The Patriot

The Patriot Information

The Patriot is a 2000 American historical war film directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Robert Rodat, and starring Mel Gibson, Chris Cooper, and Heath Ledger. It was produced by the Mutual Film Company and Centropolis Entertainment and was distributed by Columbia Pictures. The film mainly takes place in rural York County, South Carolina, and depicts the story of an American swept into the American Revolutionary War when his family is threatened. The protagonist, Benjamin Martin, is a composite figure based on four real American Revolutionary War heroes: Andrew Pickens, Francis Marion, Daniel Morgan and Thomas Sumter.

The film attracted controversy, with competing claims made about its merits given its historical inaccuracies. Professor Mark Glancy, teacher of film history at Queen Mary University of London has said: "It's horrendously inaccurate and attributes crimes committed by the Nazis in the 1940s to the British in the 1770s." In contrast, Australian film critic David Edwards asserts that "this fictional story is set around actual events, but it is not a history of what America was, or even an image of what it has become"?it's a dream of what it should be....The Patriot is a grand epic full of action and emotion....But it's also surprisingly insightful in its evaluation of the American ideal"?if not the reality."


During the American Revolution in 1776, Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), a veteran of the French and Indian War and widower with seven children, is called to Charleston to vote in the South Carolina General Assembly on a levy supporting the Continental Army. Fearing war against Great Britain, Benjamin abstains. Captain James Wilkins (Adam Baldwin) votes against and joins the Loyalists. A supporting vote is nonetheless passed and against his father's wishes, Benjamin's eldest son Gabriel (Heath Ledger) joins the Continental Army.

Some years later, Charleston falls to the British and a wounded Gabriel returns home carrying dispatches. The Martins care for both British and American wounded from the nearby battle, before British Dragoons led by the ruthless Colonel William Tavington (Jason Isaacs) arrive and arrest Gabriel. When Benjamin's young son Thomas tries to free Gabriel, he is shot and killed by Tavington, who orders the Martins' house burned and wounded American regulars executed. After the British leave, Benjamin gives his next two eldest sons muskets and they ambush the British unit escorting a shackled Gabriel. Benjamin skillfully, yet brutally, kills many soldiers with his tomahawk. A British survivor tells Tavington of an almost unseen man rapidly killing the soldiers, earning Benjamin the moniker of the "Ghost". Benjamin and Gabriel resolve to fight the British, leaving the younger children in the care of Benjamin's sister-in-law, Charlotte (Joely Richardson). On their way to the Continental Army's camp, they witness the southern Continental Army under General Horatio Gates engaging the British Army. Having served with the British earlier in his life, Benjamin knows going muzzle to muzzle with the British is foolhardy. Sure enough, the Continentals are easily defeated and flee in disarray.

Benjamin meets with his former commanding officer Colonel Harry Burwell (Chris Cooper) and is given the rank of colonel to lead the local colonial militia due to his combat experience, tasked with keeping Lord Cornwallis's (Tom Wilkinson) British regiments pinned south through guerrilla warfare. French Major Jean Villeneuve (Tchéky Karyo) helps train the militia and promises more French aid. Benjamin's militia harass British supply lines, capture goods including some of Cornwallis' belongings, and burn half the bridges and ferries leading to Charleston. Lord Cornwallis perceives these actions as uncivilized and blames Tavington for creating this reaction with his brutal tactics. Irritated at his lack of progress and insulted by Benjamin's clever ploy to free some of the captured militia, Cornwallis reluctantly allows Tavington to use whatever means necessary.

Tavington learns the identities of some of the militia members and proceeds to attack their families and burn their homes. Benjamin's family flees Charlotte's plantation as it is burned and settle on the coast in a Gullah settlement with former black slaves. There, Gabriel marries his betrothed Anne (Lisa Brenner) and Benjamin commits to Charlotte. Tavington's brigade, seeking Martin's secret hideout, rides into the town that supplies the militia. He assembes all the townspeople into the church, promising freedom for the location of the hideout. But after the location is given the doors are barricaded, trapping the people inside. Tavington orders the church to be burned and kills all those inside. After discovering the tragedy, Gabriel races to attack Tavington's encampment. He initially appears to have mortally wounded him, however when Gabriel prepares to finish Tavington off, Tavington (having faked his injuries) turns around and stabs Gabriel out of cold blood through the heart. Benjamin arrives to have his son die in his arms.

Benjamin mourns deeply and briefly wavers in his commitment to continue fighting, but is resolved when reminded of his son's dedication to the cause by finding an American flag he sewed together personally. Martin's militia, along with a larger Continental Army regiment, confronts Cornwallis' regiment in a decisive battle. The redcoats seem to be defeating the patriots until Benjamin rallies the troops to push forward against the British lines and Tavington personally targets him. The two duel and Tavington's sword gains an upper hand over Martin's tomahawk. As Tavington prepares to finish him, Benjamin rises up with a musket, wounds him in the abdomen with the bayonet and delivers the coup de grâce, avenging his sons' deaths. The battle is a Continental victory and Cornwallis is forced to retreat. After many retreats, Cornwallis is besieged at Yorktown, Virginia where he surrenders to the surrounding Continental Army and the long awaited French naval force. After the conflict ends, Benjamin returns with his family and discovers his militia men rebuilding his homestead, previously destroyed by the British soldiers on Tavington's orders.


  • Mel Gibson as Benjamin Martin: The main protagonist. A veteran of the French and Indian War as the "hero" of the fictional "Fort Wilderness" 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 nicknamed "The Ghost" by the British. He is based on a composite of historical characters which include Thomas Sumter, Daniel Morgan, Nathanael Greene, Andrew Pickens, and Francis Marion.
  • Heath Ledger as Gabriel Martin: Benjamin's eldest son and child, he decides to join up with the Continental Army against his father's wishes. He is killed during an attack on the Green Dragoons' camp.
  • Joely Richardson as Charlotte Selton: Benjamin's sister-in-law and owner of a plantation. She looks after Benjamin's children while he is fighting. At the end of the film, it suggests she married Benjamin and had a child by him, but only after, it should be noted, Benjamin agrees that "she is not her sister," his late wife.
  • Jason Isaacs as Colonel William Tavington: The main antagonist. Colonel of the Green Dragoons, he is portrayed as a charismatic sociopath and a brutal commander. Long ago, his late father wasted away the family money, along with William's inheritance. He suggests to Cornwallis in acquiring the Ohio territory as payment after the war since the brutality his commander wants from him sacrifices his social standing in English society. He is nicknamed "The Butcher" by Brigadier General O'Hara. The character is loosely based on Banastre Tarleton.
  • Chris Cooper as Colonel Harry Burwell: One of Benjamin's commanding officers in the French and Indian War and a colonel of the Continental Army. He fought in the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill. When his wife gives birth to their firstborn son, they name him after Benjamin's late eldest son, Gabriel. His character is loosely based on Lieutenant Colonel Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee.
  • Tchéky Karyo as Major Jean Villeneuve: A French officer who trains Martin's militia, he holds a grudge against Martin for his part in the French and Indian War, but they become close friends by the war's end. He explains in the film that he watched his wife and two daughters, 12-year-old Violette and 10-year-old Pauline (both green-eyed), being burned in the ship that carried them by the British, which explains his hatred for them. He serves as Martin's second-in-command.
  • René Auberjonois as Reverend Oliver: A minister of Pembroke who volunteers to fight with the militia. He also tries to give spiritual advice to his fellow soldiers. He is one of the eighteen captured men taken to Fort Carolina and released later on by Benjamin. He aides Gabriel in killing Captain Bordon, but is mortally shot by Tavington. Before dying, he courageously tosses his musket to Gabriel so that he may finish off Tavington.
  • Lisa Brenner as Anne Howard Martin: Gabriel's childhood friend and love interest, whom he marries later in the film. She is killed in the town church along with the rest of the town on Tavington's orders.
  • Tom Wilkinson as Lieutenant General Charles, Lord Cornwallis: A general of the British army. While pompous and arrogant, he is disgusted by Tavington's savage tactics. Cornwallis is a skilled commander, with Martin calling him a genius, but he sees militia as nothing more than "farmers with pitchforks" and is easily duped by Martin in a key scene. His two Great Danes, Jupiter and Mars, are a gift from His Majesty, King George III.
  • Peter Woodward as Brigadier General Charles O'Hara: Cornwallis' second-in-command. Like Cornwallis, he does not share Tavington's views on war.
  • Donal Logue as Dan Scott: One of Benjamin's men. He is a racist and bullies the former slave Occam, but grows to befriend him, especially when saved by him while wounded. During the last battle, Dan mentions that it is October now, signifying to Occam that it has been 12 months since the former slave signed up to battle, making him a free man. After Occam mentions that he is aware of this and is fighting now on his own accord, he tells Occam he's honored to fight by his side.
  • Leon Rippy as John Billings: One of Benjamin's neighbors and oldest friends who joins the militia. He is one of the 18 captured men taken to Fort Carolina and released later on by Benjamin. Afterward, John helps Charlotte Selton and Benjamin's children escape the burning of the Selton plantation. He commits suicide after Tavington's men kill his wife and son and sets fire to his property.
  • Adam Baldwin as Captain James Wilkins: An officer in the Loyalist Colonial militia recruited into the Green Dragoons by Captain Bordon. He knows everything about Benjamin Martin, and is called upon by Tavington to divulge such information when required. Earlier on, at the South Carolina Assembly in Charleston, he is one of the twelve out of forty to vote against a levy for the Continental Army. He fights alongside Tavington, and also shares these brutal views on how "all those who stand against England deserve to die a traitor's death." When he is forced to burn the church at Pembroke, with town residents inside by Tavington, only then does he regret his own words and realize what kind of man his commanding officer really is. He is last seen fighting alongside the British in the final battle of the movie. His fate is not shown.
  • Jamieson K. Price as Captain Bordon: Tavington's second-in-command of the Green Dragoons and chief intelligence officer. He is just as ruthless as his commander, "strong-arming" prisoners during interrogations. He is killed by Gabriel in the youth's raid against the Dragoons.
  • 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, Gabriel, Jean, and later on by Dan Scott and the others. He gives out information of the captured eighteen militia men at Fort Carolina while escaping Tavington's trap. After serving a year in the Continental Army, he becomes a free man, but nonetheless still served with the militia until the end of the war.
  • Joey D. Vieira as Peter Howard: Anne Howard's father, who lost his left leg and most of his hearing while fighting the French and Indian War. He likens British taxation policies to the British taking his other leg.
  • Gregory Smith as Thomas Martin: Benjamin's second 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. Tavington rebukes him as a "stupid boy" for his actions afterward.
  • 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 daughter and child among Benjamin's seven children, she has a problem with speaking, which may be a post-traumatic reaction to the death of their mother; only later on does she finally open up. Her feelings towards her father change radically as the film progresses, and after Benjamin leaves from the furlough to rejoin his militia, in a very emotional scene, she seemingly forgives him and tells him she'll say anything he wants to make him stay, to which Benjamin can only promise to return, which Susan accepts.
  • Trevor Morgan as Nathan Martin: Third son, he and Samuel help around the farm. When Gabriel is taken prisoner and Thomas is killed, he and Samuel help his father on a rescue mission. Unlike Samuel, he is "glad" to kill British soldiers.
  • Bryan Chafin as Samuel Martin: Fourth son, he is usually seen helping Nathan around the farm. When Gabriel is taken prisoner and Thomas is killed, he helps his father, Benjamin, rescue Gabriel by killing several British soldiers, even though he doesn't want to kill. For a short while, he becomes scared of his father after he witnesses him brutally killing and mutilating, post-mortem, a British soldier with a tomahawk.
  • Logan Lerman as William Martin: Benjamin's fifth and youngest son.
  • Zach Hanner as British Field Officer.
  • Terry Layman as General George Washington.
  • Andy Stahl as General Nathanael Greene.
  • Grahame Wood as a friendly British Lieutenant at Martin's farm who interacts with both Benjamin Martin and Colonel Tavington. He sees Tavington's orders to kill the Colonial wounded and other prisoners revolting, but remains silent and follows through with the orders without question, largely out of fear for his own life. He dies shortly afterwards in Martin's skirmish to rescue his son, Gabriel.



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. Like the character William Wallace, which Gibson portrayed in Braveheart five years earlier, Benjamin Martin is a man seeking to live his life in peace until revenge drives him to lead a cause against a national enemy after the life of an innocent family member is taken. In contrast to Wallace, Martin is not martyred for his cause.


Joshua Jackson, Elijah Wood, Jake Gyllenhaal, 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 the director thought he possessed "exuberant youth".


The film's German 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 Charleston, Rock Hill"?for many of the battle scenes, and Lowrys"?for the farm of Benjamin Martin, as well as nearby Fort Lawn. Other scenes were filmed at Mansfield Plantation, an antebellum rice plantation in Georgetown, Middleton Place in Charleston, South Carolina, at the Cistern Yard on the campus of College of Charleston, 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 Institution prior to shooting.


See The Patriot (soundtrack) for more information

The musical score for The Patriot was composed by John Williams and was nominated for an Academy Award. David Arnold, who composed the scores to director Roland Emmerich's Stargate, Independence Day, and Godzilla, created a demo for The Patriot that was ultimately rejected. Arnold has since never worked with Emmerich.


Critical response

The Patriot received mildly favorable reviews from critics. The film scored a "Certified Fresh" rating of 62% rating among all critics on Rotten Tomatoes, which notes that it "can be entertaining to watch, but it relies too much on formula and melodrama." The Patriot 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". The 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". Other general complaints included the film's lack of historical authenticity, the depiction of the antagonists, and some cases of poor acting.


The Patriot was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Sound Mixing (Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Lee Orloff), Best Cinematography, and Best Original Score. It also received several guild awards, including the American Society of Cinematographers award to Caleb Deschanel for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography and the Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Award for Best Period Makeup and Best Period Hair Styling.

Historical authenticity

During the development of the film, producer-director Roland Emmerich and his team consulted with experts at the Smithsonian Institution on set, props, and costumes; advisor Rex Ellis even recommended the Gullah village as an appropriate place for Martin's family to hide. In addition, screenwriter Robert Rodat read through many journals and letters of colonists as part of his preparation for writing the screen play.

The Patriot's producer, Mark Gordon, said that in making the film, "while we were telling a fictional story, the backdrop was serious history". Some of the resulting characters and events thus were composites of real characters and events that were designed to serve the fictional narrative without losing the historical flavor. The film's screenwriter, Robert Rodat, said of Mel Gibson's character: "Benjamin Martin is a composite character made up of Thomas Sumter, Daniel Morgan, Andrew Pickens, and Francis Marion, and a few bits and pieces from a number of other characters." Rodat also indicated that the fictional Colonel William Tavington is "loosely based on Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who was particularly known for his brutal acts".

Some events, such as Tarleton's actual pursuit of Francis Marion and his fellow irregular soldiers who escaped by disappearing into the swamps of South Carolina, found their way into the film directly, while others were adapted, such as the final battle in the film which combined elements of the Battles of Cowpens and Guilford Court House.

Criticism of Benjamin Martin as based on Francis Marion

The film was harshly criticized in the British press in part because of its connection to Francis Marion, a militia leader in South Carolina known as the "Swamp Fox". After the release of The Patriot, the British newspaper The Guardian denounced Francis Marion as "a serial rapist who hunted Red Indians for fun". Historian Christopher Hibbert said of Marion:

"The truth is that people like Marion committed atrocities as bad, if not worse, than those perpetrated by the British."
The Patriot does not depict the American character Benjamin Martin as innocent of atrocities; a key plot point revolves around the character's guilt over acts he engaged in, such as torturing, killing, and mutilating prisoners during the French and Indian War. In Hibbert's book Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution Through British Eyes, written before The Patriot was released, Hibbert included no criticism of Marion. Conservative radio host Michael Graham rejected Hibbert's criticism of Marion in a commentary published in National Review:
"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 University in Alabama, who wrote:

"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."
During pre-production, the producers debated on whether Benjamin Martin would own slaves, ultimately deciding not to make the protagonist a slave owner. This decision received criticism from Spike Lee, who in a letter to The Hollywood Reporter accused the film's portrayal of slavery as being "a complete whitewashing of history". Lee wrote that after he and his wife went to see the film, "we both came out of the theatre fuming. For three hours The Patriot dodged around, skirted about or completely ignored slavery." Mel Gibson himself remarked: "I think I would have made him a slave holder. Not to seems kind of a cop-out."

Criticism of Tavington as based on Tarleton

After the release of The Patriot, several British voices criticized the film for its depiction of the film's villain Tavington and defended the historical character of Banastre Tarleton. Ben Fenton, commenting in the Daily Telegraph, wrote:

"There is no evidence that Tarleton, called 'Bloody Ban' or 'The Butcher' in rebel pamphlets, ever broke the rules of war and certainly did not ever shoot a child in cold blood."
Although Tarleton gained the reputation among Americans as a butcher for his involvement in the Waxhaw massacre in South Carolina, he was a hero in Liverpool, England. 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. What happened during the Battle of The Waxhaws, known to the Americans as the Buford Massacre or as the Waxhaw massacre, is the subject of debate. According to American field surgeon named Robert Brownfield who witnessed the events, the Continental Army 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 Continentals 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".

In Tarleton's own account, he stated that his horse had been shot from under him during the initial charge in which he was knocked out for several minutes and that his men, thinking him dead, engaged in "a vindictive asperity not easily restrained".

Tarleton's role in the Revolutionary war in the Carolinas is examined by Ben Rubin who shows that historically, while the actual events of the Battle of the Waxhaws were presented differently according to which side was recounting them, the story of Tarleton's atrocities at Waxhaws and on other occasions became a rallying cry, particularly at the battle of King's Mountain. The tales of Tarleton's atrocities were a part of standard U.S. accounts of the war and were described by Washington Irving and by Christopher Ward in his 1952 history, The War of the Revolution, where Tarleton is described as "cold-hearted, vindictive, and utterly ruthless. He wrote his name in letters of blood all across the history of the war in the South.". Not until Anthony Scotti's 2002 book, Brutal Virtue: The Myth and Reality of Banastre Tarleton, were Tarleton's actions fully reexamined. Scotti challenged the factual accounts of atrocities and stressed the "propaganda value that such stories held for the Americas both during and after the war". Scotti's book, however, did not come out until two years after The Patriot. Screenwriters consulting American works to build the character Tavington based on Tarleton would have commonly found descriptions of him as barbaric and accounts of his name being used for recruiting and motivation during the Revolutionary War itself, even if those accounts were fiction.

Whereas Tavington is depicted as aristocratic but penniless, Tarleton came from a wealthy Liverpool merchant family. Tarleton did not die in battle or from impalement, as Tavington did in the film. Tarleton died on January 16, 1833, in Leintwardine, Shropshire, England, at the age of 78, nearly 50 years after the war ended. He outlived Col. Francis Marion who died in 1795, by 38 years. Before his death, Tarleton had achieved the military rank of General, equal to that held by the overall British Commanders during the American Revolution, and became a baronet and a member of the British Parliament. There he was a fierce defender of the African slave trade upon which his family fortune was based.

Depiction of atrocities in the Revolutionary War

The Patriot was criticized for misrepresenting atrocities during the Revolutionary War, including the killing of prisoners of war and wounded soldiers and burning a church filled with townsfolk. While atrocities occurred during the war, the most striking of the film's depictions of British atrocities"?the burning of a church full of unarmed colonial civilians"?had no factual basis and no parallel in the American or European 18th century wars. The New York Post film critic Jonathan Foreman was one of several focusing on this distortion in the film and wrote the following in an article at

"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, Canadian (Juno Beach) and other Allied soldiers from his script for Saving Private Ryan) depicted 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 SS 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."
The Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter, a historian of the era, said: "Any image of the American Revolution which represents you Brits as Nazis and us as gentle folk is almost certainly wrong. It was a very bitter war, a total war, and that is something that I am afraid has been lost to history....[T]he presence of the Loyalists (colonists who did not want to join the fight for independence from Britain) meant that the War of Independence was a conflict of complex loyalties." The historian Richard F. Snow, editor of American Heritage magazine, said of the church-burning scene: "Of course it never happened"?if it had do you think Americans would have forgotten it? It could have kept us out of World War I."

The concept of patriotism

Slate columnist Michael Lind criticized the identification of the leading character's actions with patriotism. Specifically, Lind stated that "this movie is deeply subversive patriotism. Indeed, patriotism is a concept that neither the screenwriter...nor the director...seems to understand". He further wrote that "the message of The Patriot is that country is an abstraction, family is everything. It should have been called The Family Man".

In contrast, historian Ben Rubin argues that because the American Revolution was a conflict that as often pitted neighbor against neighbor"?Whigs (advocates of Revolution) against Tories (loyalists to Britain)"?as it pitted nascent Americans against the British, many people stayed neutral until goaded into taking a stand in reaction to perceived atrocities. From this perspective, Benjamin Martin's joining of the militia becomes, according to commentator Jon Roland, a deep patriotism that "shows them being called up, not as an act of an official, but by private persons aware of a common threat...[reacting to a] militia duty to defend one another".


In the film, Mel Gibson's character asks, "Why should I trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away?" This quotation serves as a homage to the Massachusetts Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson who said this during the protests over British taxes that led to the war. He was referring to the colonial legislature.

Further reading

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

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