The Irish and particular Dubliners are avid cinema fans. For a relatively small nation, Ireland has contributed a disproportionally large number of directors and actors to modern cinema. Irish movie talent has also made significant inroads in Hollywood in the last twenty years.
Every February, Dublin hosts an International Film Festival which features independent productions from around the globe and the more leftfield output of the major studios. Many successful films had their European premiere at The Dublin International Film Festival, yet it retains a relaxed, easygoing atmosphere. In two words: Typically Dublin.
When you are visiting Dublin, do not miss the opportunity to see the latest Irish movie productions. Below you will find a brief overview of key Irish movies and a list of the main cinemas in Dublin's city centre.
Modern Irish Cinema
Cinema in Ireland had a rocky start. Following Irish independence in 1921, the country was in the grips of catholic values and morals. Irish film censors even cut Hollywood classic Casablanca (1942), omitting all references to Ingrid Bergman's 'Ilsa' character being married as a married woman could not be seen to have a fling with Humphrey Bogart's 'Rick'.
The history of modern Irish cinema begins with a hard kick against catholic repression in Rocky Road to Dublin (1968), a critical documentary of the church and the Irish state at the time. Directed by Irish journalist Peter Lennon, The film was a hit at the Cannes Film Festival but widely banned in Ireland and only a few daring screenings took place in Dublin during the Sixties. Irish filmmakers had to wait until the more liberal 1980's before Irish cinema would rear its head in earnest.
The First Golden Age of Irish Cinema
Director Neil Jordan rang in the golden age of Irish cinema with 'Angel'(1982). Irish actor Stephen Rea launched his career playing the easy going saxophone player 'Danny', who resorts to murder avenging the death of a mute girl in Jordan's debut film.
'Angel' might have been a slick movie, but it was the love-across-the-barbed-wire drama of 'Cal', Pat O'Connor's movie about the terrorist activities of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland, which caught international attention. 'Cal' (1984) was nominated for the Palme D'Or at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, a first for an Irish film (though, strictly speaking, 'Cal' was an English production with an Irish director at the helm).
Peter Ormerod's absurd portrait of Irish countryside characters in 'Eat The Peach' (1986) and Joe Comerford’s road movie 'Reefer and the Model'(1987) have become arthouse cinema classics in the last 20 years.
Irish Cinema's International Breakthrough
The decade was almost over, when Jim Sheridan released 'My Left Foot' (1989), a film based on the autobiographic novel of Dublin writer Christy Brown. This irreverent tale of the tribulations of Brown and his success against all odds opened doors for Irish film in Hollywood, winning two Oscars. Sheridan followed up his 'My Left Foot' success with the box office smashing terrorist drama 'In the Name of the Father' (1993) with Daniel Day-Lewis and Emma Thompson.
Another director who turned the topic of terrorism in Northern Ireland into a major international blockbuster was Neil Jordan, whose 'The Crying Game' (1992) won an Oscar and grossed $62 million in the US alone. Jordan's gripping tale of a former IRA activist on the run who falls unwittingly for a cross-dressing man who will eventually save him from his former comrades is a bona fide classic. 'The Crying Game' is a cinematic tour de force full of twists and subplots that still work their magic more than 15 years later
The biggest ever smash hit at Irish box offices is still Jordan's 1996 biopic of charismatic Irish freedom fighter turned statesman, Michael Collins. Jordan's 'Michael Collins' manages to show complex historical material with the polish and flow of Hollywood cinema. Hugely controversial at the time, 'Michael Collins' did not shy away from depicting the events leading to the grim Civil War that followed Irish independence.
A hugely influential film in its own right was the English-Irish co-production 'The Commitments' (1991), directed by Alan Parker. The film about a group of youths from Dublin's Northside who launch a Soul band to escape poverty and boredom was based on a best-selling novel by Dublin writer Roddy Doyle. 'The Commitments' brought typical Dublin humour onto the screen in a way that had not been attempted before. Its international success spawned two follow up movies: 'The Snapper' (1993) and 'The Van' (1996). Both based on books by Doyle and directed by Stephen Frears.
Irish Cinema Today
Irish film in the 21st century is taking more of an inward look, with some of the best films focusing on the weird quirks and trials of every- day life. John Crowley's 'Intermission' (2003) starring much in-demand Irish actors Colin Farrell and Colm Meaney is a hilarious take on a botched bank robbery, full of colourful observations of Dublin life.
Paddy Breathnach's 'Man About Dog' (2004) is a laddish comedy based in the circles of the Irish dog racing world. The film was a considerable hit at Irish box offices. Lenny Abrahamson’s 'Adam & Paul' (2004) is a dark but sympathetically crafted look at the underbelly of Dublin. 'Adam & Paul' shows a day in the life of two down and out junkies who are falling from one absurd situation into the next. Despite its subject, the film is bursting with real characters and warm humour.
It is interesting to note, that the only major film dealing with Irish history recently was made by an English director. Ken Loach’s Civil War drama 'The Wind That Shakes the Barley'(2006) won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and caused a good deal of controversy when it hit the screens. The majority of Irish cinema goers were deeply moved by the movie and it won the accolade of 'Best Irish Film' at the Irish Film & Television Awards in 2006.
Three Films About Dublin
Sometimes a film really manages to soak up the atmosphere of the location it was shot in. Dublin has been a popular location for Irish and international films alike, but there are three that stand out as a portrait of the city at a particular point in time. 'Educating Rita' (1983) with Michael Caine's sublime portrait of renegade professor 'Frank Bryant' at Trinity College teaching Julie Walters' Northside girl 'Rita' is a good starting point. 'The Commitments' (1991) expresses like no other movie the sheer lust for life of a Dublin on the verge of the Celtic Tiger boom. For a wistful portrait of Dublin at the tail end of the boom, watch 'Adam & Paul' (2003).
Dublin City Centre Cinemas
The largest multiplex cinema in Dublin's city centre boasts 17 screens and shows a wide range of Irish and international films.
Parnell Street, Dublin 1
Irish Film Institute (IFI)
Founded in 1945, The Irish Film Institute (IFI) is dedicated to the promotion of film culture in Ireland and that of Irish film abroad. The IFI has a vast archive of Irish film and works to preserve the known body of Irish film productions. The archive's oldest footage dates back to 1897. There are facilities for researchers to view archive footage on the IFI's premises and once a month the IFI picks an archive movie and presents it to the public. The IFI complex at the heart of Dublin's cultural quarter, Temple Bar, houses a two-screen arthouse cinema, a bookshop and a popular bar and restaurant. The IFI shows foreign language films, film classics of the 20th century and independent Irish productions. The programme is eclectic but highly entertaining and the IFI bar is a great spot for a bit of people watching before and after the movie.
6 Eustace Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
The Lighthouse is Dublin's newest arthouse cinema. Located in the up and coming Smithfield quarter north of the River Liffey, the Lighthouse champions independent world cinema and offbeat Irish productions. The brand new, high tech building features four screens. Together with the IFI, the Lighthouse has the most adventurous schedule of films in Dublin.
Market Square, Smithfield, Dublin 7
The Savoy is Dublin's oldest working cinema. Built in 1929, the Savoy is full of atmosphere, from the spacious wood-panelled foyer to the upstairs lobby. Following several refurbishments over the years, there is a strong 1960's modernist vibe to the Savoy. Due to cinema's unique character, many film premiere's - particularly those of Irish films - take place at the Savoy.
O'Connell Street, Dublin 1
The Screen is Dublin's longest running arthouse cinema. The cinema's proximity to Trinity College attracts a young, arty student crowd. There are the obvious Hollywood blockbusters on show here, but the Screen regularly sneaks a good deal of foreign language films and more obscure productions onto its two screens.
Hawkins Street, opposite Trinity College, Dublin 2