Top 20 Scottish Films of the 20th Century (Part 1)

Submitted by Robert Alstead on Sun, 08/01/1999 - 22:31
Robert Donat as fugitive Hannay with unwilling accomplice Madeleine Carroll (Pamela) in 39 Steps

Richard Mowe, curator of film at the Lumiere Cinema, National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, selects his top twenty Scottish films from over the last century.

The 39 Steps (1935)
Dir: Alfred Hitchock
One of Hitchock’s best British films, featuring the definitive Richard Hannay in Robert Donat, struggling to prove his innocence against the gathering forces of darkness. Madeleine Carroll plays the femme fatale who accompanies him on the fast and furious chase, including the famous Forth Bridge sequence. At one point they find themselves handcuffed together in one of the director’s seductive master strokes.

Bill Douglas Trilogy
Dir. Bill Douglas
The autobiographical trilogy, about growing up in a mining village, Newtongrange, close to Edinburgh in the Forties. Shot in gritty and evocative black and white. In "My Childhood" (1972), Douglas evokes a childhood of poverty and pain; "My Ain Folk" (1974) reveals that the man living next door is, in fact, his father; and "My Way Home" (1978) deals with personal emancipation as the autobiographical hero goes off to Egypt on National Service. A remarkable body of work.

Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart
Big Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart

Braveheart (1995)
Dir. Mel Gibson
A passionate and bloody account of William Wallace’s rebellion against the English with Mel Gibson as a Mad Mac set to right wrongs and bring freedom to the oppressed. Patrick McGoohan makes a wonderful villain out of Edward 1st with Sophie Marceau and Catherine McCormack as the women in Wallace’s heart. Epic battle scenes of the highest order.

Flood Tide (1949)
Dir. Frederick Wilson
A Clydebank apprentice, played by Gordon Jackson, becomes a ship’s designer and falls in love with the boss’s daughter in a classic 1940s drama which also features Jimmy Logan, Rona Anderson, John Laurie and Elizabeth Sellars. Evocative as social history...and a particular time and place.

Gregory’s Girl (1980)
Dir. Bill Forsyth
Endearing and quirky comedy about a girl (Dee Hepburn) who infiltrates the school football team, causes male angst and resentment, and stirs romantic yearnings in the lanky Gregory (John Gordon Sinclair). Strong on observation and naturalistic performances, it proved a huge hit.

Local Hero (1983)
Dir. Bill Forsyth
In the great tradition of Ealing comedy yet with an identity all of its own, Forsyth persuaded the late great Burt Lancaster to play the Texan tycoon, tired of corporate stresses, who falls under the spell of the tiny town his ambitious chief exec (Peter Riegert) has been sent to buy. Charming, refreshing, full of unexpected twists and colourful cameos. This is vintage Forsyth.

The Maggie (1953)
Dir. Alexander Mackendrick
Another classic Ealing comedy with Scottish roots from Alexander Mackendrick, with Paul Douglas as an American financier who falls foul of the captain of a leaky boat hired to carry a precious cargo to a remote Scottish island. In the spirit of Whisky Galore.

Mrs Brown (1997)
Dir. John Madden
An intriguing and insightful exploration of the relationship between Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and John Brown (Billy Connolly), distinguished by fine performances from all and sundry, including Antony Sher as Disraeli, and Geoffrey Palmer as the queen’s private secretary. Handsomely mounted by director John Madden who captures the full flavour of the times.

Regeneration (1997)
Dir. Gillies Mackinnon
A meticulously crafted adaptation of Pat Barker’s Booker prize-winner with Jonathan Pryce as the psychiatrist trying to rebuild the confidence of his patients to enable them to return to the horror of the First World War trenches.

Rob Roy (1996)
Dir. Michael Caton-Jones
A stirring historical drama from a sharp script by Alan Sharp, and robustly directed by Michael Caton-Jones in which Liam Neeson’s kilted warrior finds himself locked in emnity with John Hurt’s Montrose. Best of all is Tim Roth’s foppish yet dastardly Cunningham and Jessica Lange’s sensuous Mary in a film that has the sweeping feel of a Western and was unjustly dwarfed by Braveheart.

Top 20 Scottish Films of the 20th Century Part 2