Every Highlander Movie And TV Series Ranked
When it comes to interesting pieces of pop culture, there's nothing like the "Highlander" franchise. Created by Gregory Widen, this undergraduate assignment turned movie centers around Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), an immortal being destined to duel others like him for sole supremacy. Through countless violent battles, iconic running sequences, and fascinating romantic subplots, audiences watched Connor, along with other notable heroes such as Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul), head-slice their way to the ultimate prize — over and over and over again. Despite its repetitive and campy style, die-hard fans can't get enough of this odd and ever-expanding story. With its iconic soundtrack, equally memorable dialog, and deliciously cheesy elements, it's easy to see why that would be the case.
With a multitude of movies, TV series, and an anime spin-off, the question stands: Which "Highlander" project is the best of the best? To find the answer, we'll examine the many iterations of this over-the-top franchise because no matter how you slice it, each entry in this ridiculous story has something to offer, even if it's only material for Mystery Science Theater 3000. So grab your favorite sword, and let's take a look at the worst and the best of "Highlander" because there can only be one!
Highlander: The Source
Beginning with an unnecessary PowerPoint-style explanation, this "Highlander" story takes place in an apocalyptic setting where a group of immortals becomes obsessed with finding the source of their power (hence the title). Duncan MacLeod (our hero from the TV series, played by Adrian Paul) has no stake in this game, as he believes the concept to be a fairy tale. Once the movie introduces the Kurgan rip-off known as the Guardian (Cristian Solimeno), a being who is also hellbent on finding the Source of Immortality, the film unravels even further to become a mess that has no substance or entertainment value.
Yet, the biggest crime committed by this entry is how it ruins the core principles of "Highlander" with its conclusion. Rather than relying on the rules that fans have come to embrace about the Prize and the Gathering, this movie goes above and beyond to tarnish the established lore, making it seem like Connor's previous battles were meaningless from the start. Ultimately, this movie is another example of how some story elements are best left unexplained. Kids don't want to know that Santa Clause isn't real, and viewers don't need to know the truth behind every concept in this franchise.
Highlander II: The Quickening
Some sequels try to recapture the magic of the original movie. "Highlander II: The Quickening" seems to go out of its way to do the opposite. With its opening sequence, this once fantasy-focused story takes a deep dive into the world of science fiction, especially once it introduces the concept of immortals once being aliens from a planet called Zeist. This shift in the lore plus the inclusion of a pointless ozone layer plot line combine into a movie that is just as nonsensical as it is tedious. Even Sean Connery's majestic silver locks couldn't save this film from becoming a box office disaster.
What truly makes "The Quickening" the worst installment in the "Highlander" saga is how it almost seems ashamed of the first movie. From trying to haphazardly explain why the immortals decapitate each other to making Connor (Christopher Lambert) and Ramírez's (Sean Connery) bond even more confusing than before, "The Quickening" often seems like a movie made by people who never liked the concept of "Highlander" to begin with. Overall, with the film's behind-the-scenes drama, a horrifically bland use of Michael Ironside, and Christopher Lambert's Don Vito Corleone-style old man voice, the film is only good for a chuckle at best.
Highlander: The Animated Series
Taking its cues from other adventure-fueled media of the era, "Highlander: The Animated Series" revolves around a society trying to survive after a meteorite collision has devasted Earth. With few humans remaining, the Immortals take an oath to protect the planet rather than focusing on their usual swordplay. When one of the Immortals, Kortan, shifts towards a more antagonistic mindset, it's up to Quentin MacLeod to stop the tyrannical baddie from creating further chaos and destruction.
At first glance, "Highlander: The Animated Series" is silly and acceptable as a piece of children's media. Yet, on closer examination, it's pretty clear that "Highlander" deserves a more mature approach and better production quality. From the lackluster character design to the equally questionable quality of the animation and dialogue, this series is an eyesore, especially compared to its '90s animated contemporaries. It also doesn't help that Quentin (along with his companions) is often more annoying than helpful, making the episodes a chore to get through. Maybe with the right direction and better production values, "Highlander: The Animated Series" could have been something special. Ultimately, it doesn't do anything to advance the lore of "Highlander" or leave a significant mark on 1990s animation.
Highlander: The Raven
While the "Highlander" franchise excels in many areas, female representation isn't one of them. Sure, the first movie's leading lady, Brenda Wyatt (Roxanne Hart), had some promise (especially regarding her knowledge of swords), but she, like many other female characters in the series, mainly exists to be a throwaway love interest. Thankfully, this changed for the better with the "Highlander: The Series" spin-off, "The Raven." In the show, viewers follow Amanda (Elizabeth Gracen), an Immortal known for her skills as a thief. Her life is forever changed when she meets her crime-solving partner, ex-cop Nick Wolfe (Paul Johansson).
Despite its awkward start, "Highlander: The Raven" had a lot of potential. Amanda and Nick were an exciting combination that could have become even better if the series had continued past its first season. However, its lack of characters from the original series and its initial mediocre approach doomed it from the start. Still, it's nice to think of an alternative reality in which this show became as beloved as other cop-meets-fantasy-character series like 1987's "Beauty and the Beast."
The "Star Trek: Generations" of "Highlander" movies, "Highlander: Endgame" is a silly film fueled by the undeniable chemistry of its two lead Immortals. Connor and Duncan MacLeod find themselves in a battle against the powerful Jacob Kell (Bruce Payne), an Immortal willing to do just about anything (including breaking the rules) to claim the Prize. Along the way, the two cross paths with old enemies and ex-lovers while trying to work together, despite the duo's differing views on their present lives.
While the movie isn't a complete win, "Highlander: Endgame" contains more pros than cons. From seeing Connor and Duncan's relationship develop through various flashbacks to witnessing the development of their somewhat conflicted bond, Christopher Lambert and Adrian Paul sell every bit of their characters; arcs with entertaining ease. While the pair can't save the film from its narrative shortcomings (mainly with Kell being one of the more lackluster antagonists in the series), "Endgame" proves why Connor and Duncan are such charismatic heroes in the first place. Plus, the movie has Donnie Yen in it, and that always makes a flick entertaining by default.
Highlander III: The Final Dimension
Sometimes sequels just want to play it safe. That is the case with "Highlander III: The Final Dimension" (aka. "Highlander III: The Sorceror"). Desperately trying to separate itself from the failure that was "The Quickening," this film more or less follows the plot of the first installment — almost beat for beat. It has a multitude of flashbacks, some ridiculous sex scenes, and a villain with an over-the-top haircut whose name starts with a "K." Essentially it plays by the "Highlander" handbook without batting a lash.
Despite its obvious similarities to the original story, "The Final Dimension" does feature some memorable highlights that enrich the "Highlander" series. From the deliciously cheesy (and sometimes downright sexy) sequences set in the 18th century to the montage of Connor getting back into fighting shape, the movie has a fun rhythm that's exciting to watch. Plus, Mario Van Peebles is a delectable addition to the franchise as the film's antagonist, adding an element of camp that is always welcome in any "Highlander" project. Overall, "The Final Dimension" might not be a perfect "Highlander" movie, but it deserves a lot more respect than it gets.
Highlander: The Series
Spanning a total of six seasons, "Highlander: The Series" establishes a new canon that enriches the "Highlander" saga. The show focuses on Duncan MacLeod, another member of the MacLeod clan, who follows a similar immortal journey as Connor. As the story progresses, the series incorporates many themes fans have come to love in the franchise, including tons of majestic lore, lots of heart-pumping action, and of course, a healthy dose of Queen's "Princes of the Universe" to open each episode. Yet, with all its similarities to Connor's adventures, the series takes even more exciting twists and turns and improves narratively upon what many of the movies failed to accomplish.
From new characters that expand the ever-changing history of the Immortals (like Peter Wingfield's Methos) to learning about Duncan's past romances, including his relationship with Kate Devaney (Lisa Barbuscia), "Highlander: The Series" rarely loses steam. Sure, there's the occasional episode or season that isn't exactly perfect. Regardless, it's easy to see why "Highlander: The Series" remains so beloved. It honors the lore that got so many invested in the MacLeod story and makes for one heck of an entertaining ride.
Highlander: The Search For Vengeance
Sometimes the most outstanding projects are the ones that come from the most unexpected places. One such example is "Highlander: The Search for Vengeance," a Japanese animated film directed by the master of action, Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Animated by the talented artists of Madhouse and Imagi Animation Studios, the movie centers on Colin MacLeod, an immortal who (like the title hints) is looking to exact revenge on Marcus Octavius, the villain who ruined his life. The film follows Colin and Octavius throughout the centuries as they constantly find their paths crossing.
What makes "The Search for Vengeance" fantastic is how each element seamlessly fits together. From screenwriter David Abramowitz's (who worked on "Highlander: The Series") script to Hisashi Abe's excellent character designs, every creative ingredient blends into a perfect action-packed recipe. As with his other projects such as "Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust" and "Ninja Scroll," Kawajiri's signature style makes the movie soar — especially during the film's more intense sequences. "The Search for Vengeance" works as a great entry point into the franchise while also breathing new life into the series.
Released in 1986, the original "Highlander" combines violence, mystery, romance, and everything in between into a wacky concoction that could only come from the 1980s. Directed by Russell Mulcahy, the film has a gritty fantasy vibe that's exciting to watch. It also features a cast that is as electric as the film's chaotic plot. Christopher Lambert stars as the heroic Connor McLeod, Clancy Brown is the unhinged Kurgan, and of course, Sean Connery hams it up as the charming Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez. With a memorable screenplay by Gregory Widen, Peter Bellwood, and Larry Ferguson, it's easy to see why the film has gained a cult following.
What truly makes the original "Highlander" a quirky cinematic treasure is its now-iconic MTV-style edge. From the incredibly catchy Queen songs and beautiful Michael Kamen score to the masterful editing by Peter Honess, all of these elements come together to create something truly unique — a movie that colors outside the lines. And while "Highlander" might have not been a hit upon its initial theatrical release, it's lovely to see it gain the interest it has always deserved. "Highlander" stories may come and go (including a remake starring Henry Cavill that's in the works), but it's essential to always remember, "There can be only one!"
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