Since the dawn of cinema Ireland has been a popular film making location. The natural beauty of the Irish countryside and the otherworldly feel to some of its scenery has made it the ideal setting for film-makers for over a century.
Throughout the years, Ireland has been home to countless independent movies, student films and international documentaries. Here we have listed some of the more well know, big budget productions that have been fully, or partially, shot in Ireland.
Click on a film title below to find out more about its relationship to Ireland and what part the Emerald Isle played in the production.
Based on the 1996 best selling autobiography, of the same name, by Frank McCourt. Having been born in New York in 1930, Frank found himself growing up in Limerick City, his family decided to move back to Ireland when the Great Depression gripped America during the 1930s. Angela's Ashes is his memoir of growing up in squalor in both Brooklyn and Limerick.
Despite the success of the book, the film, directed and co-written by Alan Parker, opened to mixed reviews and a disastrous box office. Having been made on a budget of $25 million, the film's worldwide take stands at around $15 million.
Although the film is based in Limerick City very few scenes were actually recorded there. The majority of the film was shot in Counties Cork, Dublin and Wicklow.
Upon release, Barry Lyndon was far from a critical or even commercial success. A lack of emotion and inconsistent pace saw it make a profit of just over 8 million dollars worldwide. Like many of Kubrick's work, Barry Lyndon has become more appreciated over time. Today it is hailed as a master-class in cinematography, especially the candlelit scenes and the long double shots. The production was troubled, another common theme in Kubrick's career, with the director's relationship with the Ryan O'Neal said to be particularly tense and the director spending a lot of the shoot convinced that he was the target of an IRA kidnapping plot.
The film centres on the titular character, during the 18th Century, who starts out as a young farm boy in Ireland, being forced into the British Army and then the Prussian Army, before meeting the wealthy Lady Lyndon. Prior to marrying Lady Lyndon, Barry Lyndon is known as Redmond Barry. Together they move to England, where Barry tries his best to spend her fortune while making some very bad decisions.
Kubrick was on the verge of starting his lifelong passion project, about the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, before he stated on Barry Lyndon. Through a mixture of his financiers pulling out, the film Waterloo (1970) opening to disastrous box office and his excitement at reading Barry Lyndon the novel, Kubrick turned his attention towards this picture.
The Barry Lyndon crew arrived in Dublin in May 1973. Kubrick later commented that he loved his time in Ireland, the culture and the people. He rented a house in County Dublin during the shoot. Ireland was used for the majority of exterior shots, it stood in for Ireland itself, England and Prussia. The 18th-century mansion Powerscourt House in County Wicklow was used for a number of interior scenes. The eagle-eyed amongst you will be able to make out the Wicklow Mountains from the window of the saloon in Berlin. Powerscourt House was destroyed in a fire just months after filming and so the movie stands as a record of how it looked prior to its restoration.
Waterford Castle, Dublin Castle and Carrig-on-Suir in County Tipperary were also used during the production. Shooting had to be halted in January 1974, at Phoenix Park in Dublin City, due to 14 bomb threats being called in. A few days later Kubrick, allegedly, received a phone call from the IRA threatening to kill him if he did not leave Ireland in the next 24 hours. He left within 12.
Braveheart tells the story of Scotsman, Sir William Wallace, in his fight again the British Empire during the First War of Scottish Independence. Although it was directed by & stars an American, Mel Gibson moved to Australia from New York when he was 12, and filmed mainly in Ireland, it is wholeheartedly Scottish. It has gone on to become a genre-defining classic.
When it was announced that Mel Gibson would film the majority of Braveheart in Ireland there was an uproar from some of the historical purists of the world. Whether Gibson chose Ireland for its more lenient tax laws, the use of the National Army to stand in as extras or that he wanted to take the time to visit relatives, Gibson's mother was born in County Longford in 1944, remains unclear.
Trim Castle, in County Meath, stands in for 'London Square' and the fortified town of York, England. The famous 'Battle of Falkirk' scene, where the Scottish (6,000 men) took on the English (15,000 men) face to face was filmed just outside the small town of Ballymore Eustace in County Kildare. The rest of the shoot took place in Ardmore Studios in County Wicklow, Dunsoghly Castle in County Dublin (standing in for Edinburgh Castle), parts of County Wicklow as well as Scotland and Arizona in the U.S.
Far & Away is the story of two Irish immigrants who take part in the Land Run of 1893, in what would become the state of Oklahoma (1907). Directed by Ron Howard, who is perhaps most famous for his role as Richie Cunningham in the U.S T.V series Happy Days (1974-1984), and starring married couple, at the time, Tom Cruise (as Joseph Donnelly) and Nicole Kidman (as Shannon Christie).
The story starts out in Ireland where Joseph Donnelly's home is burnt to the ground by his landlord. While trying to retaliate, Donnelly injures himself and during his recuperation decides to flee to America to avoid arrest. He leaves with the nurse's daughter Shannon. The couple land in Boston and, after stints as chicken-pluckers, Joesph becomes a bare-knuckle boxer and Shannon becomes a burlesque dancer, they eventually stake a claim on a piece of land in the Oklahoma Land Run.
The film opened to disastrous reviews, one critic calling it "Far and Away the worst film ever made", but was well received at the box office.
The Boston scenes were filmed on the streets of Dublin while interior shots were filmed in Ardmore Studios in Bray, County Wicklow. For business reasons, the Oklahoma scenes were filmed in the state of Montana.
A Song of Ice and Fire, of which A Game of Thrones is the first novel, was written by George R. R. Martin and was first published in 1996. It is based in the fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and the continent of Essos. In 2006 David Benioff, a super fan of the novels, made a phone call to George R. R. Martin's literary agent to discuss the possibility of adapting A Song of Ice and Fire for television. At the time Martin was in contact with a few film studios about the idea of turning it into a feature-length film.
Martin had his reservations, any one of the novels within A Song of Ice and Fire was as long as the entire Lord of the Rings books, which needed a trilogy of films to complete. He was also wary of having it turned into a network T.V show due to the adult content of the books and the censorship that would ensue. Benioff and his friend, D. B. Weiss, suggested to Martin that they approach HBO with the idea of a television series and Martin agreed. HBO's lenient censorship, along with their history of making great T.V shows, put Martin's mind at ease.
HBO loved the idea and signed on. What followed, until the premiere of the first episode in 2011, was years of rewrites, location scouts, re-shoots, expanded budgets, and recasting. HBO could see, as the writers' room grew and the world began to take shape, that if they stuck by the project long enough they would eventually strike gold. The pilot episode was one of the most expensive ever made, reportedly costing HBO $10 million. HBO's patience paid off, Game of Thrones was a cultural revolution that took home viewing to a whole new level, leaving television executives everywhere rubbing their eyes. Some critics have raised questions about the series' adult themes but as a whole, it was received with gusto by both viewers and critics alike.
In searching for locations, on which to build the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, producers marked out Ireland and Scotland as their top two targets. They eventually settled on Northern Ireland as the primary location, due to its abundance of studio space. Some scenes are still filmed in Sterling, Scotland as well as any scenes set 'North of the Wall', that is to say where the temperature drops dramatically into blizzard-like conditions, which are filmed in Iceland. Other locations that have been used in the Game of Thrones production include Los Angeles, Croatia, Spain and Malta.
Areas of note that have been used in Northern Ireland include Paint Hall Studios in Belfast, which is the productions primary location. The Mourne Mountains (used as Vaes Dothrak), Castle Ward (as Winterfell), Saintfield Estates (as the Winterfell Godswood), Tollymore Forest (for multiple outdoor scenes) all of which are in County Down. The iconic Dark Hedges are located in Ballymoney, County Antrim.
The Half-Blood Prince is 6th instalment in the global phenomenon that is the Harry Potter film series. Based on the 2005 novel of the same name, by J.K Rowling. The film, to date, has grossed almost a billion dollars. The 8 Harry Potter films have grossed a total of 7.7 billion dollars.
The Harry Potter film series gets darker and more mature with each film. The Half-Blood Prince is seen by fans as the moment the series loses its innocence as well a being a bit of a filler, tying together the first series of films with the climactic final instalments. J.K Rowling wanted Terry Gilliam, former Monty Python alumnus and director of 12 Monkeys (1995) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), to direct The Half-Blood Prince but as Warner Bros. turned him down to direct the first movie, Philosopher's Stone (2001), he declined.
David Yates, who was in the middle of promotion of the previous Harry Potter film, Order of the Phoenix (2007), was chosen and pre-production began.
For Harry Potter fans: A particular point in the story calls for Harry Potter, through the teleportation abilities of his mentor Dumbledore, to appear at a dramatic cliff edge overlooking the sea in a battle for the almighty Horcruxes.
For Non Harry Potter fans: A particular point in the story calls for a dramatic cliff edge overlooking the sea.
The Cliffs of Moher, in County Clare, were chosen for their sheer epic presence, 8 massive headlands that form a jagged line off into the distance creates a look that could usually only be created via special effects. That said, for the scene where Harry does eventually arrive at the cliffs, on a rock in the middle of the sea, the rock had to be digitally inserted.
In The Name of the Father was the second collaboration between director Jim Sheridan and actor Daniel Day-Lewis, after My Left Foot (1989). Again they focus on the retelling of actual events. In The Name of the Father details the arrest and wrongful imprisonment of, what would later become known as, the Guildford Four.
Gerry Conlon, played by Day-Lewis, along with 3 of his friends, is wrongly accused of being behind an IRA bombing of a pub in Guildford, southwest of London, on October 5, 1974. Four off-duty British soldiers and one civilian are killed and sixty-five others are injured in the explosion. Conlon had recently been sent to London by his Father Giuseppe, played by Pete Postlethwaite, to avoid IRA punishment in Belfast. What follows is a harrowing tale of torture, loss and redemption. The film went on to receive 7 Oscar nomination, winning none.
In preparation for the role, Daniel Day-Lewis spent 3 days and nights in a cell at Kilmainham Jail in County Dublin, where all of the prison scenes were to be shot. He made sure that he was prevented from sleeping by employing a gang of thugs to slam on his door every 10 minutes. He was also interrogated by 3 real Special Branch officers, for 9 hours at a time. On the set Day-Lewis never talked without a Northern Irish accent, insisted that the crew verbally abuse him and throw cold water on him at regular intervals.
Beside Kilmainham Jail the shoot also took place at Ardmore Studios in County Wicklow, parts of County Dublin and Liverpool & London in the UK.
Neil Jordan's take on Irish revolutionary and politician Michael Collins was seen by many, on its release in 1996, as being littered with historical inaccuracies and appalling Irish accents, tip 'o the cap to you me lady, Julia Roberts.
That said, it remains a powerful piece of cinema, handled by a director, Neil Jordan, at the top of his game and with fire in his belly. It also features what is, arguably, Liam Neeson's strongest performance to date... at least in the same ballpark as his portrayal of Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List (1993).
Micheal Collins was filmed entirely in Ireland, except for some reshoots which took place in New York. Shooting took place from the start of June to the end of September 1995. The prison scenes were filmed at Kilmainham Jail in County Dublin. Interestingly, this is where some of Collins' fellow political allies were sent for their part in the 1916 rising. Dublin's City Hall, Trinity College, the Four Courts and Dublin Castle were also deployed. Broadstone Hall, near Phibsboro, was dressed up as the General Post Office for the iconic battle on O'Connell street.
The Carlisle Grounds in Bray, County Wicklow, was used for the Croke Park scenes of Bloody Sunday. On Sunday 21 November 1920, in retaliation for earlier IRA attacks, members of the British Auxiliary Division and RIC opened fire on the crowd in Croke Park during a Gaelic football match. Throughout the day a total of 32 people died.
A critical and commercial success on its release in 1989, My Left Foot was director Jim Sheridan's first feature-length film and the catalyst for Mega Stardom of a little-known actor, at the time, Daniel Day-Lewis. Seen today as a method actor of unparalleled talents and often mentioned as being possibly the greatest we have ever seen, it was the role of cerebral palsied Christy Brown where Day-Lewis was first allowed to show the world his talent. Praise rained down on the film on its release, including Oscar wins for both Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker, who played Christy's mother.
The film focuses on the true story of Christy Brown and his upbringing in a poor Dublin family during the 1930s, 40s & 50s. Christy was born with cerebral palsy and through the use of his left foot, via his only controllable limb, became a successful writer and painter.
My Left Foot was mainly filmed in Ardmore Studios in Bray, County Wicklow as well as on the streets of Dublin City.
Interesting side note: As Daniel Day-Lewis is right footed and could only perform certain tasks with that foot, a lot of his scenes were shot into a mirror.
Ryan's Daughter has become known as a quintessentially Irish film. With that said, it is surprising to learn that it is loosely based Madame Bovary, a novel set in Normandy in northern France. Director David Lean liked the adaptation of the novel to film, by British screenwriter Robert Bolt, but didn't like the setting. Alec Guinness was approached to play the part of Father Collins but, as he was a Roman Catholic convert, decided the character was not an accurate portrayal, his feuds with David Lean while making Doctor Zhivago (1965) also didn't help matters and he past on the role. Gregory Peck and Anthony Hopkins were considered for the main character of Charles Shaughnessy before Robert Mitchum was decided on.
The film was savaged by critics upon its release, everything from the portrayal of the Irish as uneducated and "lacking gainful employment to keep them occupied" to the film ignoring the politics of the day, especially the 1916 Easter Rising scenes, seeing as the film was set in 1917. The director and his actors also came in for harsh criticisms, no more so than Trevor Howard who eventually took the role of Father Collins and actually retired from acting after the experience. Despite this the film went on to be relatively successful in the box, doubling its $15 million worldwide.
The village of Kirrary was built from scratch on the Dingle peninsula. In the late 1960s, during a time of high unemployment in the area, this was a Godsend for the locals. Local workers were brought in for the construction of Kirrary village, earning a tidy sum of £40 a week when the average wage at the time was around £7. When big-spenders of the cast and crew arrived for filming businesses in the local area also saw an upturn in their fortunes.
This effect continued for many years after the filmed had wrapped as the area became a hotbed for film buffs looking to visit the location. It is rumoured that 'Pub Grub', the service of food in a pub, became a thing in Dingle during the shoot. Members of the crew, while drinking in Kate Ashe's Bar in Dingle Town, were sent into a frenzy by the smell of her Irish stew wafting in from her kitchen.
David Lean had to wait an entire year to catch a storm worthy of the famous storm scene. The storm was almost too good in the end and he was only able to capture the action by placing a spinning glass disk in front of the lens to clear the spray. (See photo)
As with the majority of Steven Spielberg work, Saving Private Ryan was greeted with both commercial and critical adoration upon its release, taking in 480 million dollars at the box office and winning 5 Oscars, including Best Director. The film saw a resurgence in interest in World War II, especially amongst American audiences. Other counties involved in the D-Day landings were stung by their lack of presence in the movie. The D-Day scene alone saw a change in style in movies, video-games and TV shows for years to come. Saving Private Ryan's hand-held cameras, desaturation of colour and tight angles have left a lasting legacy on many an aspiring film-maker.
The film follows a group of soldiers, led by Captain Miller, played by Tom Hanks, who are under orders from the U.S War Department for the safe return home of a Private James Ryan, played by Matt Damon. Ryan is 1 of 4 brothers, the other 3 having been killed in the days leading up to June 6, 1944.
Spielberg wanted a match as close as possible to Omaha Beach in Normandy for the D-Day scene. Ballinesker Beach on Curracloe Strand, County Wexford was the closest the production could find and filming began on June 27, 1997. The village of Curracloe at the time lacked 3-Phase electricity and was only connected when the cast and crew. Shooting also took place in Normandy and England. Ballinesker Beach is also used for the Irish beach scene in the film Brooklyn (2015).
Grossing more than 7 billion dollars since the first movie opened in 1977, not to mention the money earned via merchandise, video games, etc, it is safe to say that Star Wars is the biggest phenomenon in cinema history. Spanning over 40 years, albeit, with sizeable breaks in between, the franchise as a whole has been adored, dissected and scrutinised by generations of fans. The older films have dated surprisingly well, the special effects are a little cringy at times but are held together by brilliantly told storylines.
Certain fans will want to forget the middle chunk of films. If you were to break the series into 3 sections... section 1 (1977 to 1983), section 2 (1999-2005) and section 3 (2015-2019), the (1999-2005) section is always looked upon as the black sheep of the family. Some purists try to maintain that the middle section is vital in bringing together the other 2 sections, to which you can just mention the character of Jar Jar Binks, who is possibly the most annoying of any character ever put to celluloid.
The Force Awakens was seen as a return to classic Star Wars films of the 70s and 80s. Directing duty was passed over to J.J Abrams, who had just rebooted the lacklustre Star Trek movie franchise into a behemoth of critical and commercial success. With the release of The Force Awakens in 2015, he was on his way to achieving the same with Star Wars. It is the 2nd highest grossing Star Wars film to date, behind the first, A New Hope (1977).
The final scene of The Force Awakens sees Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill, hiding out on a remote island. He is eventually tracked down by Rey played by Daisy Ridley. The remote island, that was singled out for the shoot, is about as remote as it gets. Skellig Michael, off the southwest coast of County Kerry, is one of the most westerly points in Ireland and therefore all of Europe. The island was used as a monastery as far back as the 6th Century, in 1996 it became a World Heritage Site.
In 2014 when Skellig Michael was chosen as Luke Skywalker's hide out and crew descended, they area the had to abide by strict laws laid out by the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service in order to protect local biodiversity. There was a maximum of 100 people allowed on the site at any one time, helicopter use was restricted to 3 days and filming 100m from the cliff top was limited to 45 minutes a day.
The Field is an adaptation of the 1965 John B. Keane play of the same name. The film was written and directed by Jim Sheridan and is set in a rural region of West Ireland during the 1930s. It was hailed by critics on its release but performed poorly in the box office, taking in just $1.4 million from an estimated $5 million budget.
The Field tells the story of Bull McCabe, played by Limerick-born actor Richard Harris who went on to win an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his performance, and his son Tadhg, played by Sean Bean. It revolves around their fight for ownership of a field against an American, who has arrived with the intention of developing a hydro-electric plant on the site, with disastrous consequences for all involved.
The movie was shot in private houses, pubs and rural areas, mainly in Connemara in County Galway, parts of Counties Mayo & Kerry as well as Ardmore Film Studios in County Wicklow.
The General, not to be confused with the Buster Keaton movie of the same name (1926) or the Kevin Spacey fiasco with the same storyline but a different name, Ordinary Decent Criminal (2000), tells the story Martin 'The General' Cahill. During the 1980s and 1990s, Cahill was the head of a Dublin criminal gang, dealing mainly in armed robbery and extortion. Growing up in the slums of North Dublin and stealing food for his family to survive, Cahill was one of 12 children, he soon moved onto domestic burglary and extortion of nightclubs. When media attention increased, after the gang's notorious theft of €2.55 million worth of gold and diamonds from O'Connor's jewellers in Dublin City and the botched kidnapping of National Irish Bank CEO Jim Lacey, Cahill could be seen walking the streets of Dublin with his hood up and his hand covering his face.
Cahill was shot dead in his car in 1994, on his way to return a VHS tape to a video shop, by an assailant who was never caught. It is believed the IRA had Cahill killed after he sold paintings to Ulster loyalists, who in turn sold them to buy arms from South Africa. Cahill had stolen 18 paintings worth almost 40 million euro, including a Rubens masterpiece, from Russborough House in County Wicklow. All but 2 of the paintings have since been recovered. The remaining 2 paintings are taught to be stashed somewhere in the Dublin Mountains but only Martin Cahill knew of their true whereabouts.
The film was adapted from a novel by an Irish crime writer and journalist, Paul Williams. It was directed by John Boorman, best known for his movie Deliverance (1972), and filmed entirely in black and white. It won multiple awards upon its release and remains one of Brendan Gleeson's finest performances.
The film was shot mainly in Dublin City and the Wicklow Mountains. Russborough House in County Wicklow was revisited for the scene of its infamous 1986 art robbery.
Fred Savage, best known for his role as Kevin Arnold in the t.v show The Wonder Years (1988-1993), plays a young boy who is at home, sick from school. His grandfather reads him a book called The Princess Bride. The story has been passed down for generation within the family and details the journey of Dread Pirate Roberts and his motley crew as they attempt to rescue Buttercup from the clutches of the repulsive Prince Humperdinck.
The film was a mild box office success on its release, almost doubling its 16 million dollar budget, it has since grown into a cult classic. It was shot entirely in England except for the scenes at the Cliffs of Insanity. These scenes were filmed at the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.
The Quiet Man opened to a rapturous reception upon its release in 1952. "As darlin' a picture as we've seen this year", "a complete jim-dandy" & "dialogue that is as tuneful as a lark's song" are just some of the eloquently worded reviews of the day. Prior to seeing the film, people were unsure what to expect. They had seen John Wayne and director John Ford team up a few times in the past, usually with John Wayne on top of a horse, fighting Native Americans and riding off into the sunset with the leading lady. The Quiet Man was what today would be described as a Rom-Com.
The film tells the story of Sean Thornton, played by Wayne, who has returned to the fictitious village of Inisfree in the West of Ireland from Pittsburgh, USA. He has returned to reclaim his family's farm. Here he falls in love with Mary Kate Danaher, played by Maureen O'Hara. The only trouble is Mary Kate's brother, an obnoxious bully, wants the farm for himself. Fisticuffs and frolics ensue.
Production team Republic Pictures financed the film under one condition, that Wayne and O'Hara star in, and Ford direct, a Western they were producing at the time, Rio Grande (1950). Upon finishing Rio Grande they headed to Ireland to begin filming The Quiet Man. Ford employed Irish theatre actors as well as extras from the Irish countryside for the production. It remains one of the few Hollywood films where the Irish language can be heard.
The village of Cong in County Mayo stood in for the fictional village of Inisfree and has since become a wealthy small town, thanks, in part, to the thriving tourism industry it has enjoyed since the film's release. There is even a pub located in the village where the pub scenes were filmed, even though it was actually a shop at the time. The horse racing scene was filmed at Lettergesh Beach in County Galway. There currently stands a bridge called the 'The Quiet Man Bridge', close to the village of Oughterard in County Galway, it is hidden away but is well signposted, all that marks it out from other such bridges in the West of Ireland is a tin plaque of John Wayne sitting on top. The somewhat larger Quiet Man Statue, in Cong Village, shows John Wayne carrying Maureen O'Hara in his arms.
Ford chose his friend and collaborator Victor Young to compose the music for the film. Young created the beautifully Irish sounding ballads of "Rakes of Mallow" and "The Wild Colonial Boy". The most memorable song from the movie is, arguably, "Isle of Innisfree" composed by Irish songwriter Richard Farrelly.
Irish actor Liam Cunningham commented, after starring in The Wind That Shakes the Barley, that it took a British director crossing the water for him to become interested in Irish history. The British director he spoke of is Ken Loach, maker of cult classics such as Kes (1969) and Looking for Eric (2009), and the Irish history he became interested in was the years 1919 and 1923. 5 years of bloodshed that would shape the country of Ireland while enduring both the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.
The Wind That Shakes the Barley tells the story of Irishman Damien O'Donovan who, alongside his brother Teddy O'Donovan, join the fight to give Ireland her independence from the British. The film was praised on its release for its realism and for not shying away from the torture, trauma and cruelty that was presented to people daily, on both sides of the conflict.
It remains Loach's highest grossing movie to date and is seen as the platform from which Cillian Murphy, with a mesmerizing performance as Damien O'Donovan, broke onto the world stage. The Cork-born actor has since gone on to star in the Batman trilogy (2005-2012), Inception (2010) and Dunkirk (2017).
The film is set and was shot in West Cork. The West Cork towns of Ballyvorney, Coolea, Bandon and Timoleague were all used during the shoot, which took place during the summer of 2005. The main street of Bandon was even dressed up for the Dáil Court scene, the Dáil Court is in County Dublin. The final prison scene, shot in Kilmainham Jail in County Dublin, is the only scene that was shot outside of County Cork.