The movies listed below are among the best and most popular made about Scotland and its people.
Braveheart (1995): This movie -- hardly historically accurate but moving nonetheless -- probably did more to stir overseas interest in Scotland than any promotional campaign ever cooked up by the tourist board. Mel Gibson stars as the 13th-century patriot William Wallace in this sweeping Academy Award-winning epic.
Gregory's Girl (1981): A simple comedy about an awkward high school student (played by gawky John Gordon-Sinclair) in a modern (and mostly hideous) 20th-century New Town near Glasgow.
I Know Where I'm Going! (1945): This is a charming, funny, World War II-era black-and-white movie from the great British team Powell and Pressburger. It takes a young English fiancée on a suspenseful, romantic adventure to the Hebridean isles.
Local Hero (1983): In this sweetly eclectic comedy -- possibly the best Scottish movie ever made -- villagers on a gorgeous stretch of coastline (filmed near Mallaig) expect to cash in big time because of Texan oil-industry interest, but events conspire against them.
Morvern Callar (2002): An excellent adaptation directed by Lynne Ramsay of Alan Warner's affecting contemporary story of an unusual turn of events in the life of a young woman from a Scottish town.
My Name is Joe (1998): Although not entirely lacking humor and romance, this movie paints a rather grim, if accurate, picture of Glaswegians struggling with their addictions and inner demons.
Orphans (1997): Actor Peter Mullan (star of My Name is Joe) wrote and directed this outlandish and very, very dark comedy about the day the Flynn family in Glasgow tried to bury their recently deceased mother.
The 39 Steps (1935): Director Alfred Hitchcock and scriptwriter Charles Bennett almost completely reset John Buchan's tale of spies and intrigue. Instead of sticking to the borders, the film transports the hero to the Highlands.
Trainspotting (1996): Based on one of the most popular contemporary books by Scottish author Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting is a gritty and often hilarious account of a group of unrepentant drug-addled characters in Edinburgh in the late 1980s.
Whisky Galore! (1949): Retitled Tight Little Island in the U.S., this classic movie is based on a true story. The residents of a small Scottish isle get an intoxicating windfall when a ship carrying 50,000 cases of whisky crashes off their coast during World War II.
The Wicker Man (1973): A cult classic of cinema about a strange New Age community on a picturesque Scottish island -- and the secrets they keep from a mainland constable.
There are too many books about Scotland to mention, so this is a concise list to get interested visitors going.
Black & Blue -- An Inspector Rebus Novel (Orion, 1997) by Ian Rankin is one of many in the best-selling modern crime mystery series by this prolific author. Lots of fans visit sites in Edinburgh, such as the Oxford Bar, frequented by the fictitious Rebus and the real Rankin.
The Heart of Midlothian by Sir Walter Scott (Penguin Classics) was declared a masterpiece in 1818 and remains Scott's seminal piece of fiction, influencing the later works of authors such as Balzac, Hawthorne, and Dickens.
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (Penguin Classics) follows the adventures of young David Balfour after he's spirited out of Edinburgh and ends up on the wrong side of the law in the Western Highlands. The story is as entertaining today as it was upon publication in 1886.
Lanark: A Life in Four Books by Alasdair Gray (Pub Group West, 2003) is perhaps the most important contemporary novel to be published in Scotland in the last 100 years. Gray is an eccentric of the first order, but this work of fiction (first published in 1981 and illustrated by the author), despite some fantastical detours, gets to the core of urban Scotland.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (Perennial Classics, 1999) and Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (W. W. Norton & Company, 1996) are both better known for their cinematic adaptations, but in their own very different ways, both novels manage to capture elements of Edinburgh life.
History -- Scotland: A New History by Michael Lynch (Pimlico, 1992) is a good take on Scottish history from ancient times up to the 1990s.
The Scottish Enlightenment: The Scot's Invention of the Modern World by American historian Arthur Herman (Crown, 2001) offers a clear and extremely readable explanation of the impact that Scottish thinkers had on the world.
The Scottish Nation: 1700-2000 by academic Tom Devine (Penguin, 2001) is a good, fairly recently published historical overview of Scotland. Devine is one of the few historians to examine how people were driven from the Scottish Lowlands, as well as more famous and lamentable clearances from the Highlands.
Stone Voices: The Search for Scotland by Neal Ascherson (Hill & Wang, 2003) is a quest for the national character of Scotland. In a series of anecdotes and reflections, journalist Ascherson helps readers understand the worthy sentiments behind Scottish independence and begins to redress the imbalance of Scottish histories so often written by the English.
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