boynton) to be in their music video. The feel-good vibes are contagious, and the period-appropriate songs - penned by Carney and songwriter Gary Clark, formerly of Danny Wilson) are downright infectious. Sure, the ending tended to divide audiences right down the middle, but this is one of the great Dublin-set movies, and - for those yet to catch up - a perfect Netflix discovery.


Neil Jordan's big screen outings have been more erratic in recent years, but this curious-yet-compelling modern fairy tale deserves a serious critical reappraisal, featuring as it does one of Colin Farrell's finest performances as a fisherman who - literally - nets a mysterious young woman (Alicja Bachleda) who might just be a mythical creature, better known as a selkie. It's an enigmatic, atmospheric piece from one of Ireland's great filmmakers, filmed in and around Castletownbere, Co. Cork, with stunning cinematography from mad Aussie genius Christopher Doyle. And yes, Stephen Rea pops up. Now... can we have The Butcher Boy and Breakfast On Pluto (and Mona Lisa and The Company Of Wolves) on Netflix, too?  


Netflix is all about the hidden gems, and this low-key indie successfully channels the spirit of American iconoclasts like Wes Anderson and Alexander Payne for the tale of a deadbeat dad (David Wilmot) struggling to rebuild a relationship with his estranged daughter (Game Of Thrones star Maisie Williams) and ex-wife (Kerry Condon), while competing for their attentions with the new man of the house, his former gym teacher (a rather game James Nesbitt). Charming and quirky - though not too self-consciously so - writer/director Niall Heery spins a compelling and ultimately affecting yarn, anchored by an all-too-rare starring turn from the great David Wilmot, surely one of Ireland's most underrated actors. 

The Secret Scripture

Jim Sheridan's most recent picture received a lukewarm response - to say the least - from critics and audiences alike, with author Sebastian Barry complaining that the film took serious liberties with its source material - his own Booker Prize-nominated novel. Sheridan remains a bold and compelling storyteller, however, one never afraid to shoot for the stars, and while indeed flawed, The Secret Scripture still contains moments of movie magic, driven by a pair of vivid performances from Rooney Mara and Vanessa Redgrave as the younger and older versions of Rose, a woman out of time in mid 20th century rural Ireland. Subtle it ain't, but if you're a fan of The Notebook, then you'll love this.