In 2009’s Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince, a dazzling sequence filmed at Clare’s Cliffs of Moher showing Harry and Professor Dumbledore flying across the towering natural edifice became a YouTube hit even before the film was released. “This type of exposure is invaluable for the profile of the Cliffs of Moher worldwide, and a massive boost to tourism,” said Katherine Webster, director of the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience.
Before director David Lean and his stars Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles, and Trevor Howard arrived in the sleepy village of Dingle in 1969, the town didn’t rate a mention in most guide books. Forty years later, bus tours of eager tourists continue to arrive seeking the famous locations in the Oscar-winning film.
Frank McCourt’s grim picture of his impoverished youth in Limerick became a literary phenomenon that struck a nerve with a global audience. After the film’s release in 1999, tourists began arriving in search of those rain-sodden alleys McCourt so vividly painted.
The 1931 documentary by Robert J Flaherty was one of the earliest Irish films to find an international audience. Portraying a lost generation surviving the unrelenting Atlantic storms to eke out a living growing spuds on stony soil and hunting basking sharks as a source of oil for their lamps, it delivered a vision of Ireland that Americans, in particular, took to their hearts.
One of the biggest “blarney and begorrah” movies, Barry Fitzgerald led the brawling and the break-ups with John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, and Victor McLaglen in this 1952 hit helmed by John Ford. The movie was hugely influential in putting Connemara and Cong on the international tourist map. Even in 2013, The Quiet Man is a regular feature in US adverts for the Emerald Isle.
A scene from John Ford’s ‘The Quiet Man’
With Ireland doubling for Scotland in a 1995 blockbuster that netted a bag of Oscars, Mel Gibson demonstrated his multi-tasking talents as actor, director, and producer in a movie where practically the whole of the Irish army picked up some decent overtime killing each other across the plains of the Royal County. All the locations are still among the most popular on tourist bus tours from the capital.
Liam Neeson as the Big Fellow led an all-star cast in director Neil Jordan’s 1996 modernist take on the War of Independence and the bloody aftermath which pitched brother against brother. Despite poor box office overseas, Americans still roam the cobblestones of Dublin Castle and the Four Courts retracing Collins’s last steps and his doomed romance with Kitty O’Shea.
Liam Neeson as the Big Fellow in ‘Michael Collins’
Stanley Kubrick’s lush tale of an aristocratic social climber prodded by an Irish mammy to his ultimate demise was filmed around Powerscourt House in 1974, just months before the mansion was destroyed by fire. The film is a record of its lost interiors, particularly the grand salon, which featured in a number of scenes.
Steven Spielberg found Normandy’s twin on Curracloe Beach as the location for some of the most harrowing war footage ever filmed in his 1998 epic about D-Day. Appealing to the descendants of “the greatest generation” who gave their lives in the Second World War, the south-east location remains a regular stop for busloads of battlefield visitors.
‘Saving Private Ryan’ was filmed in Wexford
Set around the panoramic vistas of Ballyvourney, Timoleague, and Coolea this award-winning War of Independence tale took top honours at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006 — and, in the process, doubled as a two-hour advert for the south of Ireland’s mist-shrouded valleys and hills.