Released in 1995, Braveheart was a smash hit, drawing large audiences and winning five Academy Awards, including the Awards for Best Picture and Best Director. It marked a high point for its star and director, Mel Gibson, and revitalized the historical epic genre in filmmaking.
Synopsis: In the late 13th century, William Wallace (Mel Gibson) returns to Scotland after living away from his homeland for many years. The King of Scotland has died without an heir and the King of England, a ruthless pagan known as Edward the Longshanks, has seized the throne. Wallace becomes the leader of a ramshackle yet courageous army determined to vanquish the greater English forces. Wallace’s courage and passion unite his people in ‘Braveheart’.
Cast: Besides Gibson’s role, the movie had several supporting-actors, including Patrick McGoohan as King Edward I of England; Angus Macfadyen as Robert the Bruce; Brendan Gleeson as Hamish Campbell, Wallace’s friend; and Sophie Marceau as Princess Isabelle.
- The film includes depictions of the Battle of Stirling Bridge (minus the bridge) and Falkirk, which were fought in the late-13th century. Perhaps the most dramatic scene shows the English cavalry charging the Scots.
- The film was Rated R for “brutal medieval warfare.”
- The film earned over $210 million at the box office in 1995
- The movie had a profound impact on the Scottish nationalist movement and has been credited with bolstering Scotland’s independence campaign
In 2009 The Times placed Braveheart second on its list of The Ten Most Inaccurate Historical Movies, noting: “Not only was the Scottish hero William Wallace gruesomely executed in 1305, having been captured by the English at Falkirk, but seven centuries later his memory was exhumed, smeared with blue face paint and mutilated by Mel Gibson.”
In her review of the film, Canadian history professor Elizabeth Ewan writes, “In many ways, Braveheart is in the tradition of Gibson’s earlier Mad Max series, except that, this time, the “good guys” wear kilts and paint their faces blue with woad in preparation for battle (prompting a colleague’s suggestion that the film should be renamed “Woad Warrior”). The film fails to portray accurately either the period or its people. The historical inaccuracies draw on the worst myths of “tartanism,” a disease against which Scottish historians wage an unceasing battle.”
Roger Ebert – “…fullthroated, red-blooded battle epic about William Wallace, the legendary Scots warrior who led his nation into battle against the English in the years around 1300.”
James Berardinelli – “With its clashing armies, heartstopping action, and grand sense of romance, this is the sort of film it’s a pleasure to see and review.”
New York Times – “Mr. Gibson has come through with an exhilarating new-fashioned epic.”
Teacher’s Notes – a document that would be useful teaching material to accompany the film for high school students
Another set of Teacher’s Notes – from Penguin Books