Scotlands History

The 1990s

In the 1990s a series of very different movies brought Scotland to the world stage.

In 1995 Mel Gibson starred as William Wallace in Braveheart. Gibson also produced and directed the film which went on to win five Oscars including the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director. Parts of the movie were shot in Glen Coe and Glen Nevis. Patrick McGoohan, best known as star of the cult TV series The Prisoner, appeared as King Edward I. Braveheart, which was widely criticised for its historical inaccuracies, was a massive commercial hit.

The same year Michael Caton-Jones’s Rob Roy appeared in cinemas, starring Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, Tim Roth and Brian Cox.

A year later Trainspotting, directed by Danny Boyle, painted a shockingly different picture of Scotland. The movie was based on Irvine Welsh’s bestselling novel of heroin addicts in Edinburgh. Trainspotting, starring Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Kelly Macdonald, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller and Kevin McKidd, sparked controversy as it was criticised for glamorising drug taking and ‘heroin chic’.

Peter Mullan appeared in both Braveheart and Trainspotting. In 1998 he starred in Ken Loach’s My Name Is Joe. Mullan won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival as Joe, an unemployed recovering Glaswegian alcoholic who falls in love. Ken Loach also directed Carla's Song starring Robert Carlyle as a Scots bus driver.

In 1997, J. K. Rowling’s first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was released. Rowling had written the first of Harry’s adventures at Hogwarts between coffees in Edinburgh cafes including the Elephant House on George IV Bridge.

The Museum of Scotland opened in Edinburgh in 1998. The new museum brought together many of the finest historical artefacts in Scotland including the Lewis Chessmen and the Monymusk Reliquary. The Early Peoples area featured artworks by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi and Andy Goldsworthy.

In the 1990s people danced to the Shamen, and Primal Scream released ‘Screamadelica’. A vibrant indie music scene spawned Belle & Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub and Travis, whose ‘Why Does It Always Rain on Me?’ became an international hit.

Wet Wet Wet had a massive hit with their cover of the Troggs song ‘Love is all around me’ which appeared on the soundtrack to the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral.

In 1997, the movie Mrs Brown, based on the true story of Queen Victoria’s friendship with her Highland servant John Brown, was released. Mrs Brown starred Judi Dench and Billy Connolly and was filmed on location in Scotland in the Borders and Badenoch.

  • poster for the film Braveheart
  • poster for the film Trainspotting

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