Cinema of Scotland

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Scotland has produced many films, directors and actors.

Scottish film directors[edit]

Scotland has also been the birthplace of many film directors, some of whom have won multiple awards or enjoy a cult reputation.

May Miles Thomas is one of these multi award-winning Scottish directors, having won Best Film, Best Director, Best Writer and Best Performance at the BAFTA New Talent Awards and Best Achievement in Production at the British Independent Film Awards for her film One Life Stand. Thomas also won the prestigious Scottish Screen Outstanding Achievement Award and was recognised as a pioneer of digital cinema for this film, for which she received a NESTA Fellowship.

Bill Forsyth is a director and writer noted for his commitment to national film-making. His best-known work is Gregory's Girl, which won an award for Best Screenplay at the BAFTA Awards.

Paul McGuigan is another Scottish director who has won awards for his work. His 2006 thriller Lucky Number Slevin, which featured an all-star cast, received awards for both Best Film and Best Actor (Josh Hartnett) at the Milan International Film Festival. It has since been recognized as a cult film.

Donald Cammell has a cult following due to his work on Performance (1970), which was co-directed by English film director Nicolas Roeg and featured Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones fame.

List of Scottish film directors[edit]

Scottish movie & TV actors[edit]

There are a significant number of actors who have been born in Scotland and went on to have international success. Among these is Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and BAFTA Award winning actor Sean Connery, who famously portrayed James Bond in seven of the earliest Bond movies.

Scottish actor Ewan McGregor has had success in mainstream, indie and art house films. He is perhaps best known for his role as Mark Renton in Danny Boyle's 1996 film Trainspotting, for which he won a BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, or for portraying the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. In October 1997 he was ranked 36th in Empire magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list.

James McAvoy is a BAFTA Rising Star Award winning Scottish stage and screen actor. He has featured in a number of films, including 2007's BAFTA Award-winning The Last King of Scotland and Disney's highest-grossing live action film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. McAvoy was nominated for a Golden Globe for his work in 2007's Atonement. He has also made appearances in British TV series such as Shameless and Early Doors.

Actor, comedian and author Robbie Coltrane, widely known for his role as Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter series of films, is another BAFTA Award-winning actor from Scotland. He was voted 6th in a poll to find the 'most famous Scot' and placed 10th in ITV's list of "TV's Greatest Stars."

David Tennant is a multi award-winning Scottish actor best known for his role in Doctor Who as the 10th incarnation of the Doctor. He has also featured in numerous other television shows, movies, theatre productions and radio dramas.

Kelly Macdonald is a Scottish Emmy Award winning and Screen Actors Guild Award-winning actress. She has starred in many notable films, including Trainspotting alongside Ewan McGregor, the Coen brothersNo Country for Old Men and the science fiction comedy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Brian Cox, CBE is an Emmy Award-winning Scottish actor. He is perhaps best known for portraying Hannibal Lecter in the 1986 thriller Manhunter, and has since become a familiar face in film and television. He is also known for his work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he gained great recognition for his portrayal of King Lear.

Some of the best-known Scottish actors include:

Scottish Film Council[edit]

The Scottish Film Council was established in 1934 as the national body for film in Scotland. Its founding aim was to 'improve and extend the use in Scotland of films for cultural and educational purposes and to raise the Scottish standard in the public appreciation of films'. A strong focus on film in the service of education, industry and the betterment of society shaped the SFC for a considerable part of its history and it was this that led to the establishment of the Scottish Central Film Library (SCFL), one of the largest and most successful 16mm film libraries in Europe. The Council's strengths in educational film led in the 1970s to its incorporation as a division of the newly created Scottish Council for Educational Technology (SCET).[1]

From the late 1960s, the SFC's central strategy was to take and sustain major initiatives in each of four main areas where the health of a national film culture could most readily be measured: education, exhibition, production and archiving.[2] It made use of the British Film Institute's 'Outside London' initiative to set up Regional Film Theatres (RFT) across Scotland. Established in collaboration with local authorities, these were to become more important in the Scottish context than elsewhere in the UK. A commitment to engage with film producers led to the SFC's involvement in film training, through the setting up of the Technician Training Scheme and later the Scottish Film Training Trust, both of which were joint ventures with the Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians and producers.[1]

In the late 1970s, the SFC used Job Creation Scheme funding to establish the Scottish Film Archive. Though initially conceived as a short-term exercise, its value was soon recognised and on the exhaustion of the original funding a Scottish Education Department (SED) grant was forthcoming to secure the Archive as a permanent part of the SFC's work.[1]

During the 1980s, SED funding allowed the SFC to support courses, events, the production of material for media education, Regional Film Theatre operations in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Inverness and Kirkcaldy, film societies, community cinemas, the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the Celtic Film and Television Festival, the Scottish Film Archive, film workshops, general information services and a range of other initiatives.[2]

Scottish Screen[edit]

In April 1997, the Scottish Film Council, Scottish Screen Locations, Scottish Broadcast and Film Training and the Scottish Film Production Fund merged to form the non-departmental government body Scottish Screen. The Scottish Film Archive was renamed the Scottish Screen Archive.

In 2007, Scottish Screen merged with the Scottish Arts Council to form Creative Scotland and the Scottish Screen Archive transferred to the National Library of Scotland. In September 2015, the name of the Scottish Screen Archive changed to the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive.

Scots-language films[edit]

Scottish Gaelic language films[edit]

Scottish films[edit]

Scotland's success as a film industry can also be seen through its national films. Films such as 1982's BAFTA Award-winning Gregory's Girl have helped gain Scotland recognition. Despite its low budget, it has still managed to achieve success throughout the world. 1983's Local Hero, which was rated in the top 100 films of the 1980s in a Premiere magazine recap of the decade and received overwhelmingly positive reviews (it holds a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes).

Movies filmed in Scotland[edit]

Braveheart (1995) was filmed, shot and set in Scotland. It has become one of the highest-grossing films to be associated with Scottish cinema

On top of the works created by Scottish directors, there have been many successful non-Scottish films shot in Scotland. Mel Gibson’s Academy Award-winning Braveheart is perhaps the best-known and most commercially successful of these, having grossed $350,000,000 worldwide. The film won 5 Academy Awards, including ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Director’ and was nominated for additional awards. The film's depiction of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, which the plot of the film surrounds, is often regarded as one of the greatest movie battles in cinema history.[citation needed]

Other notable films to have been shot at least partly in Scotland include Dog Soldiers, Highlander and Trainspotting and Stardust.

List of movies filmed in Scotland[edit]

2001: A Space Odyssey
633 Squadron


A Man Called Peter
A Shot at Glory
The Acid House
The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby
Ae Fond Kiss
American Cousins
The Amorous Prawn
The Angels' Share
Another Time, Another Place
Around the World in 80 Days
Astérix et Obélix contre César
Attack of the Herbals
Avengers: Infinity War
Avengers: Endgame


The Battle of the Sexes
Beautiful Creatures
Being Human
The Big Tease
Blind Flight
Blue Black Permanent
Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius
Bonnie Prince Charlie
Breaking the Waves
The Bridal Path
The Brothers
The Bruce


Carla's Song
Carry On Regardless
Casino Royale
Chariots of Fire
Charlotte Gray
Chasing the Deer
Cloud Atlas (2013)
Comfort and Joy
Country Dance


The Da Vinci Code
Dear Frankie
Death Watch
The Debt Collector
The Descent
Dog Soldiers
Double X: The Name of the Game
The Duellists


The Eagle
The Edge of the World
The Evil Beneath Loch Ness
Eye of the Needle


Flash Gordon
The Flying Scotsman
The Flying Scotsman
From the Island
From Russia with Love


The Governess
Gregory's Girl
Gregory's Two Girls
Greyfriars Bobby


Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Heavenly Pursuits
Highlander III: The Sorcerer
Highlander: Endgame
Hold back the Night
The House of Mirth


Ill fares the Land
I Know Where I'm Going!
In a Man's World
In Search of La Che
Incident at Loch Ness


The Jacket
Journey to the Center of the Earth


Kidnapped (1960)
Kidnapped (1971)
The Kidnappers
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai


The Land that Time Forgot
The Last Great Wilderness
The Last King of Scotland
Late Night Shopping
Laxdale Hall
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
The Little Vampire
Local Hero
Loch Ness


Madame Sin
The Magdalene Sisters
The Maggie
Man Dancin'
Man to Man
Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary Reilly
The Master of Ballantrae
The Match
Max Manus: Man of War
The Missionary
Mission Impossible
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
Morvern Callar
Mrs Brown
My Ain Folk
My Childhood
My Life so Far
My Name is Joe
My Way Home


On a Clear Day
One Last Chance
One More Kiss


The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
The Purifiers
Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat


The Queen
Quest for Fire


Restless Natives
Ring of Bright Water
The Rocket Post
Rockets Galore
Rob Roy
Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue


Safe Haven
Salt on Our Skin
Shallow Grave
Shepherd on the Rock
The Silver Fleet
Sixteen Years of Alcohol
Small Faces
Soft Top Hard Shoulder
Solid Air
The Spy in Black
The Spy Who Loved Me
Strictly Sinatra
Sweet Sixteen


That Sinking Feeling
The 39 Steps (1935)
The Thirty Nine Steps (1959)
The Thirty Nine Steps (1978)
The Inheritance
This Is Not a Love Song
To Catch a Spy
To End All Wars
Trouble in the Glen
Tunes of Glory


Under the Skin



Valhalla Rising
Venus Peter


What a Whopper
When Eight Bells Toll
Where Do We Go from Here? (2015)
Whisky Galore
The Wicker Man
Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself
The Winter Guest
De Wisselwachter
Winter Solstice
Women Talking Dirty
The World Is Not Enough
World War Z (2013)


Year of the Comet
Young Adam
You Instead

Further reading[edit]

  • Brown, John, Developing a Scottish Film Culture II, in Parker, Geoff (ed.), Cencrastus No. 20, Spring 1985, pp. 13 & 14, ISSN 0264-0856
  • Bruce, David, Developing a Scottish Film Culture, in Parker, Geoff (ed.), Cencrastus No. 19, Winter 1984, p. 42, ISSN 0264-0856
  • Bruce, David (1997), Scotland the Movie, Polygon, Edinburgh, ISBN 9780748662098
  • Fielder, Miles (2003), The 50 best Scottish Films of all time, The List, Edinburgh
  • Caughie, John; Griffiths, Trevor; and Velez-Serna, Maria A. (eds.) (2018), Early Cinema in Scotland, Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 9781474420341
  • Hardy, Forsyth (1991), Scotland in Film, Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 9780748601837
  • McArthur, Colin (ed.) (1982), Scotch Reels: Scotland in Cinema and Television, BFI Publishing, ISBN 9780851701219
  • McArthur, Colin (1983), Scotland: The Reel Image, 'Scotch Reels' and After, in Hearn, Sheila G. (ed.), Cencrastus No. 11, New Year 1983, pp. 2 & 3, ISSN 0264-0856
  • McArthur, Colin (1983), The Maggie, in Hearn, Sheila G. (ed.), Cencrastus No. 12, Spring 1983, pp. 10 - 14, ISSN 0264-0856
  • McArthur, Colin (2001), Brigadoon, Braveheart and the Scots: Distortions of Scotland in Hollywood Cinema, Bloomsbury - I.B. Tauris, ISBN 9781860649271
  • Skirrow, Gillian (ed.), Bain, Douglas and Ouainé (1982), Woman, Women and Scotland: 'Scotch Reels' and Political Perspectives, in Hearn, Sheila G. (ed.), Cencrastus No. 11, New Year 1983, pp. 3 - 6, ISSN 0264-0856

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Bruce, David, "Developing a Scottish Film Culture, in Parker, Geoff (ed.), Cencrastus No. 19, Winter 1984, p.42, ISSN 0264-0856
  2. ^ a b Brown, John, "Developing a Scottish Film Culture II", in Parker, Geoff (ed.), Cencrastus No. 20, Spring 1985, pp. 13 & 14, ISSN 0264-0856

External links[edit]