Here are the major motion films that directors decided Ireland was the best location to shoot. From this list, you can begin to see that the genre and overall feel of the movies shot along this small isle are very, very diverse. Not all of these cinematic delights are set in the wiles, but in majestic castles, galaxies far, far away and humble towns whose facade hasn’t changed all that much in the last seventy years.
Let’s get into the top movies filmed in Ireland that filled cinema seats.
The quintessentially Scottish movie was mostly filmed in Ireland, within a thirty-mile radius of Dublin. Mel Gibson took home five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, for this 1995 box office hit in his factually wild yet epic retelling of the Scottish hero, William Wallace.
The 1450’s Dunsoghly Castle, Dublin became the set for Edinburgh Castle – where Wallace was taken to upon capture. Braveheart made full use of the ancient buildings of Wicklow and Meath with Trim Castle, Bective Abbey and many a glen and mountain including the Sally Gap.
Dunsloghy Castle, Co. Dublin
The crowning glory of the movie is the final battle held brought to life in the vast 5,000 acres that are the Curragh Plains. This Battle of Stirling Bridge took six weeks and 2,000 extras to recreate.
Rey tracks down Luke Skywalker on the shards protruding out of the tempestuous Atlantic Ocean that is Skellig Michel. However, four other counties along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way captured the attention of Lucasfilm scouts and later entered the big screen in Episode VIII on account of their otherworldly beauty. These wild locations created vivid backdrops for the plot:
- Malin Head in County Donegal
- Loop Head in County Clare
- Brow Head in County Cork
- Sybil Head and Dunmore Head on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) held the introduction of Ireland’s mysticism within the Intergalactic series. In 2017, Malin Head, Donegal was the set for the planet Ahch-To – the utter rurality made for footage that brought to life a planet thought to be lost in antiquity.
It’s fair to say that The Quiet Man put Ireland on the Hollywood movie map. It’s as twee as they come, but you really do have to admire the set – it’s as colourful as it is nostalgic. The thatch cottages, sprawling beaches and of course, Maureen O’ Hara running in her frock down a verdant hill with the full blast of orchestral music urging her on.
The village of Cong, Co. Mayo provided an authentic set as well as a homely warmth to the scenes. Mamm, Co. Galway held the perfect, whitewashed, doer-upper cottage for the retired boxer, Sean Thronton, played by the John Wayne. This 1953 classic grossed $3.8 million in box office sales and won seven Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture. One of the many Video Production Ireland.
King Arthur was a big deal when it came to Ireland and later in the box office when it drew in $203.6 million. Ballymore Eustace, a town in Co. Kildare became the set where Hadrian’s Wall as well as a Roman fortress were constructed. It was the largest set ever built in Ireland, the wall being 1 km long with 300 crew taking four and a half months to realise the extravagant battle scenes.
The only movie on this list that is actually set in Ireland – Colm Tóibín’s novel of the same name is the story of a young woman split between the excitement of Brooklyn, New York and her roots and family in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford. The scenes flit back and forth from the urban colours to the twee, long-ago of rural Ireland.
Many towns in Ireland still hold true and proud to their heritage which makes them suitable for tweaking them to befit a scene from a bygone era. The winding streets, old shop fronts are narrow townhouses are already cobbled together to create the magic.
In the sixth instalment – The Half-Blook Prince – scouts tracked down two specific locations to create the eerie and tumultuous final adventure of Dumbledore as he takes Harry to source a Horcrux. No question about it – this needed to be a breathtaking scene, one that gripped a fanbase with high expectations. The wild Atlantic Ocean bashing against the tiny Lemon Rock of Count Kerry definitely did the trick. The small, jagged outcrop is the smallest of the Skellig Islands – the largest being used in Star Wars. This tiny rock was then translocated in front of the Cliffs of Moher and the scene itself is utterly arresting. Menacing, black cliffs combined with the constant shower of waves ripping into the air couldn’t be a better indication of the hardships and battles ahead.
You might notice that the Cliffs of Moher is used regularly as a filming location. Simply put, they’re unique, you won’t get it anywhere else. When cliffs like that hit the big screen it just blows you away.
With Ridley Scott in the director chair and leads including Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, this is set to be one of the biggest movies of 2021. The period drama tells the tale of King Charles VI declaring that Knight Jean de Carrouges settle his dispute with his squire by challenging him to a duel to the death.
Filming was haphazard due to the global pandemic but managed to be completed in October 2020. The Last Duel is set to be released in October 2021. Cahir Co. Tipperary, known to be the crossroads of Munster was chosen as the location. If you’re looking for a really fruitful spot for filming, Caihr is well worth investigating. Our blog post on unusual Irish filming locations can give you a better insight into why.
Ireland is bursting with potential when it comes to filming, for virtual events check out Film Your Event. The landscape is so varied, and the raw potential of the cliffs, mountains, boglands, valleys as well as forts, castles and cottages from antiquity makes it ripe for epic, standout scenes. If you need help selecting a location in Ireland for your next movie, then you can get in touch with us here.