Outlaw King (2019): Better Than Braveheart?


Yeah, I know, that’s a pretty low bar. So I didn’t expect much from Netflix’s original film Outlaw King (2018) starring Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce. It’s not exactly the same story as everyone’s least favorite Scottish historical onscreen mishmash, but there are some of the same characters as in Braveheart (1995) and it’s set around the same time. This movie is also going for the same kind of sweeping epic thing, which means that costuming historical accuracy is likely low on the priorities list, but AT LEAST THERE ARE NO KILTS, CAN I GET AN AMEN?!?

I went in prepared for a lot of big, bloody, boring battle scenes and was pleasantly surprised to just find three major battles, the longest being confined to the final 15 minutes of the film. Most of the flick is Robert on the run, contemplating manly things like honor and revenge, so you get many shots of Chris Pine brooding intensely. If that’s your thing, you’ll love it. Myself, I clipped my two cats’ nails because by that point, I’d taken enough costume screencaps.

The Scottish scenery is stunning, as this was filmed on location around Glencoe, Stirling, Linlithgow Palace, the Isle of Skye, and other gorgeous parts of the country. But if you know even the tiniest bit about Scottish history, you know the whole infighting Scots storyline, which takes up the bulk of the Outlaw King‘s plot. There’s no spoilers in history, and I guess no new stories either. Even trying to juice up the romance between Robert and his second wife, Elizabeth de Burgh, doesn’t add to the plot much. They get a few lines together and a sex scene, but that’s all.

As far as accuracy of that storyline, this production easily beats Braveheart by not making shit up out of whole cloth. There are some truncations of the timeline and mushing together of little events here and there, but it’s not a silly cartoon version of history For a detailed analysis of the non-costume history, check out Shadiversity’s video on YouTube.

Outlaw King (2018)

Costumes in Outlaw King

First off, let’s talk about a non-costume — Chris Pine’s much-hyped full-frontal nude scene. Go ahead and fast-forward to 1 hour and 27 minutes to catch his quick bathe in a cold Scottish lake for the reveal:

OutlawKing (2018)

That’s about it.

OutlawKing (2018)

Here, I did as much as I could to enhance the image for ya.

Yeah, no big deal. But we had to get that out of the way.

Seinfeld - why does it shrink? it just does

Ehem. Most of the actual clothing is either armor (which doesn’t excite me, but rock on with your bad selves in the comments!) or tunic-y medieval stuff. OK, that doesn’t excite me either, but I’ve researched and made some of it, as you end up doing if you spend any time in the SCA, even if you prefer “late period,” aka 16th century. So I have to say costume designer Jane Petrie (best known for Netflix’s The Crown) did quite a good job making Outlaw King‘s non-armor outfits circa 1300-1320 look interesting and not just like generic sacks! For starters, you can actually see that her team used authentic rectangular construction methods, which she discusses in an interview with Jezebel:

“The fashions are dictated by the width of the loom. In this case, it was probably about 60 inches, which is kind of an arm span, or narrower. It would never be wider than 60. So we chose a width of linen that we liked, and it was narrower than 60, actually, probably 70 centimeters or something like that. It wasn’t huge. And I said to the cutters, “Don’t do any curves.” Everything has to come out of these rectangles, in the way that a kimono does. If you look at something from early Azerbaijan or Romania or Japan, all of those early costumes, they’ll have straight sleeves, and everything’s on the fold, and it’s made out of rectangles and triangles so if you want volume, it’s a diagonal across that width. So you start playing with those rectangles and triangles and never using curves in the sleevehead, and literally the only bit of fabric you throw away is the hole that you cut to stick your head through and probably they used that for patching. Nothing’s wasted.”

These cutting methods give a lovely shape to the tunics, especially on the men, which you can see in some of the fighting and running scenes (honestly, that makes it more interesting to me; I got bored otherwise). It reminds you of how practical those deep gored skirts in tunics were for movement, while still providing warmth and coverage of the fabric. And you could get all of that out of narrow looms — clever and elegant!

Outlaw King (2018)

Note the seam lines on this tunic, there’s a center-front gore, sleeves set on the fold, rectangular side panels, and a keyhole neckline (plus he’s wearing an under-tunic; layers are period!).

Some of the men also wear padded, quilted armor or gambesons, which could be worn alone or underneath chainmail.

Outlaw King (2018)

It strikes me as a bit more like this:

brown puffer jacket

Than like this:

Pourpoint of Charles VI of France, 1360-1380

Pourpoint of Charles VI of France, 1360-1380

Though maybe I’m too harsh? If you squint, maybe the ones in Outlaw King are kinda like this…

Chroniques de France ou de St. Denis, 1270-1380

Chroniques de France ou de St. Denis, 1270-1380

“E” for effort, let’s say. Same goes for he women’s clothing, especially that on Florence Pugh playing Elizabeth. It’s pretty good if you squint.

Outlaw King (2018)

Her wedding gown is more in the ‘pretty princess’ vein than historically accurate.

Outlaw King (2018)

Um, bust support *was* possible in the early 14th century…

Outlaw King (2018)

Still no bust support (though I swear there’s a shadow of a modern bra under her gown here), I do appreciate the fagoting treatment with a herringbone stitch. Gives visual interest and shows possible hand-sewing.

Outlaw King (2018)

Randomly embroidered gown is random.

Outlaw King (2018)

That embroidery looks more like an Indian-import bedspread than medieval Scotland.

Of course I’m nitpicking, it’s what we do. Petrie didn’t rent all these costumes — she’s told the media, “Pretty much in Outlaw King, if it’s on the screen, we made it.” So yes, I understand the work that went into it. And it does look more 14th-century than Braveheart that’s for sure. But that’s none too difficult!

Outlaw King (2018)

I like the stripey tunic on Aymer de Valence (Sam Spruell).

Codex Manesse, 1305-1340

It’d fit right into a scene from the Codex Manesse, 1305-1340.

Interestingly, while there aren’t any kilts, there is a very subtle use of tartan throughout Outlaw King that I’m guessing few people would notice.

Outlaw King (2018)

This random guy at Robert’s castle wears a tunic with expertly matched plaids at the seams, plus a light-colored tartan cape.

Outlaw King (2018)

When Robert kills John Comyn (Callan Mulvey), the guy is wearing a tartan hood.

Outlaw King (2018)

Isabella Macduff (Kim Allan) wears a tartan mantle whilst she crowns Robert.

Outlaw King (2018)

Neil Bruce (Lorne MacFadyen) wears a tartan tunic as well.

At least they’re all in muted vegetable-dye colors. The first few of these tartans look similar with wide checks (or setts), while the one on Neil has a smaller scale reminiscent of the earliest known Scottish tartan-like fabric, called the Falkirk Sett.

Falkirk Check, c. 230, National Museums Scotland

Falkirk Sett, c. 230, National Museums Scotland

Petrie gave a good try with the women’s headdresses, as she told Jezebel:

“You’re showing somebody in the crowd, this is how we want to tie the headdresses on, this is the underlayer, this is the starched piece that will go on and this is how they’ll wear it. Then everybody’s having a go. And they’re all the same shape piece of fabric — if you flatten them out, they’re exactly the same really. And we’ve got little caps and things that were different, but if you’re talking about things that come out of a headscarf, it’s the personalities of the people in the crowd who were getting better and more adventurous as filming went on. It just shows you what you can get out of, you’ve got one shape, go for it and try it and look at the research. We have lots of research on the walls all the time. We’re always swimming in research. I think the variety is just the variety of people working within the constraints of the rectangle.”

Outlaw King (2018)

I just think they needed more headdresses in general and where they did use them, they either didn’t use enough pins to hold them together or they didn’t style the hair underneath so the fabric had something to be pinned into. Because the headgear sometimes looked sloppy and like it was about to fall off the ladies’ heads.

Plus, Elizabeth totally had Leading Lady Syndrome so her hair was always down and she never wore a hat (likewise Robert the Bruce didn’t wear a hat, unless it was his crown).

Outlaw King (2018)

Elizabeth walking around with her ladies, who are wearing only the barbette (cloth strap) around their head, without any accompanying fillet or toque hat as shown in period images. So it looks weird. And she has no headgear at all.

Outlaw King (2018)

Just … awkward headwraps.

Yeah, it’s not a great movie or a great frock flick, but I can agree with Popular Mechanics‘ assessment in comparing our two Scottish history flicks: “Braveheart has been called one of the least accurate historical movies ever made … Outlaw King does a better job of picturing Scotland as it actually was in the 1300s.”

Outlaw King (2018)


What do you think of Outlaw King — is it Scottish or crap or both?

56 Responses

  1. LadySlippers

    I watched Outlaw King and was pleasantly surprised by how well it was done. Chris Pine’s accent was decent (except early on) and the clothes were pretty good. What stuck out for me was the hair and various head coverings. Both the men and the women had quite a range of hairstyles and head coverings. How likely would that have been?

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Having a range is period — different ppl would wear their own styles! As the designer said, it’s “just the variety of people working within the constraints of the rectangle” of cloth.

  2. Susan Pola Staples

    I have yet to see the film, but from your well thought out article I’d say the costume designer at least tried to be accurate.
    I have quibbles with the head covering for the women and The female lead. The head coverings, proto-wimples I’m calling them look wrong. Proto-wimples had support with fitting correctly by having them – no need to continue as you know. But where are the pins? And a married woman especially Elizabeth de Burgh would conceal her hair and maybe wear a circlet to indicate status.

    Did dislike blue bathrobe like thing.

    Are you going to review further The Favourite?

    • Trystan L. Bass

      I’m really annoyed, but The Favourite has a very limited showing in the San Francisco — it’s playing only this week at just a couple of theaters! So we’re going to try & see it, wish us luck.

      • Susan Pola Staples

        Bonne chance mes amies.

        It’s not playing in my area. I’m quibbling on casting Rachael Weizs as Sarah bc Duchess Sarah was a strawberry blonde. Also Duke of Marlborough was thought to be very handsome, which actor isn’t. But Ms Coleman is very good as Anne (pics show her role as a tour de force — real Queen Anne was a tad plump. She has health issues associated with it).

  3. Maral Agnerian

    ughhh why always the loose flowing waves PIN UP THAT SHIT

    The combination of loose hair with a random barbette is almost worse because it’s neither one thing nor the other, it’s just derpy looking.

    • Kayla Maree

      Well the loose hair with a barbette was a historically accurate hairstyle, and its depicted frequently in the Codex Manesse, albeit they should also be wearing a fillet with the barbette.

      I do however agree that it does look rather derpy because they’re going about that historical look wrong, the fabric of the barbette should be thinner and pinned tighter around the head.

      Elizabeth should absolutely be wearing her hair up, she’s not only a married woman, but also a Queen for christ’s sake!

  4. ChristyWines

    Well, I cheated myself. I had no idea there was a Chris Pine nude scene. I fast forwarded through some parts, & that was one I skipped over. Doesn’t look like I missed much…Maybe if I go back & watch it he’ll look better, but that screen cap makes Chris Pine look like he’s got a dad bod, lol!

  5. Nzie

    I’m reading a novel set in 14th century Norway right now (Kristin Lavransdatter) so I was looking for the head coverings… I assume there would be differences in style between the two countries, but also the author does mention some characters having traveled between Scandinavia and England so maybe it wouldn’t be that different. I’m not an expert on the period but it seems that Undset (the author) was, and interestingly she makes note of Kristin changing how she wears her wimple (covering the neck to not covering the neck, I think?) upon noticing that the way she’s worn hers in the area of her and her husband’s estates isn’t how women of the court wear it. It was a neat little detail that set me up to notice the issues here more.

    I haven’t seen it yet; I’m trying to decide if I’m interested—initial reviews were very poor, but they re-edited some bits and the reviews got better. But I’m not sure it’s the sort of thing I’m likely to go out of my way for right now. Between holiday business and the fun of watching ridiculous Hallmark movies, it’s going down the priority list.

    Would you consider adding a heads up on the post about the costume-less photos? I know many will enjoy them (and they’re not super clear) but it’s also working hours (and work wifi). Just a heads up to know to scroll along (or use data) would be helpful. :-)

    • Kate D

      I just finished reading Kristin Lavrandatter! It was fantastic! I loved the historical details like how she wore her wimple. And the plot was so dramatic!

      I second the idea of a warning on posts containing screencaps with nudity. I read FrockFlicks on my work computer mostly, but I’ll read it on wifi on my phone if I have a heads up on explicit content. I don’t want my work IT blocking this site; I love it too much!

      • Nzie

        Really fascinating, and I think a large part of how it works is that Undset clearly took the worldview she was portraying seriously… none of this oddly anachronistic stuff. It gives us an amazing window into that period—so that we can do more than just condemn it as bad (not that we have to ratify it, either! far from! but I think authors who just want to historically dress their modern views really miss a chance to let it speak for itself, and hopefully come to a greater depth of understanding).

      • Nzie

        I mean, fair—I know to expect, and don’t mind, scantily clad and swears. This was just beyond what I’ve come to anticipate so I was a bit… oh, keep scrolling..

  6. Susan Pola Staples

    I’d love to see the Kristin Lavransdattir books made into a movie.
    I loved them.

    • Nzie

      I’m reading for the first time and it’s really incredible. I think it would be great as a mini-series… in the right hands, in line with the great principles laid out on this blog about showing women’s lives as they are.

      • Kate D

        Agreed, a miniseries would be better than a movie for Kristin Lavandatter. There’s too much content for just two or three hours! I’d love to watch that if they made a good one.

        Kristin would be such a great strong female character (while still acting within the norms of her time and not being anachronistically modern). I love how she manages her estate and has children and deals with the personalities and challenges in her life. Working mother, 14th century style!

        And the Erland actor should be very attractive; Kristin’s always describing how handsome he is. :)

      • Susan Pola Staples

        Is available for Region 1 DVD? I’d be interested in seeing it as Ms Ullman would be a good choice for director. I know she’s directed in past and The films have fairly good reviews.

  7. Sharon in Scotland

    Hmmm………..that’s not a “random guy”, that looks very much like James Cosmo, very experienced Scottish actor who’s been in “Braveheart” “Trainspotting” and “Take the High Road”!!

    • Janet

      Yes!!! You are so right, Sharon in Scotland. And in Outlaw Know, he plays Chris Pine’s much beloved elderly father as Robert Bruce Senior.

      • Janet

        Janet November 26th, 2018
        Yes!!! You are so right, Sharon in Scotland. And in Outlaw King, he plays Chris Pine’s much beloved elderly father as Robert Bruce Senior.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Random peasant character – he has a totally bit part in the film, in this scene he’s paying taxes & then later comes back to drive a cart for Robert.

    • Alison - also in Scotland

      Yes, absolutely right, playing Robert Bruce senior, and with some important dialogue. A very good actor and well known. Is he not in Game of Thrones too? (I don’t watch it).
      btw.. love that you mentioned Take the High Road :D

  8. Al Don

    I commented on the preview and wasn’t much more impressed with the film. It’s passable if you set a low bar but it’s riddled with modern clichés and is overall lazy.

    Some of the armour is outright fantasy, they have articulated pauldrons (barf) and visored bascinets? Did they even know what year it was? The great helms are unpainted and unadorned, all the English knights at the end use blank devices which makes 0 sense, not a single set of ailettes despite this being their height of use. Of course: pointless bracers on both arms.

    For the Scots, most forgo head protection, which contradicts sources and common sense. And once again, not a single. white. “X”. in sight. Damn lazy.

    Also not a single set of accurate leggings in the entire film. It’s not difficult.

    Elizabeth de Burgh wears her uncovered hair down the whole film. (Will no one think of the impressionable children?)

    As to the pourpoint of Charles VI: yay for artifacts, but that’s a bit out of this period. That’s a new style of armour by then, in fact called the “transitional” period of arms and arming wear.

    The ending is of course ridiculous and once again they did a bad job characterizing Edward of Carnarvon. Different characterization from Braveheart but still wrong.

    I wasn’t bored, so there’s that. But take most of the bad modern medieval-isms, put them in a blender, and that’s this movie.

    • Nzie

      I lack the knowledge to have made this comment, so I totally appreciate it. :-)

    • Nick Friend

      I give the armor about a B+ overall, but that’s grading on the typical Hollywood curve which sets a fairly abysmal bar. Far too many pauldrons and vambraces, indeed, and what the steaming haggis are those things made out of golden legos that the Prince of Wales and his cronies are equipped with? Even so, it’s nice to see the proper amount of mail and early-century “Wisby” coats-of-plates, though the decision to have Robert and his merry men upgrade their armor from mail to more cutting-edge plate only after they’ve lost everything and are outlaws on the run bothers me, at least from an economic standpoint. (Also to suddenly start using covered plates during their “commando missions” into occupied castles… maybe because mail rustles so much?) As to the utter lack of helmets, other than Pine’s, during the final battle, well, hey… period headwear deprivation isn’t exclusive to the women, yo. I can understand why the compromise was probably made, for the same reason as in live theater: don’t hide your heroes’ faces.

      • henktjong

        I still have to see this movie, but some mistakes immediately claimed my interest when I saw the trailer and pictures. There is is the classical Hollywood use of camails, the loose mail hoods worn over the mail hauberk. I know it is easier to wear than hauberks with integrated mail hoods, which was the norm all through the 11th-13th centuries and the early 14th c. Loose camails only started around 1325 when they were attached to the first bacinets. But they were very short at the beginning, not as wide across the shoulder as seen in the film. When done well (most modern re-enacters wear hooded hauberks which are too loose, especially the sleeves and the hoods themselves) they should fit closely over rather tight gambesons. This movie has too many guys in sloppy mail as well: mail was tailored to the wearer not thrown upon them a few sizes too big.

  9. Charity

    I thought the opening 8 minute tracking shot (which ended on bombing a castle) was genius.

    After that, it bored me.

  10. Brandy Loutherback

    As For Chris Pine being Full Frontal: Meh, I’ve seen better!

  11. Lee Jones

    This type of movie isn’t exactly my cup of tea. I once tried to watch some of “BRAVEHEART” and turned away after 10 minutes. It wasn’t the quality of the film that turned me off, just the topic.

  12. M.E. Lawrence

    To reiterate, “Outlaw King” is not “Braveheart,” and thus is good; I’ll see it and close my eyes when things get bloody. Although I did love Sophie Marceau as Princess Isabelle, because she’s Sophie Marceau, and also good. (I fell off the sofa laughing when she was sent north to negotiate with Wallace–kind of like sending Lady Diana east to plead with Arafat.) Do I remember correctly that Marceau’s costumes were not bad?

    Must send this to my daughter, who has…feelings for Chris Pine.

    • Domina Anglicus

      Famously, Princess Isabella was actually only about 6 years old at the time of Wallace’s revolt, and quite rightly still living with mum and dad in France.

  13. Eowynsword

    Definitely effort was made to attempt accuracy, although arms and armour were a bit of a fantasy/historical mishmash. Compressed timeline, for sure – IRL took the better part of 30 years. Had to watch, though, since my matrilineal descent is from a Bruce descendant

  14. Aleko

    Aymer de Valence’s stripey surcoat isn’t just a fashion choice: it is the field of his coat of arms, which is “Barry of ten argent and azure, an orle of ten martlets gules”. Or, if you don’t speak the language of blazon: ten horizontal bands, alternately silver/white and blue, on which are superimposed ten red swallow-like birds arranged around the edge of the shield.

  15. Stella

    Aww, it’s too bad they probably felt like giving the women the complete set of head coverings would be too weird/period-y, because it only ended up looking weirder! I think something people don’t appreciate about period costume often enough is that no matter how weird and outlandish some of these fashions may seem to us, there’s usually some kind of balance to them, while this combination of hair and veil looks like they’re having a toothache like someone already pointed out here, lol. Oh well, at least there are no mullets, blue warpaint, kilts and shudder panne velvet. And no Mel Gibson!!!

  16. Frannie Germeshausen

    As it happens, I’m currently reading a fairly academic bio of “Robert the Bruce.” I was pleased that they actually more or less stuck with history, because there’s a reason we remember people like Robert the Bruce – their actual lives were interesting. If only the Elizabethan era could be treated with the same respect.

  17. Miriam

    Tbh, from what I see of it here, it just looks like passable-to-bad generi-medieval costumes. The headdresses are, I agree, very weird and arguably worse than no headdresses (especially those “we’ve all got toothache” barbettes worn with loose hair and no fillet or veil).

    From the few photos you have here, the armour looks similarly ropy.

    I’m also not hugely impressed by the seaming. If they could research the fabric widths in the medieval period (which, incidentally – only silk was really narrow by that point – wool was often wide (e.g. broadcloth, so named because it was … broad)) then surely you could research cut a bit. And then you would find out that there are curved armscyes and set-in sleeves on the Moselund tunic, which is C14 dated to 1050-1150. SIGH

    • henktjong

      Another thing is the failure to understand hoods (chaperons) by Hollywood. They usually are too wide, too loose, too flimsy and very often split midfront. Hoods had no slit fronts until late in the 14th c, by which time they were often buttoned. During the 13th and first half of the 14th c they had very short mantles, not even reaching the tip of the shoulder. The hood itself was rather tight and had a short point. The mantles were rounded in shape (no dagging), not with triangular front and back parts, although these seemed to have occurred in Skandinavia at the time. And hoods were made of coloured wool and lined, usually with colourless linen. The elite often used silk linings, in contrasting colours. There was no embroidery on hoods around 1300. The mantles only started getting longer by 1340-45, and reached the elbows by ca 1350-60. That’s also when the ‘liripipe’ was getting longer.

  18. Domina Anglicus

    You can get an Amen from me on the lack of kilts, and blue facepaint. I’m inclined to think though that plaid/ checked fabrics were not just a Scottish ‘thing’ and might have been worn in other countries as well, since they didn’t necessarily require that much technical expertise to make.

    Aymer de Valance’s character was- interesting to say the least. From what I’ve read, the man was pretty much entirely French. Granted he was born in Britain, but his parents were French (related to the Lusignan family apparently) his name is French and he held lands in France. So the Northern English accent. Nah.not buying it.

    • Amanda Seifert

      Northern English accent no, but…Aymer de Valence was the son of Gulliame de Lusignan, Henry III’s half brother from his mom Isabella’s 2nd marriage. When he came to England he changed his name to William de Valence. He married a Welsh noblewoman and held the Welsh borders for Henry during Simon de Montfort’s rebellion. His children were raised in a Welsh castle. Aymer probably grew up speaking Welsh 1st and Norman French 2nd. If he spoke English at all (VERY DOUBTFUL) it would probably have been with a Welsh accent. He wasn’t the villian portrayed in Outlaw King either: he tried to walk a middle path between Edward II and those pissed off nobles and got betrayed by everybody for it.

  19. WoodstockGurl

    Just watching this now, and the headscarves remind me of Marley’s ghost. Excellent blood and gore, though.

  20. Amanda Seifert

    Just FYI, the fabulous stripey tunic is the arms of de Valence: blue and white striped with 3 red birds (in your pic you can just barely see one red birdy poking out from under his mail). My “dollhouse” is Goodrich Castle in 1270, when Aymer de Valence was a baby: his dad William was Henry III’s half brother. All my knights retainer wear some version of that tunic. PS from one historical costume geek to another, headgear in miniature is FUN. Veils, wimples, coifs, filletes, barbettes and bun cages on a 1/12 scale.