In 1280, King Edward “Longshanks” (Patrick McGoohan) invades and conquers Scotland following the death of Alexander III of Scotland, who left no heir to the throne. Young William Wallace (James Robinson) witnesses Longshanks’ treachery, survives the deaths of his father (Sean Lawlor) and brother (Sandy Nelson), and is taken abroad on a pilgrimage throughout Europe by his paternal Uncle Argyle (Brian Cox), where he is educated. Years later, Longshanks grants his noblemen land and privileges in Scotland, including Prima Nocte (or droit du seigneur, the right of the lord to have sex with female subjects on their wedding nights). Meanwhile, Wallace (Mel Gibson) returns to Scotland and is reunited with his childhood friend, Hamish Campbell (Brendan Gleeson). Wallace falls in love with his other childhood friend, Murron MacClannough (Catherine McCormack); they marry in secret so she will not have to spend the night with the local English lord. Wallace rescues Murron from being raped by English soldiers, but as she fights off their second attempt, Murron is captured and publicly executed. In retribution, Wallace leads his clan to slaughter the English garrison in his hometown and send the occupying garrison at Lanark back to England. This enrages Longshanks, who orders his son, Prince Edward (Peter Hanly), to stop Wallace by any means necessary. Wallace rebels against the English, and as his legend spreads, hundreds of Scots from the surrounding clans join him. Wallace then leads his army to victory at Stirling and then sacks the city of York, killing Longshanks’ nephew (Richard Leaf) and sending his decapitated head to the king. Wallace seeks the assistance of Robert the Bruce (Angus Macfadyen), the son of nobleman Robert the Elder (Ian Bannen) and a contender for the Scottish crown. Robert is dominated by his father, who wishes to secure the throne for his son by submitting to the English. Worried by the threat of the rebellion, Longshanks sends his son’s wife, Isabella of France (Sophie Marceau), to try to negotiate with Wallace, hoping Wallace will kill her and thus draw the French king to declare war. Wallace refuses the bribe sent with Isabella by Longshanks, but after meeting him in person, Isabella becomes enamored of Wallace. Meanwhile, Longshanks prepares an army to invade Scotland. Warned of the coming invasion by Isabella, Wallace implores the Scottish nobility that immediate action is needed to counter the threat and to take back the country. Leading the English army himself, Longshanks confronts the Scots at Falkirk where noblemen Lochlan (John Murtagh) and Mornay (Alun Armstrong) betray Wallace. The Scots lose the battle, and Morrison (Tommy Flanagan) and Campbell, senior (James Cosmo) die at the battle. As Wallace charges toward the departing Longshanks on horseback, he is intercepted by one of the king’s lancers, who turns out to be Robert. Remorseful, Robert gets Wallace to safety before the English can capture him. Wallace kills Lochlan and Mornay for their betrayal, and wages a guerrilla war against the English for the next seven years, assisted by Isabella, with whom he eventually has an affair. Robert, intending to join Wallace and commit troops to the war, sets up a meeting with him in Edinburgh. However, Robert’s father has conspired with other nobles to capture and hand over Wallace to the English. Learning of his treachery, Robert disowns his father. Isabella exacts revenge on the now terminally ill Longshanks by telling him she is pregnant with Wallace’s child, and intent on ending Longshanks’ line and ruling in his son’s place. In London, Wallace is brought before an English magistrate (David Gant), tried for high treason, and condemned to public torture and beheading. Even whilst being hanged, drawn and quartered, Wallace refuses to submit to the king. As cries for mercy come from the watching crowd deeply moved by the Scotsman’s valor, the magistrate offers him one final chance, asking him only to utter the word, “Mercy”, and be granted a quick death. Wallace instead shouts, “Freedom!”, and the judge orders his death. Moments before being decapitated, Wallace sees a vision of Murron in the crowd, smiling at him. In 1314, Robert, now Scotland’s king, leads a Scottish army before a ceremonial line of English troops on the fields of Bannockburn, where he is to formally accept English rule. As he begins to ride toward the English, he stops and invokes Wallace’s memory, imploring his men to fight with him as they did with Wallace. Robert then leads his army into battle against the stunned English, winning the Scots their freedom.
在中世紀十三世紀左右，英格蘭國王「長腿」愛德華一世統治著蘇格蘭。長腿愛德華對蘇格蘭的暴政迫使著一小群蘇格蘭人反抗，起義的後果導致年少的威廉·華莱士失去了父親與哥哥。華勒斯在葬禮後由叔叔認養，並且隨叔叔離開了故鄉。 多年後，華勒斯成年回到了故鄉，此時的蘇格蘭仍處於長腿愛德華的殘酷統治下。華勒斯返鄉主要是希望能過平靜的日子，務農維生、組織家庭、生兒育女。華勒斯與青梅竹馬茉倫（Murron）發展戀情，並且為了逃避英王賜與蘇格蘭貴族享有女子初夜權的不平等待遇，在一日晚上與茉倫秘密成婚。隔日，茉倫因遭到英軍士兵的調戲而反抗，當地長官為了引華勒斯出現而殺害茉倫。失去愛妻的華勒斯揭竿起義，昔日村民也紛紛響應，華勒斯最後也以妻子遇害的手法報復了英軍長官。 很快的，華勒斯便與村民組成了起義軍隊，並且陸續徵召響應的義士。他們先是闖入當地投靠英格蘭的貴族城堡內，並且將城堡燒毀。隨著華勒斯的事蹟傳開，越來越多的民眾響應起義。而華勒斯的軍隊也是勢如破竹，先後贏得了多場戰役，包括史特靈橋之役打破了「步兵勝不了騎兵」的迷信和攻下了英格蘭重要城市約克城。長腿愛德華察覺事態嚴重，親自率領更強的軍隊對付華勒斯，雙方在福柯克（Falkirk）交戰；然而華勒斯遭到聯合的蘇格蘭貴族背叛，在福柯克之役戰敗。 在福柯克之役失敗後，華勒斯開始採取躲藏游擊戰術對抗英軍，並且對於背叛的兩位蘇格蘭貴族採取報復行動。同時，長腿愛德華的媳婦伊莎貝拉公主被派為 特使與華勒斯會面。伊莎貝拉多次協助華勒斯抵抗危險，兩人也發展了關係，伊莎貝拉甚至還懷了華勒斯的骨肉。隨後，蘇格蘭貴族要求與華勒斯會面，華勒斯相信 貴族首領羅伯特·布魯斯因此獨自赴會，但不料被布魯斯的父親以及其他貴族出賣。華勒斯被抓住了，布魯斯也正式與父親決裂。 華勒斯受到英格蘭行政官審判，只要華勒斯承認叛國罪就可以減輕罪刑；然而華勒斯不從，聲稱他從未效忠於長腿愛德華。在倫敦的審判廣場上，華勒斯遭受各種折磨仍不肯屈服，此時連倫敦的群眾也被華勒斯的勇氣所感動，紛紛大喊審判長開恩。華勒斯利用僅剩的最後一口氣大喊：「自由！」（Freedom !）在斬首前，華勒斯恍惚看到了他的妻子在人群中對他微笑。而後，緊握在華勒斯手中的定情物也鬆落了。 在華勒斯被斬首後，受到其勇氣影響的羅伯特·布魯斯再次率領華勒斯的手下對抗英格蘭；這次他們大喊著華勒斯的名字，並且在最後贏得了熱盼已久的自由。