Braveheart (1995): Mel Gibson’s Oscar-Winning Historical Epic

Mel Gibson’s Braveheart is one of the weakest films to ever win the Best Picture Oscar, in a year that most handicappers predicted that Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13” would take the top award.

Our Grade: B- (** out of *****)

Was it Gibson’s popularity as a star that made the difference?

Though released by Paramount in May, the Academy voters, notorious for their short memories, didn’t forget Gibson’s historical epic at Oscar time and honored it with ten nominations.

The studio’s heart was brave, entrusting director Gibson with $35 million for his second feature, though his directorial debut was also a disappointment. However, Paramount agreed to green-light the film contingent that Gibson also starred in it.

There’s plenty of everything–action, romance, gory violence and blood–in this shallow thirteenth century tale of a Scottish hero (Gibson) who returns to his homeland after England’s cruel king assumes power.

“Braveheart” was a genre picture, a wannabe historical epic, but not a good or exciting one.

The film critic Dave Kehr has pointed out correctly that, “Braveheart” is “a film that looks like an Oscar winner (in period detail and handsome cinematography), and even sounds like one (with the Academy’s prferred British accents, but it nowhere displays the spark and originality that defines a classic.”

“Apollo 13” notwithstanding, 1995 was not a particularly strong year at the Oscars (see below).

Commercial Appeal

Opening to mixed critical reviews, “Braveheart” is also one of the least commercial of Oscar winners, grossing only $75.6 million domestically.  Internationally, however, the movie was more popular, accounting for a worldwide box-office of $202.6 million.

Fortunately, Gibson later developed as a director in his efforts, as manifest in  “Apocalypto” (arguably his best feature to date).

Oscar Nominations: 10

Picture, produced by Mel Gibson and Alan Ladd
Director: Mel Gibson
Screenplay (Original): Randall Wallace
Cinematography: John Toll
Sound: Andy Nelson, Scott Millan, Anna Behlmer, Brian Simmons
Sound Effects Editing: Lon Bender, Per Hallberg
Film Editing: Steven Rosenblum
Costume Design: Charles Knode
Makeup: Peter Frampton, Paul Pattison, Lois Burwell
Score (Dramatic): James Horner

Oscar Awards: 5

Picture
Director
Cinematography
Sound Effects Editing
Makeup

Oscar Context

In 1995, the main competition in the Best Picture category was between Gibson’s violent historical epic “Braveheart,” which received 10 nominations, and Ron Howard’s fact-inspired adventure “Apollo 13,” with 9, though director Howard was snubbed by the Academy.

The other nominees were “Babe,” the foreign-language film “Il Postino” (“The Postman”), and Ang Lee’s literary adaptation “Sense and Sensibility,” which won Emma Thompson an Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

Lines to Remember:

“They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”

Credits:

Paramount

(Icon Productions/The Ladd Company/Marquis Film)