Films set in Scotland

Film Scotland: 10 Films set in Scotland – 2024

Films about Scotland and Scottish people , set in this wonderful country in the United Kingdom , are the fruit of the history of local cinema, but also of international productions. Thanks to its magnificent landscapes , in fact, Scotland has always been perfectly suited as a film location . Here, in addition to finding unique landscapes where historical, fantasy or love films can be set, many Hollywood actors were also born . Among rugged landscapes, high mountains , fascinating cities and lakes full of legends. This is undoubtedly a perfect backdrop for any type of shooting, leaving the viewer breathless. From ancient stones, to evocative castles , let’s discover the best films set here, getting inspired for our next trip to Scotland!

Top 10 Films Scotland

The films shot in this country are the result of the wonderful places , the history of Scotland and its traditions . Furthermore, Scottish cinema has a rich and fascinating history, which dates back to the birth of cinema itself. The first screenings in the country began in 1895 , shortly after the Lumière screenings in Paris . The first films set in Scotland were short films and documents about local daily life or historical events. Until arriving in 1913 at The Cameronians ; the first silent film in Scottish cinema. In 1920 the local film production company Gaumont British Picture Corporation was founded . The golden age of Scottish cinema began between the 1930s and 1940s .

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From this period we find classics , such as Whiskey Galore! and I Know Where I’m Going! , representing the essence of Scottish traditions and culture through cinema. Since the 1950s , Scottish films have suffered a decline due to English competition and a lack of funding. However, achieving successes with films such as The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie , in 1969 . The rebirth , however, came in the 80s with films like Local Hero and the cult Trainspotting . Relaunching films set in Scotland and its actors worldwide. Today, Scottish cinema is a winning horse and its locations are used by international productions, such as for the Harry Potter saga or Ridley Scott ‘s Prometheus , also inspiring Disney cartoons , such as Rebel .1. Braveheart

A 1995 cult film starring and by Mel Gibson , Braveheart is a historical colossal . It narrates the feat of the patriot and national hero William Wallace , through Scottish cinema. A film shot in Scotland and set here that is unmissable to discover the history of the country and its locations. Furthermore, according to many, this Scottish film was a point of reference for awakening national conscience , allowing the reconstitution of the Scottish parliament in 1998 . In 13th-century Scotland , the throne remains heirless. Edward I , to prevent someone unworthy from taking the throne, has the rebel nobles executed. Thus starting the revolt and then a real war. To counter English rule, William leads a revolt.

The film also follows William’s adventures since childhood , also covering the history of Scotland with him. Orphaned , he is raised by his uncle Argyle , returning to the village many years later and meeting Murron , with whom he then marries in secret to avoid the Ius primae noctis . Their happiness is tragically cut short by the violence of the English, thus leading him to start his rebellion . Wallace unites the clans , showing the Battle of Stirling Bridge , shattering the English force, but changing Scotland’s fortunes during the Battle of Falkirk . Wallace is captured and faces his brutal fate . His cry for freedom becomes a hope for the Scottish people . An unmissable Scottish film to discover history through a timeless colossal.

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2. Mary Queen of Scots

Scotland Josie Rourke ‘s 2018 biopic Mary Queen of Scots is based on John Guy ‘s biography My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots . This Scottish film tells the story of Mary Stuart , from her birth, becoming Queen of France through her marriage to Francis II at 16, becoming a widow at 18 . Having returned to her native Scotland, which has become a Protestant country , the rebel lords will come into conflict with her, as with her cousin: Elizabeth I of England , to whom she claims the throne which is rightfully hers. The political situation in the country, however, is complicated, under the powerful English regent. Not just a wonderful historical film set in Scotland, but the story of two queens and two women , contrasting and charismatic figures.

Maria , young, beautiful and Catholic, wants to govern firmly. Elizabeth , heirless and Protestant, scrutinizes her cousin with suspicion, in an intertwined destiny. Maria will have to deal with a whirlwind of love passion and court intrigues , marrying the Scottish nobleman Lord Darnley and then falling in love with the dangerous Earl Bothwell . It was her own imprudence , in fact, that brought Mary her to her end, accused of a plot against Elizabeth her, thus leading to her death sentence by beheading in 1587 . Elizabeth died without heirs in 1603 , leaving the throne to James , son of Mary and first sovereign of England and Scotland.

Mary Queen of Scots
Mary Queen of Scots

3. Highlander

Russell Mulcahy’s timeless 1980s action and fantasy cult and the first of a long series. Highlander – The Last Immortal is one of the films we recommend. In this example of Scottish cinema, also set in New York , immortal warriors live among common people. Unaware of their existence, fighting through the centuries, so that only one of them remains alive and obtaining the Reward . There will only be one left! The title of the work refers to the Highlands region , from which the protagonist comes.

The film follows two timelines , one in Scotland in the 16th century , when Connor MacLeod , of the MacLeod clan, discovers he is immortal and is exiled , beginning his journey into understanding his new life. The other is in 1985 in New York City, when Connor meets Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez , another immortal, who reveals the secrets of their species to him. During his life, Connor sees his loved ones die, crushed by the weight of immortality and together with Juan he explores this theme, often clashing . A timeless story of Scottish cinema, of good against evil and also of friendship, which has become a classic also thanks to the music of Queen and the epic battles .

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4. Rob Roy

An unmissable film about Scottish history and set in Scotland by Michael Caton-Jones , Rob Roy (1995), is based on the figure of Robert Roy MacGregor . A brigand and Scottish clan leader, a life between reality and legend , he also became the protagonist of Walter Scott ‘s novel . In 1707 , Scotland came under English control following the Act of Union , creating tensions. Rob Roy, leader of a clan in the Highlands , works as a drover for the Marquess of Montrose . He will ask him for a loan to expand his business. However, this loan is intercepted by Archibald Cunningham , a ruthless nobleman, who leaves Rob humiliated and in debt.

Rejecting the role of victim, Rob challenges Scotland’s corrupt system by becoming an outlaw to protect his honor and that of his wife Mary . In seeking revenge against Cunningham for his cruelties, however, he will encounter dangerous consequences. The wife is raped and her house burned. However, Mary makes Rob’s brother swear not to tell him anything. Betty , Archibald’s servant whom he abandoned after he impregnated her, tells Mary about Cunningham and Killearn’s plan to steal the money , and Killearn is forced to sign the testimony of the plot. Rob hides in the mountains, where he is hunted down and captured , taking him to Montrose after being tortured by Cunningham. Rob manages to escape , reaching his wife and getting a duel with Cunnigham and thus winning his honor and that of his family.

rob roy
Rob Roy

5. Trainspotting

Cult Scottish cinema by Danny Boyle, based on a novel by Irvine Welsh , Trainspotting is an unmissable film set in Scotland. Now considered the best film about Scotland ever, it follows Mark Renton in Edinburgh . The boy spends time with his friends: Sick Boy, Spud, Tommy and Begbie. What unites them is heroin addiction , describing in a crude way their life and habits related to consumption, as well as the devastating consequences . Chasing the desire for a better life , Mark tries to detoxify amidst numerous relapses and obstacles. Furthermore, the relationships between the various characters are often conflictual and complex, loyalty and friendship are repeatedly called into question due to drugs.

Between mean alleys, dirty pubs and the degraded suburbs of Edinburgh , Trainspotting is a Scottish film that revolutionized cinema, touching on delicate topics with sarcasm and black humour. After the treatment, Mark moves to London , where he begins a regular life and a job, but his serenity will soon be interrupted by Begbie . Wanted for robbery with Sick Boy , he moves to his house, deciding after a difficult period of living together to all return to Scotland , meeting with Spud for Tommy’s funeral . After the funeral, the group decides to buy some heroin to resell in London, and that’s when Mark decides to change his life, stealing the money and running away to a new normal life.

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6. Macbeth

Film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s tragedy that we recommend among the best Scottish films, we find Macbeth , by Justin Kurzel . Furthermore, this example of Scottish cinema was filmed between the county of Surrey, Bamburgh Castle and the Quiraing plateau . Machbet’s film takes liberties with Shakespeare’s work, maintaining the narrative arc and themes. It begins with a dark and cruel Scottish civil war, Macbeth, a fierce and noble warrior , leads King Duncan ‘s army to victory. On the battlefield he meets the three witches , who hail him as the future king and Thane of Cawdor . The ambitious and ruthless Lady Macbeth learns of this prophecy , manipulating her husband into taking the throne by killing the guest king in their castle.

This act is experienced as a disturbing ritual , fueled by a mad and unscrupulous ambition , of which Macbeth has become a narrative archetype . Macbeth begins to be afflicted by guilt and paranoia, seeing the ghosts of the soldiers he killed in the war, even his wife is increasingly shocked by the events, going so far as to commit suicide . To maintain the power he has gained, however, Macbeth continues to kill and create a climate of terror , until a nobleman of King Duncan, Macduff , gathers forces to defeat him. A Scottish film that talks about the terrible nature of uncontrolled ambition, betrayal and violence in a gritty and dark style.


7. One day

Film set in Scotland by Lone Scherfig and based on the novel by David Nicholls, One Day is a Scottish romantic film . The lives of Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew have been intertwined for 20 years, since 1988 , when the two graduated from Edinburgh University , spending a night together. Initially, their relationship is not deep, but they still decide to meet every year on July 15 , the anniversary of their first meeting. Every year we see Emma and Dexter again through the ups and downs of life, following different paths, between loss and love , following dreams and ambitions.

Their relationship evolves over the years , becoming confidants , until their lives diverge and they lose contact. A dynamic between two ever-evolving characters in Scottish cinema, with a deep connection and full of what ifs… Years later, their encounters become confrontations about their true feelings and life choices. A July 15th could be their last together, concentrating the film’s climax and a bittersweet ending here . A film set in Scotland about choice and connections between people, as well as missed opportunities .

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One Day

8. The Water Horse

Fantasy film from the Scottish cinema by Jay Russell and based on the novel by Dick King-Smith , The Water Horse is part of the Scottish cinema inspired by the legend of Nessie . In the present day, a couple of tourists enter a pub, where an old man tells them the story of the Loch Ness Monster . In 1942 , against the backdrop of World War II , young Angus MacMorrow lives near Loch Ness with his family as a gamekeeper, while his father disappeared when his ship sank in the war. One day, Angus finds a mysterious egg on the lake shore. Keeping it warm at home, unaware of what it is, one night it hatches and comes out a baby sea dragon , which he names Crusoe . The two immediately create a unique bond.

The boy takes care of the puppy, teaches him swimming and hunting . Crusoe grows quickly, becoming a magnificent creature, similar to Nessie . The war in the background, however, threatens happiness and the villagers begin to believe that Crusoe is dangerous . Angus searches for a way to prevent his friend from being captured , while also facing the dangers of war. With the help of his mother and the gamekeeper, he manages to save Crusoe, making the village understand that he is not a creature to be afraid of, but to be protected and loved . A Scottish film for the whole family, which teaches the value of friendship and courage.

the water horse
The Water Horse

9. Outlaw King

Scottish cinema feature film based on the figure of Robert I , Outlaw King (2018), by David Mackenzie , is set in the medieval period . Declared an outlaw by Edward I of England , Robert I of Scotland will begin a fierce battle to regain control of the country. But among his objectives there is also that of saving his people and his family from the brutal English occupation . True story of Robert the Bruce , we can watch him go from defeated nobleman to reluctant king and then hero outside the law in this film . His main enemy will be the Prince of Wales , Edward, son of Edward I. The prince will challenge Bruce to a duel , who will however be supported by James Douglas , alongside him against the English also to regain his family’s lands .

The other Scottish nobles , due to Bruce’s inexperience in war, are not willing to help him and will try to betray him to obtain the English reward . The events of this 14th century film indirectly follow those of Braveheart , with a different twist and dramatic flair . The events of the film, in fact, begin when, after his marriage to Elizabeth de Burgh, Robert I learns of the capture and execution of William Wallace . Seeing him as the country’s last hope for freedom, Robert rallies his men and rebels against the crown , changing the history and destiny of Scotland.

outlaw king - films set in scotland
Outlaw King

10. Harry Potter

A special mention on our films set in Scotland goes to the Harry Potter saga which has numerous locations in this country . In fact, the films of the most famous boy wizard in the world were filmed at Glenfinnan Viaduct , the railway viaduct in the Western Highlands , where the Hogwarts Express passes , departing from platform 9¾ of King’s Cross station in London . Another magical place is the hill above Clachaig Inn , in the Glen Coe valley , where the hut where Hagrid lives was built , with the pumpkin patch and where we can see the writing site where Hagrid’s hut was filmed . The dark place where these films shot in Scotland were set is Greyfriars Kirkyard , where the gravestone of Tom Riddle , who inspired JK Rowling, is located .

Here, you will also find many other names featured in the saga about the oldest tombs. One of the most beloved backdrops of the Harry Potter films are certainly its lakes , such as the one north of Fort Williams , where the dragons fly in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2 , and it is the same lake that appears on the island of Eilean na Moine , where Dumbledore is buried. To relive the settings of the Three Wizards Tournament, however, go to Scotland’s second waterfall: the Steall Waterfalls , near Fort William and also the backdrop to many Quidditch matches . Finally, don’t the cloisters of the University of Glasgow really remind you of Hogwarts?

harry potter train viaduct
Il treno per Hogwarts sul Glenfinnan Viaduct

Traveling to the Sets of Scottish Cinema

If at this point you can’t wait to leave for a trip to Scotland , it’s time to get organized and discover the best itineraries to retrace the film locations in this country and thus relive your favorite scenes from these wonderful Scottish films !

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