Whether your St. Patrick's Day plans include singing ballads, enjoying corned beef, watching a parade or just staying home to avoid whiskey-impaired drivers, it's a grand day for movies!
The recent, highly acclaimed Brooklyn is a reminder that there are dozens of wonderful films featuring Irish actors, settings themes and/or historical events. Many of the best are intense or even violent, but we'll save those for another time.
Instead, try screening a few of these 17 films, listed in no special order, as part of your March 17 celebration. They aren't all great movies but they're all likely to make you feel great. And begorra, isn't that what the day is for?
1. The Commitments: An exuberant soundtrack and gifted cast highlight this 1991 comedy about young Dublin rockers who form a soul group on the rationale that "The Irish are the blacks of Europe." The band's rise and fall is narrated by organizer Jimmy Rabbitte, played with droll charisma by Robert Arkins. You won't hear Irish ballads, but it's Motown magic served up Gaelic style and a joy from beginning to end.
2. In America: Writer-director Jim Sheridan's uplifting 2005 film, in the tradition of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, tells the story of an impoverished Irish family's struggle to make a new life in a New York tenement. It's excellent work from Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton as the bereaved couple and real-life sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger as their young daughters.
3. Circle of Friends: This is a 1995 adaptation of Maeve Binchy's sensitive novel about three small-town girlfriends whose college days in 1950s Dublin are challenged by love, learning and betrayal. The talented young cast includes Minnie Driver, Chris O'Donnell and Alan Cumming in breakout roles.
4. The Quiet Man: John Ford's Oscar-winning 1952 saga about an American ex-boxer's return to his Irish birthplace is reportedly John Wayne's favorite of his films. It's memorable for Wayne's love scenes with stunning Maureen O'Hara, fight scene with Victor McLaglen and fantastic scenery.
5. Waking Ned Devine: An Irish village's citizens try to scam the government into awarding a jackpot to a deceased lottery winner in this sweet, sprightly 1998 comedy. The music is wonderful and so's the cast, headed by veterans Ian Bannen, David Kelly and Fionnula Flanagan. And of all the films about lottery winners, this has the most hilarious opening sequence.
6. Darby O'Gill and the Little People: Awash in ethnic stereotypes from blarney-spouting barflies to dancing wee folk to sinister banshees, this 1959 Disney fantasy still manages to be a sheer delight. Albert Sharpe is perfect as the lovable, leprechaun-obsessed dad whose daughter is courted by a youthful, pre-Bond Sean Connery.
7. Top o' the Morning: The theft of the fabled Blarney Stone brings American insurance man Bing Crosby to the Auld Sod, where he's not exactly as welcome as the flowers in May. There's more comedy than mystery in this 1949 film, but it's fun watching him croon Irish tunes, romance comely Ann Blyth and butt heads with her constable dad, Barry Fitzgerald.
8. Evelyn: Pierce Brosnan plays against type, and very effectively, in this 2002 fact-based film about an unemployed alcoholic in 1953 Dublin whose children are put in orphanages after his wife's desertion. Desmond Doyle's hard-won battle to get his life together and reclaim his family, with more than a little help from his friends, will make you want to cheer.
9. My Left Foot: This 1989 biopic about Dubliner Christy Brown, who became an artist and writer despite the cerebral palsy that left him with one functioning limb, is intense but also inspiring. Oscars went to Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker for playing the brilliant, abrasive Brown and his loving mother.
10. Finian's Rainbow: A whimsical 1968 tale of politicians, tobacco growers and leprechauns in Kentucky, this one's really all about the singing and dancing. Just revel in the lovely Gaelic tunes, Fred Astaire's footwork and an engaging cast that includes Petula Clark, Tommy Steele and Keenan Wynn.
11. The Matchmaker: An American legislative aide's vote-getting mission puts her at the center of an Irish hamlet's matchmaking festival in this 1997 film. It's truly an underrated romcom with witty dialogue, a winning performance by Janeane Garafolo and a fine ensemble featuring Milo O'Shea and Jay O. Sanders.
12. Going My Way: Maybe this 1944 film shouldn't count since it's mainly about Irish-Americans in America, but it's notable for Bing Crosby's crooning "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ra" to ailing Irish priest Barry Fitzgerald, the Oscars earned by both and the "tough kids" transformed into an angelic-sounding boys' choir.
13. The Secret of Roan Inish: John Sayles directed and scripted this charming 1994 adaptation of Rosalie K. Fry's story about a 10-year-old orphan sent to a fishing village in Donegal, where she unravels the mystery of her brother's disappearance.
14. Tara Road: This 2005 family drama stars Olivia Williams as a Dubliner abandoned by her husband and Andie MacDowell as a Connecticut wife shattered by the death of her teenage son. The exchange of homes that helps them to heal and remake their lives is told better in Maeve Binchy's novel, but the film is well-acted and rewarding.
15. Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx: Gene Wilder plays a manure collector/fertilizer salesman whose meet-cute with exchange student Margot Kidder changes his life. Leaving his failing business and native Dublin behind, the lovestruck Quackser follows the wealthy American across the ocean. It's a well-scripted story and Wilder's funny, touching performance is worth catching.
16. The Luck of the Irish : American newspaperman Tyrone Power unknowingly returns from a trip to Ireland with loyal leprechaun Cecil Kellaway on his heels in this appealing 1948 comedy. He's torn between returning to Ireland with sweet colleen Ann Baxter and staying in New York to marry wealthy, influential Jayne Meadows. But is there really any doubt?
17. Brooklyn: This 2015 love story stars young Saoirse Ronan as a homesick Irish girl in 1950s New York. After finding romance and making a place for herself, she unexpectedly returns home and is forced to choose between two men and two ways of life. It's a gentle, beautifully acted film that earned several Oscar nominations.