Mel Gibson (pictured) stars in (and directs) this Oscar-winning epic. It tells the story of William Wallace, one of Scotland's heroes who, in the late 13th century, brought together the clans into one mighty army to fight, and almost defeat, the armies of King Edward I (Patrick McGoohan) in his quest for Scotland's independence. Captured, Wallace was hanged, drawn and quartered, his dying breath being the word "Freedom".
If Gibson had opted for simple characterisations and action-filled battle scenes, this would have been a run-of-the-mill film, but instead he and scriptwriter Randall Wallace offer depth and roundness. Wallace is a complicated man, desperately in love with his wife Murron (Catherine McCormack) but also aware that destiny awaits him. Equally fascinating is the relationship between him and Edward's wife, Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau), whose role as a peacemaker between the two becomes more intimate as she and Wallace develop a mutual attraction, based on their fierce individuality.
But while the politics and relationships are fascinating, bringing out the characters' complexities, the battle scenes are equally stunning, with the true horror of hand-to-hand conflict shown in all its necessarily bloody detail.
Historically the film is felt to have a number of inaccuracies, but just about gets away with it. It won best picture and Gibson won best director, a rare feat for a movie depicting a place and time probably alien to most of the Academy, and a testament to the underlying quality of an enduring classic.