In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Irish Cinema

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Pre-Cinema and Early Cinema in Ireland
  • First Wave of Irish Cinema
  • Second Wave of Irish Cinema
  • Irish Documentary Practice
  • Cinema and Irish Theater and Literature
  • Irish-Language Film and Television
  • Irish Film Censorship
  • Irish Film Exhibition and Distribution
  • Cinema in Northern Ireland
  • British Cinema and Ireland
  • Comparative Studies
  • Edited Collections
  • Filmographies and Other Reference Works

Cinema and Media Studies Irish Cinema
Kevin Rockett
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0067


Irish cinema occupied a marginal status in world cinema until the double Oscar success in 1990 of the Irish feature My Left Foot, the directorial debut of Jim Sheridan. Three years later, The Crying Game, written and directed by Ireland’s preeminent director Neil Jordan, confirmed the emergence of an internationally recognized and commercially viable Irish cinema when it, too, took an Academy Award following its nomination in six categories. Although prior to this, there had been, throughout the first century of cinema, intermittent production of Irish-made fiction films and, during 1975 to 1987, an indigenous independent, almost artisanal, but culturally and critically incisive cinema, the majority of Irish-themed films were produced outside the country, mainly by the American and British film industries, with the former often focusing on the experiences of the diasporic Irish, and the latter moreover drawn to the Irish-British relationship and the legacy of colonialism. Given the dominance of these two powerful English-language cinemas, which together have supplied over 90 percent of the films seen on Irish cinema screens since the 1910s, their representations of Ireland and the Irish have had an enormous impact, both locally and globally, on how Ireland is imagined. As a result, much Irish film scholarship concerns the often complex intersection between indigenous Irish cinema and the representations of the Irish in the cinemas of the Irish diaspora, most especially America and Britain, but also Australia.

General Overviews

Academic film scholarship on cinema and Ireland emerged only in 1987 with the publication of Kevin Rockett’s, Luke Gibbons’s and John Hill’s Cinema and Ireland (Rockett, et al. 1988). It succeeded, as one reviewer (Nigel Andrews, Financial Times) put it, in reclaiming “Ireland as a major component in the mythology of Western cinema.” Validating the observation of another reviewer (Jeffrey Richards, Daily Telegraph) who stated that the book was “likely to become the standard work on the subject,” it has provided the blueprint for subsequent studies of Irish cinema such as McLoone 2000, an accessible study which, as might be expected, includes the films of the 1990s, the second wave of Irish cinema, a feature, too, of Pettitt 2000, a book that also explores the importance of television. In their wake, Barton 2004 has maintained the focus on issues of gender and history, while, somewhat eccentrically, Gillespie 2008 has sought to deny even the existence of an Irish cinema.

  • Barton, Ruth. Irish National Cinema. London: Routledge, 2004.

    Focuses mainly on contemporary filmmaking, exploring questions of nationalism, gender, representations of history, and cinema’s response to the consumer boom of late 1990s/early 2000s. Argues that to understand the balance between modernity and tradition upon which contemporary filmmakers draw, definitions of Irish culture/identity must engage with the diaspora.

  • Gillespie, Michael Patrick. The Myth of an Irish Cinema: Approaching Irish-Themed Films. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2008.

    The literary academic Gillespie contests existence of an Irish national cinema arguing that Irishness is not a monolithic entity. Written from identity and cultural studies perspectives, the book is arranged thematically, with chapters exploring cinematic representations of the middle class, urban life, rural life, religion, and politics.

  • McLoone, Martin. Irish Film: The Emergence of a Contemporary Cinema. London: British Film Institute, 2000.

    Overview with readings of a range of Irish-themed films from low-budget indigenous “first wave” Irish films to bigger Hollywood productions and “second wave” films of the 1990s. Explores national and cultural identity, postnational cinema, the state’s role, and viability of a regional cinema in the shadow of Hollywood.

  • Pettitt, Lance. Screening Ireland: Film and Television Representation. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2000.

    Written from cultural studies and postcolonial perspectives, Pettitt’s book synthesizes debates about Irish history and cultural criticism, as well as providing histories of cinema and television in Ireland. It offers a wide-ranging discussion of Hollywood, British, indigenous Irish, and independent diaspora films and a selection of different TV genres.

  • Rockett, Kevin, Luke Gibbons, and John Hill. Cinema and Ireland. London: Routledge, 1988.

    Foundational text that weaves together history of indigenous film production (Rockett), analyses of British representations of the Irish (Hill), and exploration of romanticism and realism including in Ford’s The Quiet Man (Gibbons). Draws on new historicist approach and range of theoretical models, including postcolonialism, gender studies, and art theory. Originally published in 1987.

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