Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mel Gibson|
|Produced by||Mel Gibson
Alan Ladd, Jr.
|Written by||Randall Wallace|
|Narrated by||Angus Macfadyen
Mel Gibson (final battle)
|Music by||James Horner|
|Edited by||Steven Rosenblum|
The Ladd Company
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures
(USA & Canada)
20th Century Fox
|Running time||177 minutes|
Braveheart is a 1995 epic historical drama war film directed by and starring Mel Gibson. Gibson portrays William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish warrior who led the Scots in the First War of Scottish Independence against King Edward I of England. The story is based on Blind Harry's epic poem The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace and was adapted for the screen by Randall Wallace. It has been described as one of the most historically inaccurate modern films.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Soundtrack
- 5 Release and reception
- 6 Historical inaccuracy
- 7 Accusations of Anglophobia
- 8 References
- 9 External links
In 1280, King Edward "Longshanks" (Patrick Mcgoohan) invades and conquers Scotland following the death of Alexander III of Scotland who left no heir to the throne. Young William Wallace witnesses the treachery of Longshanks, survives the death of his father and brother, and is taken abroad to Rome by his Uncle Argyle (Brian Cox) where he is educated. Years later, Longshanks grants his noblemen land and privileges in Scotland, including "Prima Nocte", or the right of the lord to have sex with female subjects on their wedding nights. When he returns home, Wallace (Mel Gibson) falls in love with his childhood friend, Murron MacClannough (Catherine McCormack), and they marry in secret so she does not have to spend a night in the bed with the English lord. Wallace rescues Murron from being raped by English soldiers; as a consequence, Murron is captured and publicly executed. In retribution, Wallace slaughters the English garrison and sends the occupying garrison at Lanark back to England.
This enrages Longshanks, who orders his son, Prince Edward, to stop Wallace by any means necessary. Wallace rebels against the English, and as his legend spreads, hundreds of Scots from the surrounding clans join him. On September 11, 1297, Wallace leads his army to victory at Stirling and then sacks the city of York, killing Longshanks' nephew and sending his head back. Wallace seeks the assistance of Robert the Bruce (Angus Macfadyen), the son of nobleman Robert the Elder (Ian Bannen) and a contender for the Scottish crown. Robert is dominated by his father, who wishes to secure the throne for his son by submitting to the English. Worried by the threat of the rebellion, Longshanks sends his son's wife, Isabella of France (Sophie Marceau) to try to negotiate with Wallace, hoping that Wallace will kill her in order to draw the French king to declare war. Wallace refuses the bribe sent with Isabella by Longshanks, but after meeting him in person, Isabella becomes enamored with him. Meanwhile, Longshanks prepares an army to invade Scotland.
Warned of the coming invasion by Isabella, Wallace implores the Scottish nobility that immediate action is needed to counter the threat and to take back the country. Leading the English army himself, Longshanks confronts the Scots at Falkirk on July 22, 1298 where noblemen Lochlan and Mornay betray Wallace. The Scots lose the battle, Morrison and Hamish's father die at the battle. As he charges toward the departing Longshanks on horseback, Wallace is intercepted by one of the king's lancers, who turns out to be Robert. Remorseful, he gets Wallace to safety before the English can capture him. Wallace kills Mornay and Lochlan for their betrayal, and wages a guerrilla war against the English for the next seven years, assisted by Isabella, with whom he eventually has an affair. Robert, intending to join Wallace and commit troops to the war, sets up a meeting with him in Edinburgh. However, Robert's father has conspired with other nobles to capture and hand over Wallace to the English. Learning of his treachery, Robert disowns his father. Isabella exacts revenge on the now terminally ill Longshanks by telling him she is pregnant with Wallace's child, intent on ending Longshanks' line and ruling in his son's place.
In London, Wallace is brought before an English magistrate, tried for high treason, and condemned to public torture and beheading. Even whilst being hanged, drawn and quartered, Wallace refuses to beg for mercy and submit to the king. As cries for mercy come from the watching crowd deeply moved by the Scotsman's valor, the magistrate offers him one final chance, asking him only to utter the word "Mercy" and be granted a quick death. Wallace instead shouts the word "Freedom!" and the judge orders his death. Moments before being decapitated, Wallace sees a vision of Murron in the crowd, smiling at him.
In 1314, Robert, now Scotland's king, leads a Scottish army before a ceremonial line of English troops on the fields of Bannockburn where he is to formally accept English rule. As he begins to ride toward the English, he stops and invokes Wallace's memory, imploring his men to fight with him as they did with Wallace. Robert then leads his army into battle against the stunned English, winning the Scots their freedom.
- Mel Gibson as William Wallace
- James Robinson as young William Wallace
- Sophie Marceau as Princess Isabella of France
- Patrick McGoohan as King Edward "Longshanks"
- Catherine McCormack as Murron MacClannough
- Mhairi Calvey as young Murron
- Angus Macfadyen as Robert the Bruce
- Brendan Gleeson as Hamish
- Andrew Weir as young Hamish
- James Cosmo as Campbell
- David O'Hara as Stephen of Ireland
- Peter Hanly as Prince Edward
- Ian Bannen as Bruce's father
- Seán McGinley as MacClannough
- Brian Cox as Argyle Wallace
- Sean Lawlor as Malcolm Wallace
- Sandy Nelson as John Wallace
- Stephen Billington as Phillip
- John Kavanagh as Craig
- Alun Armstrong as Mornay
- Tommy Flanagan as Morrison
- Michael Byrne as Smythe
- Malcolm Tierney as Magistrate
- Peter Mullan as Veteran
- Gerard McSorley as Hugh de Cressingham
- Richard Leaf as Governor of York
- Mark Lees as Old Crippled Scotsman
Gibson's production company, Icon Productions had difficulty raising enough money even if he were to star in the film. Warner Bros. was willing to fund the project on the condition that Gibson sign for another Lethal Weapon sequel, which he refused. Paramount Pictures only agreed to American and Canadian distribution of Braveheart after 20th Century Fox partnered for international rights.
While the crew spent six weeks shooting on location in Scotland, the major battle scenes were shot in Ireland using members of the Irish Army Reserve as extras. To lower costs, Gibson had the same extras portray both armies. The opposing armies are made up of reservists, up to 1,600 in some scenes, who had been given permission to grow beards and swapped their drab uniforms for medieval garb.
The score was composed and conducted by James Horner and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. It is Horner's second of three collaborations with Mel Gibson as director. The score has gone on to be one of the most commercially successful soundtracks of all time. It received considerable acclaim from film critics and audiences and was nominated for a number of awards, including the Academy Award, Saturn Award, BAFTA Award, and Golden Globe Award.
Release and reception
On its opening weekend, Braveheart grossed $9,938,276 in the United States and $75.6 million in its box office run in the U.S. and Canada. Worldwide, the film grossed $210,409,945 and was the thirteenth highest-grossing film of 1995.
Braveheart met with generally positive reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 78% with an average score of 7.2/10. The film's depiction of the Battle of Stirling Bridge was listed by CNN as one of the best battles in cinema history. In his review, Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 stars out of four, writing: "An action epic with the spirit of the Hollywood swordplay classics and the grungy ferocity of 'The Road Warrior'."
In a 2005 poll by British film magazine Empire, Braveheart was No. 1 on their list of "The Top 10 Worst Pictures to Win Best Picture Oscar". Scottish actor and comedian Billy Connolly claimed Braveheart was "a great piece of work".
Effect on tourism
In 1996, the year after the film was released, the annual three-day "Braveheart Conference" at Stirling Castle attracted fans of Braveheart, increasing the conference's attendance to 167,000 from 66,000 in the previous year. In the following year, research on visitors to the Stirling area indicated that 55% of the visitors had seen Braveheart. Of visitors from outside Scotland, 15% of those who saw Braveheart said it influenced their decision to visit the country. Of all visitors who saw Braveheart, 39% said the film influenced in part their decision to visit Stirling, and 19% said the film was one of the main reasons for their visit. In the same year, a tourism report said that the "Braveheart effect" earned Scotland ₤7 million to ₤15 million in tourist revenue, and the report led to various national organizations encouraging international film productions to take place in Scotland.
The film generated huge interest in Scotland and in Scottish history, not only around the world, but also in Scotland itself. Fans came from all over the world to see the places in Scotland where William Wallace fought, also to the places in Scotland and Ireland used as locations in the film. At a Braveheart Convention in 1997, held in Stirling the day after the Scottish Devolution vote and attended by 200 delegates from around the world, Braveheart author Randall Wallace, Seoras Wallace of the Wallace Clan, Scottish historian David Ross and Bláithín FitzGerald from Ireland gave lectures on various aspects of the film. Several of the actors also attended including James Robinson (Young William), Andrew Weir (Young Hamish), Julie Austin (the young bride) and Mhairi Calvey (Young Murron).
Awards and honors
Braveheart was nominated for many awards during the 1995 Oscar season, though it wasn't viewed by many as a major contender such as Apollo 13, Il Postino: The Postman, Leaving Las Vegas, Sense and Sensibility, and The Usual Suspects. It wasn't until after the film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Director at the 53rd Golden Globe Awards that it was viewed as a serious Oscar contender. When the nominations were announced for the 68th Academy Awards, Braveheart received ten Academy Award nominations, and a month later, won five.
- American Film Institute lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – No. 91
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains:
- William Wallace – Nominated Hero
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "They may take away our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!" – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers – No. 62
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 – Nominated Epic Film
In 1997, a 12-ton sandstone statue depicting Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart was placed in the car park of the Wallace Monument near Stirling, Scotland. The statue, which was the work of Tom Church, a monumental mason from Brechin, included the word "Braveheart" on Wallace's shield. The installation became the cause of much controversy; one local resident stated that it was wrong to "desecrate the main memorial to Wallace with a lump of crap." In 1998 the face on the statue was vandalised by someone wielding a hammer. After repairs were made, the statue was encased in a cage every night to prevent further vandalism. This only incited more calls for the statue to be removed as it then appeared that the Gibson/Wallace figure was imprisoned. The statue was described as "among the most loathed pieces of public art in Scotland." In 2008, the statue was returned to its sculptor to make room for a new visitor centre being built at the foot of the Wallace Monument.
Randall Wallace, the writer of the screenplay, has acknowledged Blind Harry's 15th century epic poem The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace, Knight of Elderslie as a major inspiration for the film. In defending his script, Randall Wallace has said, "Is Blind Harry true? I don't know. I know that it spoke to my heart and that's what matters to me, that it spoke to my heart." Blind Harry's poem is not now regarded as historically accurate, and although some incidents in the film which are not historically accurate are taken from Blind Harry (e.g. the hanging of Scots nobles at the start) there are large parts which are based neither on history nor Blind Harry (e.g. Wallace's affair with Princess Isabelle). In addition, the film portrays the battle of Bannockburn as an unplanned, spontaneous final stand when in fact it was a planned and organised battle which was won by Robert the Bruce. Furthermore, Wallace's narration in the final scene: "they fought like warrior poets...and won their freedom." could ambiguously imply that the Scottish army went down fighting and all of them died when actually, the English suffered greater casualties.
Elizabeth Ewan describes Braveheart as a film which "almost totally sacrifices historical accuracy for epic adventure". The "brave heart" refers in Scottish history to that of Robert the Bruce, and an attribution by William Edmondstoune Aytoun, in his poem Heart of Bruce, to Sir James the Good: "Pass thee first, thou dauntless heart, As thou wert wont of yore!", prior to Douglas's demise at the Battle of Teba in Andalusia.
Sharon Krossa notes that the film contains numerous historical errors, beginning with the wearing of belted plaid by Wallace and his men. In that period "no Scots ... wore belted plaids (let alone kilts of any kind)." Moreover, when Highlanders finally did begin wearing the belted plaid, it was not "in the rather bizarre style depicted in the film." She compares the inaccuracy to "a film about Colonial America showing the colonial men wearing 20th century business suits, but with the jackets worn back-to-front instead of the right way around." "The events aren't accurate, the dates aren't accurate, the characters aren't accurate, the names aren't accurate, the clothes aren't accurate—in short, just about nothing is accurate." The belted plaid (feileadh mór léine) was not introduced until the 16th century. Peter Traquair has referred to Wallace's "farcical representation as a wild and hairy highlander painted with woad (1,000 years too late) running amok in a tartan kilt (500 years too early)." 
In 2009, the film was second on a list of "most historically inaccurate movies" in The Times. In the 2007 humorous non-fictional historiography An Utterly Impartial History of Britain, author John O'Farrell notes that Braveheart could not have been more historically inaccurate, even if a "Plasticine dog" had been inserted in the film and the title changed to William Wallace and Gromit.
Randall Wallace has defended his script from historians who have dismissed the film as a Hollywood perversion of actual events. In the DVD audio commentary of Braveheart, Mel Gibson acknowledges many of the historical inaccuracies but defends his choices as director, noting that the way events were portrayed in the film was much more "cinematically compelling" than the historical fact or conventional mythos.
Jus Primae Noctis
Edward Longshanks, King of England, is shown invoking the right of Jus Primae Noctis, allowing the Lord of a medieval estate to take the virginity of his serfs' maiden daughters. Critical medieval scholarship regards this supposed right as a myth, "the simple reason why we are dealing with a myth here rests in the surprising fact that practically all writers who make any such claims have never been able or willing to cite any trustworthy source, if they have any."
Occupation and independence
The film suggests Scotland had been under English occupation for some time, at least during Wallace’s childhood, and in the run-up to the Battle of Falkirk Wallace says to the younger Bruce “we can have what we never had before; a country of our own”. In fact Scotland had been invaded by England only the year before Wallace's rebellion; prior to the death of King Alexander III it had been a fully separate kingdom.
Portrayal of William Wallace
As John Shelton Lawrence and Robert Jewett write, "Because [William] Wallace is one of Scotland's most important national heroes and because he lived in the very distant past, much that is believed about him is probably the stuff of legend. But there is a factual strand that historians agree to", summarized from Scots scholar Matt Ewart:
Wallace was born into the gentry of Scotland; his father lived until he was 18, his mother until his 24th year; he killed the sheriff of Lanark when he was 27, apparently after the murder of his wife; he led a group of commoners against the English in a very successful battle at Stirling in 1297, temporarily receiving appointment as guardian; Wallace's reputation as a military leader was ruined in the same year of 1297, leading to his resignation as guardian; he spent several years of exile in France before being captured by the English at Glasgow, this resulting in his trial for treason and his cruel execution.
A.E. Christa Canitz writes about the historical William Wallace further: "[He] was a younger son of the Scottish gentry, usually accompanied by his own chaplain, well-educated, and eventually, having been appointed Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland, engaged in diplomatic correspondence with the Hanseatic cities of Lübeck and Hamburg". She finds that in Braveheart, "any hint of his descent from the lowland gentry (i.e., the lesser nobility) is erased, and he is presented as an economically and politically marginalized Highlander and 'a farmer'—as one with the common peasant, and with a strong spiritual connection to the land which he is destined to liberate."
Colin McArthur writes that Braveheart "constructs Wallace as a kind of modern, nationalist guerrilla leader in a period half a millennium before the appearance of nationalism on the historical stage as a concept under which disparate classes and interests might be mobilised within a nation state." Writing about Braveheart's "omissions of verified historical facts", McArthur notes that Wallace made "overtures to Edward I seeking less severe treatment after his defeat at Falkirk", as well as "the well-documented fact of Wallace's having resorted to conscription and his willingness to hang those who refused to serve." Canitz posits that depicting "such lack of class solidarity" as the conscriptions and related hangings "would contaminate the movie's image of Wallace as the morally irreproachable primus inter pares among his peasant fighters."
Portrayal of Isabella of France
Isabella of France is shown having an affair with Wallace prior to the Battle of Falkirk. She later tells Edward I that she is pregnant, implying that her son, Edward III, was a product of the affair. In reality, Isabella was three years old and living in France at the time of the Battle of Falkirk, was not married to Edward II until he was already king, and Edward III was born seven years after Wallace died. (This aspect of the plot may however have been inspired by the play The Wallace: a triumph in five acts by Sydney Goodsir Smith, which unhistorically has Isabella present at the Battle of Falkirk longing for a "real man".)
At that time it would also have been unusual to send a woman on a diplomatic mission into a war zone, and she would have been risking imprisonment or execution by admitting that she was carrying a child which was not her husband's. (See the Tour de Nesle Affair and the fate of two of Henry VIII's wives.)
Portrayal of Robert the Bruce
Robert the Bruce did change sides between the Scots loyalists and the English more than once in the earlier stages of the Wars of Scottish Independence, but he never betrayed Wallace directly, and he probably did not fight on the English side at the Battle of Falkirk (although this claim is made by one important mediaeval source, John of Fordun's chronicle). Later, the Battle of Bannockburn was not a spontaneous battle; he had already been fighting a guerrilla campaign against the English for eight years. His title before becoming king was Earl of Carrick, not Earl of Bruce.
Portrayal of Longshanks and Prince Edward
The actual Edward I was ruthless and temperamental, but the film exaggerates his character for effect. Edward enjoyed poetry and harp music, was a devoted and loving husband to his wife Eleanor of Castile, and as a religious man he gave generously to charity. The film's scene where he scoffs cynically at Isabella for distributing gold to the poor after Wallace refuses it as a bribe would have been unlikely. Edward died on campaign and not in bed at his home.
We cut a scene out, unfortunately. . . where you really got to know that character [Edward II] and to understand his plight and his pain. . . . But it just stopped the film in the first act so much that you thought, 'When's this story going to start?'[better source needed]
The actual Edward II, who fathered five children by two different women, was rumoured to have had sexual affairs with men, including Piers Gaveston who lived on into the reign of Edward II. The Prince's male lover Phillip was loosely based on Piers Gaveston.
Gibson defended his depiction of Prince Edward as weak and ineffectual, saying,
I'm just trying to respond to history. You can cite other examples – Alexander the Great, for example, who conquered the entire world, was also a homosexual. But this story isn't about Alexander the Great. It's about Edward II.
In response to Longshank's defenestration of the Prince's male lover Phillip, Gibson replied that "The fact that King Edward throws this character out a window has nothing to do with him being gay ... He's terrible to his son, to everybody." Gibson asserted that the reason that Longshanks kills his son's lover is because the king is a "psychopath". Gibson expressed bewilderment that some filmgoers would laugh at this murder.
Wallace's military campaign
The reference to "MacGregors from the next glen" joining Wallace shortly after the action at Lanark is dubious, since it is questionable whether Clan Gregor existed at that stage, and when they did emerge their traditional home was Glen Orchy, some distance from Lanark.
Wallace did win an important victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, but the version in Braveheart is highly inaccurate, as it was filmed without a bridge (and without Andrew Moray, joint commander of the Scots army, who was fatally injured in the battle). Later, Wallace did carry out a large-scale raid into the north of England, but he did not get as far south as York, nor did he kill Longshanks' nephew. (However this was not as wide off the mark as Blind Harry, who has Wallace making it to the outskirts of London, and only refraining from attacking the city after an appeal by the Mayor's wife.)
The "Irish conscripts" at the Battle of Falkirk are also unhistorical, there were no Irish troops at Falkirk (although many of the English army were actually Welsh) and it is anachronistic to refer to conscripts in the Middle Ages (although there were feudal levies).
Accusations of Anglophobia
Sections of the English media accused the film of harbouring Anglophobia. The Economist called it "xenophobic" and John Sutherland writing in The Guardian stated that: "Braveheart gave full rein to a toxic Anglophobia". According to The Times, MacArthur said "the political effects are truly pernicious. It’s a xenophobic film." The Independent has noted, "The Braveheart phenomenon, a Hollywood-inspired rise in Scottish nationalism, has been linked to a rise in anti-English prejudice". Contemporary Scottish writer and commentator Douglas Murray has described the film as "strangely racist and anti-English".
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- Roger Ebert's review of Braveheart