Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Local Hero (1983)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Local Hero (1983, UK)

In writer/director Bill Forsyth's whimsical, magically light Scottish comedy - about a life-changing business trip by an oil executive to a Scottish fishing town:

  • the film's premise: a major Houston oil company (Knox Oil & Gas) wanted to take over the idyllic, fictional Scottish coastal fishing town of Ferness as an oil refinery site - causing the local residents at first to become ecstatic at the thought of instant wealth: ("They have a right to make what they can of it. You can't eat scenery")
  • the character of straight-laced, ambitious Knox executive businessman "Mac" MacIntyre (Peter Riegert) who was sent to Ferness on a mission to purchase essentially the entire town - about two dozen properties, including families, businesses, and farms; he offered a deal to Ferness' local innkeeper-accountant-mayor Gordon Urquhart (Denis Lawson): ("I don't want to be coy with you, Gordon. We want to buy the whole place. We want to buy everything from the cliffs to the north, through to the bay on the far side - that's all!") - but "Mac" was soon to be transformed into a laid-back, sweater-wearing beachcombing philosopher
  • the funny running gag between eccentric billionaire Knox CEO Felix Happer (Burt Lancaster) and pushy psychiatrist Moritz (Norman Chancer) who was employed to insult and abuse him on a regular basis; Moritz used abusive therapy, made hostile phone calls on the village's sole phone box-booth: ("I'm still here, Happer! And you're still a useless motherf--ker"), and displayed a hate message on the skyscraper wall: "HAPPER IS A MOTHERF--" - causing Happer to growl orders to his secretary: ("And Mrs. Wyatt. There's a madman on the roof. You'd better call the police to get some marksman over here. Shoot him off. Shoot to kill")
  • the scenes of Knox's local representative Danny Oldsen (Peter Capaldi) and his growing relationship after meeting with Knox marine researcher Marina (Jenny Seagrove) at the Knox research facility in Aberdeen; Marina was complimented by her two colleagues Watt (Alex Norton) and Geddes (Rikki Fulton) for her swimming and breathing abilities: "She's got a magnificent pair of lungs... Oh, yes. A great asset. Five degrees in Oceanography and a very talented programmer"
  • Danny and Marina watched the Aurora Borealis ("It's red all over!") - and his romance with the suspected mermaid - especially after kissing her feet and discovering them to be webbed
"She's got a magnificent pair of lungs"
Romance Between Danny and Marina - Watching Aurora Borealis
Danny Kissing the Webbed-Feet of Marina
  • the bonding between Happer and old, crusty hermit/vagrant and beachcomber Ben Knox (Fulton Mackay) who was discovered to own the beach through a grant from the Lord of the Isles to his ancestor; he was continually reluctant to sell his beach land, although "Mac" tried to entice him with picture postcards of other beaches: ("I've got some very fine beaches here - I wanna make you an offer. How about this? Any beach that takes your fancy anywhere in the world, I'll get for you!"); Ben replied: "They look like very nice beaches, Mr. Macintyre. But, see, I only need the one. I have this here. I don't need another one"; then Ben made an offer: "Would you give me a pound note for every grain of sand I hold in my hand? You can have the beach for that" - the suspicious "Mac" declined, but foolishly didn't realize that there were no more than ten thousand grains in Ben's palm
  • and the happy ending in which nearly everyone benefited: the town was spared from being destroyed (the refinery was located off-shore instead), the townspeople got rich, Happer found his place in life (remarking: "Oldsen, I could grow to love this place"), Marina had her oceanographic research facility built (the "Happer Institute"), and Danny won over Marina
  • the concluding scene when Mac was forced to return to the rat-race of Houston despite becoming deeply acclimated to the town life - memorably before he left, he offered to swap his life with Gordon: ("I wanna stay here, run the hotel, do little bits of business, you can go to Houston. Take the Porsche, the house, the job. It's a good life there, Gordon")
  • the sad, transcendent ending when Mac was in his apartment and decorated it with the scant mementos from his trip (clam shells and a few photos pinned to his bulletin board)
  • the evocative final long shot of the town and its sole red phone booth, futilely ringing (was Mac trying to call the town? or was it just a memory?)

"Mac" Describing His Mission to Ferness Mayor Gordon Urquhart

Hostile Phone Calls


"Mac" Offering Any Other Beach in the World to Entice Ben Knox to Sell His Beach

"Mac" to the Mayor: "I wanna stay here"

"Mac" Back in Houston Apartment with Only Memories on His Bulletin Board

Final Long Shot of Scottish Village with Red Phone Box


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