Erin Go Bragh! Ten Great Irish Movies
We celebrate St. Paddy's Day with the finest in cinema from the Emerald Isle.
Each year, as folks down pints of green beer on St. Patrick's Day, we're often in too festive a mood to remember that there's much more to Irish culture than intoxication and law enforcement, Riverdance and leprechauns. Today, Rotten Tomatoes digs deep and celebrates everyone's favorite snake-banishing fifth-century missionary with a list of some of Irish cinema's finest -- movies that capture the distinctive rhythms, as well as the struggles, of life in the Emerald Isle. Check out this list -- it'll make you want to go to the movies. Or, as the Irish might say, "Dul chuig na pictiúir."
The Magdalene Sisters dramatizes a particularly dark chapter in Irish social history. The film follows four women (including the mischievous Bernadette, sharply played by Nora-Jane Noone) who have been committed by their families to the Magdalene Asylum for (sometimes trumped-up) "impurity" -- aka sexual deviance. Under the auspices of cleansing the girls, the nuns at the asylum put them through a series of sadistic, humiliating punishments; some of the young women crack under the strain, while others find ways of subverting the situation. Dark, vivid, and often horrific, The Magdalene Sisters is by no means a barrel of laughs, but it's emotionally absorbing, potently atmospheric, sometimes bleakly comic, and fueled by committed, relentlessly authentic performances. Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post called it "a stirring, emotionally galvanizing film, not only due to its shattering subject matter but thanks to [director Peter] Mullan's spot-on eye for casting and fluid, uncoercive style."
Director John Ford struggled for years to find a studio home for his adaptation of the Maurice Walsh short story. After over a decade, he was only able to convince Republic Pictures to finance the production if he and stars John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara agreed to film a Western for the company (Rio Grande, the third installment of Ford's "cavalry trilogy"). For Wayne, the story of an Irish-American whose journey to reclaim his family's homestead -- only to be predictably waylaid by a tempestuous fiancée and (occasionally unintentionally hilarious) third-act fisticuffs -- was an important one; he described The Quiet Man as his favorite film. Audiences agreed, making it a hit at the box office, and it went on to rack up an impressive seven Academy Award nominations (winning for Best Director and Best Cinematography).