#88: Braveheart [1995]

In my experience, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart is much like Marmite: opinion is divided into two strong-minded camps. Half the people to whom I’ve mentioned this challenge instalment reply, ‘Oh, that’s a great film!’, while the other half’s faces tense as though I’d just uttered an unrefined adjective. Diplomatically, I can see the validity of both stances. Much like my attitude toward the tub of yeast extract found in most Brits’ larders, I claim dual-citizenship in both camps so as to allow for any mood in which I might happen to find myself.
I mean, you can’t argue against the pure Hollywood spectacle of it all. Clearly, that was director Gibson’s primary aim, as his total disregard for continuity and historical fact demonstrates. My challenge assistant Helen was reading aloud to me the continuity lapses she found on the internet during the film (it’s a particularly long one you see). They are plentiful: go investigate – they’re hilarious. But, let’s face it, we do enjoy the battle scenes. No, not because of the baring of genitalia (shame on you), but rather because actually they’re quite accurate portrayals of the battlefield (apparently). Only, the Battle of Stirling Bridge was fought on a bridge (surprisingly) and not on a level plateau. On top of that, Robert the Bruce was not present at all at the Battle of Falkirk, and therefore did not perform the dramatic acts the film portrays him as doing.
In fact, aside from the celebrated battle scenes, scholars have torn the historical accuracy of Braveheart to shreds. From such basics as the clothing to rather more important matters such as the timing of events (including the ages and deaths of the main characters), Braveheart has had a lot of errors to account for. My favourite comment on this topic is from historian John O’Farrell, who declared that the film couldn’t have been less historically accurate even if they'd inserted a plasticine dog and renamed it ‘William Wallace and Gromit’.
Aside from being ridiculous, once you look into it, some of the inaccuracies are actually fairly offensive. Always be suspicious when a whole nation is portrayed as evil, murdering invaders; it reveals an unsophisticated interpretation. This is a hard film for an English person to watch. While we don’t exactly associate with the thirteenth-century Englishmen, it is our history. Rest assured that the primae noctis law was never established in Britain. But, as someone exceedingly uninformed about thirteenth-century Scottish history, I won’t blather further on this point.
To be completely truthful, I was mainly offended that Wallace slept with the Princess. I do not apologise for the spoiler for as far as I’m concerned it shouldn’t be in the movie. It’s a completely illogical narrative move! We (ladies) respected Wallace because he loved his wife and promised to be faithful to her forever, even if she died. And then he knocks up the first hot French girl he stumbles across. Oh Mel, you just don’t change do you?

Helen's Summary: 'I enjoyed what the film stands for - fighting for what you believe in'.


  1. My Scottish pals were outraged that I didn't even know who William Wallace was until I got to Glasgow, due to my history lessons being dominated by English history. After I found out, I asked them if they'd rather I'd learnt who he was from this film. To which one response was 'Naw, 'cus then yid only see him as Mel Gibson, an' he's a p***k.'

  2. My meager knowledge was supplied by Age of Empires (PC). Again, I was forced on the Scottish side.

  3. Can I be your film buddy soon please!

  4. Why yes, you may certainly be a challenge assistant, especially as I'm on the top of your blog's recommended list :) x

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  6. Forget the film. All you need to know is that William Wallace was hanged, drawn & quartered at Smithfield in 1305 after English legal due process. Excellent.

  7. as promised...



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