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10 Movies to Watch Before Visiting Scotland

From the major cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, to the beautiful landscapes and grand castles of the Highlands, Scotland has plenty of rich history and awesome scenery waiting for you to discover. Here are some of the top critically-acclaimed movies that were filmed on location telling authentic Scottish stories to prepare you for your own experience in Scotland:

Braveheart (1995) R

Directed by and starring Mel Gibson and nominated for 10 Academy Awards, Braveheart is one of the most well-known films that takes place in Scotland. Fictionally based off of the 13th century Scottish warrior William Wallace, Braveheart tells the story of how this righteous warrior led the Scots into the first war of independence against King Edward I of England. Full of intense action, drama, and romance, this movie of epic length delivers a beautiful portrayal of Scottish landscape, as well as a story that you will never forget.

Trainspotting (1996) R

Although this dark comedy crime film isn’t an accurate portrayal of Edinburgh today, Trainspotting is well worth viewing and will give you an inside look into the struggles faced by a group of heroin addicts in an economically depressed area of Scotland’s capital city. Following a series of characters passage through life, this film starring Ewan McGregor is a remarkable movie not suited for the faint of heart. Filled with energetic characters, shot in Glasgow Scotland, and ranked 10th by the British Film Institute, Trainspotting may not be known for portraying all of Scotland's glory, but it serves as a realistic reminder of the horrors of drug use.

The Illusionist (2010) PG

Based on an unproduced script written by French mine, actor, and director, Jacques Tati, this French-British animated film encompasses what it’s like to be a part of a dying spectrum of entertainment in 1959 Edinburgh. Moving from France to London, eventually entertaining the locals on a remote Scottish Island, The Illusionist moves to Edinburgh and is followed by a young girl named Alice, who is convinced that he possesses true magical powers. This deep melancholic film is magical in more ways than one, filled with Edinburgh landscapes and beautiful story that portrays the capital of Scotland in a unique way.

Rob Roy (1995) R

This biographical historical drama film starring Liam Neeson follows 18th century Scottish Clan chief Rob Roy as he battles with unscrupulous nobleman in the Scottish Highlands to save his family and his livelihood. Shot entirely on location in Scotland, this historical adventure is packed with beautiful scenery from the wild Scottish Highlands, as well as breathtaking performances by its cast members. For anyone intrigued by Scottish history, Rob Roy is the perfect film for learning a little bit more about the life of the clans in the Scottish Highlands.

Brave (2012) PG

Perfect for young audiences and fairy-tale fans, this Pixar animated fantasy film tells the story of a young Scottish princess named Merida who is determined to define her own fate. Defying age-old custom expressing her desire not to be betrothed, Merida causes chaos in her kingdom and among her family. Filled with complex visual representations of Scottish clans and landscapes, this emotional story will transport its audience into another world.

Highlander (1986) R

This British-American action fantasy film follows the adventures of immortal swordsman Connor MacLeod from the Sottish Highlands, also known as Highlander, as he lives through several centuries, eventually settling down in New York City where he is faced with the most important battle of his life. Jumping through time, this movie is able to help the audience better understand the culture and history of the Highlands. Filmed in Scotland and New York City, as well as being accompanied by songs provided by the rock band Queen, Highlander is the perfect fantasy film to get a taste of Scottish history while being thoroughly entertained.

Whisky Galore! (2016) TV-14

Based on a true story, this British remake of the 1949 film directed by Gillies MacKinnon premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2016. Filmed on location in Portsoy, Aberdeenshire Scotland, Whisky Galore! tells the story of the Scottish islanders on the Isle of Toddy who tried to plunder cases of whisky from a ship that got stranded on the rocks just offshore of their home. Filled with colorful characters and bold humor, this film gives the audience an inside look into a remarkable little piece of Scottish history.

Local Hero (1983) PG

This heart-warming Scottish comedy-drama film written and directed by Bill Forsyth tells the fictional story of an American oil company representative who is sent to the small coastal village of Ferness to purchase the town to be destroyed and replaced. Filled with eccentric characters and beautiful coastline images of Pennan and the Aberdeen coast, Local Hero is a lighthearted humorous film that is perfect for the entire family to watch before visiting the coastal areas of Scotland.

Loch Ness (1996) PG

Looking for a film to watch with the entire family before taking a trip to Scotland? Loch Ness is a family drama film about an American zoologist that is asked to travel to Scotland to dispel the famous myth of the Loch Ness monster, later going to great lengths to attempt to prove its existence. Filmed in Loch Ness Scotland, as well as Lower Diabaig on the west coast of Highland, this film is filled with breathtaking scenery and eccentric characters that every member of the family will be inspired by.

Sunshine on Leith (2013) PG

Set in Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh, this musical film follows the lives of two young recently discharged British servicemen returning home to their families after a tour in Afghanistan. Featuring various songs by the Scottish music duo The Proclaimers, you will find this film hard to resist whether you’re a fan of musicals or not. Painting the city of Edinburgh and its inhabitants in a joyful and sentimental manner, Sunshine on Leith is a charming upbeat film that will inspire anyone to visit Scotland’s beautiful capital city.

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