Braveheart is a 1995 epic historical drama film directed by and starring Mel Gibson. The film was written for the screen and then novelized by Randall Wallace. Gibson portrays Sir William Wallace, a 13th century Scottish knight who gained recognition when he came to the forefront of the First War of Scottish Independence by opposing King Edward I of England, also known as "Longshanks" (Patrick McGoohan).
The film won five Academy Awards at the 68th Academy Awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director, and was nominated for an additional five.
In the 13th Century England, after several years of political unrest in Scotland, the land is open to an invasion from the south. King Edward I of England (Patrick McGoohan) decided to conquer Scotland. After invading Scotland and winning the war by 1280 A.D., Edward (known as 'Longshanks') granted areas of land in Scotland to his nobility which they were to rule, along with the traditional privileges. One of these privileges was Primae Noctis, the right for the lord to take a newly married Scottish woman into his bed and spend the wedding night with the bride.
William Wallace (Mel Gibson) grows up in this atmosphere of repression and fear and survives the death of his father and brother. Wallace is taken abroad by his uncle (Brian Cox). They travel to Europe and Wallace learns to read, write and speak Latin and French. When he returns home, he falls in love with his childhood sweetheart Murron MacClannough (Catherine McCormack), and they marry in secret so that she does not have to spend a night in the bed of the English lord.
The Scots continue to live under the iron fist of Longshanks' cruel laws. Wallace intends on living as a farmer and avoiding involvement in the ongoing "troubles". When an English soldier tries to rape Murron, Wallace fights off several soldiers and the two attempt to flee, but the village sheriff captures Murron and publicly executes her by slitting her throat, proclaiming "an assault on the King's soldiers is the same as an assault on the King himself." In retribution, Wallace and several villagers slaughter the English garrison, executing the sheriff in the same manner that he executed Murron.
After this, Wallace is compelled to fight against the English, and in response to Wallace's exploits, the commoners of Scotland rise in revolt against England. As his legend spreads, hundreds of Scots from the surrounding clans volunteer to join Wallace's militia. Wallace leads his army through a series of successful battles against the English, including the Battle of Stirling Bridge on September 11, 1297, and the sacking of the city of York. All the while, Wallace seeks the assistance of young Robert the Bruce (Angus Macfadyen), son of the leper noble Robert the Elder (Ian Bannen) and the chief contender for the Scottish crown. However, Robert is dominated by his scheming father, who wishes to secure the throne of Scotland to his son by bowing down to the English, despite his son's growing admiration for Wallace and his cause.
King Edward Longshanks, worried enough by the threat of the rebellion, poses to send the French princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau) to try and negotiate peace with Wallace. Princess Isabelle is the wife of Prince Edward (Peter Hanly), the Prince of Wales and Longshanks's oldest son. The King sends her because his son is a weak-willed man and would not be imposing enough to negotiate, but she is a strong leader. Longshanks also knows that if Wallace kills her, the French king will declare war on Wallace in revenge. Isabelle meets with Wallace, but having heard of him beforehand and after meeting him in person, she becomes enamored with him and secretly assists him in his fight. Eventually, she and Wallace make love, after which she becomes pregnant.
For Wallace to continue fighting, he needs the Scottish nobility on his side, contributing troops and food. But Wallace has problems convincing the nobility that they have a real chance to take back the country from the English. The nobles are more interested in their own welfare, assisted by British privileges and bribes, than the welfare of their subjects. Eventually, two of these nobles, Lochlan and Mornay, betray Wallace at the bloody Battle of Falkirk the following year on July 22, 1298 as a new and larger English army invades Scotland led by Edward Longshanks himself. The Scots lose the battle, and Wallace nearly loses his life when, in a last desperate act, he furiously breaks ranks and charges toward Longshanks to kill him personally. He is intercepted by one of the king's lancers, who turns out to be Robert the Bruce, but in an act of remorse Bruce is able to get Wallace to safety just before the English can capture him. Over the next seven years, Wallace goes into hiding and wages a protracted guerilla war against the English. In order to repay Mornay and Lochlan for their betrayals, Wallace brutally murders both men.
Robert the Bruce contacts Wallace to set up a meeting, where the Bruce intends to declare his intent to join Wallace and commit troops to the war. Still believing there is some good in the nobility of his country, Wallace eventually agrees to meet with Robert the Bruce in Edinburgh. However, Robert's father has conspired with the other nobles to set a trap, and Wallace is caught and handed over to the English. Learning of his father's treachery, the younger Robert Bruce disowns his father. Isabelle has her own revenge on the now terminally ill Longshanks by quietly confessing to him that she is pregnant with another's child and that she will end Longshank's line and rule following his death.
In London, Wallace is brought before the English magistrates, tried for high treason, and sentenced to execution by public torture and beheading at the Tower of London. Even under horrible pain, Wallace refuses to submit to the king and beg for mercy. Awed by Wallace's courage, the Londoners watching the execution begin to yell for mercy, and the magistrate offers him one final chance for mercy. Using the last strength in his body, the defiant William instead shouts, "Freedom!" Just as he is about to be beheaded, Wallace sees an image of Murron in the crowd smiling at him, before the blow is struck.
Epilogue. In 1314, nine years after Wallace's death, Robert the Bruce, now a Scottish king and still guilt-ridden over his involvement Wallace's betrayal, leads a strong Scottish army and faces a ceremonial line of English troops at the fields of Bannockburn where the English under their new king are to accept him as the rightful ruler of Scotland. Just as he is about to ride to accept the English endorsement, the Bruce turns back to his troops. Invoking Wallace's memory, he urges his charges to fight with him as they did with Wallace. Robert then turns toward the English troop line and leads a charge toward the English, who were not expecting to fight. The film ends with Mel Gibson's voice intoning that the Scottish won their freedom in this battle.