Barbie movie added to Leaving Cert English curriculum for 2026

Also featured on the syllabus is Once Before I Go, an Irish queer play created by Phillip McMahon.

A still from the Barbie movie, which is being added to the Leaving Cert curriculum. The photo shows Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) from the chest up, dressed in cowboy hats, pink neckerchiefs and cowboy shirts.
Image: @ryangoslingpics via X

The Barbie movie is being added to the Leaving Cert English curriculum for 2026. Secondary school students in Ireland will have the option of studying Greta Gerwig’s record-breaking blockbuster and comparing the film’s cultural context, literary genre or general vision and viewpoint to other prescribed texts.

Barbie’s addition comes following its 2023 release when it became Ireland’s highest-grossing film of all time. The movie earned €9,934,064 in box office receipts across the country, while also smashing records worldwide. It joins seven other films on the syllabus, including Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, Franks Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption, Deniz Gamze Ergûven’s Mustang, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, Asif Kapadia’s Diego Maradona, Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront and Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin.


Elsewhere, Phillip McMahon’s Once Before I Go remains on the syllabus having initially been added for the 2025 exam. Similar to Barbie, the queer Irish play features in the comparative section of the English Leaving Cert course for both Higher and Ordinary level students.

Having first premiered in October 2021, Once Before I Go charts 40 turbulent years of LGBTQ+ existence across Dublin, London and Paris, in a show that sits on the edge between comedy, tragedy and melodrama. 

Speaking to GCN last year after the play was added to the curriculum, McMahon said: “It shows how far education and Ireland has come when it comes to platforming and showcasing LGBTQ+ voices. I’m personally taking this as a win for working-class and queer artists and look forward to engaging with students across Ireland in the next couple of years.”

The list of selected books, films, poems and plays for the 2026 Leaving Cert was published by the Department of Education on Monday, February 19. The material is chosen by a working group in the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and is regularly updated to remain current. While the texts are prescribed, they are not compulsory and it is up to respective schools and teachers to decide what their pupils will study.

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