Today is one of solemn gravitas, no matter which way you look at it. If Scotland departs Great Britain to become an independent nation, thriving on its entire culture, than it marks the disintegration of a union. If they decided to stay, it still underlines a need to change our viewpoint and come together stronger. Either way, politics will never be the same or as one of our writers stated “children will be moaning when they have to write yet another article about the subject.” So, to celebrate Scotland and everything that it has given us cinema-wise (including some of our team), we’re looking at the best Scottish movies.
Honourable Mention: Local Hero because we have celebrated it here and Brave because, though set in Scotland, is an American production.
With an amazing 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this 1949 Ealing comedy is one of the funniest things you’ll ever watch. Based on a true story, it revolves around a shipwrecked vessel containing 50,00 crates of whisky that soon find accommodation with the locals. Full of rambunctious spirits, this comedy still tickles many to this day. The array of characters, perfecting the term “Ealing” with their unwavering determination to acquire the alcohol just sparkles with hilarity. Every watch is a treat, filling you with smiles and laughter that is even more underlined when you consider it to be a true story. If you are feeling down, this Scottish gem will make you happier again.
“There can be only one” proclaims the tagline of this now cult classic film. Though wavering between America and Scotland, this is steeped (obviously) in Highland supernatural history as present conflicts have transcended time. The premise goes as such, that a clan of immortals have lived for years in battle. In 1985, there are only two left and they are at war to gain an elusive prize. The only way to defeat an immortal? Slice off his head. Starring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery, this cheesy romp flick has been passed down to generations and has an unforgettable soundtrack by Queen (which includes It’s A Kind of Magic and Who Wants To Live Forever? See, amazing).
Ken Loach has been a master of handling political and humanistic drama and comedy revolving around the working class since he burst onto our screens with the brilliant Kes. Here in the excellent The Angels' Share, he struck gold (or whisky) again and scooped up the Jury Prize and Cannes Film festival. Centred on Robbie, a young lad who has a good heart, but is struggling to keep from being broke and supporting his family. When he sees his son, he is determined to renew his life and after being granted mercy, he finds an array of petty criminals also down on their luck. Together, could they change their reputations? Engaging whilst gritty with this emotive humour, The Angels’ Share is an unmissable film.
This is the debut 1994 film from the holy trinity of Danny Boyle, John Hodge and Andrew MacDonald. Though, technically that should be quartet with Ewan McGregor (keep an eye on those names, they’ll crop up again). This thriller also with Kerry Fox and Christopher Eccleston is an intense game-changing drama that won loads of awards and is considered one of the greatest cult films. It tells the story of three flatmates who are looking for a new roomie and when they find one, he suddenly dies under very suspicious circumstances and leaves behind a suitcase full of cash. Instead of reporting it, the three bury him and keep the cash for themselves. The film becomes less about the secret itself and more on how the secret can dissolve into petty suspicions that haunt and disease the best of friendships.
This is a prime example of how to say so much with so little. The dialogue is all but stripped in this unnerving thriller set in a remote Scottish town. The titular character is a poor clerk who is aghast at the sudden suicide of her boyfriend and immediately covers it up. However, struggling to pay bills, she finds his manuscript, putting her own name to it and living a hedonistic life-style in Ibiza with the profits. Lynne Ramsay enthuses the story here with a ferociousness that makes it entirely enthralling. As Morvern’s web of deceit emigrates to a hotter climate, actress Samantha Morton helps Ramsay convey intricacy within the characters and unnerving toughness.
One of the most powerful, engaging and altogether visceral performances to emerge from last year's films was this one. The adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s brilliant novel of the same name saw James McAvoy transform into a bi-polar cop Bruce Robertson whose mentality lingers on the edge as he tries to manipulate and weave his way to a promotion. Jon S Baird impeccably balances the unnerving descent into madness with the hyperactivity of Bruce’s imagination. McAvoy is other-wordly as he intricately and powerfully spirals out of control. Filth is one of those films marketed as a comedy and though you’ll enjoy the hysterics and madcap schemes, the ending will floor you.
When you think of Scotland in film, a lot of minds would be cast to this one. Of course, Mel Gibson’s Saltire-painted face roaring freedom is going to be undeniably unforgettable. Telling the historical and horribly inaccurate (it was voted the film with the most inaccuracies of all time) story of William Wallace and the fight against the English. Directed by Gibson himself, it is a medieval period romp that has received a lot of flack since but still riles people into chanting that epic speech. Probably more prominent on this day now, Braveheart is action packed and heroic which is all you need from a sword-flinging battle-ensuing film.
This is the best coming-of-age dramas you’ll ever witness. Bill Forsyth has wonderfully conveyed the calm and crazy spirits that adolescence sets off. Charming, emotive and with great characters, Gregory’s Girl tells the tale of Gregory, a gangly teenage boy who is particular fond of playing football only to be upstaged by a girl named Dorothy. However, his irritations turn to affections and he finds himself drawn to her as she teaches him many techniques, as well as helping navigate his affections. With a cast full of charisma, Gregory’s Girl the true definition of quirky growing pains story that feel utterly realistic and excellent.
This is one of the most defining horror movies of all time because the fright comes from subverting religion and showcases how faith can lead you to do devastating things. As ground-breaking now as it was back then, director Robin Hardy has carved a historical and masterful film. The Wicker Man revolves around Police Sergeant Neil Howie who is sent to the island of Summerisle after reports of a missing child. What he discovers is a community of pagans who have a dark and sinister secret lurking beneath their cheery exterior. The tension mounts and builds ingeniously here as the picturesque island becomes teamed with horrific dogma. The ending will haunt you long after first watch, it’s a commanding horror film.
Another film based on the books of Irvine Welsh and yes, the most famous. Teaming up Boyle, McGregor, MacDonald and Hodge (that holy collection we spoke about) this independent film set in the decadence of Edinburgh and the economically-depressed community turning to drugs, this mind-boggling crime drama centred on lead character Mark Renton and the gang of addicts and psychopaths he calls friends. The visuals and the depravity, as well as a touch of mortality, give Trainspotting this flare of excellence. Enthralling, bitter and grim, Boyle’s independent flick really strive at conveying an underworld of casts-off and their experience with moments of pure darkness.
What Do You Think?
Are these the finest Scotland can offer?
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