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Film / Highlander

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"There can be only one!"
"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 1986 film that started it all. It was directed by Russell Mulcahy, with the screenplay written by Gregory Widen, Larry Ferguson and Peter Bellwood and the story by Widen. Queen provided several original songs for the film, which were later included on their studio album A Kind of Magic that same year.

Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), who was born centuries ago in the Scottish Highlands (hence the title), is an Immortal fighting his way through a battle to the last man called The Gathering in 1980s New York City. As he tries to outsmart his dangerous rival immortal known as the Kurgan (Clancy Brown), the film occasionally flashes back to his past, when he was married to the mortal woman named Heather (Beatie Edney) and was mentored by Juan Ramirez (Sean Connery) in the ways of combat.

The film had an unsuccessful theater run but still managed to spawn a franchise and gain a cult following.

This film contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Warehouse: The final battle between Connor MacLeod and the Kurgan takes place at a very vacant Silvercup Studios - which is soon seriously short of window glass.
  • Accent Interest: Christopher Lambert muddled his French accent to give Connor MacLeod (alias Russel Nash) a vague, nonspecific accent, hinting at his many travels over his long life.
    Officer Garfield: You talk funny, Nash. Where're you from?
    "Nash": Lots of different places.
  • Achilles' Heel: Immortals can heal almost any injury perfectly, but their necks are uniquely vulnerable. Not only is beheading the only way to kill them permanently, but lesser injuries to the throat will not heal fully. Ramirez's blow to the Kurgan's neck not only left a scar, but gave him a permanently raspy voice.
  • All in the Eyes: The camera zooms across Madison Square Garden, over the heads of the crowd, until finally settling onto Connor's eyes, which are lit in this fashion. Throughout filming, there was often a light behind the camera pointed at Lambert's eyes to give them a glint.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: "Nash's" assistant Rachel quite clearly has feelings for him, but he's sworn off love.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Mr. Bassett's fawning manservant from 1783 is very flamboyant and very touchy-feely.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!:
    Kurgan: Who is the woman?
    Ramirez: Sh...she's mine.
    Kurgan: Ah, not for much longer!
  • Arc Words: "There Can Be Only One," for which this film is the Trope Namer. A minor example also exists between Connor and Rachel, "It's a kind of magic!" often spoken with a wry smile. The latter even named the film's de-facto soundtrack album (and its Title Track).
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: The Kurgan. He openly admits that he only seeks to kill all of the other immortals, and only deals with mortals for convenience/amusement, but is described as "The perfect warrior" by Ramirez.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The film is unusual in getting the fact that Masamune was a swordmaker rather than a sword correct, but then claims that Masamune made Ramirez's katana thousands and thousands of years before he was born or katanas even existed. Lampshaded by Brenda as she explains that she wants to find this katana because it's dated to over a thousand years before katanas even existed, like finding a modern aircraft made in the Dark Ages.
    • The Kurgan is so called because he comes from the Kurgans, an evil culture who would throw babies into pits for fun. In reality, a "kurgan" is a burial mound, and "Kurgan culture" is a modern archaeological term for a wide range of Proto-Indo-European cultures that are known primarily through study of their burial mounds. People in centuries past would not be calling him a "Kurgan" any more than they'd be calling a member of the Comb Ceramic culture a "Comb Ceramic."
    • The idea that kurgan cultures were Always Chaotic Evil people who would throw babies into pits for fun is pure Hollywood invention.
    • The Scotland scenes are supposedly set in the 1530s, but the clothing, weapons, and tactics used would be more fitting for the Dark Ages, some 600 years earlier. By the 16th century, most European armies consisted primarily of pikemen and musketeers.
  • As Himself: The wrestling match at the beginning has The Tonga Kid/Greg Gagne/Jim Brunzell vs. The Fabulous Freebirds (Terry Gordy/Michael Hayes/Buddy Roberts).
  • Babies Ever After: Connor becomes mortal and capable of reproduction.
  • Badass Boast:
  • Badass Bystander: Kirk Matunas, the Crazy Survivalist who interferes with the fight between Kastagir and the Kurgan and fills the latter with bullets (of course, it doesn't work, but props for the attempt).
  • Badass Longcoat: MacLeod wears a trenchcoat in modern times to conceal his katana.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Given how evil the Kurgan is shown to be, one is led to believe that he would gladly break the Holy Ground tradition to get the drop on Connor. Not only does he never make a move to attack him in the church, but Connor comes close to breaking the rule after the Kurgan taunts him about how he raped Heather.
  • Bald of Evil: The Kurgan shaves his head before the final confrontation in New York. He claims it's a disguise.
    MacLeod: Nice to see you, Kurgan. Who cuts your hair?
  • Beardness Protection Program: The Kurgan does a very messy job of shaving his head to evade police capture after several witnesses see him lop off a guy's head.
  • Big Applesauce: Connor's mentor Ramirez tells him that eventually the Immortals will meet in "a faraway land" to fight for the Prize. Turns out that it's New York.
  • Big Bad: The Kurgan. Ramirez suspects that if he wins The Prize, "mortal man would suffer an eternity of darkness".
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Brenda screams this at the Kurgan twice when he begins singing "New York, New York." To further taunt her, he even screams "SHUT UP!" when she does.
  • Bilingual Bonus: No subtitles are provided for the German speaking Gestapo officer Connor encounters during World War II. Some cuts of the film have it redubbed into English. For the benefit of those who cannot speak German:
    Connor: Move!
  • Black Comedy: Everything about the Duel on Boston Common, up to Mr. Bassett's manservant getting Shot in the Ass.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted. Of the other four immortals seen or mentioned in the movie, Kastagir is the last one slain before Connor and the Kurgan's final fight.
  • Bragging Theme Tune: We're the Princes of the Uuuuuniveerrrrse!
  • Burn Baby Burn: Connor burns the home he shared with his mortal wife Heather after burying her, leaving his clan sword beside the grave.
  • Burn the Witch!: When Connor first discovers he is an immortal back in 16th century Scotland, he's proclaimed a witch, and burning is mentioned as an option (by his own girlfriend, no less). In the end, he's saved from burning at the stake when he's banished by Angus, one of his kinsman.
  • Captain Obvious:
    The Kurgan: I'm in disguise. This way, no one will recognize me.
  • Celibate Hero: Ramirez is well over two thousand years old by the 1540's and claims to have married three times. Emotionally shattered after the death of his third wife (a Japanese princess he courted in 593 BC), he swore from that point on to avoid any romantic connection with mortal women. Seeing the very obvious love between Connor and Heather, he advises Connor to leave her to spare him the inevitable. Connor decides to find out the hard way.
  • Clean Cut: Connor's final fight with the Kurgan ends with the Kurgan giving an ambiguous smile, just before his head slowly flops off, releasing the final quickening.
  • *Click* Hello: Juan Ramirez does this to Connor MacLeod with a katana to the back of MacLeod's neck.
    Ramirez: Crude and slow, clansman, your attack was no better than that of a clumsy child.
  • The Coats Are Off: MacLeod leaves his signature trenchcoat behind when he heads off for his Duel to the Death with the Kurgan.
  • Cool Sword: Connor uses an ancient katana that was made far before its time. The Kurgan uses a two-handed sword that can be disassembled and hidden in a briefcasenote . There's also the Toledo broadsword used by Fasil who Connor duels in the film's opening scene, which is cool enough to attract Brenda's attention; it's apparently worth a million bucks, and it looks it.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Kirk Matunas is both this and a Gun Nut: even while driving around his hometown of New York City, he keeps a small arsenal of guns in his car trunk. He uses one of his guns to attack the Kurgan after he sees the Kurgan defeat and behead Kastagir. It doesn't end well for him, but at least he survives.
  • Creator Cameo: The director Russell Mulcahy is one of The Kurgan's hit and run victims.
  • Cult Soundtrack: The soundtrack, with songs by Queen (and orchestral music by Michael Kamen), is a cult favorite among glam rock fans, fantasy geeks, and Dungeons & Dragons players. "Princes Of The Universe" is regarded as the defining song of the franchise with "Who Wants To Live Forever" as a close second. Most is available in Queen's album A Kind of Magic (the title track, inspired by a particular line, even plays during the credits). Despite an announcement in the end credits, a complete film soundtrack with both the Queen songs as heard in the film and Michael Kamen score was sadly never released due to the film's box office failure in the United States. This is particularly unfortunate for Queen fans who wanted more than the little taste the film gives of Freddie Mercury hamming it up on the theme from ''New York, New York''.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Connor is absolutely no match for the Kurgan in their first meeting.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Connor concealed his immortality for years by assuming the identities of long-dead children.
  • Death Montage: Connor's famous Duel on Boston Common devolves into this, with Mr. Bassett repeatedly skewering the drunken Connor until he finally sobers up enough to apologize for calling the man's wife a bloated warthog.
  • Deranged Animation: The demonic beings in the last Quickening.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Heather, who dies of old age in her husband's arms.
  • Died Standing Up: The Kurgan; his beheaded body salutes Connor before falling over.
  • Diegetic Switch: Kurgan sings a very bad rendition of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York", which then segues into a Queen version of the song. (For the record, there is no full Queen version of the song. The Highlander snippet is all that's known to exist.)
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Surprisingly subverted; a hooker named Candy is sent to the Kurgan's hotel room after he practices his swordplay, and the menacing music suggests he's going to do something terrible to her as she fearlessly shuts the door behind her. Later, the hotel manager mentions that Candy is not only still alive, but apparently enjoyed the experience.
  • Distracted from Death: Connor tells a dying Heather a story that'll let her die happy. She dies halfway through it, and he sadly finishes his last sentence, his voice breaking, after her body goes limp.
  • Disturbed Doves: Ramirez is chatting with Heather when he feels the Kurgan approaching. He looks up and sees the birds flying away. Apparently, animals can tell if an evil immortal is on the way.
  • Don't Think, Feel: Ramirez teaches Connor to be able to "feel" things around him, making it easier to spot immortals.
  • Dramatic Thunder: A thunderstorm rages when The Kurgan fights Ramirez.
  • Drives Like Crazy: The Kurgan has a scene like this, where he terrorizes the Damsel in Distress by driving on the wrong side of the road and onto sidewalks. His immortality makes this much safer for him.
  • Due to the Dead: Connor honours Heather's memory by lighting a candle on her birthday every year after her death, and does so for over four hundred years. The Kurgan shows contempt for this gesture by crushing the candles under his hand.
  • Dying Race: The irony of being immortal is that they must kill each other and the last one standing becomes mortal. By 1985, the immortals have all mostly been long-since killed and there are only four left.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: There are a number of differences in this film regarding how immortality works and what their abilities are than in later installments.
    • There is no concept of an immortal's "first death" or a pre-Immortal, as The Kurgan goes after Connor before Connor's supposed first "death". In fact, Immortals don't seem to die at all. Connor is referred to being "all but a corpse" prior to fully recovering.
    • However, the Kurgan somehow knows that Connor is a pre-Immortal.
    • Connor is shown to be able to "breathe" underwater and create a psychic link with animals that can somehow enhance his physical abilities. Even in this movie neither is ever mentioned again. (There are a couple of scenes in the director's cut where he seemingly calms the lions at the zoo, and where during the final duel with the Kurgan both hide under water to try to ambush the other.)
    • "The Quickening" refers to the boosted state immortals can go into, not the explosive result of killing another immortal. There's also no indication that there is any direct benefit to claiming heads beyond removing a rival.
  • "End of the World" Special: At the end of the film, Connor wins this after defeating the last remaining Immortal; he is able to read the minds and emotions of anyone and everyone, knowing all their secrets. While the Kurgan would presumably have used this to dominate and control, Connor plans to use it to help world leaders understand one another and bring peace.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Comes up with the Kurgan in a Deleted Scenenote  where he meets and fights Yung Dol Kim, an immortal from the Far East. After a short fight, Kim suddenly drops his twin-swords and kneels to expose his neck, urging the Kurgan to just Get It Over With - Kim, born in Mongolia in 1580 and now living a boring and lonely life as a security guard in a car park multistorey, explains that he is burned out from centuries of violence and death and has no more reason to live, as all his loved ones died centuries ago. The Kurgan is visibly taken aback; as an insane hedonist, he cannot understand why somebody would not think Living Forever Is Awesome.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Clancy Brown turns it up to 11 for most of the movie. Notable are his abducting the tourist after the Kurgan kills Matunas, the entire scene in the church, and later when the Kurgan abducts Brenda.
  • Evil Laugh: The Kurgan is the undisputed emperor of this trope.
  • Evil Redhead: Connor's first lover Kate seemingly went a bit off her trolley when his true nature came to light, and enthusiastically wanted him burned at the stake rather than exiled. Which makes her a counterpoint to Heather.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The Kurgan, played by Clancy Brown.
  • Exposition of Immortality: Connor MacLeod has a collection of things he's picked up over his life, makes his living as an antique dealer, and gets found out thanks to his handwriting on a series of old title deeds. MacLeod's also got many memories of times gone by; saving Rachel from Nazis, dueling drunk in 18th Century New England, and of course, his original life in 16th Century Scotland.
  • Fair Cop: Brenda J. Wyatt, Forensics specialist for the NYPD.
  • Feuding Families: The MacLeods and Frasers, whose border skirmishes appear to have resulted in the first deaths of both Connor, and Duncan from the series.
  • Flash Step: Used by Ramirez to teach MacLeod how much of a crude and slow clansman he is.
  • Flynning: Although the swordplay looks great, it has nothing to do with actual swordfighting techniques. Possibly handwaved, as the rules of swordfighting are quite different for beings that can only be killed by a good swipe at the neck.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: Connor's cousin Dougal performs one to save Connor from the Kurgan's attack during the battle of the clans at the start.
  • Freudian Trio: The three main immortals.
  • Futureshadowing: The Kurgan appears in the present with a dramatic neck scar that he didn't have before, and after that in a flashback showing the fight in which he acquired the scar.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Possibly what happened to Kate, Connor's first girlfriend, when she found out that Connor came Back from the Dead. She is in hysterics and shrieking demands that the village burn him.
  • Guttural Growler: The Kurgan's already deep voice is made raspy by the neck injury he receives from Ramirez. Connor also, when he's angry enough.
  • Haggis Is Horrible: Ramirez says it’s revolting when Connor describes it.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: The Kurgan and Ramirez fighting in the castle involves this, thanks to the talents of both Clancy Brown and Sean Connery.
    Ramirez: My cut has improved your voice!
  • Hero of Another Story: Shell-Shocked Veteran Kirk Matunas would have been the protagonist in a vigilante thriller like Death Wish or Taxi Driver rather than a Highlander film.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Thankfully for Brenda, after she distracted Kurgan with a lead pipe (which bothered him not at all).
    Connor: (to Brenda after he stops Kurgan from bisecting her) Hehehe, what kept you?
  • Hollywood Science: Brenda dates Connor's sword by its absorbency. Yes, the absorbency of a katana. In real life the metallic composition of a sword (which can sometimes give clues as to its date and place of manufacture) can be ascertained by subjecting a small sample of its metal to something called atomic absorption spectroscopy. We won't go into details (though if you insist) but the absorption in question is of light. Evidently the writers had vaguely heard of it but misunderstood what it involved, unless the katana really was made by the legendary swordsmith Andrex.
  • Holy Ground/Truce Zone: Ramirez teaches Connor that there is one law among immortals that none will ever violate, which is that they must never fight on Holy Ground. Even the Kurgan wouldn't dare break it, though only to enjoy its protection.
  • I Have Many Names: Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez Ramirez. He even lampshades it when giving a full list of 8-10 names at a "checking point". Arguably, most immortals have many names, since they pretended to die so many times and had to change identity.
  • IKEA Weaponry: The Kurgan's modern-day BFS locks together like a snap-tite model. It's presented as the Kurgan taking advantage of soulless modern technology to get an edge, but in reality it would make a remarkably useless sword.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Averted. Lieutenant Moran, the lead detective investigating the beheading of Iman Fasil, tries to get Connor MacLeod to implicate himself using this sort of technique twice in the same conversation, but it doesn't work either time.
    Moran: Okay. What's that? (indicates the plastic-wrapped Toledo Salamanca on his desk)
    Connor MacLeod: (who knows exactly what it is) A sword?
    Moran: It's a Toledo-Salamanca broadsword worth about a million bucks.
    MacLeod: So?
    Moran: So you want to hear a theory? You went down that garage to buy this sword from that guy — what's his name?
    MacLeod: (who also knows who Iman Fasil was) I don't know. You tell me.
  • Immortality Hurts: There's a scene set sometime during the 18th century in which Connor McLeod shows up to fight a duel while stinking drunk. His opponent swiftly runs him through; Connor winces or gasps in pain, but the wounds have no other visible effect, since Connor is both immortal and too drunk to pretend otherwise (this was before the idea of temporary death, which only was shown in the TV series), and simply gets right back up. A montage of Connor getting run through repeatedly ensues, until finally, still drunk, Connor apologizes for his behavior towards his opponent's wife and wanders off none the worse for wear. The other guy's face is priceless.
  • Immortality Immorality: A variation. The Kurgan already has immortality, but he uses it to live a violent, consequence-free life.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Kirk Matunas, the vigilante wannabe, gets impaled through the stomach by the Kurgan's sword. He survives because a gut wound can take days to kill someone, and with access to modern (at the time) medical care, surviving such a wound is entirely likely.
  • Implausible Fencing Powers: The Kurgan, who can use his blade to cut down a stone tower. It is implied that the extra energy generated by two ancient Immortals fighting is responsible for the extra damage their blows create.
  • In Medias Res: The film begins with a swordfight in New York. The first half of the movie then alternates between flashbacks to Scotland and continuing the New York story.
  • Insult of Endearment: Connor calling Ramirez "you old Haggis".
  • Is It Something You Eat?: Inverted. Connor describes haggis to Ramirez, who asks what you do with it. When Connor says that you eat it, Ramirez finds the idea repulsive. What makes it even funnier is that Sean Connery, the actor playing Ramirez is Scottish, and Christopher Lambert, the actor playing Connor, isn't.
  • Jerkass: Being the villain is a given, but the Kurgan takes it further with his more comedic Kick the Dog moments like frightening an old lady and less comedic, gloating to Connor's face about violating Heather and mocking her by suggesting the reason she never told her husband was because she secretly enjoyed it.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Connor uses his traditional MacLeod Scottish longsword in the 1500s, but uses Ramirez's ivory-handled katana in the present. Aside from the sentimental value, the katana was forged by a genius using techniques over a thousand years before their time. It cuts through a tree trunk in one swing.
  • Kubrick Stare: Connor, when The Kurgan reveals he raped Heather. A particularly epic example enhanced by Christopher Lambert's myopia.
  • Lap Pillow: Seems to be Connor's calling card. He does this with Brenda at the end of the movie. He also does this with Heather as she is dying of old age.
  • Large Ham: Sean Connery is no slouch. He rides in on a horse jumping over Connor and Heather. His scene where he and Connor talk about haggis also involves this.
  • Last-Name Basis: Ramirez is always referred to by his surname. Given how long it is, it is for the sake of convenience.
  • Last of His Kind: By definition, "in the end, There Can Be Only One "; so at the end Connor MacLeod fulfills this trope.
  • Leave Him to Me!: The Kurgan, the immortal leading the enemy in Connor's first battle, orders him to be left alone, so that he can claim Connor's head and Quickening himself. Rather sensible, considering that there was something in it for himself besides mere satisfaction.
  • Lecherous Licking:
    • When the Kurgan talks to Connor in a church, he suddenly wags his tongue at a group of passing nuns who are quickly creeped out. Coming from a self-confessed rapist, the implications are obvious. He later bows over a priest's hand as if to kiss it, but instead gives it a long lick.
    • During the opening scene, a female fan licks her lips in an exaggerated fashion at the sight of the wrestlers.
  • Let Them Die Happy: Connor watches his wife grow old and frail while he remains young due to his immortality. At the end she begs him to let her die in peace, so he begins telling her a comforting story. She dies somewhere in the middle and when he feels her go limp, he sadly finishes his last sentence gazing at her relaxed face.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: Deconstructed. It is underlined repeatedly that while it sure has its moments, on the whole living forever sucks and you would have to be a real stone-hearted son of a bitch to be unaffected by it. Enter the Kurgan, a deranged savage from ancient Russia and the Big Bad of the movie, who has spent the centuries wandering the earth, performing Rape, Pillage, and Burn with no regard for mortals and their lives. As Rachel darkly notes, "the endless killing has driven him mad!"
  • The Load: Brenda is this. She contributes nothing to the plot except be have sex with Connor, and get taken hostage by the Kurgan. She does some mediocre detective work to figure out Connor is immortal, but that's it. There are times when the producers make her a Damsel out of Distress, such as when she hits the Kurgan in the head and briefly distracts him from killing Connor. But that's more his fault for being distracted, then Brenda having any chance of hurting him.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: During the scene where the Kurgan is recklessly driving through New York, a version of "Theme from New York, New York" by the film's Pop Star Composers, Queen, plays in the background. That isn't available anywhere else, and the film doesn't even play the full song. According to the movie commentary track, Freddie Mercury absolutely hated the song, and the director had to pretty much force him to sing that bit, so it's quite likely that there never was a full recorded version to begin with.
  • Made of Iron: The Immortals. In the first duel, we see both MacLeod and Fasil take punishment that would down an ordinary man, but neither takes any lasting hurt until Fasil's beheading. This applies to the Kurgan in spades.
  • Man in a Kilt: Connor, along with many others in the Clan MacLeod.
  • Melee Disarming: Connor is disarmed by Fasil in their fight, but manages to recover his sword from under a parked car. Connor then disarms Fasil and takes his head.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Ramirez falls victim to this, as he is found by The Kurgan when the latter was hunting for Connor, and loses the ensuing duel.
  • Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow: Ramirez's backstory reveals that he once married a Japanese princess. He was originally Ancient Egyptian, but he IS played by Sean Connery.
  • Moment Killer: Ramirez interrupts Connor and Heather's secluded love-making at the top of the highlands by leaping over them on a white horse. Man sure knows how to make an entrance. Bonus points for Heather's priceless reaction.
  • Monumental Battle: Although not a national landmark, the movie had the final battle take place at the Silvercup Studios roof, with the "Silvercup" sign a local landmark. The original screenplay had Connor and the Kurgan's last showdown happen in (perhaps fittingly) a history museum, and one early idea in development that was quickly dropped was having them fight atop the head of the Statue of Liberty.
  • Mortality Ensues: Part of The Prize is the option to live as a normal human, which Connor states is his intention at the end of the film.
  • My Grandson, Myself: Connor faked his own death, left his estate to deceased children of deceased unwed mothers (possibly with the implication his previous identity was the unidentified father) and took their identities repeatedly so he could cover up being immortal.
  • Neutral Female: Heather exemplifies this during the Kurgan's fight with Ramirez; then again, with the tower falling apart around her she might have been more concerned with avoiding a concussion. Fortunately for Connor, when he loses his sword during his own Duel to the Death Brenda averts this and clobbers the Kurgan from behind with a metal pipe, distracting him long enough for Connor to recover his sword. She also tosses Connor a length of pipe during his first fight with the Kurgan in New York, when she still thinks MacLeod is some kind of stalker- obviously she felt the Kurgan was worse.
  • Never Accepted in His Hometown: Connor is suspected by his kin to be a witch after his resurrection as an immortal, and is banished after Angus convinces them not to kill Connor.
  • Nice Guy/Nice Girl:
    • Kastagir greets Connor as an old friend in 1986 and shares a Quick Nip and stories of old times. He seems to be not keen on the idea of fighting Connor for the Prize.
    • Heather is a kind and gentle mortal woman who is one of the few to actually accept Connor's unnatural condition. It makes the Kurgan brutally assaulting her all the more disturbing a thought.
  • No Sense of Humor: Kurgan accuses nuns of having this when they are appalled by him waggling his tongue at them.
  • Non Violent Initial Confrontation: The Kurgan meets Connor at a church. Since there cannot be any fighting on holy ground, they have a talk.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent:
    • Ramirez speaks with a perfect Scottish accent while in Scotland. Given that Connor is specifically said to speak with a "funny" accent due to living in "lots of different places" over his centuries of life, Ramirez is apparently much better at hiding his Egyptian ancestry and all the other accents he must have picked up over more than a thousand years.
    • The Kurgan speaks more or less with an American accent in ancient Scotland as well as modern day, with no trace of hailing from "the steppes of Russia."
  • Novelization: A novelization was written by Garry Kilworth under the pen name "Garry Douglas." It expanded the events of the movie by revealing details such as Heather finding out about Connor's immortality from Ramírez, the Kurgan's First Death, and the villain's training with an Arabian immortal known as "The Bedouin" (whom he eventually kills). The novel depicts the Kurgan battling and defeating an immortal Mongol warrior soon before meeting MacLeod in 1536. Another scene reveals how he acquires his customized broadsword.
    • The Kurgan's backstory is explored. His first death occurred in 970 B.C., when his drunken father crushed his head with a rock. Upon returning to life, the Kurgan proceeded to force his father to swallow a searing hot stone, killing him. He then went off to join a group of bandits that raided caravans. He eventually encountered another Immortal, "The Bedouin", who revealed to him his true nature, and who became the only person who could be labeled as his friend. During the intervening centuries, the Kurgan took an incalculable number of Immortal heads. Circa 410 A.D., the Kurgan joined the Vandals, Goths, and Visigoths in attacking Rome and other Roman settlements, also fighting with the Goths against the Huns. He would then later ally himself with the Huns directly, fighting alongside Attila, around the year 453. From the fifth to thirteenth centuries, the Kurgan would spread terror with the Tatars of the Gobi and ancient Turkey, as well as with Viking raiders and the Mongol horde of Genghis Khan.
    • The novel depicts Connor and Kastagir as having a more somber relationship, the two comfortable talking and confiding in each other about their fears. An alternate scene has them meet in the subway before going to the Bridge.
    • The book expands the ending following Connor's last battle with the Kurgan. He returns to his antique shop to say a final goodbye to Rachel before leaving for Scotland. Once there, he and Brenda tour the country for two months then open an antique shop in Camden Alley. On one occasion, Connor returns to the Scottish Uplands alone and stares at the remnants of his home with Heather. There is no croft there but he finds a few stones from the fallen tor and locates the burial place of Ramírez and Heather. Finding two timbers and fashioning a crude cross, Connor tells Heather that she would like Brenda because "she is much like you."
  • Oh, Crap!: It's brief, but the Kurgan is visibly terrified when Ramirez slashes his throat. Up to that point, no one's apparently ever come that close to cutting off his head.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Christopher Lambert had trouble being convincing with Connor MacLeod's Scottish accent, due to trying to use it on top of his natural French accent.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The Kurgan shaves his head before the final confrontation, yet doesn't do anything else to hide that fact that he's a towering, barbarian, heavy metal psychopath. If anything, it just makes him more conspicuous.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Connor killing Fasil attracts the attention of the police and the Kurgan.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • The press doesn't think highly of New York's finest, as evidenced by the hotdog vendor reading a newspaper next to Moran and Bedsoe.
      "What does "in-com-pee-tant" mean? What does "baffled" mean?"
    • A police helicopter tries ineffectually to arrest Connor and the Kurgan. They ignore it and run off.
      "Stop right there! Come back here!"
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: During Connor's questioning by police, Officer Garfield mocks him for being a "faggot" and suggests that Fasil's death was some botched sexual encounter. Contrast this with Detective Moran, who acts more professional and has reasonable suspicions.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Queen provided the music to the film, to an extent that their album A Kind of Magic is seen as an unofficial soundtrack to the film.
  • Post-Rape Taunt: When Connor observes that Ramirez didn't quite behead the Kurgan, the Kurgan responds by saying that he killed Ramirez and "raped his woman before his blood was even cold." At the resultant Kubrick Stare from Connor, the Kurgan figures out that Heather was Connor's wife; he proceeds to take way too much pleasure from realizing that Heather had never told Connor about her rape, and taunts him about it, claiming she never told him because she secretly enjoyed the violationnote . In the novelization, Connor almost seizes back that moment by thanking Kurgan for finally confirming his crime, which he always suspected anyway but which the shattered Heather refused to speak of.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The Kurgan may be completely deranged, but even he abides by the "No fighting on Holy Ground" tradition among immortals, if only so he can enjoy the protections himself.
  • Prepare to Die: The Kurgan trumpets, "Now you die!"
  • Rape Discretion Shot: The Kurgan raped Heather after he killed Ramirez. This part was thankfully not shown, and Heather takes the secret to her grave, so the Kurgan is the one who confesses to his crime.
  • Rated M for Manly: A fairly strong contender for the manliest film ever made (at the very least, it makes the top ten). An immortal katana-wielding Brave Scot squares off against an also-immortal and completely deranged broadsword-wielding barbarian in a secret war happening in the backstreets of New York in The '80s. It has sword-fights, Sean Connery as a badass Dashing Hispanic, an epic soundtrack by Queen, and one of the most tender love scenes between a man and his soulmate ever put to film.
  • Really Dead Montage: Accompanies Heather's death.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Angus MacLeod, Connor's cousin and Clan Chief, is the only one who doesn't go hysterical when Connor mysteriously revives. He manages to convince the rest of the clan to simply banish Connor rather than burn him at the stake.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What are the origins of the Immortals and the Gathering? Ramirez explains it best (with some Lampshade Hanging, of course):
    Why does the sun come up, hmm? Or are the stars just pinholes in the black curtain of night? Who knows?
  • Scenery Porn: All the scenes in Scotland. There is a lot of beautiful aerial footage in this film of the Highlands.
  • Seamless Scenery: As the story switches backward and forward through time, the eras cross-fade by dovetailing (a close-up on past Connor's face which segues into a present-day mural, the fishtank which becomes the loch, etc).
  • Secret-Keeper: Heather lived her entire life with Connor and never told him that the Kurgan raped her, not even on her deathbed. Connor finds out in 1985 from the Kurgan letting it slip. It's likely the poor medieval girl wanted to spare his feelings and maybe also feared the possibility that her husband would go after the Kurgan and be easily killed if he ever found out.
  • Self-Mutilation Demonstration: When Connor MacLeod decides to reveal his secret to the love interest, he clears up any lingering doubts about his immortality by stabbing himself in the chest with a dagger.
  • Sex God: The Kurgan is a monster of a man, but apparently he sexes up Candy the prostitute real good. Later, to taunt Connor, he tries to suggest this is also the reason why Heather never told Connor about her rape at the Kurgan's hands back in 1542note .
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The police investigation initially serves as a means to get Brenda to meet MacLeod and provide his backstory. However it keeps going, juddering to a halt with no resolution somewhere before the climax.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "I have something to say! It's better to burn out than to fade away!" is a lyric from "Rock of Ages" by Def Leppard.
    • The Kurgan goes by the alias "Victor Kruger" in modern times, a clear reference to Freddy Krueger of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • Signature Line: "There Can Be Only One!"
  • Single-Stroke Battle: While it was preceded by a long choreographed battle, that was just a long lead-up to one of these between Connor and the Kurgan to end it all.
  • Skeletons in the Coat Closet: The Kurgan wears the skull of some kind of primeval beast as a helmet as part of his Scary Impractical Armor in medieval Scotland.
  • Slashed Throat:
    • The Kurgan has his throat cut by Ramirez during their duel in Connor's home. Unfortunately the cut wasn't deep enough, and though Kurgan bore a scar and had his voice ruined for the rest of his Immortal life, he survived to take Ramirez's head.
    • Earlier in the film, during the battle between the two clans, a priest kills a man, slashing his throat from behind, then does the sign of the cross.
  • Spanner in the Works: The Kurgan was poised to behead Connor when they first met, but before he could deliver the final blow, he was forced back by Connor's assorted clansmen.
  • Squick: In-universe; Ramirez's reaction to Connor's explanation of Haggis.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Worn by Iman Fasil, Connor's first opponent.
  • Surpassed the Teacher: At the end of the Training Montage, Connor finally bests Ramirez and disarms him. He also kills the Kurgan, avenging his mentor.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Connor heals overnight from what should have been a fatal stab wound. Rather than being awed or overjoyed at his miraculous recovery, his superstitious, uneducated kin believe it to have been the Devil's handiwork, and are doing their best to kill him when Angus gets them to compromise on exiling him instead.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: "Don't Lose Your Head" plays on the radio as the Kurgan goes on a rampage in his car.
  • Sword Sparks: Accompanies the various sword fights. To acheive this, swords were attached by cables to car batteries. The cables can be spotted in some scenes.
  • Symbolic Weapon Discarding: Connor MacLeod uses a claymore engraved with his clan name for decades, even long after he was thrown out as a suspected witch. Following the death of his wife Heather, he leaves the claymore behind at their now-abandoned homestead, using it to mark Heather's grave. He instead begins using his late mentor's katana; leaving behind his claymore symbolizes that his old mortal life as Connor MacLeod is over (which he had been in denial over until Heather's death).
  • Take It to the Bridge: Connor and Kastagir have a meeting on a bridge in Central Park. Words are exchanged and booze is passed around.
  • Take Up My Sword: Ramirez finds and trains Connor MacLeod so that somebody would have a chance of defeating the Kurgan. When the Kurgan takes the aged immortal's head, Connor takes Ramirez's sword and uses it as his own from that point on, later using it to behead the Kurgan and fulfill his mentor's wish.
  • Targeted to Hurt the Hero: Zigzagged. The Kurgan desecrated Heather as a power play over the recently-slain Ramirez in 1542, mistakenly thinking that she was his girlfriend. Centuries later in 1985, he meets Connor again and confesses to his crime while gloating to Connor about how he killed his friend and mentor. When he pieces together the truth about the long-dead Mrs. Macleod from Connor's horrified reaction, he further rubs salt into the wound by mockingly saying she enjoyed the rape.
  • That Man Is Dead: After Heather passed away, Connor left his MacLeod family claymore to be a Weapon Tombstone for her grave, burned down the cottage where they lived, and took to Walking the Earth as an immortal, metaphorically casting off his old life.
  • That Poor Car: Connor's quickening after defeating Fasil destroys several cars in the Parking Garage they fought.
  • There Can Be Only One: The Trope Namer.
  • Thwarted Coup de Grâce:
    • Connor MacLeod's first death is nearly his final as the Kurgan prepares to deliver the beheading shot, only to be tackled away by Connor's vengeful kinsmen.
    • Later, the Kurgan gets distracted in their final Sword Fight when he's about to take MacLeod's head because of the intervention of Connor's Love Interest Brenda.
  • Training Montage: Ramirez's training of Connor, which takes place over the course of a few years.
  • Tuck and Cover: In the World War II flashback, Connor is shot by a Nazi while cradling the young Rachel and manages to fall so that his body shields her, using his immortality to protect her from Nazi gunfire. He explains his survival with, "it's a kind of magic!" (It's played with in that the first shot goes straight through his chest with explosive force; presumably if Rachel had been cradled against that side instead of the other one, that first bullet would have gone into her.)
  • Tuneless Song of Madness: The Kurgan, already demonstratively psychopathic, takes Brenda on a joyride that sees them play chicken with oncoming traffic, plow into pedestrians on sidewalks, and run a biker off the road, rounding off the experience by singing "New York, New York."
  • Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: Connor MacLeod vs. FREDDIE FREAKING MERCURY in the video for "Princes of the Universe". Freddie uses his iconic mic stand, and battles Connor to a draw. What does that tell you?
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Fasil's string of somersaulting in his duel with Connor.
  • Use Their Own Weapon Against Them: In the World War II flashback, Connor kills a Gestapo officer with the latter's own MP 40.
  • Vigilante Man: Paranoid survivalist vigilante-wannabe Kirk Matunas runs into a duel between The Kurgan and Kastagir, and puts an entire Uzi magazine into the The Kurgan after seeing him behead his opponent. Unlucky for him, The Kurgan easily shrugs this off and impales Matunas for his trouble. Lucky for him, he manages to survive the brutal attack.
  • Villain Song: The Kurgan has a theme song entitled "Gimme the Prize", but only part of it is heard during the movie.
  • Villains Blend in Better: Played With. MacLeod hangs onto the past as an antique dealer, and uses his old mentor's sword. In contrast, the Kurgan embraces the newest music and fashions, and wields a high-tech collapsible sword. On the other hand, Connor is independently wealthy and has passed on his assets in secret to himself for centuries, while the Kurgan has been reduced to living as a wandering, criminal vagrant and is so insane he barely makes an effort to uphold the masquerade.
  • Walk, Don't Swim: Connor is thrown into a lake by Ramirez. He can't swim, but can't die, either, so this happens — though the series proceeded to change the rules and make this impossible later on.
  • Wall of Weapons: Connor has one in his antique store, which serves as his Trophy Room too.
  • Watertower Down: The Kurgan slashes out the supports of a water tower on the top of a building in order to give him extra cover from which to ambush Connor MacLeod (they are fighting on the roof at the time).
  • Waxing Lyrical: The Kurgan's line, "I have something to say! It's better to burn out... Than to fade away!!!" is from Neil Young's "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)", although it would be pretty in-character for a few reasons if The Kurgan were directly quoting Def Leppard instead, who also referenced the line in their song "Rock of Ages".
  • Weapon Tombstone: Connor marked Heather's grave with his claymore. Slightly unusual for the trope as she wasn't a warrior herself, but it definitely works - seeing as it was a MacLeod clan heirloom, it can be inferred that Connor MacLeod metaphorically died on that mountain as well.
  • Wham Line: One that adds an extra layer of gravitas to Connor's final confrontation with the Kurgan (admittedly it's more an in-universe wham line for Connor, as audiences would be aware):
    The Kurgan: Ramirez was an effete snob! He died on his knees! I took his head, and raped his woman before his blood was even cold!
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?:
    Detective Garfield: You talk funny, Nash. Where you from?
    "Russel Nash": Lots of different places.
  • Where It All Began: The film ends with Connor returning with Brenda to Scotland, where he was born.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The big one. While not being able to die does have its moments, on the whole immortality sucks. Connor painfully watched his soulmate grow into an old woman and die in his arms (and worse he couldn't even have kids with her since immortals are sterile), and then spent four centuries living as a recluse, taking the names of dead kids here and there to keep up the masquerade. This is a sentiment seen with the other immortals too: Ramirez too was devastated by the death of his Japanese wife. Fasil's strictly business attitude to fighting Connor, and his lack of a struggle when Connor disarms and beheads him, implies he would just rather Get It Over With one way or another. Kastagir, a Nice Guy who greets Connor as a friend and shares a Quick Nip over old times, laments the idea of having to fight and kill him. Kim, one of the younger immortals (who didn't appear in the movie because the film was sadly destroyed) actually throws down his swords and allows the Kurgan to kill him because he's so fed up with his immortality and has no more reason to keep going. The only immortal who doesn't seem to have this attitude is the Kurgan... who is an utterly loathsome psychopath and hedonist who has used his life to endlessly fight and kill and prey on mortals.
  • World's Best Warrior: In the words of Ramirez, the Kurgan is the "perfect warrior". Of course, Connor proves his better in the end.
  • Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: The Kurgan gloats over killing Connor's mentor. "Ramirez was an effete snob who died on his knees..." he says. Then he savagely reveals a terrible secret that was kept from Connor for almost 450 years: that he also violated poor Mrs. Macleod as well.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: Unlike any other wounds on his body, the Kurgan's throat wound doesn't heal, since the neck is an immortal's weak point.
  • Wretched Hive: The Kurgan stays in a motel/brothel that seems to be a hangout for prostitutes, drug addicts, and sexual degenerates.
  • You Fight Like a Cow: "Crude and slow, clansman! Your attack was no better than that of a clumsy child."