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The Patriot is a 2000 epic war film directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Robert Rodat, and starring Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger. It was produced by the Mutual Film Company and was distributed by Columbia Pictures. The film mainly takes place in South Carolinamarker (and was entirely filmed there) and depicts the story of an American swept into the American Revolutionary War when his family is threatened. The protagonist, Benjamin Martin is loosely based on real Continental Army officer Francis Marion and other Revolutionary War figures. The Patriot was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Sound, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Music Score.


At the beginning of the American Revolution, Benjamin Martin is a South Carolinamarker veteran of the French and Indian War and a widower raising his seven children (Gabriel, Thomas, Margaret, Nathan, Samuel, William, and Susan) on his plantation. Gabriel, the eldest, is anxious to join the American forces fighting the Britishmarker in the Revolutionary War. Knowing war from personal experience, Ben tries to discourage his son's ambitions, but his son enlists anyway.

Gabriel returns home some time later, stumbling wounded into the family home and carrying military dispatches. The next day, a military skirmish has the Martins caring for the wounded from both sides. British soldiers - the ruthless Green Dragoons cavalry - arrive and kill the Colonial wounded, burn down the Martin house and arrest Gabriel as a spy, intending to hang him. When Benjamin's next eldest son, Thomas, assaults several British soldiers in an attempt to free Gabriel, he is shot and killed by the leader of the Green Dragoons, Colonel William Tavington.

Making use of his knowledge of fighting in the wilds, Benjamin and his two younger sons, Nathan and Samuel set forth to ambush the British column in the woods. They kill 20 of the soldiers in an ambush and free Gabriel. All three boys are horrified at their first glimpse of their father's ferocity when he hacks a fleeing soldier to death with a tomahawk. Gabriel rejoins the cause against his father's will again, stating it is his duty as a soldier. Benjamin decides to join as well, leaving the rest of the children in the care of his wife's sister, Charlotte.

Continental Army Colonel Harry Burwell, having fought alongside Benjamin in the French and Indian War, asks him to organize a militia designed to keep British General Cornwallis in the south until the French Navy arrives to assist. French officer Jean Villeneuve, is present to help train the militia.

Benjamin's South Carolina militia uses guerrilla warfare, attacking the British supply lines. Eventually Tavington, who is tasked to find Martin, manages to capture several of Martin's men. Benjamin rides to the British garrison to parlay the release of his men. As he is leaving Tavington recognizes him. In an attempt to aggravate him into a fight, because the rules of war do not permit the British to touch Benjamin unless he shows aggression, Tavington mocks him about the death of Thomas and Benjamin responds by saying, "Before this war is over, I'm going to kill you."

To combat the militia, Cornwallis has Tavington track Ben's family to their refuge with Charlotte and burns down her plantation. However, the family escapes, and are led to a safe haven by Gabriel. Gabriel also marries his childhood friend Anne Howard. Soon after, Tavington orders Anne and her family, along with all their fellow townspeople, to be burned alive whilst locked in the church for aiding the Continentals.

A grief-stricken Gabriel rides out with others to avenge their deaths. During the ensuing fight, all of Tavington's Dragoon unit and Gabriel's militia are killed, but in hand-to-hand combat Tavington kills Gabriel with his sabre and escapes. Benjamin is devastated and his zeal for combat extinguished, until he finds a tattered revolutionary flag that Gabriel had mended among his dead son's possessions. He rides after the Continental Army flying the flag and rejoins his militia.

The Continental-American Army faces off against the British in the Battle of Cowpensmarker. During the climactic battle, Benjamin uses the militia to lure the British into a trap, where Continentals are waiting to charge the British. And soon after, as the Continentals are slowly losing their morale and are retreating, Benjamin encourages them by raising a revolutionary flag up high. The American forces push forward, gradually overwhelming the British. Benjamin fights Tavington in a vicious duel. Tavington manages to bring Ben to his knees while mockingly noting that his foe is not the better man. However, Benjamin misses Tavington's killing blow, and with a bayonet, impales him fatally in the stomach, saying, " You were right. My sons were good men." Benjamin then stabs Tavington in the throat, killing him.

The tide of battle quickly turns and Cornwallis is forced to retreat and eventually surrender when the French Navy arrives and starts to attack him during the Siege of Yorktown. Martin and his family return to their home to find the militia helping to rebuild it. Occam, a soldier in the militia tells Ben, "Gabriel said that if we won the war, we could build a whole new world. Just figured we get started right here, with your home." Ben smiles and says "Sounds good."


  • Mel Gibson as Benjamin Martin: A veteran of the French and Indian War and widowed father of seven children, Benjamin does what he can to avoid fighting in the Revolutionary War knowing the implications surrounding it. When his oldest son, Gabriel joins up, and his second born son, Thomas is killed, he takes it upon himself to join and fight with the Colonial Militia. He is mainly based on Francis Marion aka "The Swamp Fox".
  • Heath Ledger as Gabriel Martin: Benjamin's oldest child, he decides to join up with the Continental army against his father's wishes.
  • Joely Richardson as Charlotte Selton: Benjamin's sister-in-law and owner of her plantation. She looks after Benjamin's kids while he is fighting.
  • Jason Isaacs as Colonel William Tavington: Colonel of the Green Dragoons, he is portrayed as ruthless and cold blooded who kills without mercy. He is nicknamed the Butcher by General O'Hara. He is mostly based on Banastre Tarleton.
  • Chris Cooper as Colonel Harry Burwell: One of Benjamin's commanding officers in the French and Indian war and Colonel of the continental army, he puts Benjamin in charge of training the Militia.
  • Tchéky Karyo as Jean Villeneuve: A French soldier who trains the Militia, along with Benjamin, he holds a grudge against him for his part in the French and Indian war, but soon comes to respect him. He also serves as Martin's second in command.
  • René Auberjonois as Reverend Oliver: A reverend who volunteers to fight with the militia and also shares Gabriel's view and morality on war. He also tries to give spiritual advice to his fellow soldiers.
  • Lisa Brenner as Anne Howard: Gabriel's childhood friend and love interest.
  • Tom Wilkinson as Lieutenant-General Charles, Lord Cornwallis: The general of the British army, he does not share Tavington's views on war and often berates him.
  • Peter Woodward as Brigadier General Charles O'Hara: Cornwallis' second in command, he also does not share Tavington's views on war.
  • Donal Logue as Dan Scott
  • Leon Rippy as John Billings:One of Benjamin's neighbors who joins the militia. He commits suicide after Tavington's men kill his wife and son.
  • Adam Baldwin as Captain James Wilkins: A Loyalist to the British army recruited into the Green Dragoons by Captain Bordon. He fights along side Tavington, and also shares these brutal views on how to handle "traitors". When he is forced to burn a church with town residents inside, only then does he feel guilty.
  • Jamieson K. Price as Captain Bordon: Tavington's second-in-command of the Green Dragoons and chief intelligence officer. Can be as ruthless as his commander, "strong arming" prisoners during interrogations.
  • Jay Arlen Jones as Occam: An African Slave . He is sent to fight in his master's place. He is taunted and bullied by the other members of the militia, but is treated as an equal by Benjamin and Gabriel.
  • Joey D. Vieira as Peter Howard: Anne Howard's father.
  • Gregory Smith as Thomas Martin: Benjamin's second born son, he, like Gabriel, is anxious to fight in the war, but Benjamin says he has to wait because of his age. He is shot and killed by Tavington when he protests against Gabriel's arrest.
  • Mika Boorem as Margaret Martin: Benjamin's oldest daughter, she is often seen taking care of her younger siblings.
  • Skye McCole Bartusiak as Susan Martin: The youngest child among Benjamin's seven children, she has a problem with speaking, only later on does she finally open up.
  • Trevor Morgan as Nathan Martin: Third born child, he and Samuel help around the farm mostly. When Gabriel is taken prisoner and Thomas is killed, he and Samuel help his father rescue him. Unlike Samuel, he is glad to kill British soldiers.
  • Bryan Chafin as Samuel Martin: Fourth born child, he is usually seen helping Nathan around the farm. When Gabriel is taken prisoner and Thomas is killed, he helps his father, Benjamin, rescue him by killing several British solders, even though he doesn't want to kill. For a short while, he becomes scared of his father after he witnesses him brutally killing a British soldier with a tomahawk.
  • Logan Lerman as William Martin: Benjamin's youngest son, he is often being taken care of by his sister, Margaret.
  • Terry Layman as General George Washington
  • Andy Stahl as General Nathanael Greene
  • Grahame Wood as a Redcoat Lieutenant at Martin's farm who interacts with both Martin and Colonel Tavington
  • Dara Coleman as a Redcoat Sergeant at King's Highway skirmish



Screenwriter Robert Rodat wrote 17 drafts of the script before there was an acceptable one. In an earlier version of the script, Anne is pregnant with Gabriel's child when she dies in the burning church. Rodat wrote the script with Mel Gibson in mind for Benjamin Martin, and gave the Martin character six children to signal this preference to studio executives. After the birth of Gibson’s seventh child, the script was changed so that Martin had seven children.


Joshua Jackson, Elijah Wood, and Brad Renfro were considered to play Gabriel Martin . The producers and director narrowed their choices for this role to Ryan Phillippe and Heath Ledger, with the latter chosen because, in their opinion, he possessed "exuberant youth."


The film's director, Roland Emmerich, said " ... these were characters I could relate to, and they were engaged in a conflict that had a significant outcome – the creation of the first modern democratic government".

The movie was filmed entirely on location in South Carolina, including Charlestonmarker, Rock Hillmarker - for many of the battle scenes, and Lowrysmarker - for the farm of Benjamin Martin, as well as nearby Fort Lawnmarker. Other scenes were filmed at Mansfield Plantationmarker, an antebellum rice plantation in Georgetownmarker,Middleton Placemarker in Charleston, South Carolina, and Hightower Hall and Homestead House at Brattonsville, South Carolina, along with the grounds of the Brattonsville Plantation in McConnells, South Carolina. Producer Mark Gordon said the production team "...tried their best to be as authentic as possible", because "the backdrop was serious history", giving attention to details in period dress. Producer Dean Devlin and the film's costume designers examined actual Revolutionary War uniforms at the Smithsonian Institutionmarker prior to shooting.


The Patriot received mixed to generally favorable reviews from critics. The film scored a "Certified Fresh" rating of 62% rating among all critics (and scored a rating of 57% among top critics) on Rotten Tomatoes, which notes that it "can be entertaining to watch, but it relies too much on formula and melodrama." It was one of two Emmerich films to ever be given a "fresh" rating from that website (the other was Independence Day). On Metacritic, the film earned a rating of 63 out of 100, indicating "generally favorable reviews". New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell gave the film a generally negative review, although he praised its casting and called Mel Gibson "an astonishing actor", particularly for his "on-screen comfort and expansiveness". He said the film is a "gruesome hybrid, a mix of sentimentality and brutality". Jamie Malanowski, also writing in the New York Times, said The Patriot "will prove to many a satisfying way to spend a summer evening. It's got big battles and wrenching hand-to-hand combat, a courageous but conflicted hero and a dastardly and totally guilt-free villain, thrills, tenderness, sorrow, rage and a little bit of kissing".


Despite its financial success, The Patriot received some criticism from critics and historians for its inaccurate depiction of events in the Revolutionary War. Because of the level of violence in the film, including a scene showing two children killing a group of soldiers, the media considered that in the U.S. the film would be classified as 'R' for strong war violence. Historian David Hackett Fischer writes in an editorial submitted to the New York Times on July 1, 2000 that although the film purports to be a history of the American Revolution "egregious errors appear in every scene. "The problem is not merely that a director has failed an academic test of accuracy, but that the errors have weakened the film's dramatic impact by making our War of Independence appear so artificial," wrote Fischer. "He would have done better if he had listened to history more closely." A response to the opinion was voiced by Jeffrey Abelson: "If our children were taught history instead of demagogy and if they read more than they watched TV, historical inaccuracy in a piece of $9 entertainment would be mere distortion by another storyteller."

Historical authenticity

Depiction of protagonist

The Patriot's producer, Mark Gordon, said that in making the film, "While we were telling a fictional story, the backdrop was serious history". The film's screenwriter, Robert Rodat, said of Mel Gibson's character: "Benjamin Martin is a composite character made up of Thomas Sumter, Andrew Pickens, and Francis Marion, and a few bits and pieces from a number of other characters". The primary figure, Francis Marion, was a militia leader in South Carolina known as the "Swamp Fox", who was decried by the British newspaper, The Guardian, as "a serial rapist who hunted Red Indians for fun." Historian Christopher Hibbert said of him, "The truth is that people like Marion committed atrocities as bad, if not worse, than those perpetrated by the Britishmarker." Hibbert does not provide sources for these opinions; but in the film, Gibson's fictional character acknowledges his involvement in acts of brutality during the French and Indian War. In his lengthy book Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution Through British Eyes, written before "The Patriot" was released, Hibbert has no criticism of Marion. In a commentary published in the National Review, conservative talk radio host Michael Graham said he understood Hibbert's desire to re-write history but rejected Hibbert's criticisms:

"Was Francis Marion a slave owner? Was he a determined and dangerous warrior? Did he commit acts in an 18th century war that we would consider atrocious in the current world of peace and political correctness? As another great American film hero might say: 'You're damn right.'
"That's what made him a hero, 200 years ago and today."
Graham also refers to what he describes as "the unchallenged work of South Carolina's premier historian Dr. Walter Edgar, who pointed out in his 1998 South Carolina: A History that Marion's partisans were "a ragged band of both black and white volunteers".

Amy Crawford, in Smithsonian Magazine, stated that modern historians such as William Gilmore Simms and Hugh Rankin have written accurate biographies of Marion, including Simms’ “The Life of Francis Marion.” The introduction to the 2007 edition of Simms' book was written by Sean Busick, a professor of American history at Athens State Universitymarker in Alabamamarker, who says that based on the facts, "Marion deserves to be remembered as one of the heroes of the War for Independence." “Francis Marion was a man of his times: he owned slaves, and he fought in a brutal campaign against the Cherokee Indians...Marion's experience in the French and Indian War prepared him for more admirable service."

Depiction of antagonist

The antagonist, the fictional Colonel William Tavington, is "loosely based on Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who was particularly known for his brutal acts", said the film's screenwriter Robert Rodat. Ben Fenton, commenting in the British Daily Telegraph on the sadistic character of Tavington, wrote: "there is no evidence that Tarleton, called 'Bloody Ban' or 'The Butcher' in rebel pamphlets, ever broke the rules of war and certainly not that he ever shot a child in cold blood." Tarleton's involvement in the Waxhaws massacre in South Carolina has stained his reputation, but Liverpool City Council, led by Mayor Edwin Clein, called for a public apology for what they viewed as the film’s "character assassination" of Tarleton.However when recounting the Battle of The Waxhawsmarker, known to the Americans as the Buford Massacre or as the Waxhaw massacremarker, an American field surgeon named Robert Brownfield, recounted Tarleton's action:

"What actually happened is the subject of much debate. According to a rebel eyewitness, a field surgeon named Robert Brownfield, Col. Buford raised a white flag of surrender, "expecting the usual treatment sanctioned by civilized warfare". While Buford was calling for quarter, Tarleton's horse was struck by a musket ball and fell. This gave the loyalist cavalrymen the impression that the rebels had shot at their commander while asking for mercy. Enraged, the loyalist troops charged at the Virginians. According to Brownfield, the loyalists attacked, carrying out "indiscriminate carnage never surpassed by the most ruthless atrocities of the most barbarous savages". Tarleton's men stabbed the wounded where they lay.

In Tarleton's own account, he virtually admits the massacre, stating that his horse had been shot from under him during the initial charge and his men, thinking him dead, engaged in "a vindictive asperity not easily restrained."

The Waxhaw massacre became an important rallying cry for the revolutionaries. Many people who had been more or less neutral became ardent supporters of the Revolution after the perceived atrocities. "Tarleton's quarter", meaning no quarter would be offered to British and Loyalist soldiers, became a rallying cry for American patriots for the rest of the war.

Depiction of atrocities in the Revolutionary War

Also criticized was the film’s depiction of atrocities in the Revolutionary War, including the killing of prisoners of war, the wounded, and children, culminating in a group of townsfolk being burnt alive in a church, in a scene resembling the massacre of Oradour in German-occupied France during World War II. In a review article in, Jonathan Foreman, film critic for the New York Post, wrote: "The most disturbing thing about The Patriot is not just that German director Roland Emmerich (director of Independence Day) and his screenwriter Robert Rodat (who was criticized for excluding British and other Allied soldiers from his script for Saving Private Ryan) depict British troops as committing savage atrocities, but that those atrocities bear such a close resemblance to war crimes carried out by German troops - particularly the SSmarker in World War II. It's hard not to wonder if the filmmakers have some kind of subconscious agenda ... They have made a film that will have the effect of inoculating audiences against the unique historical horror of Oradour - and implicitly rehabilitating the Nazis while making the British seem as evil as history's worst monsters ... So it's no wonder that the British press sees this film as a kind of blood libel against the British people."

On the other hand, some reviewers defended the overall accuracy of the film's depiction of the war in the Carolinas as exceptionally brutal. For example, Kirkus Reviews quoted South Carolina historian Dr. Walter Edgar on the subject:

Though critics faulted ... The Patriot for attributing actions to the hated British Legion that were in fact those of the SS in WWII, Edgar (History/Univ. of South Carolina) writes that atrocities were many in the South Carolina backcountry: women and children slaughtered, prisoners executed without trial, whole towns put to the torch... "in the 1990s instead of the 1780s, [officers] such as Banastre Tarleton and James Wemyss would have been indicted by the International Tribunal at the Hague as war criminals."

Depiction of slavery

In a letter to the editor of the Hollywood Reporter U.S.marker director Spike Lee also accused the film’s portrayal of slavery as being "a complete whitewashing of history". Lee says that after he and his wife went to see the movie, "we both came out of the theatre fuming. For three hours The Patriot dodged around, skirted about or completely ignored slavery. How convenient... to have Mel Gibson's character not be a slaveholder... The Patriot is pure, blatant American Hollywood propaganda."


The score was composed by John Williams, and was nominated for an Academy Award.


  1. ‘Gibson blockbuster baits the censors’, Guardian Unlimited, 13 April 2000. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
  2. ‘Mel Gibson's latest hero: a rapist who hunted Indians for fun’, Guardian Unlimited, June 15, 2000. Retrieved October 31, 2007.
  3. Amy Crawford. The Swamp Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, July 1, 2007. Accessed December 6, 2008.
  4. Jonathan Foreman, ‘The Nazis, er, the Redcoats are coming!’,, 3 July 2000. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
  6. "Spike Lee slams Patriot", Guardian Unlimited, July 6, 2000. Retrieved 31 October 2007.

Further reading

  • "The Patriot: The Official Companion" by Suzanne Fritz and Rachel Aberly
  • "The Patriot: A Novel" by Stephen Molstad

External links

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