Why ‘Braveheart’ Still Matters

The film is 22 years old today — and for several important reasons, it continues to hold its own

by Zachary Leeman | Updated 19 May 2017 at 7:56 AM

“Braveheart” is an ever-popular film — the story that solidified the reputations of director Mel Gibson and screenwriter Randall Wallace as behind-the-scenes talents worthy of attention. Released on May 19, 1995, “Braveheart” was the partly fictionalized story of historical figure William Wallace, a Scottish man who had played a major role in the First War of Scottish Independence, which lasted from 1296 to 1314.

The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It would be hard to convince a studio to finance this epic war film today — unless it included a dash of fantasy and unbelievable heroism a la the recent flop, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.”

Related: Living the Braveheart Life

Films like “Braveheart” don’t last anymore. With more content created and distributed than ever before, films mostly have short lifespans. No one talks about Best Picture winners like they used to — recent victors like “Spotlight” and “12 Years a Slave” are basically forgotten shortly after they enjoy their days in the sun.

“Braveheart” is no such case. Its legacy is so strong that Randall Wallace even tackled the subject in a book released in 2015, called “Living the Braveheart Life.” In it, he broke down his experience with fans deeply affected by the story and the themes of the film that resonate so deeply with the human spirit.

"Some believe that movies like 'Braveheart' can't be made anymore because the business as a whole believes that the audience wants fantasy heroes, not real heroes. But I believe that love, courage, faith and hope are the real superpowers," Wallace told Deadline in 2015, on the 20th anniversary of the movie.

"Braveheart" holds a special place in Wallace's life that has to do with more than just the story of a man leading a rebellion against an authoritarian government. "I had reached a point where I was successful in television working for Steve Cannell. Then there was a writers strike — it lasted eight months — and when we came back from it, the entire business had changed. My finances were upside down. I thought, 'I have a chance to write one more thing before I have to quit and find other work to feed my family.' So I got down on my knees and prayed to write something that God had created me to do, not what I thought Hollywood wanted," he said.

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He continued, "I got up and started writing a script called 'Love And Honor,' and that led me directly to 'Braveheart.' I had seen that statue 10 years before and had remembered it every day. I didn't feel then like I had the tools to write the story. But after working with Steve, I knew that I could do it. That was my 'Braveheart moment.'"

Wallace went on to write and direct such popular films as "Heaven Is For Real" and "We Were Soldiers."

After more than 20 years, "Braveheart" is arguably more relevant now than ever. Its depiction of average people fighting tooth and nail for their God-given right to free lives is a universal concept, a battle constantly waged in one form or another across the globe.

"William Wallace is the hero with a thousand faces. He's that guy in every culture that rises up and does the unthinkable."

"William Wallace is the hero with a thousand faces. He's that guy in every culture that rises up and does the unthinkable," director and star Mel Gibson, who was originally hesitant about the lead role because he thought he was too old, told Daily Record in 2014 about one of his most iconic characters.

The depictions of war in "Braveheart" are brutal, biting and honest. Its depiction of man's craving for a free life is the same.

"Braveheart" today remains a masterwork and a timeless tale that had the courage to be about everyday men rising to extraordinary odds — instead of about superheroes. It had the courage to be about an idea instead of being offensively hollow. It had the courage to be a movie with more heart on the screen than special effects. If you want to be enveloped by a moving piece of film this weekend, perhaps skip the theaters and give another viewing to "Braveheart."

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