Natural Scotland on Screen in the Early 1900s

Natural Scotland on Screen in the 1930s & 1940s

Natural Scotland on Screen in the 1950s & 1960s

Natural Scotland on Screen in the 1970s & 1980s

Natural Scotland on Screen in the 1990s

Natural Scotland on Screen in the 2000s


Scotland has appeared in various guises throughout the history of big screen cinema. Sometimes it is just a location - a pretty background; sometimes it is a feature of the story and has important things to say about Scotland as a country, its identity, its culture and its people. And sometimes it provides a deeply meaningful or emotional texture to the film.

There are, of course, many hundreds of films that show Scotland in other ways but our collection highlights those examples of feature films that show off natural Scotland in some way.

This is the age of silent cinema, when the artform was still in its infancy. The early decades of cinema were dominated largely by America, France and Germany.

As such, there were very few depictions of Scotland on screen. However, one featrure film did show Scotland, its land and its people:

The Pride of the Clan (1917)

In the 1930s and 1940s, sound came to cinema and the Hollywood machine came into force. Importantly, though, Britain had also started making feature films and Scotland was becoming more of a fixture in narrative cinema.

Significant filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock and the comedy geniuses at Ealing Studios saw Scotland as a setting ripe for storytelling possibilities, and the first home-grown depictions of Scotland start to appear (although most of them actually came out of English film studios):

The Secret of the Loch (1934)

The 39 Steps (1935)

The Edge of the World (1937)

I Know Where I'm Going (1945)

The Brothers (1947)

Bonnie Prince Charlie (1948)

Macbeth (1948)

Whisky Galore! (1949)

The 1950s and 1960s was a period of mixed output - mixed in quality, mixed in representations and mixed in origin. The representations of Scotland, as a result, are both interesting and controversial.

This was still the Golden Age of British Film so there are still some quality depictions of Scotland in drama and comedy. But Hollywood had also entered the arena in a big way and some films show a very odd - sometimes disrespectful - idea of Scotland, its land and its people:

Laxdale Hall (1953)

The Master of Ballantrae (1953)

Brigadoon (1954)

The Maggie (1954)

Trouble in the Glen (1954)

Geordie (1955)

Kidnapped (1960)

Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog (1961)

Ring of Bright Water (1969)

In the 1970s, through the 1980s, cinema was changing. Gone were days of British studio films, and Hollywood was struggling too. Television had established itself as a real contender for audiences' entertainment needs, so different models of storytelling and film production came into being.

Instead of lots of studio films, this period sees many smaller independent film productions which carry a more personal and unique point of view. Most significantly, Scotland gets its own film industry so indiginous filmmakers could now make films in Scotland, about Scotland with their own view of Scotland.

The old mythical, romantic version Scotland was now challenged by a more modern, realistic and - perhaps - cynical subtext:

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

Kidnapped (1971)

Macbeth (1971)

When Eight Bells Toll (1971)

The Wicker Man (1973)

The Thirty Nine Steps (1978)

Local Hero (1983)

Another Time Another Place (1983)

Restless Natives (1985)

Highlander (1986)

The 1990s is when the Hollywood blockbuster model was born. Television also became a much bigger player (often providing much of the finance for feature films). Fewer films appear and tend to fall into one of two camps: either they are big budget spectaculars out of America with Scottish history at their core (filmed in glorious widescreen in the Scottish Highlands). Or they are smaller scale, more intimate portrayals of human stories set against the landscape.

Soft Top Hard Shoulder (1993)

Rob Roy (1995)

Braveheart (1995)

Breaking the Waves (1996)

Trainspotting (1996)

Macbeth (1997)

Mrs Brown (1997)

A Shot At Glory (1999)

The new century is a period of huge variety. Big budget Hollywood franchise movies rub shoulders with homegrown genre films, documentaries and low-budget independent stories about people struggling with life. We even get some versions of Scotland imagined in animator's ink.

Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working With Time (2001)

The Last Great Wilderness (2002)

The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby (2005)

Red Rose (2005)

Seachd: the Inaccessible Pinnacle (2007)

Doomsday (2008)

Jackboots on Whitehall (2010)

The Illusionist (2010)

You've Been Trumped (2011)

A Lonely Place To Die (2011)

The Wicker Tree (2011)

Brave (2012)

We Are Northern Lights (2013)

Shell (2013)


Natural Scotland Films is part of the Year of Natural Scotland

year of natural scotland

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