Highlander is a 1986 fantasy action-adventure 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 chronicles the climax of an ages-old war between immortal warriors, depicted through interwoven past and present-day storylines.
Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) is born in the Scottish Highlands in the 16th century. After reviving from a fatal wound, MacLeod is found by swordsman Ramírez (Sean Connery) who explains they and others were born immortal, invincible unless beheaded. Immortals wage a secret war, fighting each other until the last few remaining will meet at the Gathering to fight for the Prize. In 1985, the Gathering is finally happening in New York City and MacLeod must make sure the Prize is not won by his oldest enemy, the murderous Kurgan (Clancy Brown).
Running time 106 minutes
Don Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez, recently of Spain but originally Egyptian, finds Connor after tracking his old foe the Kurgan to Scotland. He explains that he, Connor, the Kurgan and others were born immortals and are destined to battle each other, save on “holy ground.” When only a few are left, they will be drawn to “a faraway land” for the Gathering and battle for the Prize, the power of all the immortals through time. MacLeod only wants a quiet life, having a family with Heather. Ramírez reveals that immortals cannot have children and believes they must ensure evil people like the Kurgan do not win the Prize, or else humanity will suffer an eternity of darkness. Ramirez then explains the overriding belief of all immortals: “In the end, there can be only one”.
Ramírez trains MacLeod and the two become friends. One night, while Connor is away hunting, the Kurgan finds and duels Ramírez, who warns him MacLeod is now ready for him. The Kurgan kills Ramirez and leaves the area. Years later, Heather dies of old age, prompting Connor to wander Earth. He adopts Ramírez’s katana sword as his own, a unique weapon made by a Japanese “genius” in 593 BC.
In 1985, it is the time of the Gathering, and the Kurgan is compelled to come to New York, where Connor now lives as an antique dealer under the alias “Russell Nash,” working with his confidant Rachel Ellenstein. The director’s cut reveals Rachel is MacLeod’s adopted daughter, a child he rescued from Nazis during World War II. Brenda Wyatt, a metallurgy expert working for the police as a forensic scientist, finds shards of Connor’s sword at Fasil’s murder scene and is puzzled they come from a Japanese sword dated around 600 B.C. but made with medieval-era methods. Brenda witnesses the Kurgan attack “Nash” and the two fight briefly before police arrive, forcing them to flee. She meets with “Nash” twice afterward, hoping to learn about the paradoxical sword. Connor likes her, but tells her to leave him alone.
Connor reunites with Immortal Sunda Kastagir, a friend who doesn’t wish to fight. After they part ways, the Kurgan duels Kastagir, killing him. Brenda investigates “Nash” and finds evidence he has lived for centuries. On Heather’s birthday, Connor lights a candle for her in a Roman Catholic Church, as he has done every year. The Kurgan arrives and confirms he and the Highlander are now the last remaining Immortals. He also reveals he raped Heather after killing Ramírez. Disgusted, but prohibited from fighting on holy ground, Connor leaves.
Brenda confronts Connor, who explains his true identity. After spending the night together, they part company (due to Connor’s immortality making him sterile), but the Kurgan finds Brenda and kidnaps her to draw out Connor. Connor decides it is time to leave behind the “Russell Nash” identity, regardless of his survival. He says goodbye to Rachel and confronts the Kurgan at Silvercup Studios in Queens. After a long duel, Connor kills the Kurgan and earns the Prize. Connor returns to Scotland with Brenda and reveals he’s now a mortal man who can age and have children. He is also now “at one with all living things,” able to read the thoughts and feelings of people all around the world. He hopes to encourage cooperation, understanding, and peace among humanity.
Christopher Lambert as Connor MacLeod, a 16th-century immortal born in Glenfinnan, Scotland near the shores of Loch Shiel. Under the alias Russell Nash, the Scottish Highlander lives and works as an antique dealer in New York in 1985.
Sean Connery as Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez, an Egyptian immortal who later lives for a time in Japan and then later still in Spain. Learning the Kurgan has targeted Connor MacLeod, Ramírez tracks down the Highlander and becomes his mentor in the ways of immortals.
Clancy Brown as The Kurgan, Connor’s nemesis, said to be a member of the Kurgan tribe. In 1985, he travels to New York under the name “Victor Kruger” intending to kill the few remaining immortals and claim “The Prize.”
Roxanne Hart as Brenda Wyatt, a forensic scientist and published metallurgy expert helping to investigate the string of beheadings in New York City.
Beatie Edney as Heather MacLeod, Connor’s first wife. After Connor is banished from his village, he starts a new life with her. She lives with the eternally youthful Connor for many years until she dies of old age.
Alan North as Lt. Frank Moran, Brenda’s colleague in the NYPD.
Jon Polito as Det. Walter Bedsoe, an NYPD detective working alongside Moran.
Sheila Gish as Rachel Ellenstein, Connor’s middle-aged secretary and adopted daughter. Saved from the Nazis by Connor when she was a Jewish child during The Holocaust, Rachel is one of the few mortal people who knows his true identity.
Hugh Quarshie as Sunda Kastagir, Connor’s fellow immortal and friend. He is beheaded by the Kurgan during a battle in New York.
Christopher Malcolm as Kirk Matunas, an emotionally unstable Vietnam War veteran who witnesses the duel between the Kurgan and Kastigir, machine guns the Kurgan, and is then impaled on the villain’s sword.
Peter Diamond as Iman Fasil, a French immortal. He attacks Connor before the Highlander can have a chance to draw his own sword. Despite this, Connor defeats and beheads him.
Celia Imrie as Kate MacLeod, Connor’s lover in 1536, before he met Heather. Convinced Connor’s immortality means he is “in league with Lucifer”, Kate leads an unsuccessful effort to have him burned at the stake.
Billy Hartman and James Cosmo as Dougal and Angus Macleod, Connor’s cousins and leaders of the MacLeod Clan.
Corinne Russell as Candy, a prostitute hired by the Kurgan.
Professional wrestlers Greg Gagne, Jim Brunzell, Sam Fatu, Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, and Buddy Roberts appear as themselves in the film’s opening sequence at a tag-team match. The event in the film is supposedly held at Madison Square Garden, but was actually shot at Brendan Byrne Arena in New Jersey.