In March of 1986, Highlander exploded onto the screen, creating a sprawling franchise with some terrific high points and terrible lows. Okay, make that one high point and a shitload of lows. It was a decent action movie with swordfights, A Queen soundtrack and Sean Connery in a supporting role as a Spanish Swordsman with a Scottish accent. Good times.
The movie details the struggle between immortal warriors who can only die by being beheaded. They are trying to kill each other because there is some ill-defined "prize" for the last surviving one. As they say multiple times in the movie, "There can be only one." The bulk of the story takes place in then-modern (1985) New York City. The Immortal population has dwindled to a handful of individuals and of course by the end of the film it is down to just the titular Highlander, Duncan McLeod (played by a crosseyed Christopher Lambert) and the over muscled and enormous "Kurgan" (Played by a scenery-chewing Clancy Brown). Fate eventually draws them to a showdown atop a building dominated by an enormous neon sign. Of course good defeats evil yadda yadda yadda and credits roll. An entirely satisfying end to a perfectly good popcorn movie. Roll credits, cue Queen, the end.
Of course, it is never the end if a movie makes money, and that was just as true in the 1980s as it is today. And that's where things got weird. FIrst came Highlander 2. I would say that it wasn't bad as sequels go, but that would be a lie. It was TERRIBLE, even by sequel standards. It posits the immortals as aliens exiled to Earth and never quite manages to mesh with the original in any logical or meaningful way. The best thing one can do with it is to give it a miss.
But wait, there's more. In subsequent years we also were given two more forgettable sequels, a moderately entertaining TV series, a second, far less entertaining TV Series (Highlander the Raven) an anime, a comic book series, a shitty even by late 80s standards computer game, and a failed attempt at an MMORPG. A reboot has been in the works since 2008, but it seems to be languishing in some deep dark, dismal circle of development hell.
None of that makes the original movie any less fun. Sure Clancy Brown as "The Kurgan" muahahas his way through the film and leaves no piece of scenery unchewed, but that's part of his charm. And Christopher Lambert spends the movie gazing into the middle distance with his eyes ever so slightly crossed while speaking with an accent so indefinable that it is even commented on in the film. Apparently, he is EXTREMELY nearsighted and filmed the whole movie without his glasses. So that wasn't an affectation, that was him trying to see WTF was going on. And the accent was French, which is his first language. That makes him seem more human, IMO.
And though he isn't the star, Sean Connery deserves mention in any movie in which he appears. One of the most enduring images I have of the film is him riding up and telling McLeod that his name is "Ramirez" in his thick Scottish Accent. Sean Connery is like a Scottish honey badger; he doesn't give a fuck. I have this mental image of the director yelling "Sean, you're Spanish in this film. Try to sound Spanish" and him telling the director "Funny, thatsh what your mom shaid" and continuing to use his brogue.
Highlander is definitely some 80s cheese, but cheese has its place. If you haven't seen it in ages, or haven't seen it at all. Give it a look. You can ignore the rest of the franchise though, just remember "There Can Only Be One."