This cult classic led to a weak attempt at franchise-building that ultimately failed to live up to the original premise.
Highlander is a 1986 British-American action-fantasy film directed by Russell Mulcahy and based on Gregory Widen’s story. It stars Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown, and Roxanne Hart. The film narrates the climax of an ages-old battle between immortal warriors, depicted through interwoven past and present-day storylines.
The film has achieved and maintained status as a cult classic. Highlander, is still considered one of the great movies that came out of the wacky drug-fueled eighties. The decade is known for a lot of genre greats.
This film is another excellent example of all of the elements just happening to come together in the right place, at the right time. The cast, the director, the story all magically added up to more than the sum of its parts. The writing, in this case, played a significant role in the appeal of the film. The story is a simple one, really. Still, it manages to be just enough to hang some great characters and dialogue on, making this movie one of the most delightfully quotable in genre history, right up there with Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991).
The cast is also a significant factor in the film’s appeal. Lambert is memorable in his charming portrayal as the near clueless Conner MacLeod, who evolves into the more impressive, refined, and polished version of himself later in the movie.
In this film, we have the rare case of having a near three-way tie for stealing the show by the three male leads that occupy the film. Sean Connery is impressively fun and marvelous as he hams it up in an enjoyable way as the theatrical Spanish peacock Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, who suddenly appears and assumes the role of mentor to help upgrade Conner’s still country bumpkin view of the world and life.
The third character, of course, is the Kurgan, played to near perfection by Clancy Brown in what is probably his most significant role ever and his most memorable. Brown oozes menace and darkness in the role. His evil is palpable and elemental in its portrayal. It is just over the top, just enough. Any more, and it might have been laughable or just too much to remain as credible as it seems. The character incorporates some of the pop culture influence of the punk rock craze popular productively. He has most of the best lines in the movie, as is reasonable for the bad guy to have, and he delivers them masterfully at every opportunity.
The first of what turned into a series of films, Highlander, was followed by several sequels and spun off into a television series. The TV show came closest to approaching the greatness of the original. The films were all box office flops. They are:
Highlander II: The Quickening, directed by Russell Mulcahy, was released on November 1, 1991. The film mainly takes place in 2024, with flashbacks to events in 1999 and a very distant past on the planet Zeist. It attempts to establish mythology that initiates the idea that the immortals are humanoid aliens from another planet.
Highlander: The Series (1992-1998) is an American fantasy science fiction action-adventure television series featuring Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) of the Scottish Clan MacLeod as the eponymous “Highlander.” A slight retcon of the 1986 feature film of the same name features a storyline in which Connor MacLeod did not win “the Prize” sought by all Immortals, who still exist post-1985. Christopher Lambert reprised his role as Connor in the pilot episode, which introduced the series protagonist Duncan MacLeod, an Immortal who was taken in by the same clan of Scottish Highlanders who had found and raised Connor generations before.
The series was an international hit and was nominated three times for the Gemini Awards and once for a Saturn Award in 1998.
Highlander III: The Sorcerer: (alternatively titled Highlander: The Final Dimension) premiered on November 25, 1994. The third movie contradicts both the second and the television series, acting as a stand-alone sequel to the original production. MacLeod battles a warrior who missed the initial Gathering because he was buried deep in a Japanese cave that is holy ground, isolating him from the first film’s supposedly final contest. Kane (played by Mario Van Peebles) is a master of the “power of illusion,” which allows him to create false imagery to deceive his enemies.
Highlander: Endgame: first released on September 1, 2000, was an attempt to merge characters from both the original film and from the Highlander TV series. The story follows Duncan MacLeod as he confronts Jacob Kell, an evil Immortal who has assembled a fellow warriors group. Connor has spent a decade trying to escape the Game in a hidden Watcher fortress known as the Sanctuary. Conner and Duncan cannot avoid a confrontation with this new threat that neither one can succeed against on their own.
Highlander: The Source: is the fifth and final installment of the Highlander film series, which premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel on September 15, 2007. The film follows Duncan MacLeod and a group of fellow Immortals seeking the source of immortality. The film retcons the game’s meaning and the phrase, “There can be only one.” The Sci-Fi Movie Page gave it one and a half stars out of a possible five.
Now, for better or worse, it has been reported there is a Highlander remake in the works. According to the most recent reports (March 2018), the Highlander reboot finally has a script. Lionsgate is moving forward with the movie, as pre-production is set to begin in October. The project has been in development for nearly a decade, starting when Summit Entertainment picked up the project’s rights in 2008. Lionsgate has been in control of it for some time now, as the studio acquired Summit Entertainment in 2012. Now, after years in development hell, the studio has a script they’re happy with, or at least it seems. It looks like this movie is finally actually happening.