Ultimate 5 movies filmed in Scotland

whisky galore

Table of Contents

 There’s something unique about the Scots, a certain indefinable quality that sets them apart. And this probably has much to do with their homeland of which they are fiercely proud. When you experience the stunning, breathtaking landscape for yourself, you begin to understand why. It also explains why so many film directors head there, in spite of the unpredictable weather and the logistics involved in getting film crews to rugged, remote, and virtually inaccessible locations.

Here are 5 movies filmed in Scotland that braved the conditions and captured the country’s essence in all its glory. Along with each one are some fascinating facts.

#5 Braveheart

Well, it had to have a mention, didn’t it? Opinions will forever be divided about Braveheart, but in spite of the glaring historical errors, it remains a cracking piece of entertainment.

Did you know?

  • Fake horses were used in the battle scenes. They were so realistic that animal welfare organizations undertook investigations, concerned that horses had been harmed during battle scenes!
  • Though Scottish through and through, many of the scenes were filmed in Ireland. Scenes that included William Wallace’s village were filmed at Glen Nevis.
  • Though the film is about William Wallace, it was Robert the Bruce (played by Angus Macfayden) who was known as ‘Braveheart’, not Wallace.
  • The blue woad that the Scottish warriors painted themselves with had not been used since Roman times, at least 800 years before the story was set.

This aside, the sense of the Scots ties to their homeland shines through, and you can’t help but feel uplifted by that rousing speech – even if it does borrow heavily from Shakespeare’s Henry V…

#4 Restless Natives

A gentle, understated, and often overlooked movie directed by Michael Hoffman, Restless Natives tells the tale of two young lads who are frustrated with the status quo. It is set in the ‘Thatcher Years’, where unemployment was a problem, particularly amongst working-class youths in Scotland, and there was growing resentment at being ruled from London by a government that did not care. The two boys decide, as a joke, to wear masks and hold up tourist coaches in the Highlands. They quickly become legends, especially when they ride around the streets of Edinburgh and distribute the cash to the everyday people, like modern-day Robin Hoods.

Did you know?

  • The soundtrack was created by Big Country, a Scottish rock band. Their distinctive sound captured the feel of the landscapes used in the movie, reinforcing the contrast between the dismal urban setting that the boys were trying to escape from with the freedom and beauty of the Scottish Highlands.
  • Restless Natives, although low-budget, probably used more Scottish scenery than any of the movies filmed in Scotland!

#3 Local Hero

Another ‘comedy-drama’ that really gives a sense of Scottish uniqueness. The movie runs at a gentle pace, completely steered by the characters, It’s a feel-good story with some surprising twists. Basically, an American oil and gas company sends a representative to prepare the residents of a small Scottish village for the fact that a huge refinery is to be built on their doorstep. As time passes it becomes clear that the villagers can’t wait to take the money, but the rep has essentially fallen in love with the village and doesn’t want to see it destroyed!

Did you know?

  • Burt Lancaster’s fee, although he only had a small role, cost almost a third of the budget at $2 million.
  • Filming for the fictional village of Ferness took place at about 17 different locations in Scotland, including Fort William, Loch Eil, Moidart, and Mallaig.
  • The soundtrack was provided by Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits, using riffs borrowed from traditional Scottish songs. The overall effect is deliberately low-key, which matches the tone of the movie.

#2 Whisky Galore

Based on the novel of the same name by Compton Mackenzie, itself based on a true story, this Ealing Comedy tells the tale of a group of islanders who discover 50,000 barrels of whisky in a shipwreck. It is set in a time of wartime rationing, where the island has so far been unaffected – until they run out of whisky. When the barrels are discovered, a battle of wits then ensues as the community races to secure the precious cargo rather than let the Customs and Excise men take it.

Did you know?

  • Due to restrictions of the use of alcohol in movie titles at the time. It was the first Ealing Comedy to achieve success in the country.
  • Filming took place on the island of Barra, used as the fictional island of Todday in the story. A film unit of around 80 people stayed on the island and had to be housed by the locals throughout the project as the hotel wasn’t big enough to take them.
  • Filming overran by five weeks due to the foul weather, with torrential rain and strong gales. They had initially set a limit of 10 weeks. This added an extra £20,000 to the budget.
  • Much to the amusement of the inhabitants, the film crew brought along fake rocks, even though the beaches were strewn with real ones.

#1 The Wicker Man

Amongst the movies made in Scotland we’ve had some history, comedy, and a little drama, so why not some horror? More accurately, the Wicker Man is a thriller, with a huge cult following, and is considered far superior to the remake (which came nowhere near the shores of Scotland!).

Did you know?

  • Although set in spring, filming took place in fall. In Scotland. Actors had to keep ice cubes in their mouths to stop their breath steaming. Also, fake blossoms were attached to trees, and fake apple trees were shipped in.
  • Christopher Lee was so keen to move away from being known as Dracula that he waived his fee for his role as Lord Summerisle!
  • The music that carries the movie, and adds to its unique, unsettling atmosphere, is based on traditional Scottish folk songs.


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