Top 10 Favorite Irish Actors working in Hollywood today

Happy St Patrick’s Day everybody! According to this Guinness Store House sign, everyone’s Irish today 😀


I hope you don’t mind me resurrecting this oldie-but-goodie list I did a while back, but I’ve been meaning to update ’em for some time. This list is limited to performers born and bred in Ireland (at least for most of their childhood), so not those of Irish-descent as it’d take this entire blog to list them all. For the most part, my list stay the same, but you can check out the original list and see who’ve been taken out of the list 😉

Here they are in random order:

  1. Colin Farrell
    ColinFarrellOf all the vile things Joel Schumacher is known for as a director, you could say that he has an eye for talent. He cast Farrell in Tigerland which got the Dublin native noticed. I first saw him in the sci-fi action Minority Report alongside Tom Cruise, and then the Terrence Malick’s The New World. His foray into historical action hero in Alexander was ridiculed panned by critics, and he nearly became a Hollywood cliche with his womanizing ways and drug/alcohol abuse, but he manage to maneuver a career comeback with his Golden-Globe-winning turn in the Irish black comedy In Bruges (2008). His career choices haven’t always been solid (Total Recall remake, Winter’s Tale), but he’s certainly a talented actor. I think he’s wonderful in Saving Mr. Banks.
  2. Liam Neeson
    LiamNeesonProbably the most famous Irish actors of the bunch, Neeson is one of the hardest working actors right now. His diverse resume is impressive by any thespian standard. From historical figures (Michael Collins, Rob Roy, Schindler’s List), comic-book villain (Batman Begins), to playing bad-ass action star hell-bent on revenge (Taken), Neeson adds gravitas to any role he’s in. Can’t wait to see him as Zeus bellowing ‘Release the Kraken!!!’ in Clash of the Titans. The 61-year-old still looks amazing and obviously has the um, special skills to kick ass. Hollywood offered him to be the next action hero with Taken and he hasn’t looked back since. He probably will be doing action fares like Taken 254 & counting, or a variation of that genre, just like he did with Non-Stop. He’s definitely more watchable than a lot of younger action stars these days anyway, so why not?
  3. Saoirse Ronan
    SaoirseRonanShe may be only nineteen, but Ronan’s got that wise-beyond-her-years thing going for her, plus enormous talent to boot. She was phenomenal in Atonement as the little girl who couldn’t quite figure out how to channel her attraction to the opposite sex that led to disastrous consequences. She pretty much comes out unscathed even when The Lovely Bones bombed artistically and financially. Since Atonement, Ronan has worked for director Joe Wright again in Hanna as a 14-year old assassin. Boy, talk about range. She’s more than able to hold her own against the likes of Cate Blanchett. Since then, she continues to impress me in The Way Back, How I Live Now, as well as in the small role in The Grand Budapest Hotel. I wish there were more Irish ladies working in Hollywood today so miss Ronan isn’t alone on this list, but she’s the only one so far whose work I really admire.
  4. Cillian Murphy
    CillianMurphyMost people recognize him as Scarecrow in Batman Begins, but his memorable role is perhaps in the zombie flick 28 Days Later. His impossibly chiseled cheekbones and dramatic eyes somehow make him the perfectly creepy yet sophisticated villain, as he displayed in the horror/thriller Red Eye. Renowned directors such as Christopher Nolan and Danny Boyle obviously like working with him, as he’s done two movies for Boyle (Sunshine & 28 Days Later) and Nolan also cast him in his Batman trilogy and Inception. Even in a mediocre movie like In Time, Murphy is usually the best thing in it.
  5. Michael Fassbender
    MichaelFassbender(Ed note: Though he’s born in Germany, Fassbender is half-Irish and was raised in southwest Ireland)
    I’ve mentioned this guy A LOT on my blog lately and for good reason, he’s definitely eye-candy material but with acting chops to boot. Thanks to Zach Snyder for casting such great actors in 300 even in smaller roles, as I definitely noticed Fassbender as the loyal and valiant Stelios. He’s then proved his amazing range in transformational role in Hunger, and another indie darling Fish Tank which won him several nods from various European Film Festivals. He’s in yet another swords-n-sandals movie Centurion, but he definitely made an impression in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. He’s come a looong way since I put him on the original list 3 years ago. His versatility is always on display, whether in costume drama Jane Eyre (as the Byronic hero Rochester) or as a superhero villain Magneto in X-Men: First Class. He even garnered an Oscar nomination for his work in 12 Years A Slave.
  6. Gabriel Byrne
    GabrielByrneI first noticed Byrne in The Point of No Return as Bridget Fonda’s sympathetic mentor. He may not always get the lead roles, but you always remember him (The Man in the Iron Mask, Little Women, The Usual Suspect, and Miller’s Crossing) The charismatic 63-year-old actor definitely still got the looks to go with all that talent, he won a Golden Globe last year for his performance as a psychotherapist in the HBO drama In Treatment. I cast him in one of my movie pitches, I think he’d be great in a crime noir like this one, wouldn’t you think?
  7. Ciarán Hinds
    You may not know his name, but you certainly recognize this tall, dark and handsome Belfast native. His dark look makes him suitable to play people from different nationalities: English (Phantom of the Opera, Amazing Grace), (Israeli (Munich), Roman (as Julius Caesar in HBO’s Rome), Russian (The Sum of All Fears), and that’s just a sampling. His new indie flick set in his native homeland The Eclipse (NOT Twilight 3) is to be released this weekend. Glad to see him get the lead role for a change, hope he’d get another one in the future.
  8. Kenneth Branagh
    KenBranaghFor all the Shakespearean work he’s done (Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet), I initially thought Branagh was an Englishman. The RADA-educated actor had his start in theater when he joined The Royal Shakespeare Company at 23. Soon after he formed his own performance art company called The Renaissance Theatre Company, which counts Prince Charles as one of its royal patrons. He surely brought some of that artsy and sophisticated sensibilities into the comic book adaptation Thor. He’s more than capable doing double duties as actor and director, which he did in the recent reboot of the Jack Ryan movie Shadow Recruit.
  9. Brendan Gleeson
    BrendanGleesonThis character actor is always fun to watch even in a small role, i.e. as Alastor ‘Mad-­Eye’ Moody in Harry Potter series. But my favorite performance of his would have to be In Bruges with Colin Farrell. I’ve been meaning to see The Guard for ages but it’s not available to rent on iTunes, so I might have to bug my friend who has the Netflix dvd subscription to rent it for me. I’ve been dying to see what happens to At Swim-Two-Birds, which was supposed to be his directorial debut. I blogged about it 2 years ago and still no new news on that one 😦 Just check out the amazing Irish cast on that one, who wouldn’t want to see that come to life.
  10. Michael Gambon
    MichaelGambonI first noticed the 74-year-old thespian as the evil tobacco executive in Michael Mann’s The Insider. He’s one of those actors who makes an impact even in a brief appearance. Some of his memorable supporting roles are The Wings of the Dove, Charlotte Gray, The King’s Speech and the latest one I saw was in Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet. He’s probably most well-known to mass audiences as Albus Dumbledore, when he replaced fellow Irishman the late Richard Harris in the Harry Potter series.


HONORABLE MENTIONS: Chris O’Dowd, Richard Harris, Ray Stevenson, Stephen Rea, Aidan Quinn, and Pierce Brosnan.

So, in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day (or just the love for the Irish), who are YOUR favorite Irish actors?

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93 thoughts on “Top 10 Favorite Irish Actors working in Hollywood today

    1. Yes you can count him! He is on my list after all as he’s raised in Ireland though his ancestry is German. I think he kind of has a bit of an Irish accent 😉

      1. I haven’t noticed an Irish accent, and – truthfully – I didn’t know he had grown up there. So I was only counting him because he’s on your list. Until your list, I would never have known he was a consideration. 🙂

        My second favorite would be Cillian Murphy and then Saorise Ronan. Both of whom are also on your list. 🙂

        1. I actually knew he was Irish before I realized his last name is German which explains his German ancestry. Glad to see the love for Cillian and Saoirse, would love to see both in a film together.

          I can’t believe I had Pierce Brosnan on my original list, he’s not really a fave of mine and he’s my least favorite James Bond!

        1. Cillian is great isn’t he? He’s going to be in Transcendence so I’m looking forward to that. Gleeson is great, can’t wait to see The Guard as my friend would rent it from Netflix for me 😀

  1. I would probably say it’s a tie between Brendan Gleeson because I find him to be so loveable and Michael Fassbender for being so cool and eerie but also, he’s fucking sexy.

  2. Ted S.

    My favorite Irish actor is probably the original Bond himself, Mr. Sean Connery. I really wish he accepted the role of Kincaid in Skyfall, apparently the role was written with him in mind so it would be a perfect cameo for the 50th anniversary of James Bond. But since he retired and probably still piss at the Broccoli family, he declined the role.

    My favorite from your list is Liam Neeson, he’s one of the few actors who actually looks intimating in his role as an action star and he makes fight scenes looks believable. I think Colin Farrell’s day as a lead in big budget films are finally over since the Total Recall tanked so bad at the box office. I do like him as actor, he needs to choose better scripts though.

    1. Oh boy Ted, you do not want to confuse the Scots and the Irish. Mr. Connery is as Scottish as they come. He might smother you with his Kilt if you said that he’s your favorite Irish actor, ahahahaha. That said, he’d be great as Kincaid (who is also Scottish btw, Skyfall is set in the Scottish Highlands).

      I love Neeson too, he still looks handsome in an intimidating kind of way. Yep, amen about Farrell, I hope he wisen up soon as I like him as an actor.

      1. Ted S.

        Ha ha, I had no idea, thanks for the info, in case I ever get to meet Connery in person someday, I wouldn’t sound like an idiot by saying he’s Irish! Somehow I’ve always thought he’s Irish because my English teacher showed a movie he appeared in a few years before Dr. No, it’s called Darby O’Gill and the Little People. My English teacher knew I’m a big James Bond fan and thought I’d enjoy seeing Connery years before he became Bond. It would’ve been great to see him in a Bond film again but Albert Finney did a fine job with Kincaid. It would’ve been quite a surprise had he showed up as the cameo though.

          1. Ted S.

            Ha ha, you know I’ve always thought Brosnan’s British. I didn’t know he’s Irish until he said it in an interview when he accepted the Bond role back in the early 90s.

  3. Cool list! I really don’t have anything to add as I’m not really aware of any other Irish actors working today. Out of this list I would definitely have to go with Fassbender! Ronan is also very good and I still like Farrell even though Winter’s Tale was completely ridiculous. I didn’t know Gambon and Branaugh were Irish; I always assumed they were English!
    They’re both out of the game now but I’ll mention them anyway: Peter O’Toole (raised in England though) and Maureen O’Hara. Both Irish and both fantastic!
    Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

    1. Hi Hunter, thank you! Yeah, I thought they both were as well until I started reading more about them. I’d have put down Mr. O’Toole too if he hadn’t passed away. I’m not sure I know who Maureen O’Hara is, but I have heard of her.

      1. Maureen O’Hara starred in How Green Was My Valley, Miracle on 34th Street and the John Ford directed films Rio Grande and The Quiet Man with John Wayne. She was quite a stunning redhead. Known for performing her own stunts. See her sword fighting below. She’s still hanging in there at 93!

        Check out her green dress in all its Technicolor glory. LOL. Feel free to turn down the song.

  4. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ruth:

    Great list!

    Big fan of Michael Gambon since the series, Maigret . Really liked him in Gosford Park and Layer Cake . Excelled again as a bad guy in the recent, Sundance Channel mini-series, Restless as a grown up Rufus Sewell.

    Kenneth Branagh and Gabriel Byrne are givens. Also a fan of Daragh O’Malley’s Sergeant Harper opposite Sean Bean in the Sharpe series.

    1. Oh right, Mr. Gambon was in Gosford Park too, along w/ my dear Dame Mirren. I REALLY want to see Restless but my friend’s region-free dvd that she bought all the way from Australia cannot play on my Blu-ray 😦

  5. Glad to see Gleeson and Gambon included in the update! I completely forgot about At Swim-Two-Birds, which is one of my most anticipated films in development. I really hope he can get it made.

    My favorite working Irish actors would be Fassbender, Farrell, Ronan, Gleeson, Branagh, Murphy and Neeson. You picked all of ’em. 😉

    1. Hello Josh! Yeah, that’s actually one of the reasons I gotta update my list as I really like both of those actors more so than Brosnan and Rhys-Meyers. We need more Irish actors in Hollywood I’d say 😀

    1. Oh no I don’t forget Mr. Day-Lewis, but though he has British and Irish dual citizenship, he was born in London and grew up there. So even though his dad was part Irish, I consider him an English actor.

  6. My newest favourite Irishman, Aidan Turner… perhaps he’ll make it on your next list? Love Michael Fassbender and since his Mum is Irish and he was raised in Ireland, yes that makes him Irish. Good list!

    1. Hi Helen! Well, once I see more of his work I might. So far I’ve only seen him in The Hobbit. He..he.. I made sure I did my research about Fassy, I do think he qualifies as an Irish lad 😉

  7. Pretty solid list of actors here, Ruth. I didn’t even know about Cillian Murphy and Michael Fassbender being Irish. Huh, whoda thunk? Good stuff! 🙂

    1. Hey thanks Chris! Cillian’s Irish accent in interviews is quite thick, but Fassy only has a slight hint, but yeah, both grew up in Ireland.

  8. Tom

    Very solid compilation, Ruth. Nice work. I might have to add Kevin Connolly to it. He’s on one of my favorite HBO shows, Entourage and plays this little angry and uptight Irish kid nicknamed ‘E’. He’s great. Also directed one of my favorite 30-for-30 doc’s.

    1. Hi there Tom! Thank man. Oh yeah I know who Connolly is, I saw a few eps of Entourage and he is quite funny. But I think he’s Irish American, this list was more for Irish born or bred 😉 I didn’t know about that 30-for-30 doc though.

  9. Fantastic list. Mmm, I didn’t know Ronan was Irish, for some reason I thought she was from down under. 🙂 Very cool to see Ciarán Hinds on your list, I’m a huge fan of Rome and he’s also in my other favourite series Game Of Thrones.

    1. Wow, Ciarán is in GoT too? Boy who ISN’T on that show, ahah. He’s really an underrated actor, I like him in Phantom of the Opera as well which he did right after playing a villain in Lara Croft 2, both starring Gerry Butler 😀

    1. Ahah, well that’s why I had to update this list as I failed to include him in the original one. I LOVE Gleeson and was really looking forward to his directing debut At Swim Two Birds. I hope that happens at some point. Not sure who Aiden Gillen is yet, but I’ll look him up.

        1. Ok I just looked him up. You’re right I do know him, he was in The Dark Knight Rises and Shadow Dancer which was a brilliant film. Someone sent me a trailer for Calvary too, boy I hope that one makes it here to Minnesota!

  10. I didn’t know half of these were irish but love them all! Especially Branagh, Fass, and Murphy! Other than these… I liked Andrew Scott in Sherlock, and D. Gleeson in About Time, but it’s a bit early to call them favourites. I do like Rhys Meyers but… Not so much his movies. Except Match Point!

    1. Hi Sofia, for the longest time I thought Branagh was English too, esp since he was Knighted, but I knew about Fass and Murphy being Irish, esp the latter as he has an Irish lilt when he speaks. I’ve only seen Domhnall Gleeson in a couple of movies, so not yet a favorite but he’s quite good. Rhys Meyers annoyed me at times though I did like him in Bend It Like Beckham.

  11. Really good list. I think my least favorite of the group is Farrell. I don’t know what it is about him but he’s never really impressed me that much. All of the others are fantastic.

    1. I hear ya Keith. I think he’s been hit and miss for me too, but I think he’s a good actor. He was quite good in Minority Report as well.

      Btw, no Phenom 5 this week? 😉

        1. Oh of course I do, that’s one of the best things about Mondays 😉 Btw, did you see my review of Grand Budapest Hotel from Friday? I like it a lot more than Darjeeling Limited 😀

          1. NO!!!! I can remember looking on your site. When did it go up? Apparently I completely missed it on my reader feed. And now that you mentioned it, I think I remember retweeting it. Thanks for mentioning it. That is one I definitely want to read. Still hasn’t opened here yet. Go figure.

            1. Yeah, I posted it on Friday, you can just click from the poster on my sidebar 😀 I was wondering when you’d stop by as I know you’ve been anticipating that one. Hope you see it soon Keith!

              1. So do I. I can’t tell you how frustrated I am since it’s one of my most anticipated of the year. I don’t understand the select releases. I understand when they open it and some of the bigger cities but then when they just barely expand it drives me nuts. This is a movie that has tons of TV spots. It’s not like they’re trying to be low-key about it.

                Anyway, so in my little rant. 🙂

                1. Yeah I know, it is indeed frustrating Keith, I feel your pain. Living in MN we often don’t get certain films until much later after it opens in bigger cities. But there is no reason for this one as it seems so heavily-marketed. Heh, well I hope it opens soon for you.

    1. Hey thanks Fernando! As I’ve mentioned above, Day-Lewis is only part Irish from his dad side, and he was born & raised in London so even though he has double British/Irish citizenship, I don’t think he qualifies on this particular list 😀

  12. Ah, Ciarán Hinds is on Thrones so I’m a fan 🙂 Normally I’d choose Fassbender as my fav but he was very average lately, far from impressive in 12 Years a Slave and on Depp’s level of lazy and tired in Counselor.

    1. I didn’t even know Ciarán was on GoT, has he been there from Season 1? To be honest, I’m not as enamored w/ Fassy as I once did, but I still think he’s worthy to be included in this list.

      1. He joined in last season and he is coming back this year 🙂 He deserves more scenes though, both him and Stephan Dillane.

        Fassy is like the most famous Irish actor nowadays, good for him, but I wish he was more consistent.

        1. Hinds was so excellent in ROME, I wish he’d given his own series! Glad to hear he hasn’t been killed off yet in GoT ahah, and that Prince Oberyn guy hopefully won’t get killed off so soon either 😉

          Yeah Fassy has made it in Hollywood for sure, but for some reason I sort of lost interest in him the more famous he gets. But then again I always go for the more underrated actors.

  13. Whuaaa Great list Ruth!!!
    My Cillian has to be in this list 😉

    Btw, I haven’t seen much Saoirse Ronan lately. I honestly think that she made a better Carrie than that Chloe something

    1. Ha..ha.. of course Cillian has to be on YOUR list. But honestly he is a great actor, I miss seeing him on film, looking forward to seeing him in Transcendence!

      1. Me too!!!!!
        I am dying to see him on big screen again. Sometimes I wish he is more famous so he can be on big movies more often (but there’s also many times I am happy he is not so famous 😉 :

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