One of the best fantasy action films ever made

In 1986 a remarkable film exploded onto the international movie scene that would set imaginations aflame. It contained the endlessly fascinating and romantic elements of immortality and the Scottish Highlands, all wrapped up in a tale of good versus evil. The film also featured one unforgettable and awesomely wicked bad guy character, and an equally unforgettable tagline, ‘there can be only one’.

The film in question was Highlander. It is a fantasy action movie directed by Russel Mulcahy and stars Christopher Lambert as Connor MacLeod – the Highlander of the film’s title, Sean Connery as the dapper Spaniard called Ramirez, Clancy Brown as The Kurgan – the wicked bad guy whom the Highlander must defeat, the beautiful Beatie Edney who plays Heather, the wife of the young Connor MacLeod, and Roxanne Hart who plays Brenda Wyatt, Connors love interest later in the film.

Christopher Lambert in the role of Connor MacLeod

On initial release Highlander did not do that well at the box office in America, but did much better in Europe. The film lost some six million dollars in all after its initial release. On the positive side, it has now attained cult status and will always enthrall people. Highlander kick started the career of Christopher Lambert and brought fame to both Clancy Brown and Beatie Edney. The film is still available on DVD and continues to sell consistently well. In the end the film has recovered its costs and in all likelihood, is now well in profit from all the DVD and general merchandise sales alone.

The filming of Highlander began in April 1985 and came to an end on 30th August that year. The action took place on location in Scotland, England, and New York. The impossibly romantic Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland was used as the location of the Clan MacLeod. It sits on an island between three lochs; Loch Long, Loch Alsh and Loch Duich. It stands on the remains of a Pictish Fort and was once inhabited by the religious hermit, St. Donan, hence the name Eilean Donan (Island of Donan).

Eilean Donan Castle

The events of Connor MacLeods early life are actually supposed to take place ‘in the village of Glenfinnan, on the shore of Loch Shiel’ in the Lochaber area, but Eilean Donan was just so right for the ambiance of the film. I have been to Eilean Donan Castle myself and it really is one of the many impressive highlights of a trip to the west coast of Scotland.

The Plot

The movie is based around the story of mysterious immortals that must seek out and terminate each other, until there are only two left. They must then face the final showdown by battling each other in order to win ‘the Prize’. This ‘Prize’ is the gift of total knowledge that will enable them to steer the destiny of mankind. Connor Macleod represents the forces of goodness and of light, whilst the Kurgan represents all that is dark and evil. The only way one immortal can kill another is to lop off their head with a sword. By doing so, they ingest the power of the defeated immortal and grow stronger with each kill.


The early opening scenes in Scotland

The story of the film is told in flashback, alternating between the beautiful Highlands of Scotland, where Connor MacLeod is born into the Clan MacLeod in the year 1518, to the dismal and depressing streets of New York City at the end of the twentieth century, where the final battle is played out.

It is not revealed in the film why the immortals exist or from where they came, but there is an opening narration spoken by Sean Connery which reads:-

From the Dawn of Time we came, moving silently down through the centuries, living many secret lives; struggling to reach the Time of the Gathering, when the few who remain will battle to the last. No one has ever known we were among you...until now’.


The music for the film is provided by the band Queen, which provides a powerful accompaniment to the action taking place on the screen. Queen wrote many of the songs specifically to match the mood of the scenes. 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. The orchestral score for the film was composed by Michael Kamen.

One other star of the film is the distinctive Scottish Claymore sword used by Connor MacLeod during the Highland scenes. In New York, Connor uses a Japanese Katana. I own a full size and heavy replica of the MacLeod sword, which hangs proudly from my hall wall on a well-secured wooden display plaque. Highlander is perhaps my favourite film of all time and no matter how many times it is viewed, it never disappoints.

There is talk of this film being remade, which is always worrying. On March 2008, Summit Entertainment announced that it had bought the film rights to the Highlander franchise and is remaking the 1986 original movie. By 2012, release of this proposed film had been pushed back to 2014. As of the middle of May of 2012, the actor Ryan Reynolds was scheduled to play the titular character.

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