Highlander (1986)

!!! Contains spoilers !!!

Premièred in 1986, the Highlander film is the first installation in Highlander franchise. This movie is a fantasy action-adventure directed by Russel Mulcahy based on a story by Gregory Widen.

The plot revolves around the violent conflicts between certain individuals around the world who all have special mysterious powers due to an energy known as the Quickening. All of them are immortal, but with one big exception: they can be killed through beheading. If an immortal kills another immortal, the survivor absorbs the quickening energy from the other one and grows even more powerful.

The 1986 Highlander movie had Christopher Lambert in the title role as the immortal Connor MacLeod, born in the Scottish highlands in the 1500s. After dying a violent death, he comes back to life and is banished from his village. Another immortal, named Ramírez (played by Sean Connor), eventually finds him and becomes his mentor, explaining to him about immortality and how the immortals around the world are involved in a secret war against each other. The movie is chiefly set in New York in 1985, but with plenty of flashbacks to other eras, especially 16th century Scotland.

The movie was not very successful upon its initial release in 1986 and received mixed reviews. After having cost $19 million to produce, it only grossed less than $13 million. Later on, it garnered a cult following and inspired a whole franchise of films, tv-series, cartoons, novels, video games, and more. The tagline “There can be only one” is today in widespread use.

highlander 1

Connor MacCloud and Ramírez

Short facts about the film Highlander (1986)

  • Director: Russel Mulcahy
  • Starring: Christopher Lambert, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown, Sean Connery
  • Release date: 7 March, 1986
  • Length: 111 minutes
  • Language: English
  • Story: Gregory Widen
  • Screenplay: Gregory Widen, Peter Bellwood, Larry Ferguson
  • Producers: Peter S. Davis, William N. Panzer
  • Production company: Highlander Productions
  • Cinematography: Gerry Fisher, Tony Mitchell
  • Editing: Peter Honess
  • Distribution: Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment
  • Budget: $19 million
  • Box office: $12.8 million



In 1985 New York City, Conner MacLeod is confronted by his old enemy Iman Fasil in a parking garage. A swordfight ensues, ending in MacLeod beheading Fasil and triggering a violent absorption of mysterious energy from him. Connor hides his sword in the garage, before being detained by police and later released due to lack of evidence.

A series of flashbacks is used to reveal Connor´s history.

We get to see him living in the Scottish Highlands, where he enters his first clan battle in 1536. The opponents, the Fraser clan, are aided by a mysterious foreign warrior called the Kurgan. Kurgan delivers a fatal stab to Connor in battle but is chased away by Connor´s clansmen before he can finish the killing.

When Connor survives and heals from the stab in a miraculous way, his lover Kate and his cousin Dougal accuse him of witchcraft. His other cousin, the chieftain Angus, saves him by allowing him to go into exile instead of being killed for witchcraft.

Connor wanders the highlands, becomes a blacksmith and marries a woman named Heather MacLeod. Eventually, he is found by the swordsman Ramírez who has tracked the Kurgan to Scotland. Ramírez is able to explain to Connor why he survived the stabbing – he, Ramírez, the Kurgan and many other people around the globe were born with the quickening energy and can only be killed by beheading. These people are called immortals, and Ramírez also explains that quickening energy is absorbed by the survivor when one immortal kills another. According to immortal myth, all living immortals will eventually be mysterious compelled to seek out a specific spot in the world for the Gathering – the final battle from which only one immortal will emerge alive. Having absorbed the quickening energy from all the others (“the Prize”), this lone survivor will be an immensely powerful immortal that can enslave humanity. Ramírez also reveals other bits of immortal information. Immortals can not have biological children, and as a part of their tradition, immortals do not fight each other on holy ground.

Ramírez stays with MacLeod and train him, hoping that he will help him in his mission to ensure that an evil immortal – such as the Kurgan – will not win at the Gathering. One night when MacLeod is away, the Kurgan attacks and kills Ramírez, rape Heather and leaves before MacLeod comes back. Many years later, when Heather has died of old age, MacDonnalds leaves Scotland and starts roaming the earth. By 1985, he is living in New York City with his adopted daughter Rachel Ellenstein (who now appears older than him, being born in 1936).

Simultaneously, metallurgy expert Brenda Wyatt is working for the NYPD as a forensic scientist. She find´s shards of MacLeod´s sword at the Fasil murder scene, and is puzzled as they appear to come from a sword made using European medieval methods but also being of a style dated to Japan 600 B.C. (This is Ramírez´s old sword, used by MacLeod since his death.)

When MacLeod is attacked by the Kurgan, Wyatt becomes a witness and the two flee together. She meets with him twice afterwards, wanting to know more about his sword, but he rebuffs her.

MacLeod briefly meets up with a immortal friend named Sunda Kastagir, who is soon thereafter beheaded by the Kurgan. A witness to the attack reports his appearance to the NYPD.

Wyatt continues to investigate MacLeod, and find indications of him being much older than a normal human and actually having lived on the same address for nearly 300 years – periodically faking his own death to keep up the pretence.

Every year, MacLeod visits a church to light a candle for his late wife on her birthday. This year, the Kurgan arrives and confirms that the two of them are now the only remaining immortals. He also reveals that he raped Heather. Since they are on holy ground, MacLeod leaves instead of fighting the Kurgan.

Wyatt confronts MacLeod with her findings about him. He tells her the truth, and they spend a romantic night together. The Kurgan kidnaps Wyatt to draw MacLeod out. MacLeod takes farewell of his adopted daughter, and go to rescue Wyatt and confront the Kurgan.

After a long duel, MacLeod beheads the Kurgan and absorbs his quickening energy. He is now a mortal man who can age and have biological children. He reunites with Wyatt and they go to Scotland.

With all the quickening energy in him, MacLeod can read the thoughts and feeling of all humans. Based on Ramírez teachings, he hops to use his power to encourage understanding, cooperation and peace in the world.