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St. Patrick’s Day is coming up soon and it is a perfect time to consider how to by homage to the Irish by watching a favorite Irish actor. I’ve had a love of the Irish for years and thought I’d share my 10 favorite Irish actors along with movies or television shows with them that I adore. All but one of these men and women were born in Ireland and not just of Irish decent. I did rank them, although I will admit I had a really hard time of it!
(Note ~ I am including affiliate links to the movies on Amazon as a convenience. Click on the actors hyperlinked name to see ALL movies available through Amazon in which they appeared. Any purchases made through them are greatly appreciated by our family. Also, not all of the films mentioned here are strictly family friendly. You know best what works for your children.)
Favorite Irish Actors #10: Richard Harris
Richard Harris is one of those actors who I’ve known by site even if I had not watched many of his films. My first memory of him was watching Camelot (1967) after listening to the record my mom owned. I always loved King Arthur and combining it with music was a ‘win’ for me when I was a young lass. As I grew, he made appearances in films I enjoyed including Patriot Games, Unforgiven, and The Count of Monte Cristo.
Most recently, our family enjoyed his performance as Professor Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films prior to his death. My older boys and I were watched him as Abraham when doing a walk through the Old Testament with our church’s youth group in 2013.
Favorite Irish Actors #9: Kenneth Branagh
There are few actors who make me want to watch Shakespeare, but Kenneth Branagh is one of them. Much Ado About Nothing which co-starred his then wife Emma Thompson (who I also adore) is my favorite of his Shakespearean movies. When the boys were in a co-op group doing Hamlet, we watched the version he starred in. If the boys dig into the study of the Bard, I’ll be sure to pull out Othello and Henry V as well.
While he does a wonderful job with Shakespeare, he is versatile enough to pull off a variety of other roles. Movies I’ve enjoyed with him include Dead Again (also with Emma Thompson), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Valkyrie, and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. And, he also appeared in a Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets alongside Richard Harris!
Favorite Irish Actors #8: Colin Farrell
Okay, ladies, let’s just admit to start that Colin Farrell is one that is ‘easy on the eyes.’ The fact that he can also act makes it all the more enjoyable to watch his films. Personal favorites for the ‘action’ genre are Hart’s War (with Bruce Willis), Minority Report (with Tom Cruise), The Recruit (with Al Pacino), and the remake of Total Recall.
While most of his films are definitely for the adult crowd, he makes appearances in the animated movie Epic and Saving Mr. Banks, which our family thoroughly enjoyed.
Favorite Irish Actors #7: Gabriel Byrne
Gabriel Byrne is another actor who has a definite visual appeal. He spent 5 years in the seminary before realizing he wasn’t called to be a priest. However, some of his roles might have drawn on that experience including Stigmata where he plays a priest and End of Days where he plays the devil.
Other movies in which he appears that I’ve enjoyed include Little Women (the 1994 version with Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon holding lead roles), The Usual Suspects, and The Man in the Iron Mask (1998 with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Irons, and John Malkovich.)
Favorite Irish Actors #6: Colm Meaney
While many might equate Colm Meaney with his tenure on television including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Stargate:Atlantis (both of which I loved), he has had roles in several movies that are worth watching.
The Commitments is a movie set in Ireland with what I consider a fun soundtrack of classic rock. He plays a supporting role as the father of one of the band members. There are a few family friendly movies where he makes an appearance which are on my own to watch list: A Lobster Tale and Mystery, Alaska.
Favorite Irish Actors #5: Maureen O’Hara
Most of Maureen O’Hara’s work was done long before I was born. You have to admire a woman who was held in high regard for her profession, but decided to put family first after marrying. The classic Miracle on 34th Street as well as the original version of The Parent Trap are the movies of hers I remember from childhood and still enjoy.
I especially loved Only the Lonely which brought her out of a long ‘retirement’ from acting in the early 1990s. Her portrayal of Rose (John Candy’s Irish mother) was spectacular. What I want to do now is delve into more of her movies including How Green Was My Valley, The Quiet Man, and Rio Grande.
Favorite Irish Actors #4: Daniel Day- Lewis
If receiving an Oscar is an indicator of having done a spectacular job, then someone who has racked up THREE Oscars for Best Actor must mean you are phenomenal. Daniel Day – Lewis is the ONLY person on record thus far who holds that record and I can’t say that I am surprised. Something I’ve always appreciates about Daniel Day – Lewis is that he can really become the characters. I sometimes had to do a double take to reconcile that he was the one portraying a character as the combination of his stellar acting and the costumes could make him look so different.
While the movies I’ve seen by him are not even close to being family friendly, I have used a few of them in high school history studies even though many are rated R (often for violence and language.) American History studies can include The Last of the Mohicans, Gangs of New York, The Crucible, The Age of Innocence, and Lincoln. Other films which I’ve enjoyed with my husband include There Will Be Blood and My Left Foot.
Favorite Irish Actors #3: Roma Downey
Roma Downey became well known with her role on the TV show, Touched by an Angel, and occasional appearances on the spin-off show, Promised Land. That was my introduction to her and I loved watching both of those shows. A Christmas themed TV movie, Borrowed Hearts, is a favorite of mine for watching during the holidays.
More recently, she has worked on productions like The Bible miniseries and Son of God which released in theaters last spring. Like many, I am eager to see the newest venture A.D., which follows the disciples, Jesus’ mother Mary, and key political and religious leaders after Christ’s crucifixion.
Favorite Irish Actors #2: Pierce Brosnan
Pierce Brosnan first appeared on my radar with Remington Steele and I’ve been in love ever since. In that role, he was not only gorgeous but also had a wonderful hint of danger. I was one of the many fans who was disappointed when he missed his initial chance to be James Bond, but was thrilled when his Bond films GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, and Die Another Day came out. My eldest son, husband and I just watched one of his most recent films, The November Man which is definitely NOT for kids. (I actually skipped part of a scene as none of us needed to see what popped on the screen.)
Movies that he has done which are more family friendly and have been enjoyed in our house include Mrs. Doubtfire (with Robin Williams), Evelyn (which is a touching story of the love a father has for his children which might bring a tear to your eye), and Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
Favorite Irish Actors #1: Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson has that wonderful blend of good looks, a distinctive voice, and a breadth of skill which allows him to not stay stuck in any one type of role. If you want to watch a father that’d do anything for his family and don’t care about a deep plot, you’ve got the Taken series. Enjoy a little mythology in your life and you can watch Clash of the Titans (2010) and The Wrath of the Titans. Dramas include Ethan Frome, Michael Collins, Nell, Rob Roy, and Schindler’s List. Finally, he helped usher in a new chapter to a beloved science fiction series with his role as Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.
In the family friendly realm, Liam Neeson offers his distinctive voice to the role of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He also appears in the animated shows The Lego Movie and The Nut Job.
Do you have a favorite Irish actor or other artist?
Are any of the highlighted shows a favorite of yours or is there another show by one of these actors I missed?
Can you guess which actor is of Irish decent, but was not born IN Ireland?
If you’re looking for other ideas to fill your St. Patrick’s Day with a little bit of Irish entertainment, I’m sharing a few ideas from my favorite bloggers.
- 10 Best Leprechaun Movies from In Our Spare Time
- 5 Fun Modern Paranormal Irish Tales from Pretty Opinionated
- St. Patrick’s Day Movies on Netflix from Mom on the Side
- Sweet St. Patrick’s Day Books for Babies from My Kids Guide
- Movies Set in Ireland from Better in Bulk
- St. Patrick’s Day Music from Callista’s Ramblings
- Kids’ Games from Ireland from Gaggle of Gamers
- Books about Brendan the Navigator from Upstate Ramblings