Seven Movies To Watch On St. Patrick's Day (And The Perfect Drink For Each One)
Coming up on the one-year mark of the start of the pandemic, many of us are pausing a moment to reflect on the ways in which our lives have changed, taking note of the simple things we once took for granted, and questioning how we will continue to move forward with all the challenges still facing us. For me, one important, undeniable, and momentous question has conquered all the rest: How am I supposed to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year?
When it comes to a holiday that is usually observed by drinking green beer at your favorite bar, celebrating on a Wednesday in the middle of a pandemic presents some challenges. You could still eat corned beef, pinch anyone in your house not wearing green, or get drunk and shamelessly cry to "Danny Boy," but beyond that, your options are limited. That is why this year, I would like to present all my fellow friends reminiscing on St. Patrick’s days of the past with alternative options to whatever your usual traditions are: seven great Irish movies, and the best drink to have in your hand while you watch them. (Please drink responsibly)
The Departed (2006)
Why Jameson? Because Irish gangster movies are like the hard liquor of Irish movies, and like Jameson, The Departed is the best one.
How much Jameson? Enough to make you wake up as sweaty and perpetually hungover as Alec Baldwin looks in all of his scenes in this movie.
The Departed might not be an Irish movie, but you would be hard-pressed to find a movie that is more Irish-American. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, and Jack Nicholson, the movie tells the story of an undercover cop in an Irish gang, and an undercover Irish gangster in the Boston police. Many of the performances are over the top and the plot is so intricate that it borders on confusing, but the end result is a movie that expertly captures the soul of Boston on screen.
The Departed also recaptures Scorsese’s style in movies like Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, where he depicts life in its grittiest, messiest reality. As much as I love Goodfellas, Casino, or The Wolf of Wall Street, they all glorify the protagonist's life of crime. In The Departed, Scorsese depicts the lifestyle of the Boston Irish gangsters and cops as less alluring than having a regular nine-to-five. The difference is that in most of Scorsese’s crime films, he depicts the rise and fall of the anti-hero; the glitz and glamour before they inevitably fly too close to the sun and fall. In The Departed, the characters start the movie in a downward spiral, and like watching a train crash, it’s impossible to tear your eyes away.
In Bruges (2008)
Drink: Stella Artois
“I had five pints of beer and six bottles, no, six pints of beer and seven bottles, and you know what? I’m not even pissed!” - Ray (Colin Farrell)
There’s a lot of quality movies centered around Irish immigrants. In America, Gangs of New York, and Brooklyn, just to name a few. But, if I have to choose a movie about Irish fish out of the proverbial water, it’s going to be In Bruges every time. And while I’m not suggesting you try and match Ray drink-for-drink, what better to sip with a story about two Irishmen stuck in Belgium than the most popular Belgian beer in the world?
The darkest of dark comedies, In Bruges is a modern masterpiece. The story follows two Irish hitmen after a botched assassination, Ray (Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), who settle down in the historic Belgian town of Bruges to await their fate. The movie manages to stay funny while juggling some of the grimmest themes that a movie can address, and will have you questioning everything you know and cracking up in the same five minutes. Colin Farrell is undoubtedly one of the great Irish actors of the 21st century, and with help from Ralph Fiennes and Brendan Gleeson, In Bruges stays a sad but stunning spectacle until the moment the screen goes black.
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Drink: Wine, any wine
Three steps to becoming a modern-day Barry Lyndon:
Google that wine and memorize given information.
Recite said information casually in front of friends, i.e., "Ah yes, I hear the merlots are particularly red this year."
Congratulations. You have now infiltrated high society.
Before you say anything, no, Stanley Kubrick isn’t Irish. And also, no, the original author William Makepeace Thackery isn’t either (But check out the name on that guy, am I right?). And sure, the main actor Ryan O’Neal was born in Los Angeles. But for this list, the main character being Irish is enough to secure a spot, so give a warm welcome to Barry Lyndon.
This story of Barry Lyndon, an Irish rogue who climbs the British social hierarchy after a series of misadventures, is a cynical masterpiece of character and creative cinematic expression. When released in 1975, Kubrick was heralded for the experimental way in which he used double shots and natural lighting to give Barry Lyndon a glowing and artistic look, causing Roger Ebert to call it, “One of the most beautiful films ever made.” 46 years later, Barry Lyndon is still one of the great films of the 20th century, and the perfect movie to watch on St. Patrick’s day if you want to feel ~sophisticated~ or ~classy~.
Drink: The cheapest thing you can find and as much as your arms can carry
If I were to be completely honest, Intermission’s drink equivalent isn’t the cheapest thing you can find in the liquor store. It’s more like stumbling around the bar five minutes before closing time and draining any unfinished drinks you can find on the empty tables. The heist/romance movie (yeah, sounds stupid, right?) starring Cillian Murphy, Colin Farrell, and Kelly Macdonald couldn’t have aged worse if it tried. The constant motion of the grainy digital camera is proven to cause seasickness. The offensive language, deplorable cop character (Colm Meaney), and Lehiff’s (Farrell) violence are often so terrible that it can feel physically degrading to watch. Then there’s the plot; the nonsense, Love Actually-reminiscent “strangers meet in the city” plot with the background of a poorly-planned heist. The only thing keeping this movie together? Love, and Cillian Murphy.
No matter how incoherent and sometimes vile the plot is, Intermission has an emotional core that keeps dragging me back for rewatches. The relationships of the ensemble cast are compelling and heartwarming, and I always find myself cheering for their success. The main reason for this is Cillian Murphy. Two years before Batman Begins and ten years before Peaky Blinders, Murphy is already bringing his indefinable magnetic quality to every role. Even when he’s puking over spilled salsa in the grocery store, it’s hard to tear your eyes from the screen.
The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2007)
The Wind That Shakes the Barley is paired with Guinness because it’s the most classic, traditionally-Irish movie on this list. Set during the Irish Civil War and the Irish War of Independence, the movie tells the bitter (also like Guinness) and bleak story of Damien O’Donovan (Cillian Murphy), who joins the IRA only days before planning to leave and practice medicine in England. The film is authentic and grounded, and even though it takes place in 1920, also feels relevant and fresh.
Apart from the historical context, The Wind That Shakes the Barley feels inherently Irish because of the way it incorporates love, family, and anger, and the ways one can often beget the others. The result of this incredible mix of historic and emotional drama led to The Wind That Shakes the Barley becoming the highest-grossing independent Irish-made movie ever at the time of its release, and hastened along with the budding stardom of Cillian Murphy. Like every movie or show he has been in, Cillian Murphy steals the show, and captures your attention with his stoic, steely charisma. The Wind That Shakes the Barley is the kind of movie that will leave you wondering how you hadn’t heard of it before, and have you grabbing another Guinness to rewatch.
Drink: Baileys and Coffee
If you want to start your St. Patrick's day morning with a spring in your step and a smile on your face, I’ve got just the thing. Two parts coffee, one part Baileys (Or just go 50/50, or pour Baileys in your Lucky Charms, or just drink straight Baileys, why not? It’s been a rough year), and Once. Taking place in Dublin, Once is the story of a young guitarist/songwriter who falls in love with a young Czech singer, the two of them embarking on a romantic journey where they express their love for each other through music. It's a great feel-good movie to watch with a significant other, but if you're not a fan of slow movies, you might want to make that Baileys and coffee a double to keep yourself awake until the end.
The Town (2010)
Drink: A shot of Paddy's chased with Killian's
We've all seen that James Coughlin character (Jeremy Renner) at the bars. You know, the angry, aggressive guy whose wild eyes are enough to send you scurrying to the far corner of the room? If that kind of guy isn't made for chuggable beer and cheap whiskey, then I don't know who is. Which makes that above combo perfect for The Town.
Now I know I've really stretched the label "Irish movie" on this list, but hey, if we can't celebrate a movie about Irish Americans robbing Boston banks on St. Patrick's day, when can we? Ben Affleck's 2010 heist movie is one of the greatest action, robbery, and Boston movies of the last decade. Starring Affleck and Renner as two heist experts from the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston, The Town is a two-hour action thrill ride that is held together by the toxic relationships of the main characters. It's arguable that The Town is far more a Boston movie than an Irish movie, but trust me, after a few Killian's and shots, you won't care.