Irish immigrants, unlucky leprechauns, people whose names start with O … it’s all great fodder for movies that celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Here are ten movies to give you a wee bit ‘o the Irish. Did I miss any? Tell me in the comments below!
John Wayne plays Sean Thornton, a disgraced American boxer who retires to Ireland to reclaim his homestead and escape his past. Sean’s eye is caught by Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), a beautiful but poor maiden, and also younger sister of ill-tempered “Red” Will Danaher. There’s a reason why people speak so fondly of this movie. It’s all about The Duke’s subtle nuances.
Directed by John Ford and written by Frank S. Nugent and Maurice Walsh, this movie stars John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, and Victor McLaglen. Runtime is 129 minutes; released in theaters Sept. 14, 1952; on DVD Oct. 22, 2002. On [amazon_link id=”B00006JMRD” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon[/amazon_link].
2. The Secret of Kells
This gorgeous, Oscar-nominated animated film follows Brendan, a young boy living in a remote medieval outpost under siege from barbarian raids. But a new life of adventure beckons when a celebrated master illuminator arrives from foreign lands carrying an ancient but unfinished book, brimming with secret wisdom and powers. To help complete the magical book, Brendan has to overcome his deepest fears on a dangerous quest that takes him into the enchanted forest where mythical creatures hide. Read my interview with director Tomm Moore and my review here.
Directed and written by Tomm Moore, this movie stars Evan McGuire, Christen Mooney, Brendan Gleeson, Michael McGrath and Mick Lally. Runtime is 75 minutes; released in theaters March 19, 2010; on DVD Oct. 5, 2010. On [amazon_link id=”B0036TGSWG” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon[/amazon_link].
3. Finian’s Rainbow
A leprechaun with issues, a new dam, and a bigot Senator all play into this movie starring Fred Astaire as a mysterious Irishman named Finian. All heck breaks loose when he and daughter Sharon arrive one day in Rainbow Valley, a small Southern town of tobacco sharecroppers in the mythical state of Missitucky. It’s a great musical with beautiful tunes, like Petula Clark’s “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?”
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and written by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy, this movie stars Fred Astaire, Petula Clark, Tommy Steele, and Don Francks. Runtime is 141 minutes; released in theaters Oct. 9, 1968; on DVD March 15, 2005. Rated G. On [amazon_link id=”B00122OCJA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon[/amazon_link].
4. The Luck of the Irish
Teenager Kyle has always relied on his pot o’ gold charm to bring him luck. But when he loses the charm, he learns the truth about his background — he’s actually part Leprechaun! Now he’s in a race against time to defeat the charm-thief before he gains control of all the Leprechauns. It’s just good, clean Disney fun, with a bit o’ the Irish thrown in for good luck. And it reminds us that sometimes – most times! – we need to make our own luck.
Directed by Paul Hoen and written by Andrew Price and Mark Edens, this movie stars Ryan Merriman, Henry Gibson, Alexis Lopez, Marita Geraghty, and Glenndon Chatman. Runtime is 86 minutes; premiered on Disney Channel March 9, 2001; released on VHS Nov. 11, 2003. Not rated, but ok for all ages. On [amazon_link id=”B00005UQEK” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon[/amazon_link].
5. Far and Away
Ron Howard helmed this period piece about a couple of plucky Irish immigrants who escape to America in search of land and opportunities. And, of course, they fall in love. Ah, the good old days when Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were Hollywood’s super couple. I’ve always loved this movie’s do-or-die characters, the splendid landscape, and Enya’s beautiful soundtrack, including “Book of Days.”
Ron Howard and written by Bob Dolman and Ron Howard, this movie stars Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and Thomas Gibson. Runtime is 140 minutes; released in theaters May 22, 1992; on DVD July 1, 1998. Rated PG-13 for some violence and sensuality. On [amazon_link id=”0783226810″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon[/amazon_link].
6. Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers: The Last Leprechaun
Part of Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers: Volume 2, this fun tale has the furry rodents matching wits with a feisty leprechaun. Got a soft spot for the cute chipmunks? Then you’ll love this Irish tale that takes them straight into leprechaun land. This is one of those rare cartoons with good writing that doesn’t talk down to the viewers, no matter what age they are.
Directed by Bob Zamboni and John Kimball, this movie features the voices of Corey Burton and Tress MacNeille. Runtime is 30 minutes (entire volume is 549 minutes); released on DVD Nov. 14, 2006. Not rated, but ok for all ages. On [amazon_link id=”B000HWZ4RA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon[/amazon_link].
7. The Gnome Mobile
An eccentric millionaire and his grandchildren get involved in the plight of some forest gnomes searching for the rest of their tribe. It’s sweet, fun, and includes the requisite wild chase scene found in all classic Disney movies. And with a backdrop of Northern California’s majestic Redwood Forest, it’s a fantastic homage to Irish tales.
Directed by Robert Stevenson and written by Upton Sinclair and Ellis Kadison, this movie stars Walter Brennan, Matthew Garber, Karen Dotrice, Richard Deacon and Tom Lowell. Runtime is 89 minutes; released in theaters July 19, 1967; on DVD March 2, 2004. Rated G. On [amazon_link id=”B0000DZTIP” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon[/amazon_link].
8. Waking Ned Devine
When Ned Devine dies from shock after winning the lottery, two longtime friends discover the body and agree that Ned would want them to benefit from his good luck. It’ll make you feel like a million bucks. And how many movies can you say that about?
Directed and written by Kirk Jones, this movie stars Ian Bannen, David Kelly, Fionnula Flanagan, and Susan Lynch. Runtime is 91 minutes; released in theaters Nov. 20, 1998; on DVD June 1, 1999. Rated PG for nudity, language and thematic elements. On [amazon_link id=”B00000ILEC” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon[/amazon_link].
9. A Very Unlucky Leprechaun
When Molly and her father inherit a house in Ireland, she discovers a leprechaun living in the house. Unfortunately his bad luck – he hasn’t eaten a four-leaf clover in over one hundred years – begins to rub off on Molly. Maybe it’s not a bad idea to ingest a four-leaf clover now and then. On second thought, maybe it’s better to make our own luck rather than relying on shrubbery.
Directed by Brian Kelly and written by Craig Nevius, this movie stars Warwick Davis, Danielle Lombardi, Stephanie Lombardi, Tim Matheson, and Lisa Thornhill. Runtime is 92 minutes; released in theaters August 18, 1998; on DVD Feb. 7, 2006. Rated PG. On [amazon_link id=”B000C1VAQK” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon[/amazon_link].
10. Darby O’Gill and the Little People
On the enchanted Emerald Isle, Darby O’Gill spins tall tales of leprechauns and banshees. When he actually captures the leprechaun king and discovers their hidden gold, is it any wonder that no one believes him? I think not. If for no other reason, watch this movie to see Sean Connery sing.
Directed by Robert Stevenson and written by H.T. Kavanagh and Lawrence Edward Watkin, this movie stars Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro, Sean Connery, and Jimmy O’Dea. Runtime is 93 minutes; released in theaters June 26, 1959; on DVD August 3, 2004. Rated G. On [amazon_link id=”B0001I55SI” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon[/amazon_link].
11. Going My Way
Best Actor winner Bing Crosby shines as Father O’Malley, a young priest new to a parish in dire financial straits. When his ideas conflict with the stodgy Father Fitzgibbon, the two eventually come to an understanding. Bing Crosby is the best crooner in history, especially when he’s got the St. Dominic’s Parish boys choir as backup singers.
Directed by Leo McCarey and written by Frank Butler and Frank Cavett, this movie stars Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald, Frank McHugh, and Gene Lockhart. Runtime is 126 minutes; released in theaters August 16, 1944; on DVD Feb. 6, 2007. Not rated, but ok for all ages. On [amazon_link id=”B000KJTGHO” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon[/amazon_link].
STRICTLY FOR GROWNUPS:
12. The Departed
Two men from opposite sides of the law are undercover in the Massachusetts State Police and the Irish mafia. As you might guess, it doesn’t end well. This movie is not for kids! But it’s a realistic look at the current-day Irish mob and has some of the best lines ever uttered by Jack Nicholson. When a colleague states that his mom is dying, Jack responds with: “We all are. Act accordingly.”
Directed by Martin Scorsese and written by William Monahan and Siu Fai Mak, this movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, and Martin Sheen. Runtime is 151 minutes. Released in theaters Oct. 6, 2006; on DVD Feb. 13, 2007. Rated R for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, some strong sexual content and drug material. On [amazon_link id=”B000M5AJQS” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon[/amazon_link].
Other Irish readings:
Lacey Maulding writes about the 10 Coolest St. Patrick’s Day parties on MadeMan.com.