Highlander Information

Highlander is a 1986 fantasy film directed by Russell Mulcahy and based on a story by Gregory Widen. It stars Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown, and Roxanne Hart. The film depicts the climax of an ages-old battle between immortal warriors, depicted through interwoven past and present day storylines. Despite having enjoyed little success in its initial U.S. release, the cult film launched Lambert to stardom and inspired a franchise that included film sequels, television spin-offs, and an upcoming remake. The film's tagline, "There can be only one", has carried on throughout the franchise, as have the songs provided for the film by Queen.


The beginning establishes the story of the immortals fighting to the death for centuries. In the present day, Connor MacLeod, the Highlander, is in New York City. In an arena parking garage, Connor is confronted by fellow immortal Iman Fasil, and decapitates him, upon which an energy surge destroys several cars around him. Connor is arrested by the police.

The story goes back in time to the 16th century Scottish Highlands, presumably the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel. Connor (Christopher Lambert) and his clan, the Clan MacLeod, get ready to go into battle.

Back to 1980's, the police let Connor go as they have failed to get any information from him. One of the detectives involved, Brenda C. Wyatt (Roxanne Hart), is an expert in metallurgy and recognises Fasil's sword as an extremely rare Toledo Salamanca broadsword. Later, Connor returns to the garage to retrieve his own sword, but sees Brenda is looking at the crime scene. She finds some metal shards embedded in a concrete column and saves them for analysis.

The scene returns to the Highlands, where the Kurgan (Clancy Brown) assists the clan Fraser against the Clan MacLeod in exchange for the sole rights to Connor. In the resulting confrontation the Kurgan stabs Connor, but is then driven off by the MacLeod clansmen. The wounded Connor is taken back to the village and everyone assumes he will die. When he makes a remarkable overnight recovery, the village is convinced that it is the work of the devil. The clan leader exiles Connor.

In the present, Connor lives under the alias Russell Nash and is a wealthy antiquities dealer. Meanwhile, the Kurgan takes up residence at a seedy motel. Connor tails Brenda to a bar, but she leaves quickly. She then tails Connor, but the Kurgan attacks them both. The fight is interrupted by a police helicopter and everybody flees. Brenda has analyzed the metal fragments and discovered them to be from a Japanese katana, dated about 600 B.C. but made with advanced technology for the era. She makes a date with Connor in an attempt to entrap him. Connor recognises the ruse, tells her to stop digging, and leaves.

In the past, Connor lives an idyllic life with his wife Heather (Beatie Edney). One day, the mysterious Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (Sean Connery) appears and begins training Connor in sword fighting. He explains that they both belong to a group of immortals, who constantly fight one another but can only be killed by complete decapitation. When one immortal decapitates another, the winner receives a transfer of power called "the quickening." Eventually, all the immortals must do battle until there is only one left; the last survivor will receive "the Prize." Ramirez tells Connor that the Kurgan, by that time the strongest of the immortals, must not win the Prize, or mankind will enter a dark age. One night, while Connor is away, the Kurgan attacks and decapitates Ramirez.

In Central Park, Connor meets a long-time friend, fellow immortal Kastigir (Hugh Quarshie). They talk about the impending gathering of immortals which precedes the final battle, and joke about old times.

Brenda has by now discovered that Connor has been alive for centuries, living under false identities, faking his death every few decades, signing his assets over to children who had died at birth, and assuming their identities. She confronts Connor, who demonstrates his immortality. After this revelation, Brenda and Connor become lovers, although Connor is reluctant, following a flashback in which Connor's wife, Heather, dies of old age in his arms. Ramirez has earlier explained that immortals cannot have children and should not get romantically involved. Ramirez reveals his Japanese katana was made specifically for him by the father of his third wife.

The Kurgan kills Kastigir. When the Kurgan finds out about Connor's relationship with Brenda, he kidnaps her to draw Connor out. After a climactic battle at the Silvercup Studios in Queens, Connor defeats and beheads the Kurgan. He receives the Prize, which manifests itself as a massive quickening. Now mortal and capable of having children, Connor and Brenda move to Scotland. Connor now has awareness of people's thoughts around the world and uses this to encourage cooperation and peace.


Actor Role
Christopher Lambert Connor MacLeod / Russell Nash
Roxanne Hart Brenda Wyatt
Clancy Brown The Kurgan / Victor Kruger
Sean Connery Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez
Beatie Edney Heather MacLeod
Alan North Lieutenant Frank Moran
Jon Polito Detective Walter Bedsoe
Sheila Gish Rachel Ellenstein
Hugh Quarshie Sunda Kastagir
Christopher Malcolm Kirk Matunas
Peter Diamond Iman Fasil
Billy Hartman Dugal MacLeod
James Cosmo Angus MacLeod
Corinne Russell Candy
Celia Imrie Kate MacLeod



Gregory Widen wrote the script to Highlander, which he then titled Shadow Clan, as a class assignment while he was an undergraduate in the screenwriting program at UCLA. Widen sold the script for US$200,000.

According to William Panzer, joint producer with Peter S. Davis of the Highlander franchise:

Widen's original draft of the script differed significantly from the movie version. The initial story of the film was darker and more violent. Connor is born in 1408 rather than 1518. He lives with his mother and father. Heather doesn't exist; Connor is promised to a girl named Mara, who rejects him when she learns he's immortal. Connor leaves his village instead of being banished. His alias is Richard Tupin and his weapon is a custom broadsword. Ramirez is a Spaniard born in 1100 instead of an ancient Egyptian born more than two thousand years earlier. The Kurgan is known as the Knight, using the alias Carl William Smith. He is not a savage, but a cold-blooded killer. Brenda is Brenna Cartwright.

Other elements were changed during the rewrite. Initially, immortals could have children; in the draft Connor is said to have had 37. In a flashback in the first draft, Connor attends the funeral of one of his sons. His wife (in her 70s) and his two sons, who are in their mid 50s, see him revealed as an immortal. Also, there are no quickenings in the first draft. When an immortal kills another, nothing special occurs. Nor is there mention of a "prize". When Connor finally kills the Knight, he feels a sharp burning pain. The viewer is then not told if he remains immortal.


The entire budget was put up by Thorn EMI. Filming began in April 1985 and ended August 30, 1985. It took place in Scotland, England, and New York City.

Director Russell Mulcahy filmed it using music video techniques including fast cutting and pacy music.

Director of photography Arthur Smith actually filmed the scene in which fish fall out of MacLeod's kilt, but Lambert's kilt proved to be too short. Smith said, "I stuck part of a drain pipe above Chris's kilt out of camera range, and fed live trout down the tube." Smith also had difficulties shooting MacLeod meeting the Kurgan. It was raining that day and the crew had to use umbrellas and hair dryers to prevent water from hitting the camera lenses and appearing on the film. Smith also remembered that Lambert, who was near-sighted, "kept forgetting to take off his glasses as he came over the hill on his horse."

The filming of the parking garage scene took place in two different places. According to New York location manager Brett Botula, "the garage exterior is Manhattan, across from Madison Square Garden, and the interior is 'somewhere in London.'" The pro-wrestling match in the opening scene featured The Fabulous Freebirds vs. Greg Gagne, Jim Brunzell and The Tonga Kid.

The scene where the MacLeod clan sets off to battle is supposed to take place "in the village of Glenfinnan, on the shore of Loch Shiel" in the Lochaber area, but was actually filmed at Eilean Donan Castle, which is in the same general area but is really on the shore of Loch Duich, a sea loch near Kyle of Lochalsh and the Isle of Skye.

According to the DVD commentary, the film's climax was originally intended to take place on top of the Statue of Liberty. Then it was changed to an amusement park and finally changed to the rooftop of the Silvercup Studios building. The opening sequence was originally intended to take place during an NHL hockey game. But the NHL refused to allow the crew to film there because they were intending to emphasize the violence of the match.

The church scene involving The Kurgan was filmed at St Augustine's in London, the choirboys (Craig Baxter, James Owusu & Thomas Smart) were handpicked on the day of filming from St Augustines School opposite the church. With the permission of the priests in charge, filming went ahead during the day with no-one knowing what was going on inside. Still, Brown's lines were ad-libbed, and they were reportedly considered so sacrilegious that the priests off-camera were making the sign of the cross as he said them.

The scene in the alley where the Kurgan beheads Kastagir and then stabs the ex-Marine, followed by an explosion, was filmed in an alley in England even though it was set in New York. The director was reluctant to set off the explosion in the alley because the windows were full of Victorian glass, but he was given permission to do so because that particular site was going to be destroyed in a few months anyway.

All of Sean Connery's scenes had to be filmed in a single week due to Connery's hectic schedule. Still, during the filming of the movie, Connery and Lambert got along even better than their onscreen counterparts, even going as far as to call each other by their characters' names when not filming. The two were (and continue to be) such good friends that Lambert threatened to back out of the sequel unless Connery's character was added to the film. The opening voice-over by Connery has an echo effect because it was recorded in his Spanish villa bathroom. It was played for the producers over the phone and they approved of it because they could not discern the quality of the recording that way.


The original orchestral score was composed by Michael Kamen and the soundtrack includes several songs by Queen, such as "Hammer to Fall" and "Princes of the Universe", which was also used in the Highlander television series title sequence. Queen wrote many of the songs specifically to match the mood of the scenes when the songs play, notably Brian May's "Who Wants to Live Forever", concerning the doomed love of Connor and his wife Heather.

While no albums specifically tied to the Highlander movie were ever released, Queen's 1986 album A Kind of Magic features most of the songs from the film, although sometimes in different arrangements. Part of Michael Kamen's score was played during the New Line Cinema logo before their movies in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Deleted and abandoned scenes

A duel sequence that introduced an Asian immortal named Yung Dol Kim was cut from the film. The footage for the scene, along with certain other deleted scenes, was later destroyed by fire, although a few stills from the sequence, some in colour and others in black and white, survived. Other deleted, and subsequently lost, moments include a scene of Connor, Kastagir and Bedsoe partying at a bar and one in which Connor shows Brenda his katana after sex.

In the scene following Connor beheading the Kurgan, director Russell Mulcahy had originally envisioned an animated dragon with the Kurgan's battle helmet emerging from his decapitated body and challenging Connor again. Only after Connor had defeated this ghost-dragon would he have received the final quickening and subsequent Prize. This idea was eventually cut due to budget constraints.

Alternate versions

The European version of the film contained scenes not found in the American version. The director's cut is based upon this version, and it runs eight minutes longer than the US version. The additional scenes include:

  • MacLeod having a short flashback about his first battle in Scotland during the wrestling match
  • A longer fight scene between Connor and Fasil, mainly Fasil doing backflips through the garage
  • A scene showing Connor's first love, Kate, bringing him flowers before he goes to battle
  • A flashback to World War II that further develops the character of Rachel Ellenstein
  • Longer sex scene between Connor and Brenda
  • A scene where the Kurgan can be seen in the background trailing MacLeod and Brenda at the zoo
  • Much longer fight scene between MacLeod and the Kurgan at the end of the movie
There are several changes in dialogue from the theatrical version:

  • Whooshing sounds whenever one Immortal senses another
  • When Connor and Ramirez jump into the water during training, Ramirez (in the theatrical version) shouts, "MacLeod, this is the Quickening!"
  • When Connor is talking about the 1783 bottle of wine (in the theatrical version), after he says, "Brandy, bottled in 1783", Brenda's head can be seen moving but she speaks no dialogue. In the new release, she says, "Wow, that's old."
  • After Connor wins the Prize and is being comforted by Brenda (in the theatrical version), he looks up and says, "I want to go home." This is missing in the new release.
The new release is also missing a short scene of Detective Bedsoe spilling coffee on himself while staking out Brenda's apartment.

The French theatrical version of Highlander is mainly the same version as the US theatrical. It includes the World War II flashback but it removes the interior shot of Detective Bedsoe in his car while on a stakeout. This has been issued on 2-disc and 3-disc DVD sets in France with French dialog only.

Release and reception

Upon initial U.S. release, it was not well-received, but it gained wide and persistent popularity in Europe and on other markets, as well as on home video. It has since obtained status as a cult classic film in both domestic and non-domestic markets, leading to four sequels, a television series, and various other spin-offs.

The movie made $2,453,021 on its opening weekend and ended up making $5,735,847 domestically. Internationally, the movie made $12,885,193.

Highlander currently holds a 67% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 30 reviews.

Danél Griffin of Film as Art awarded the film four stars (out of four), saying: "The key to Highlander's success is in its approach to its subject matter. What could have been a premise that breathes cliché is given a fresh approach due to Mulcahy's unique directing style and a written script. [...] Highlander is certainly a classic film that will continue to be cherished and watched as the world of movie making continues to grow and change. It is a triumphant example of the art of cinema, and watching it reminds us all of why we like going to the movies in the first place." Christopher Null of FilmCritic.com gave the film four and a half stars out of five, writing: "Highlander has no equal among sword-and-sorcery flicks." Null later called Highlander "the greatest action film ever made," saying that it features "awesome swordfights, an awesome score, and a time-bending plotline that only a philistine could dislike."

Matt Ford of the BBC gave the film three stars out of five, writing: "From the moody, rain-soaked, noir-ish streets of late 20th century America to the wild open spaces of medieval Scotland, Mulcahy plunders movie history to set off his visceral fight scenes with suitably rugged locations. [...] What the film loses through ham acting, weak narrative, and pompous macho posturing it more than compensates with in sheer fiery bravado, pace, and larger than life action." Dean Winkelspecht of DVD Town also gave Highlander three stars out of five, writing: "The film's slow pace and dated look will turn away many a new viewer [...] However, there is a certain appeal to the film that brings back many for a second or third helping. I have learned to appreciate the film over the years, [and] the film's story is unique and entertaining."

Also giving the film three stars out of five, Adam Tyner of DVD Talk wrote, "The screenplay spots a number of intelligent, creative ideas, and I find the very concept of displacing the sword-and-sorcery genre to then-modern-day New York City to be fairly inventive. The dialogue and performances don't quite match many of the film's concepts, though. The tone seems somewhat uneven, as if Highlander is unsure if it wants to be seen as a straight adventure epic or if it's a campy action flick." IGN, awarding Highlander a score of 8 out of 10, wrote: "This 80s classic has a lot going for it. The hardcore MTV manner in which it was filmed is common these days, but was groundbreaking then. This movie features some of the best scene transitions committed to celluloid. [...] To this is added some fun performances by Connery and especially Clancy Brown."

Leonard Maltin gave the film one and a half stars: "Interesting premise made silly and boring... Former rock video director Mulcahy's relentlessly showy camera moves may cause you to reach for the Dramamine."

Home video

The video was a hit in the United States. The theatrical release of Highlander II: The Quickening in 1991 significantly increased the rental activity on Highlander even though the sequel was not a box-office success. Highlander was first released to DVD in the United States in 1997, in a "10th Anniversary Edition" Director's Cut that contained the international uncut version of the film. A "15th Anniversary" edition was released in Australia in 2001, which also contained the International cut of the film. Highlander was again released in 2002 in two editions: a special edition "Immortal Edition" with several extra features and a standard edition, both of which contain the International uncut version. On the June 17, 2009 French distributor StudioCanal issued the film on Blu-ray with identical releases following in Germany, UK, Holland, Australia and Japan. The U.S. director's cut is currently available on DVD in North America from Lionsgate under license from the film's current owner, StudioCanal. 20th Century Fox, the theatrical distributor, remains the television rights holder.


A novelization of the film was written by Gary Kilworth. It expanded more on the movie by telling how the Kurgan met his first death, his training with an Immortal Arab known as "The Bedouin," whom he eventually kills. The novel also reveals how the Kurgan gets his customized broadsword and his battle with an Immortal Mongol before meeting MacLeod in 1536.

Related plagiarism

Marie-Pier Côté, a 12-year-old Canadian, published a novel called Laura l'immortelle. On March 13, 2007 the French-language newspaper La Presse published an article noting a list of similarities between Laura l'immortelle and Highlander. Côté later admitted that the story was a plagiarized Highlander fan fiction originally written by a Frenchman.


On March 2008, Summit Entertainment announced that it had bought the film rights to the Highlander franchise and is remaking the 1986 original movie. Originally Iron Man writers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway were writing the script, but Summit Entertainment turned to Melissa Rosenberg to write it instead, with release scheduled for 2011. In September 2009, Fast & Furious director Justin Lin was announced as director of the film, while Neal H. Moritz was slated to co-produce. However in August, Lin dropped out of the film due to commitments to other projects. 28 Weeks Later director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo has signed on to direct the remake, replacing previous director Justin Lin. As of 2012, release had been pushed back to 2014. As of the middle of May of 2012, Ryan Reynolds was slated to play the titular character.

See also

  • Clan MacLeod
  • Scottish Clan
  • Scottish Highlands

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Highlander_%28film%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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