Rob Roy (1995 film)

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This article is about the 1995 film. For the 1953 film, see Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue.
Rob Roy
Rob roy poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones
Produced by Peter Broughan
Richard Jackson
Screenplay by Alan Sharp
Starring Liam Neeson
Jessica Lange
John Hurt
Tim Roth
Eric Stoltz
Brian Cox
Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Edited by Peter Honess
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • April 7, 1995 (1995-04-07) (Limited)
  • April 14, 1995 (1995-04-14)
Running time
139 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $28 million
Box office $31.6 million

Rob Roy is a 1995 adventure film directed by Michael Caton-Jones.[1] Liam Neeson stars as Rob Roy MacGregor, an 18th-century Scottish clan chief who battles with an unscrupulous nobleman in the Scottish Highlands. Jessica Lange, John Hurt, Tim Roth, Eric Stoltz, Brian Cox, and Jason Flemyng also star. Roth won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the treacherous aristrocrat Archibald Cunningham.


In Scotland, 1713, Robert Roy MacGregor (Liam Neeson) is the Chief of Clan MacGregor. Providing the Lowland gentry with protection against cattle rustling, he barely manages to feed his people. Hoping to alleviate their poverty, MacGregor borrows £1,000 from James Graham, Marquess of Montrose (John Hurt) in order to trade cattle.

Impoverished London aristocrat Archibald Cunningham (Tim Roth) has been sent to stay with Montrose, who it is implied is related to him, as his debaucheries have become a problem back in England. Cunningham learns about MacGregor's loan from Montrose's factor, Killearn (Brian Cox) and murders MacGregor's retainer Alan MacDonald (Eric Stoltz) to steal the money. MacGregor requests time from Montrose to find MacDonald and the money. Montrose offers to waive the debt if MacGregor will testify falsely that Montrose's rival John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll (Andrew Keir) is a Jacobite. MacGregor refuses and Montrose vows to imprison him in the tolbooth until the debt is repaid, but MacGregor flees, briefly taking Cunningham hostage. Montrose seizes MacGregor's land, declares him an outlaw, and orders Cunningham to bring him in "broken, but alive". With MacGregor in hiding, redcoats slaughter MacGregor's cattle, burn his croft, and Cunningham brutally rapes his wife Mary (Jessica Lange). Mary is horrified to realize that Cunningham's intent is to flush MacGregor out of hiding. Unaware of the assault on his wife, MacGregor refuses to permit his outraged clan to wage war on Montrose. Instead, he decrees, "The best place to hurt the Marquess is in his purse. Steal his cattle, rob his rents."

Betty (Vicki Masson), a maidservant at Montrose's estate, has become pregnant with Cunningham's child. When Killearn tells Montrose, Betty is dismissed from service and contemptuously rejected by Cunningham. A heartbroken Betty seeks refuge with the MacGregors, and reveals that she had overheard Killearn and Cunningham plot to steal the money. To build a case against Cunningham, MacGregor abducts Killearn and imprisons him on Factor's Island. Mary promises Killearn that he will be spared if he testifies against Cunningham, but Killearn taunts her with her rape. Realizing that Mary is pregnant, he threatens to tell MacGregor that Cunningham may be the father. Enraged, Mary draws a sgian dubh and stabs Killearn in the neck.

Montrose tells Cunningham that he knows who really stole the money and that he doesn't care. Complaining that the ongoing thefts of his cattle and rents will impoverish him, he orders Cunningham to leave Clan MacGregor so as to never humiliate him again. Cunningham and the redcoats systematically burn the Clan's crofts. MacGregor refuses to take the bait, but Alasdair attempts to snipe Cunningham, revealing their hiding place. The redcoats attack, and with his dying breath, Alasdair tells MacGregor about Mary's violation by Cunningham. Taken prisoner, MacGregor accuses Cunningham of murder, robbery and rape. Cunningham confirms the charges, taunting him that he enjoyed Mary far more than the women who slept with him willingly. Montrose orders MacGregor to be summarily executed by hanging from a nearby bridge. MacGregor manages to loop the rope binding his hands around Cunningham's throat and then jumps off the bridge. To save Cunningham, Montrose orders the rope to be cut, freeing MacGregor. MacGregor is chased downstream by the redcoats, but he evades them by hiding inside a rotting animal corpse.

Mary gains an audience with the Duke of Argyll and exposes Montrose's plan to frame him. Moved by MacGregor's integrity, he grants the whole family asylum at Glen Shira, on his estates. MacGregor arrives at Glen Shira, at first upset by Mary's unwillingness to terminate her pregnancy. However he comments, "It's not the child who needs killing." The Duke arranges a duel between MacGregor and Cunningham, wagering: If MacGregor lives, his debt will be forgiven. If he dies, the Duke will pay his debt. Cunningham and MacGregor vow that no quarter will be asked nor given. Armed with a smallsword, Cunningham skillfully attacks MacGregor, who, laboring from the injury of his previous capture, appears to swiftly exhaust himself swinging a heavy broadsword. A gloating Montrose signals Cunningham to finish him, but MacGregor grabs his enemy's sword-point with his left hand. As Cunningham struggles to free his blade, MacGregor's seizes his dropped weapon and delivers a fatal strike. His honor restored, MacGregor vows that he will never leave his family again.



According to screenwriter Alan Sharp, Rob Roy was conceived as a Western set in the Scottish Highlands.[2]

The film was shot entirely on location in Scotland, much of it in parts of the Highlands so remote they had to be reached by helicopter. Glen Coe, Glen Nevis, and Glen Tarbert can be seen. In the opening scenes, Rob and his men pass by Loch Leven. Loch Morar stood in for Loch Lomond, on the banks of which the real Rob Roy lived. Scenes of the Duke of Argyll's estate were shot at Castle Tioram, the Marquess of Montrose's at Drummond Castle. Shots of "The Factor's Inn" were filmed outside Megginch Castle. Crichton Castle was used in a landscape shot.

Non-stop Highland rain presented a problem for cast and crew when filming outdoor shots, as did the resulting swarms of midges.

William Hobbs choreographed the swordfights, with Robert G. Goodwin consulting.

The main composer is Carter Burwell. Beside the film score, the film features a slightly different version of a traditional Gaelic song called "Ailein duinn", sung in the film by Karen Matheson, lead singer in Capercaillie.

Historical accuracy[edit]

Rob Roy MacGregor was also called "Red Robert" or "Robert the Red" because of his wild red hair. MacGregor had business dealings with Montrose for 10 years before the loan of £1000 went missing. The character of Cunningham is invented.[3][4][5][6] Details of Rob Roy's life are a mix of fact and legend; the film portrays Rob Roy "in the most sympathetic light possible".[7] Though called the Marquess of Montrose, James Graham, 4th Marquess of Montrose had already been elevated to Duke of Montrose at this point in history. He was raised to the dukedom as a reward for his support for the Act of Union, whilst being Lord President of the Scottish Privy Council.


Box office[edit]

United Artists gave Rob Roy a limited release in the United States and Canada on the weekend of April 7, 1995, and the film grossed $2,023,272 from 133 theaters. On the weekend of April 14, 1995, Rob Roy had a wide release and earned $7,190,047 from 1,521 theaters. It ranked #2 at the box office after Bad Boys. Rob Roy's widest release during its theatrical run was 1,885 theaters, and the film grossed $31,596,911 in the United States and Canada.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Rob Roy received a mixed to positive critical response. It currently holds a 72% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[9] The film review aggregation website Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, reported that the film received an average score of 55 based on 19 reviews.[10] Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, opined, "This is a splendid, rousing historical adventure, an example of what can happen when the best direction, acting, writing and technical credits are brought to bear on what might look like shopworn material." Ebert said the film's outline could have led to "yet another tired" historical epic, but he found that the director was able to produce "intense character studies". The critic applauded Tim Roth's performance, calling it "crucial" to the film's success. Ebert was also impressed by the climactic sword fighting scene and called it "one of the great action sequences in movie history".[11]

In contrast, Rita Kempley of The Washington Post compared Rob Roy negatively to the action films Death Wish and Rambo. Kempley disliked the film's violence and wrote, "Frankly, Rob Roy is about as bright as one of his cows. He doesn't even recognize that his obsession with honor will lead to the destruction of his clan." The critic found the protagonist unheroic in his mission for vengeance. Of his enemy, she said, "The villains, played with glee, manage to perk up the glacial pace, but they too grow tiresome."[12]

In The New York Times, Janet Maslin gave a mixed review of the film. She complained of the film's "long, dry stretches" and that the "plot [was] too ponderous and uninteresting for the film's visual sweep". Maslin said one of the film's saving graces was the "robust" presence of Liam Neeson, taller than those who played his enemies, and his character's charismatic exchange with Jessica Lange's character, writing, "Rob Roy is best watched for local color and for its hearty, hot-blooded stars." Maslin acknowledged that Neeson was "a far cry from the dour-looking Scottish drover who was the real Rob Roy" and said that the film failed to convey the figure's importance to audiences. The critic highlighted the scene of Cunningham raping Mary as one of the film's "strongest scenes" which was appropriately responded to by the "cowboy justice" of Neeson's lonesome and avenging Rob Roy.[13]


Award Category Name Outcome
BAFTA Film Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Tim Roth Won
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award Best Supporting Actor Won
Academy Award Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Golden Globe Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Nominated
Saturn Award Best Supporting Actor Nominated

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Williams, Karl. "Rob Roy". Allmovie. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  2. ^ MINSAAS, KIRSTI. "Rob Roy: The Value of Honor". Retrieved 25 September 2015. 
  3. ^ "Rob Roy". Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  4. ^ Louis Albert Necker, A voyage to the Hebrides, or western isles of Scotland;: with observations ..., p. 80
  5. ^ Duncan, John. "Robert the Red ( Rob Roy)". Scottish History Online. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  6. ^ "Rob Roy MacGregor and History of Clan MacGregor". Heart O' Scotland. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  7. ^ Ross, David. "Rob Roy Biography". Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  8. ^ "Rob Roy (1995)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 30, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Rob Roy". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  10. ^ "Rob Roy reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved July 30, 2010. 
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 7, 1995). "Rob Roy". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  12. ^ Kempley, Rita (April 7, 1995). "'Rob Roy' (R)". The Washington Post. 
  13. ^ Maslin, Janet (April 7, 1995). "Film Review: Rob Roy; Liam Neeson: Man in Kilts". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06. 

External links[edit]