Scotland on the big screen

(C) 20th Century Fox

Is Spring break dragging? Are you itching to get back to St. Andrews and missing Scotland already? Or do you just want to see more of Scotland beyond the bubble? These fifteen films based or set in Scotland allow you to experience the entire country from anywhere in the world. And a couple were even filmed in our very own St. Andrews.

Trainspotting 2 (2017) Both the original and the sequel to the iconic cult classic have defined Scottish film culture. Not for the weak hearted this is a drug addled, brutally crude, violently self-destructive, impoverished and marginalised side of Scotland you are not likely to find in St Andrews.

Under the Skin (2013) Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who takes the form of a human woman to prey on vulnerable Scottish men, allowing the film to approach gender issues and stereotypes from a new and provocative perspective. The film is unique too for employing mostly amateur actors and filming unscripted scenes on the streets of Edinburgh using hidden cameras.

Brave (2012) Pixar’s first female led and female co-directed film is also the only one to be set in Scotland. The magic of the medieval Highlands mixed with a modern feminist perspective creates the perfect fairy tale, and a largely Scottish cast removes the possibility of cringeworthy accents upstaging the films comic genius.

(C) Warner Bros.

Harry Potter (2001 – 2011) For both Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets Alnwick Castle in Northumberland was used as the setting for Hogwarts School, and the Scottish countryside was frequently used throughout the films. Not that you ever need a reason to watch Harry Potter, but knowing that you’ve been living only a few hours from the real-life Hogwarts is the perfect excuse to revisit the older (and underrated) Potter films.

William and Catherine: A Royal Romance (2011) Supposedly set in St. Andrews, the films budget didn’t quite stretch to filming (or apparently visiting) the town. But what the film lacks in accuracy, convincing acting, and plausible dialogue, it makes up for in cringeworthy hilarity and comically familiar caricatures of the royal family.

(C) Fox Searchlight Pictures

Never Let Me Go (2010) is set in a dystopian world where human life is extended by relying on clones to serve as organ donors. Filming briefly took place in St. Andrews with Andrew Melville hall serving as the exterior of the fictional Dover Recovery Centre featured in the film.

Driving Lessons (2006) An awkward teenager (Rupert Grint) spends his time writing awful love poems and aiding his mother’s over enthusiastic church volunteer work until he takes a job assisting an eccentric former actress (Julie Walters). The film is hilarious and a road trip to Edinburgh provides the setting for some of the films funniest moments.

Mission Impossible (1996) Hollywood blockbusters don’t often come to Scotland, but the train top climax to the classic action film starring Tom Cruise was filmed on railway lines between Annan, Dumfries, and New Cumnock.

Braveheart (1995) The film might be American, featuring an American actor in the lead role of warrior William Wallace, but it is a rallying cry for Scottish patriotism and is mandatory viewing for anyone who was born, lives in, or merely visits Scotland.

Shallow Grave (1994) The directorial debut of Danny Boyle starts out as all good crime films do; with a mysterious dead body, a suitcase full of money, and a group of suspicious friends. Where it goes next is as unpredictable as Danny Boyle’s career.

Gregory’s Girl (1981) This romantic comedy of sorts follows the inexperienced attempts of Gregory to woo his high school crush and star of the football team, Dorothy. This quirky look at life as a teenager in 80’s Scotland might not feature any of the Brat Pack but the amateur actors and basic budget only add to its unique charm.

(C) EMI Films

Chariots of Fire (1981) The story of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, two track athletes training to compete in the 1924 Olympics, is a classic piece of sporting cinema. And the iconic beach scenes were filmed on St. Andrews’ very own West Sands.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) Filmed almost entirely in Scotland, Monty Python’s parody of the Arthurian quest to find the Holy Grail is considered one of the greatest comedy films of all time.

The Wicker Man (1973) has everything you want in a Scottish horror film; a missing girl, an eerie island, a Celtic pagan cult, and a fiery sacrifice included. It shocks and it disturbs, but most of all it is thrillingly entertaining.

The 39 Steps (1935) This thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock follows an innocent man who is caught up in a plot to prevent the theft of military secrets and is wrongly accused of murder. His only option? Go on the run to Scotland of course.


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