Rob Roy (1995 film)

This article is about the 1995 film. For the 1953 film, see Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue.
Rob Roy

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones
Produced by Peter Broughan
Richard Jackson
Screenplay by Alan Sharp
Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Edited by Peter Honess
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • April 7, 1995 (1995-04-07) (Limited)
  • April 14, 1995 (1995-04-14)
Running time
139 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $31.6 million

Rob Roy is a 1995 American adventure film directed by Michael Caton-Jones.[1] Liam Neeson stars as Rob Roy MacGregor, an 18th-century Scottish clan chief who battles with an unscrupulous 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 treacherous aristocrat Archibald Cunningham.


In Scotland, 1713, Robert Roy MacGregor (Liam Neeson) is the Chief of Clan MacGregor. Providing the Lowland gentry with protection against cattle rustling, he barely manages to feed his people. Hoping to alleviate their poverty, MacGregor borrows £1,000 from James Graham, Marquess of Montrose (John Hurt) in order to trade cattle.

Impoverished London aristocrat Archibald Cunningham (Tim Roth) has been sent to stay with Montrose, who it is implied is related to him, as his debaucheries have become a problem back in England. Cunningham learns about MacGregor's loan from Montrose's factor, Killearn (Brian Cox) and murders MacGregor's retainer Alan MacDonald (Eric Stoltz) 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 (Andrew Keir) is a Jacobite. MacGregor refuses and Montrose vows to imprison him in the tolbooth until the debt is repaid, but MacGregor flees, briefly taking Cunningham hostage. Montrose decides to seize 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 brutally rapes his wife Mary (Jessica Lange).

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 incident from him. Unaware of the assault on his wife, but the damage to his property being all too evident, MacGregor refuses to permit his outraged clan to wage war on Montrose. Instead, he decrees, "The tenderest part of the Marquess is his purse. We'll hurt him there. Thieve his cattle, steal his rents." It transpires that Betty (Vicki Masson), a maidservant at Montrose's estate, has become pregnant with Cunningham's child. When Killearn tells Montrose, Betty is dismissed from service and contemptuously rejected by Cunningham. A heartbroken Betty seeks refuge with the MacGregors, and reveals that she had overheard Killearn and Cunningham plot to steal the money. To build a case against Cunningham, MacGregor abducts Killearn and imprisons him on Factor's Island. Mary promises Killearn that he will be spared if he testifies against Cunningham, but Killearn taunts her with her rape as it becomes clear to him that MacGregor knows nothing about it. Realizing that Mary is pregnant, he threatens to tell MacGregor that Cunningham may be the father if she does not drop her case against him. Enraged, Mary draws a sgian dubh and stabs Killearn in the neck. Alasdair thus pursues him and drowns him in the loch.

Montrose makes clear to 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 again pursue MacGregor so as to prevent further humiliation. Cunningham and the redcoats systematically 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 attack and they shoot both Alasdair and another Clan member, Coll. With his dying breath, Alasdair finally tells MacGregor about Mary's violation by Cunningham. Taken prisoner, MacGregor accuses Cunningham of murder, robbery and rape. Cunningham confirms the charges, taunting him that he enjoyed Mary far more than the women who slept with him willingly. The following morning, Montrose, despite hearing MacGregor confirm his suspicions as to where his money really went, orders MacGregor to be summarily executed by hanging from a nearby bridge. MacGregor manages to loop the rope binding his hands around Cunningham's throat and then jumps off the bridge. To save Cunningham, Montrose orders the rope to be cut, freeing MacGregor. MacGregor is chased downstream by the redcoats, but he evades them by hiding inside the rotting corpse of a Highland cow. Cunningham, meanwhile, survives his strangulation, but his vocal chords are severely damaged.

Mary, during this time, gains an audience with the Duke of Argyll and exposes Montrose's plan to frame him. Moved by MacGregor's integrity, he grants the whole family asylum at Glen Shira, on his estates. MacGregor arrives at Glen Shira, at first upset by Mary's unwillingness to inform him of her assault or her pregnancy. However, even in light of the unborn baby's possible paternity, he comments, "It's not the child who needs killing." The Duke, though skeptical of MacGregor's likelihood of survival, subsequently 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 to these terms and Cunningham and MacGregor vow that no quarter will be asked or given. Armed with a smallsword, Cunningham skillfully attacks and repeatedly wounds MacGregor, who, already labouring from the injury of his previous capture, appears to swiftly exhaust himself swinging a heavy broadsword. A gloating Montrose signals Cunningham to finish him, but MacGregor grabs his enemy's sword-point with his left hand. As Cunningham struggles to free his blade, MacGregor's seizes his dropped weapon and delivers a fatal strike. His honour restored, MacGregor vows that he will never leave his family again.



According to screenwriter Alan Sharp, Rob Roy was conceived as a Western set in the Scottish Highlands.[2]

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. Glen Coe, Glen Nevis, and Glen Tarbert can be seen. 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, with Robert G. Goodwin consulting.

The main composer is Carter Burwell. 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.

Historical accuracy

Rob Roy MacGregor was also called "Red Robert" or "Robert the Red" because of his wild red hair. MacGregor had business dealings with Montrose for 10 years before the loan of £1000 went missing. The character of Cunningham is invented.[3][4][5][6] Details of Rob Roy's life are a mix of fact and legend; the film portrays Rob Roy "in the most sympathetic light possible".[7] 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.


Box office

United Artists gave Rob Roy a limited release in the United States and Canada on the weekend of April 7, 1995, and the film grossed $2,023,272 from 133 theaters. On the weekend of April 14, 1995, Rob Roy had a wide release and earned $7,190,047 from 1,521 theaters. It ranked #2 at the box office after 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.[8]

Critical reception

Rob Roy received a mixed to positive critical response. It currently holds a 72% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[9] The film review aggregation website Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, reported that the film received an average score of 55 based on 19 reviews.[10] 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".[11]

In contrast, Rita Kempley of The Washington Post compared Rob Roy negatively to the action films Death Wish and Rambo. 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."[12]

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.[13]

Jessica Lange's performance was critically acclaimed.


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

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

See also


  1. Williams, Karl. "Rob Roy". Allmovie. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
  2. MINSAAS, KIRSTI. "Rob Roy: The Value of Honor". Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  3. "Rob Roy". Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  4. Louis Albert Necker, A voyage to the Hebrides, or western isles of Scotland;: with observations ..., p. 80
  5. Duncan, John. "Robert the Red ( Rob Roy)". Scottish History Online. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  6. "Rob Roy MacGregor and History of Clan MacGregor". Heart O' Scotland. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  7. Ross, David. "Rob Roy Biography". Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  8. "Rob Roy (1995)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 30, 2010.
  9. "Rob Roy". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  10. "Rob Roy reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved July 30, 2010.
  11. Ebert, Roger (April 7, 1995). "Rob Roy". Chicago Sun-Times.
  12. Kempley, Rita (April 7, 1995). "'Rob Roy' (R)". The Washington Post.
  13. Maslin, Janet (April 7, 1995). "Film Review: Rob Roy; Liam Neeson: Man in Kilts". The New York Times.
  14. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.
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