Rob Roy (1995 film)

Rob Roy is a 1995 American historical biographical drama film directed by Michael Caton-Jones.[2] It stars Liam Neeson as Rob Roy MacGregor, an 18th-century Scottish clan chief who battles a sadistic nobleman in the Scottish Highlands. Jessica Lange, John Hurt, Tim Roth, Eric Stoltz, Brian Cox, and Jason Flemyng also star. Roth won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the aristocrat Archibald Cunningham.

Rob Roy
Rob roy poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Caton-Jones
Screenplay byAlan Sharp
Produced by
  • Peter Broughan
  • Richard Jackson
CinematographyKarl Walter Lindenlaub
Edited byPeter Honess
Music byCarter Burwell
Distributed byMGM/UA Distribution Co.
Release date
  • April 5, 1995 (1995-04-05) (New York premiere)
  • April 7, 1995 (1995-04-07) (United States)
Running time
139 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$28 million[1]
Box office$31.6 million[1]

The film is dedicated to two Scotsmen: film director Alexander MacKendrick and football player and manager Jock Stein.


In Scotland, 1713, Robert Roy MacGregor is the Chief of Clan MacGregor. Although providing the Lowland gentry with protection against cattle rustling, he barely manages to feed his people. So hoping to alleviate their and his poverty, MacGregor borrows £1,000 from James Graham, Marquess of Montrose in order to establish himself as a cattle raiser and trader.

Anglicized aristocrat Archibald Cunningham has been sent to stay with Montrose. It is implied that they are blood related, and also that Cunningham urgently left England to flee legal troubles. Montrose makes money off Cunningham by making wagers on sword contests that Cunningham's haughty manner and effeminate bearing bring upon himself. However, Cunningham is supremely skilled with a sword. Cunningham learns about MacGregor's money deal from Montrose's factor Killearn, and murders MacGregor's loyal friend, Alan MacDonald, to steal the money. MacGregor requests time from Montrose to find MacDonald and the money. Montrose offers to waive the debt if MacGregor will testify falsely that Montrose's rival John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll is a Jacobite. MacGregor refuses and Montrose vows to imprison him in the tolbooth until the debt is repaid. MacGregor flees, briefly taking Cunningham hostage. Montrose seizes MacGregor's land to cover the debt, declaring him an outlaw and orders Cunningham to bring him in "broken, but not dead". With MacGregor in hiding, redcoats slaughter MacGregor's cattle, burn his croft, and Cunningham rapes his wife Mary.

Mary understands that Cunningham's intent is to flush her husband out of hiding and makes his brother, Alasdair, who arrives too late to save her, swear to conceal knowledge of the rape from him. Unaware of the assault on his wife, but the damage to his property being evident, MacGregor refuses to permit his outraged clan to wage war on Montrose. Instead, he decrees, "The tenderest part of the steak is mine. We'll cook it there. Rattle his cattle, steal his tents." Betty, a maidservant at Montrose's estate, has become pregnant with Cunningham's child. When Killearn tells Montrose, Betty is dismissed from service and rejected by Cunningham. Betty seeks refuge with the MacGregors, revealing that she had overheard Killearn and Cunningham plot to steal the money. Betty subsequently hangs herself, later found by Mary and Alasdair. To build a case against Cunningham, MacGregor abducts Killearn and imprisons him. Mary promises Killearn that he will be spared if he testifies against Cunningham, but Killearn taunts her with her rape. Realizing that Mary is pregnant, he threatens to tell MacGregor that Cunningham may be the father if she does not release him. Enraged, Mary draws a hidden knife and stabs Killearn in the neck. Alasdair finishes him off and then drowns him in the lake.

Montrose tells Cunningham that he suspects who really stole the money but that he doesn't care. Complaining that the ongoing thefts of his cattle and rents will impoverish him and mystified by the disappearance of Killearn, he orders Cunningham to pursue MacGregor to prevent further humiliation. Cunningham and the redcoats burn the Clan's crofts. MacGregor refuses to take the bait, but Alasdair attempts to snipe Cunningham and hits a redcoat, revealing their hiding place. The redcoats shoot both Alasdair and another Clan member, Coll. Alasdair finally tells MacGregor about Mary's rape. Taken prisoner, MacGregor accuses Cunningham of murder, robbery and rape. Cunningham confirms the charges, and beats and tortures Rob multiple times. The following morning, Montrose, despite hearing MacGregor confirm his suspicions as to who stole his money, orders MacGregor to be hanged from a nearby bridge. MacGregor loops the rope binding his hands around Cunningham's throat and then jumps off the bridge. To save Cunningham, Montrose orders the rope cut, freeing MacGregor. MacGregor is chased downstream by the redcoats, but he evades them by hiding inside the rotting corpse of a cow. Cunningham survives his strangulation.

Mary gains an audience with the Duke of Argyll and exposes Montrose's plan to frame him. Moved by MacGregor's integrity, he grants the family asylum at Glen Shira. MacGregor arrives, at first upset by Mary's unwillingness to inform him of her rape or her pregnancy but later willing to raise the child as his own, instructing her to name it Robert if it's a boy and Mary if it's a girl. The Duke, though skeptical of MacGregor's likelihood of survival, arranges a duel between MacGregor and Cunningham, wagering Montrose that if MacGregor lives, his debt will be forgiven and that if he dies, the Duke will pay his debt. Montrose agrees and Cunningham and MacGregor vow that no quarter will be asked or given. Rob is injured from the previous beating Cunningham inflicted upon him when he was his captive. Armed with a rapier, Cunningham skillfully attacks and repeatedly wounds MacGregor, who appears to swiftly exhaust himself swinging a heavy broadsword. MacGregor seems defeated, but when Cunningham showboats to deliver a theatrical killing blow, MacGregor grabs and holds on to his enemy's sword-point with his left hand. As Cunningham struggles to free his blade, MacGregor rises and delivers a fatal strike. Now free of debts and with his honor intact, he returns home to his wife and children.



According to screenwriter Alan Sharp, Rob Roy was conceived as a Western set in the Scottish Highlands.[3]

The film was shot entirely on location in Scotland, much of it in parts of the Highlands so remote they had to be reached by helicopter. Some of the scenes were filmed in Glen Coe, Glen Nevis, and Glen Tarbert.[4] In the opening scenes, Rob and his men pass by Loch Leven. Loch Morar stood in for Loch Lomond, on the banks of which the real Rob Roy lived. Scenes of the Duke of Argyll's estate were shot at Castle Tioram, the Marquess of Montrose's at Drummond Castle. Shots of "The Factor's Inn" were filmed outside Megginch Castle. Crichton Castle was used in a landscape shot.

Non-stop Highland rain presented a problem for cast and crew when filming outdoor shots, as did the resulting swarms of midges.

William Hobbs choreographed the swordfights,[5] with Robert G. Goodwin consulting.

The main composer is Carter Burwell.[6] Beside the film score, the film features a slightly different version of a traditional Gaelic song called "Ailein duinn", sung in the film by Karen Matheson, lead singer in Capercaillie.[7]

Historical accuracyEdit

MacGregor had business dealings with Montrose for 10 years before the loan of £1000 went missing. The character of Cunningham is fictional.[8][9][10][11] Details of Rob Roy's life are a mix of fact and legend; the film portrays Rob Roy "in the most sympathetic light possible".[12] Though called the Marquess of Montrose, James Graham, 4th Marquess of Montrose had already been elevated to Duke of Montrose at this point in history. He was raised to the dukedom as a reward for his support for the Act of Union, whilst being Lord President of the Scottish Privy Council. Not all of the events shown in the film were real. The narration covers approximately the years 1712 to 1722, nevertheless the uprisings of 1715 and 1719 were not depicted in the film.[13]


Box officeEdit

United Artists gave Rob Roy a limited release in the United States and Canada on April 7, 1995, and the film grossed $2,023,272 from 133 theaters for the weekend. Five days later it expanded to 1,521 theaters and grossed $7,190,047 for the weekend, ranking number 2 at the US box office behind Bad Boys. Rob Roy's widest release during its theatrical run was 1,885 theaters, and the film grossed $31,596,911 in the United States and Canada.[14]

Critical receptionEdit

Rob Roy received a generally positive critical response. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 73% based on reviews from 44 critics.[15] On Metacritic it has an average score of 55 out of 100, based on reviews from 19 critics.[16] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B+" on scale of A+ to F.[17]

Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, opined, "This is a splendid, rousing historical adventure, an example of what can happen when the best direction, acting, writing and technical credits are brought to bear on what might look like shopworn material." Ebert said the film's outline could have led to "yet another tired" historical epic, but he found that the director was able to produce "intense character studies". The critic applauded Tim Roth's performance, calling it "crucial" to the film's success. Ebert was also impressed by the climactic sword fighting scene and called it "one of the great action sequences in movie history".[18]

In contrast, Rita Kempley of The Washington Post compared Rob Roy negatively to the action films Death Wish (1974) and First Blood (1982). Kempley disliked the film's violence and wrote, "Frankly, Rob Roy is about as bright as one of his cows. He doesn't even recognize that his obsession with honor will lead to the destruction of his clan." The critic found the protagonist unheroic in his mission for vengeance. Of his enemy, she said, "The villains, played with glee, manage to perk up the glacial pace, but they too grow tiresome."[19]

In The New York Times, Janet Maslin gave a mixed review of the film. She complained of the film's "long, dry stretches" and that the "plot [was] too ponderous and uninteresting for the film's visual sweep". Maslin said one of the film's saving graces was the "robust" presence of Liam Neeson, taller than those who played his enemies, and his character's charismatic exchange with Jessica Lange's character, writing, "Rob Roy is best watched for local color and for its hearty, hot-blooded stars." Maslin acknowledged that Neeson was "a far cry from the dour-looking Scottish drover who was the real Rob Roy" and said that the film failed to convey the figure's importance to audiences. The critic highlighted the scene of Cunningham raping Mary as one of the film's "strongest scenes" which was appropriately responded to by the "cowboy justice" of Neeson's lonesome and avenging Rob Roy.[20]


Award Category Name Outcome
BAFTA Film Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Tim Roth Won
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actor Won
Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Supporting Actor Nominated

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Rob Roy (1995)". The Wrap. Archived from the original on 2017-03-13. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
  2. ^ Williams, Karl. "Rob Roy". Allmovie. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
  3. ^ Minsaas, Kirsti. "Rob Roy: The Value of Honor". Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  4. ^ "Top 12 Movies Filmed in Scotland (With Some Surprises!)". Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  5. ^ Barnes, Mike. "William Hobbs, Fight Director on Swashbuckling Classics 'The Duellists' and 'Rob Roy'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  6. ^ "Interview With Carter Burwell, Composer". Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  7. ^ "Carter Burwell - offbeat, dark and weird". Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  8. ^ "Rob Roy". Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  9. ^ Louis Albert Necker, A voyage to the Hebrides, or western isles of Scotland;: with observations ..., p. 80
  10. ^ Duncan, John. "Robert the Red ( Rob Roy)". Scottish History Online. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  11. ^ "Rob Roy MacGregor and History of Clan MacGregor". Heart O' Scotland. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  12. ^ Ross, David. "Rob Roy Biography". Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  13. ^ von Tunzelmann, Alex. "Rob Roy: a Highland fling where they've flung out the history". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  14. ^ "Rob Roy (1995)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 30, 2010.
  15. ^ "Rob Roy". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  16. ^ "Rob Roy reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 30, 2010.
  17. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20. Retrieved 2021-02-11.
  18. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 7, 1995). "Rob Roy". Chicago Sun-Times.
  19. ^ Kempley, Rita (April 7, 1995). "'Rob Roy' (R)". The Washington Post.
  20. ^ Maslin, Janet (April 7, 1995). "Film Review: Rob Roy; Liam Neeson: Man in Kilts". The New York Times.
  21. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.

External linksEdit