Northern Ireland and the Troubles Films

A conflict spanning decades between the British forces and unionist supporters, and the nationalist supporters who wanted a unified Ireland independent from the UK. The political sides were largely drawn in parallel with religious alliances, between the Catholic and Protestant communities. Known somewhat euphemistically as The Troubles, the clashes and tensions across Northern Ireland grew more violent and tense throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s, as militant groups such as the real and provisional IRA, and the UVF engaged in terrorist activities and violent campaigns, the British forces responded with controversial military force, and religion, activism and politics came together in this intractable situation.


Bloody Sunday (2002) James Nesbitt stars in this docu-drama looking at the infamous events which took place in Derry on 30 January 1972. The film explores what happened when British soldiers started using live rounds on civilians taking part of a civil rights protest march. The violence resulted in several deaths and casualties, and became a major turning point in the history of the modern Irish troubles. (Directed by Paul Greengrass.)

The Boxer (1997) Starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Emily Watson, the film centres on the life of a boxer and former Provisional IRA Volunteer, who is trying to resurrect his sporting career after his release from prison under pressure from his former IRA associates. The film portrays objections to peace efforts, and splinter groups within the IRA. (Directed by Jim Sheridan.)

Cal (1984) Cal is a young Catholic member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1970s Northern Ireland who is used as an accessory to the murder of a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Burdened with guilt over his role in the murder, Cal tries to leave the IRA, but is pressured to remain a member. Over time, Cal and the widow of the murdered RUC member begin an affair, but Cal’s past and the continuing political tension are ever-present obstacles. (Directed by Pat O’Connor.)

Elephant (1989) British drama set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and tackles the issues of denial and responsibility of the social problems fuelling the ongoing Troubles. (Directed by Alan Clarke.)

Five Minutes of Heaven (2009) In 1975, 11-year old Catholic Joe Griffin witnessed the killing of his brother by a young Ulster Volunteer Force member, Alistair Little. Screenwriter Guy Hibbert recreates the event which changed the lives of both men forever, and also imagines what might happen should these two men ever come face to face. (Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel.)

H3 (2001) is about the 1981 Irish hunger strike at HM Prison Maze in Northern Ireland, the events leading up to it, and subsequent developments in the prisoners' struggle for Prisoner of War status. It was written by Brian Campbell and Laurence McKeown; McKeown was a former volunteer in the Provisional IRA who participated in the hunger strike. (Directed by Les Blair.)

Hunger (2008) The film stars Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands, who led the 1981 Irish hunger strike and participated in the no wash protest in which Republican prisoners tried to win political status. It dramatises events in the Maze prison in the six weeks prior to Sands’ death. The focus of the film is Sands and his devotion to the cause that he was imprisoned for and in the righteousness of dying for political prisoner status. In one of the film's most notable scenes Sands debates the morality of the hunger strike with a visiting priest. (Directed by Steve McQueen.)

In the Name of the Father (1993) Deals with the events surrounding the Guildford pub bombing in 1974 and the subsequent 15-year fight for justice, the film portrays a nation in the grip of an anti-system, desperate to find culprits at any cost, however brutal. (Directed by Jim Sheridan.)

Michael Collins (1996) Account of the life and career of Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins.  The film follows Collins as he matures from guerrilla leader to national hero and statesman. Jordan portrays the conflict between Collins and Irish president Eamon De Valera, who was jealous of Collins' legendary popularity and attempts to undermine Collins’ leadership and authority with the IRA. (Directed by Neil Jordan.)

Omagh (2004) Made-for-TV drama that examines the human cost to those who survived the Real IRA bombing in Omagh on 15th August 1998. The film centres around the Gallacher family, who lost their son in the bombing, and the efforts of their father in his search for justice. Michael's role as chair of the Omagh Support Group, and the dragging of heels and lack of transparency by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Special Branch, strain Michael’s relationship with his family and raise questions about what he can hope to achieve from his quest for truth. (Directed by Pete Travis.)

Some Mother's Son (1996) is based on the true story of the 1981 hunger strike in the Maze Prison, in Northern Ireland led by prisoner Bobby Sands, against the treatment of IRA prisoners, claiming that they should be treated as prisoners of war rather than criminals. The mothers of two of the strikers fight to save their sons' lives. When the prisoners go on hunger strike and become incapacitated, the mothers’ own ideologies and beliefs are challenged when must decide whether to honour their sons' wishes, or to go against them and have them forcibly fed. (Directed by Terry George.)

Sunday (2002) tells the story of the events of January 30th, 1972 when British Paratroopers shot dead 14 unarmed civilians, and wounded a further 15, during a civil rights march in Derry, Northern Ireland. The programme, made with the consultation and co-operation of the families affected, took several years to research and produce. More than a hundred first-hand interviews have been conducted with British soldiers and officers, priests, politicians, medical experts and eyewitnesses as well as relatives. (Directed by Charles McDougall.)

Synopses and descriptions for Sunday; Some Mother’s Son; Omagh; Michael Collins; In the Name of the Father; Hunger; Five Minutes of Heaven; Cal; The Boxer, and Bloody Sunday, sourced and adapted from Amazon (;

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