The 1980s have taken on the reputation of being a magical time filled with wonder, though those of us who lived through it might beg to differ on occasion. Culturally, we look back on that decade with a certain amount of wistfulness and rose-coloured glasses. But for the torrential storm of crap media that actually came out of that era, there are a few gems that persist to this day from music, literature, TV, and, of course, films. Enter Connor MacLeod.
1986 was the year that the legend of Highlander entered the cultural zeitgeist and the year the phrase, “THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!” entered our lexicon. It was the story of a secret group of immortals, fighting to the death for The Prize. And the only way to kill an immortal wass to cut their head off. As such, all immortals are expert sword fighters and carry their own unique sword. And what’s The Prize, you ask? Mortality, the ability to read minds, and to be one with all life on Earth
Frankly, I’d rather be immortal.
Specifically, this film focuses on Connor MacLeod, played by Christopher Lambert. He was born in the Scottish Highlands in the 1500s with this story taking place in the mid 1980s. Now, he’s an expert with a katana and uses it dispatch his opponents. Also, Sean Connery is in the film as an immortal Spaniard name Ramirez who trains MacLeod as a fighter, teaches him the rules of being an immortal, and ultimately serves as part of MacLeod’s feud with the main villain, Kurgan. As you can imagine, he brings all of his usual Connery-ness to the part.
Here’s the thing with this movie; it’s ridiculous. Coming back to it again after all these years, Highlander is perfect in its 1980s sci-fi/fantasy, plot hole riddled absurdity. This film is an insane spectacle and you can’t help but love it for being just that. The long rumored gritty reboot is reputedly in production and there’s no way it can live up to the bar this film sets. You can’t take the story too seriously because of how wonderfully over the top it is and a reboot will do just that.
Despite an incredibly poor showing at the box office, Highlander became the foundation for an IP that spawned a series of sequels, books, and even a TV show starring a different immortal Highlander named MacLeod.
Apparently, there can be only two.
[SPOILER TIME] What’s particularly confusing about this whole mess is the fact that at the end of this movie, the foundations of the franchise, Connor MacLeod kills the only other immortal on Earth and wins The Prize. Theoretically, that should negate things like “sequels” and “TV spin offs”. The insane plot of Highlander II: The Quickening tries to explain this and ends up being one of the worst movies ever made. The only real impact of the sequel is to distract you with an incomprehensible plot from the fact that the whole fight between the immortals is over. It’s like a big shell game. Even worse? He wins The Prize again at the end of this movie, only to find out he actually hasn’t at the beginning of the third film. [SPOILER TIME OVER]
Despite the failures of the sequels, the original Highlander film is still fantastic piece of 80s ephemera to watch, and the subsequent 1990’s TV series was also a good story. Just don’t bother with the second or third movies unless you want a headache.