September 8, 1995
IT has become one of the most quoted movie lines of all time – in Scotland, anyway.
“They may take our lives…but they’ll never take our FREEDOM!”
It’s from Braveheart, of course, the rip-roaring 1995 epic about Scottish legend William Wallace, starring and directed by Mel Gibson.
The film took £120 million at the box office and won five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
That didn’t stop film bible Empire proclaiming it “the worst ever Oscar winner”.
The sniffy critics can say what they like.
That one line became an instant film classic.
You’d probably be hard pushed to remember any other lines from the film, no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
That doesn’t matter.
That line inspired millions of impressions, sparked discussions in the pub and even, some believe, caused a spike in support for a Scottish Parliament.
Never mind that the film is deemed by historians to be, at best, unreliable on accuracy.
That most of it was made in Ireland by an Australian and only a few scenes were shot in Scotland.
That it was written by an American – though admittedly an American going by the name of Wallace.
That Mel Gibson didn’t even want to play the part of William Wallace – but studio bosses insisted he had to, or they’d pull out of financing the film.
That the film was slated for having characters with perfect teeth – not exactly typical of 13th Century peasant Scots!
None of it matters.
Gibson delivered the line with such force and passion, it became hard to forget.
With his blue-painted face and flowing hair, he presented an unforgettable image.
Even those who have never seen Braveheart will have seen that clip many a time, on news programmes, discussion shows and so on.
Even schools used the film as a way to spark interest in Scottish history among pupils.
That line didn’t just chime with Scots, though.
Stories have emerged over the years of Iraqis watching Braveheart in cellars while they were being bombed, Chinese people watching it to inspire courage.
Forget those who aimed to turn the line into something political, to make it about modern Scotland. There was even a much-quoted “Braveheart effect” during the indyref campaign.
Mel Gibson’s aim when making the movie was never to make it about politics.
It was to tell a stirring story of Scottish history, to entertain film goers and create an unforgettable moment of movie history.
Thanks to that one line – job done.