First of all, let’s get this out of the way: Braveheart is not a hugely overrated movie because Mel Gibson is a crazy person. It is not overrated because of his bizarre public meltdowns, his raving misogyny, racism or religious beliefs. It’s certainly not overrated because he coined the term “sugar tits.” Braveheart is mediocre and almost ridiculously over-praised on its own merits, thank you very much. As a historical epic, which is how it is invariably described, it’s cartoonishly inaccurate, it’s tepid as a romance and its best action sequences involve hairy men in make-up lifting their skirts (which I’m pretty sure should be in a very different kind of movie). And if you don’t think Braveheart is critically lauded, keep in mind that when it was released in 1995, it won a bewildering five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Yes, Gibson’s epic story of the 13th century Scottish fighting against the hated English beat out Apollo 13, Babe and Leaving Las Vegas (which was tragically not even nominated) for the Academy’s best movie of the entire year, and Gibson himself was even awarded Best Director. And I will admit, Gibson does have an eye for making the Scottish highlands look gorgeous and misty (not that that’s all that much of a feat) and a commendable commitment to continually making himself appear to be the deadliest, most noble man in the world and also good at speeches. But as a film, Braveheart has three consistent faults: it’s as much a historical film as Watership Down is a documentary on rabbits, it’s wildly xenophobic and finally, it doesn’t make you care a damn about its characters. We’ll start with the first one, little readers.

Regarding the historical accuracy, it’s been widely documented that Braveheart isn’t so much accurate with facts as it’s laughably devoid of them. Just for a few examples: that belted plaid finery you see William Wallace and his noble Scots brethren wearing as symbols of their indomitable, proud culture? Scotsmen wouldn’t wear that sort of thing for about another three centuries, so basically that’s like watching Gone with the Wind and seeing Scarlett O’Hara wearing Queen Elizabeth I’s dress. Here’s another: the story of Braveheart is directly inspired by 15th century poet Blind Harry’s The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace, Knight of Elderslie, although screenwriter Randall Wallace felt fit to change events and characters to punch up history for the big screen. To shorten that up a bit, Braveheart is based on a poem composed almost two centuries after the events described took place, then further changed to make sure there was a romantic subplot. That’s truly comparable to a centuries-long game of Telephone that somehow ended up winning five prestigious awards. I’m not even going to get into the film’s implication that Wallace knocked up Princess Isabella of France (Sophie Marceau), presumably so that Edward III was secretly the son of a kick ass Scotsman and not an effeminate Englishman.

And there’s the next thing. Without exception, the English in Braveheart are evil, cruel, conniving, idiotic or gay. I certainly don’t mean that last one as a pejorative, but Braveheart sure does. In a movie that lionizes straight masculinity (which seems to mean dirt, violence or being able to throw rocks accurately), there’s two characters that skew from that and one gets thrown out a window. Not really all that awesome of politics going on there. Similarly, though King Edward I (the great Patrick McGoohan) instituted a permanent Parliament, created an organized system of taxation when most sovereign rule was barely above fancy banditry and established national statutes of law, all it takes is the fact that he was English to make him the bad guy. Every English character is evil by definition, rather than by motivation. The most sympathetic action displayed from an Englishman in the movie maybe be a foot soldier briefly showing shame at the brutal execution of Wallace’s wife (Catherine McCormack)…after just attempting to rape her, naturally. And mind you, all this is in a film made by and starring an Australian, written by an American and produced by American film studios, two nations that might know something about the conquering and decimation of aboriginal cultures.

Worst of all, the English are not the only one dimensional characters in Braveheart. Virtually every character has a single attribute that defines for the entire film, with no real character development or growth (with the possible exception of Isabella, who gains the power of self-reliance and confidence after being boned by the amazing Wallace). There’s the big lunkhead of a Scot, he’ll remain dopey from childhood to the end. There’s the crazy one, he’ll just act crazy. The gay prince acts effeminately, Wallace’s wife is pretty much only there to be an object of vengeance, even Wallace’s brief turn from not wanting to quarrel with the English to wanting to kill every last one of them is inevitable and built into the structure of the film, not actual growth. It’s a movie full of straw men, all existing only to lionize the nobility and sacrifice of Wallace. For a film that’s ostensibly about cultural pride and FREEEEEEEEEEEEDOM, it’s remarkable that every single character is subjugated to the service of making its star and director look awesome. That doesn’t sound too noble to me.

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20 Comments

  1. Baron Ritter Gustav von Swabenland

    May 31, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    TRUTH. Well put, good sir. I especially like the political angle you take, although I feel you overlooked the token Irishman. Raised with more than a healthy dosage of Irish-American identity, I once took great pride in that character. To look back now, at 29, and see the comic-relief/shamelessly pandering nature of the character’s inclusion forces on me three realizations:

    1) I’ve grown up a lot.

    2) The Irish-American market is easily wooed by that which is insulting at best.

    3) Braveheart is a criminally overrated movie.

    Very glad I checked this out 🙂 Cheers dude!

    Reply

  2. Amadán

    July 20, 2012 at 2:08 am

    I agree that Braveheart is a massive pile of saggy bum discharge that deserves constant mocking and its makers to be pelted with used odour eaters and prosecuted for incitement to hatred.

    However just to history nerd it up a bit theres a few historical comments i can make on the piece. Firstly Edward was almost certainly gay, it wasn’t an invention of Gibson and he was widely regarded as being a totally useless ruler.

    Edward I was genuinely a horrible piece of work that deserves his depiction as such. Aside from being a total dick to the Scots, his obsession was so great that when he died he insisted on his bones being brought on further campaigns north and was called ‘The Hammer of the Scots’, he also expelled all the Jews from England in 1290.

    Other stupid braveheart stuff is that Wallace was never actually called braveheart, Robert the Bruce was (stupidly portrayed as a bad guy). Also Wallace died when Isabella was 6 years old, making him a horrific pedophile.

    Reply

  3. Amadán

    July 20, 2012 at 3:14 am

    Oh as well as that.
    The misty Scotish highlands in the film are actually in Ireland where it was shot. And when you see someone playing the bag pipes, what you are hearing is the Irish Uileann pipes dubbed over it.

    Reply

    • LT

      June 30, 2019 at 7:20 pm

      You who diss this movie are being morons. Braveheart is an awesome and inspiring movie about knowing what you stand for and being bold enough to to stand and lift those around you against intimidating odds. It isn’t trying to be a History Channel documentary. You can’t develop characters as much as idiot says below when movie is just a few hours. You don’t have seasons and seasons worth of hours to show the complexities of every character like a series would. The concepts it introduced were concise and balanced throughout the film. None of you shitheads could come remotely close to ever making up something this good in your head, much less produce anything at all.

      Reply

      • Jon McGovern

        August 8, 2020 at 4:46 am

        The thing is, people do take this seriously as genuine history. Especially white Americans who think they’re Scottish because their great great Granda’s dog’s fleas came from Scotland in the 19th century and they want to apply a bit of a victimhood identity to themselves even though they probably have just as many English ancestors. As a Scot it’s completely cringeworthy what Hollywood does to our history.

        Reply

  4. Juan

    February 18, 2013 at 4:04 am

    So overrated I hate it. Anyone saying this film is the best ever can’t be trusted at all. Beware of them.

    Reply

  5. Stephen

    December 13, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    I feel this move was over the top too violent and made the english seem almost like villans rather than real people. There are two sides to every story but this movies shows only one

    Reply

    • Rob McG

      August 8, 2020 at 4:49 am

      The English are reduced to their ruling elites, who were Norman invaders really. But it’s not like the English peasantry had it so good in those days either. This sort of thing fuels divisive nationalism that’s harming Scotland. There’s lots that the two countries share, there’s always been a lot of migration and movement between us.

      Reply

  6. dubya

    December 26, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    I can get past the historical inaccuracies, but the lack of character development in this movie is just brutal. I just rewatched it for the first time in many years, and forgot just how one-dimensional every person in the movie is. I love medieval warfare movies, and can usually hop along for the ride despite the typical corny dialogue and over-dramatic character interactions, but Braveheart does nothing to make the viewer invested in what’s going on.

    Reply

  7. Scot'sman

    April 3, 2015 at 11:44 am

    William Wallace was a true freedom fighter who lead the Scott’s to victory and a short lived but hard fought independence from the English. Who were also tyrannically subjugating the welch as well.
    Edward Long-shanks the 1st was a ginormous evil butt-head whose reinstatement of parliament as a permanent political apparatus doesn’t make up for his incredibly brutal treatment of the Scottish and Welch peasants. He turned on his own father during the noble uprising and threw the Jews out of England. He deserves everything he got and the portrayal afforded to him in this film went easy on him.

    Braveheart was a movie based on a historical figure who was turned into legend, the broad strokes were completely accurate.
    The addition of a love story is part of film making, are you really that literal. Gladiator was not historically correct either.

    I’m not saying this film is not overrated I’m saying your over technical analysis is naive of the process of storytelling.
    Watch with an open mind and an open heart. It’s no Gladiator but it’s a story that I’m glad was told.

    Reply

    • Jon McGovern

      August 8, 2020 at 4:50 am

      Found the cybernat.

      Reply

  8. morbid

    May 6, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    You must be a total RETARD to write such a long article with nothing but stupid bullshit in it.

    Reply

  9. David

    December 20, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    Your an idiot, plain and simple. Braveheart is and should be taken as just entertainment, which it is. The people on here need to get a life, it was and is just another movie albeit a good one. Obviously enjoyed by many and incredibly successful.

    Reply

    • John Hobson

      June 13, 2019 at 10:57 am

      Some of us want even a tiny bit of historical accuracy in historical dramas.

      Reply

  10. John Hobson

    June 13, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Just a quick comment on the “romance” with Princess Isabella. First, the two of them never met. She didn’t leave France until after Wallace’s death, and his one visit to France occurred when she was a baby. Second, she was a child of 8 when Wallace was killed. Third, it must have been the longest pregnancy on record, since Wallace was executed in 1305 and the future Edward III was born in 1312.

    Speaking of things taking a long time, the very last scene has Robert the Bruce starting the Battle of Bannockburn immediately after hearing of Wallace’s death. I know that news travelled more slowly in those days, but I doubt that piece of news took nine years to reach Scotland.

    Reply

  11. Don Adams

    June 14, 2019 at 5:20 am

    Can’t anyone just let a movie be a movie? The internet has allowed too many losers who spent their time at home masturbating to movies opinions these days and can’t take a movie for just that a movie !!!! Half of you weren’t born when it came out and so what if its not accurate most MOVIES are pretend anyway ,can’t anyone just take it for what it was and not have to bash it or is it that the movie made more money at the box office than most of you will see in your lifetime.. I don’t like alot of things in this world but i don’t right articles about it because I have an opinion, hell for most its your thought for the week because you didn’t like something that others do …. God Bless , did you go to school and forget you have an imagination ? Did you forget that other people have enjoyed it for years , let it be what it is a simple ass movie or does no one read the end of a movie where this film may be fictional and the characters and their similarities may be incidental and whatever the statement is … Learn to live and not put your opinion on things you don’t understand just to have a job , I had a sonnet published at 14 but i am not bashing the world for being illiterate now am I ? GROW UP and let people be themselves I don’t need anyone telling me what I enjoy in my spare time I am a grown man i can make up my own mind without a child informing me he has a thought or an opinion on something he can get published !!!!! GET ANOTHER JOB !!!!!!

    Reply

    • Anonymous

      March 1, 2020 at 8:16 pm

      Looks like some people can’t handle criticism of their preferred ‘movie’ or rather Anglophobic propoganda.

      Reply

  12. Ian

    April 26, 2020 at 6:19 pm

    This movie is utter junk, Hollywood at it’s worst. The whole story is a complete fantasy fabrication. It is no more based on fact, than Lord of the Rings. It is complete bullshit, from start to finish. Even the most elementary of facts have been corrupted, falsified, bastardised or invented for no good reason. Here are a list of the most flagrant misrepresentations I can remember, but there many more I have forgotten….
    1) The opening commentary announces the time is 1280 and Alexander III of Scotland has recently died and Scotland has been taken over by the ruthless “pagan” king of England. Alexander did not die till 1284 and Edward (who was a christian, not pagan) did not impose personal control of Scotland till 1296. Why fuck with such basic facts, it is utter laziness.
    2) William Wallace was not “Braveheart”. Braveheart was the name given to Robert the Bruce during his leadership of the First Scottish War of Independence, which followed a several years after Wallace’s rebellion.
    3) William Wallace was not a plaid garbed Highland, farmer. He was minor noble from Renfrewshire, in the Central Lowlands, close to Glasgow. It seems Randall Wallace & Gibson’s starting point for William Wallace’s depiction was Conner MacLeold, Christopher Lambert’s character from the pulp fantasy movie Highlander. What a joke. Plaid didn’t start to appear in Scotland in its most basic form till the 16th century, 300 year after the time depicted in “Braveheart”. Wallace would have fought in chain mail with a surcoat displaying his coat of arms & an armoured helmet on his head, as typical of the early medieval period.
    4) Robert the Bruce, is introduced as the 17th Earl of Bruce. Bollocks. His titles were 7th Lord of Annandale & The Earl of Carrick. He was descended from Norman nobility, who arrived in England with William the Conqueror in 1066, just over 100 years earlier. An impossible timeline for 17 generation of “The Earls of Bruce” . Why do this? What’s wrong with relaying relevant basic facts. They might as well have gone the whole hog “Game of Thrones” and introduced a dragon or two or a Merlin like wizard.
    5) The Battle of Stirling was not fought in an open field. It was fought on the causeway leading off Stirling bridge. It is known as the Battle of Stirling Bridge. There was no charge of Scots as depicted.
    6) The whole Isabella story line is an utter fabrication. She was six years old when Wallace initiated the rebellion, so could not have been impregnated by Wallace to sire Edward III
    7) Following the Stirling Bridge victory, Wallace’s forces did raid into England, but did not reach as far south as York. they did not sack the city as depicted, they never got there. Isabella was not sent to negotiate with Wallace either… see the above point.
    8) Bruce did not fight on the side of the English at the Battle of Falkirk & Wallace did not rescue him from the battlefield. The Scottish cavalry did not desert at the battle either.
    9) Following the defeat at Falkirk, Wallace did not go on a rampage, killing the alleged nobles that are depicted as traitors to his cause. He resigned his guardianship of Scotland, went in to hiding for a time, then it is believed he escaped to France for a period of time.
    10) Bruce was not complicate or entrapped into being implicated in the capture Wallace, more nonsense.

    The common denominators in this dogs breakfast of a movie are Mel Gibson (director) & Randall Wallace (writer). Wallace is also responsible for writing Pearl Harbor, probably one of the most cringe worthy abortions in recent cinematic history. Gibson & Wallace also collaborated on “We Were Soldiers”, also total rubbish. The movie is full cliches typical of third rate 50s war films. How this movie got any acclaim baffles me. When stood up against the likes of Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, Platoon or even Black Hawk Down, it seems completely amateurish & very dated in style.

    That’s my lot 🙁

    Reply

    • Jon McGovern

      August 8, 2020 at 4:52 am

      Well said Ian. It wouldn’t matter so much if this Hollywood pish didn’t end up being more influential than the real history is.

      Reply

  13. Michael Sharpe

    August 25, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    Critics. Pfftt. Critics tell us that Citizen Kane (the most boring film ever made) is a masterpiece. Braveheart is a truly amazing and beautiful film. I (and most normal moviegoers) don’t give two shits about historical accuracy. We watch the film, enjoy the film and move on.

    Reply

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