136 user 217 critic

Hunger (2008)

Not Rated | | Biography, Drama | 31 October 2008 (UK)
1:33 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

Irish republican Bobby Sands leads the inmates of a Northern Irish prison in a hunger strike.


3,713 ( 285)
45 wins & 32 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Shame (2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

In New York City, Brandon's carefully cultivated private life - which allows him to indulge his sexual addiction - is disrupted when his sister arrives unannounced for an indefinite stay.

Director: Steve McQueen
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale
Fish Tank (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Everything changes for 15-year-old Mia when her mum brings home a new boyfriend.

Director: Andrea Arnold
Stars: Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing
Biography | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A look at how the intense relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gives birth to psychoanalysis.

Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A theatre director struggles with his work, and the women in his life, as he creates a life-size replica of New York City inside a warehouse as part of his new play.

Director: Charlie Kaufman
Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams
Frank II (2014)
Comedy | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Jon, a young wanna-be musician, discovers he's bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank.

Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal
The Master (2012)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams
Amour (2012)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Georges and Anne are an octogenarian couple. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, also a musician, lives in Britain with her family. One day, Anne has a stroke, and the couple's bond of love is severely tested.

Director: Michael Haneke
Stars: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert
Magnolia (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

An epic mosaic of interrelated characters in search of love, forgiveness, and meaning in the San Fernando Valley.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Tom Cruise, Jason Robards, Julianne Moore
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

The relationship of a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods.

Director: Derek Cianfrance
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, John Doman
A Single Man (2009)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

An English professor, one year after the sudden death of his boyfriend, is unable to cope with his typical days in 1960s Los Angeles.

Director: Tom Ford
Stars: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode
Antichrist (2009)
Drama | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

A grieving couple retreat to their cabin in the woods, hoping to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage. But nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse.

Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm
Adaptation. (2002)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A lovelorn screenwriter becomes desperate as he tries and fails to adapt 'The Orchid Thief' by Susan Orlean for the screen.

Director: Spike Jonze
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper


Cast overview, first billed only:
Laine Megaw ...
Frank McCusker ...
Lalor Roddy ...
Helen Madden ...
Des McAleer ...
Geoff Gatt ...
Rory Mullen ...
Ben Peel ...
Helena Bereen ...
Paddy Jenkins ...


Hunger follows life in the Maze Prison, Northern Ireland with an interpretation of the highly emotive events surrounding the 1981 IRA Hunger Strike, led by Bobby Sands. With an epic eye for detail, the film provides a timely exploration of what happens when body and mind are pushed to the uttermost limit. Written by Icon

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A compelling and unforgettable portrayal of life within the maze prison at the time of 1981 IRA hunger strike. See more »


Biography | Drama


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

31 October 2008 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Fome  »

Box Office


£1,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£136,413 (UK) (31 October 2008)


$154,084 (USA) (5 June 2009)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Bobby Sands first appears on screen 26 minutes into the film. See more »


Raymond Lohan's Ford Granada is a Mk2 Facelift, which was released in winter 1981 and would've appeared on Irish roads in 1982. See more »


Father Dominic Moran: Priest: "I want to know whether your intent is just purely to commit suicide here."
Bobby Sands: Bobby Sands: "You want me to argue about the morality of what I'm about to do and whether it's really suicide or not? For one, you're calling it suicide. I call it murder. And that's just another wee difference between us two. We're both Catholic men, both Republicans. But while you were poaching salmon in beautiful Kilrea, we were being burnt out of our house in Rathcoole. Similar in many ways, Dom, but life ...
See more »


Referenced in Brows Held High: Shame (2013) See more »


Performed by Maya Beiser
Composed by Michael Gordon
Published by Red Poppy in association with G. Schirmir, Inc.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A powerful and relevant look at recent British history
25 September 2008 | by (Berkeley, California) – See all my reviews

Steve McQueen, a noted young British artist, has made a powerful first film about the Irish prisoners in H-Block of Maze Prison, Northern Ireland, and the hunger strike and death of Bobby Sands in 1981. The images are searing, both horrible and beautiful (McQueen is aware from Goya that images of war can be both), and much of the film is non-verbal, but the action is broken up by a centerpiece tour-de-force debate between Sands (Michael Fassbender) and Father Dominic Moran (Liam Cunningham) that is as intensely verbal as the rest is wordless. In Irish playwright Enda Walsh's rapid-fire dialogue quips are exchanged, then passionate declarations, in a duel that's like a killer tennis match: watching, we listen, and the camera, hitherto ceaselessly in motion, becomes still. Hunger, with its rich language, intense images, and devastating story, is surely one of the best English-language of the year, and it understandably won the Camera d'Or at Cannes for the best first film. Like the American Julian Schnabel, Steve McQueen is another visual artist who has turned out to be an astonishingly good filmmaker.

Faithful to the physical details of the H-blocks and the treatment of the prisoners, the film is still honed down to essentials and includes a series of sequences so intense it may take viewers a long time to digest them. As the film opens, an officer of the prison, Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham), follows his normal routine. His knuckles are bloody and painful; later we learn why. His wife brings him sausage, rasher, and eggs.

Davey Gillen (Brian Milligan) a young Irish republican prisoner, tall, gaunt, and Christ-like, is brought into the prison. He refuses to wear the prison uniform, so, joining the Blanket protest, he's put in with fellow "non-conforming" prisoner Gerry Campbell (Liam McMahon) in a cell whose walls are smeared with feces. Those of us who were around when these events happened (Steve McQueen was 12, and remembers the coverage), remember them so well we could have seen these walls. Campbell shows Gillen hot to receive "comms" (communications) from visitors and pass them to their leader Bobby Sands at Sunday mass.

When prisoners agree to wear civilian garments, they're mocked by the "clown clothes" they're handed out and riot, screaming and yelling and tearing up everything in their cells. They also periodically collect their urine and pour it under their cell doors out into the prison hallway where the guards must walk. The result is a brutal punishment by the prison in which the prisoners are taken out to the hallway and beaten naked by a gauntlet of police in riot gear. An eventual repercussion is that Raymond Lohan is shot dead while visiting his catatonic mother in a home.

A poetic flourish of the meeting between Sands and Father Moran is Sands's story of going to the country as a Belfast boy on the cross country team and going down to a woods and a stream where he is the only one who dares to put a dying foal out of its misery by drowning it. The images this tale evoke become the objective correlative of Bobby's last thoughts when he is dying in the prison hospital.

The central issue was being treated as political prisoners. From 1972, paramilitary prisoners had held some of the rights of prisoners of war. This ended in March 1976 and the republican prisoners were sent to the new Maze Prison and its "H-blocks" near Belfast. Special Category Status for prisoners convicted of terrorist crimes was abolished by the English government. Hunger doesn't focus on ideology or public policy, other than to have the voice of Margaret Thatcher, in several orotund declarations, adamantly denying the validity of the republicans' cause or status. The Sands-Moran debate is more about feelings and tactics.

Another powerful contrast comes when Sand goes on the hunger strike and is taken to the clean, quiet setting of the hospital where he is lovingly cared for and visited by a good friend and his parents, who're even allowed to sleep there during his last days. Sands' condition is dramatic, heightened by horrible sores, and a report to his parents of the rapid damage to internal organs and heart that his fast will cause.

It was McQueen's decision to eschew a screenwriter in favor of a playwright for the script, and his choice of his near-contemporary Enda Walsh, an Irishman resident in London, was a wise one. McQueen determined the structure and inspired the paring down. Walsh makes the central verbal scene sing. Its intensity is such that it has no trouble at all competing with the harsh prison scenes. It is brilliant stroke. Great theater you could say, but the film's contribution is to make the whole train of events alive and human at a time when they are acutely relevant to the post 9/11 world of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

Shown at Cannes, Telluride, and Toronto, included in the New York Film Festival 2008.

36 of 55 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Best Uncomfortable movies to watch i_m_pita_and
sympathy for sands? ogiekeaney
Good movie but that conversation scene was way too long Randomember
anyone felt bad for the guards carlaisthe
Was Sands a Terrorist? faulknerfan123
Can someone explain this to me? AlexanderSupertramp
Discuss Hunger (2008) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page