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"In the end, there can be only one."
The Immortals' motto

A long-running Historical and Urban Fantasy franchise created by Gregory Widen (who wrote the original screenplay for the original film during his college days), about a rare collection of beings known as The Immortals. They can live forever, but with a catch: When one Immortal takes the head of another, the winner gets the loser's power, while the beheaded Immortal is dead for good. This power exchange manifests as an explosion of energy called The Quickening, in which everything within 50 yards blows up. They can only spar with each other one-on-one, and never on holy ground.

Drifting invisibly through the history of the world, they battle each other in swordfights until only one Immortal remains; the last one standing gets "The Prize", the exact nature of which is unknown.

The above paragraphs contain the agreed-upon facts. Beyond that, things get a bit fuzzy. Calling it "a canon" is being charitable; it's more of a series of Broad Strokes that define an assortment of films, sequels, spin-offs, and remakes, all with only one connecting concept and made with very little regard for continuity. But hey, who's counting?

The various film and television incarnations of Highlander include:

  • Highlander (1986) introduces Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), an Immortal born in the Scottish Highlands. In a series of flashbacks, Connor is mentored by Juan Ramírez (Sean Connery), a wise Immortal who teaches him the basics before being beheaded by a barbarian known as the Kurgan (Clancy Brown). The film's other half takes place in New York City, where all the world's Immortals, whose numbers are now growing thin, are drawn together to battle to the last man; an event known as "The Gathering". By the end of the film, Connor and the Kurgan are the only Immortals left. Connor beheads him, saves the girl (Roxanne Hart), and gains The Prize: enlightenment and mortality.

  • Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) flashes forward to the year 2024. The now-elderly Connor is a wealthy man, having parlayed The Prize into building a planetary force field to repair the ozone layer. CEO David Blake (John C. McGinley) has wrestled away control of the company and is in cahoots with another Immortal, General Katana (Michael Ironside), who reveals Connor's interplanetary origins.

    Although it enjoyed a much-higher budget, it was panned by critics, spurned by fans and rode high on "Worst Movies" lists for a long time. The film was plagued with creative and budgetary problems, which resulted in a private entity taking over post-production and finishing it on the cheap. Several years after the theatrical screening, the director re-edited The Renegade Cut for release on home video — twice. The edits had all references to space aliens removed.

  • Highlander (1992-1998) — Popularly referred to as Highlander: The Series, it stars Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul), another Immortal and kinsman of Connor MacLeod. It coined the term "The Game", which refers to the Immortals' ongoing battle. The original film is canon, apart from Connor winning The Prize; The Game is still ongoing. Later seasons go further and suggest that it will never really 'end'. The series also introduces the Watchers, a neutral group who have observed and chronicled Immortal activities throughout history; one of their agents is Joe Dawson (Jim Byrnes), a maverick who bends the rules from time-to-time to keep Duncan alive. The other major character is Methos (Peter Wingfield), the oldest Immortal on record, whose immaturity masks a wealth of knowledge. For the most part it was well-received and internally consistent.

  • Highlander III: The Sorcerer (1994) — Alternatively titled Highlander: The Final Dimension. It ignores the second film and the TV series, making it a direct sequel to the original film. It turns out that The Kurgan was not the only Immortal out to claim Connor's head, as Kane (Mario Van Peebles) and two Mooks were trapped in a cave for 400 years and didn't make it to The Gathering. Despite following an identical formula to the first film, Highlander 3 was better-received than The Quickening.

  • Highlander: The Raven (1998-1999) was a short-lived Spin-Off of the TV series. Partly-inspired by the 80's hit Moonlighting, it co-stars Duncan's Old Flame Amanda (Elizabeth Gracen) and her ex-cop sidekick Nick Wolfe (Paul Johansson). The series suffered from low-quality scripts, lower budgets, creative differences and actors in revolt. Raven ended after one season with an unresolved cliffhanger.

  • Highlander: Endgame (2000) attempts to merge Duncan's story with Connor's (although it ends up contradicting both). Duncan and Connor are targeted by Jacob Kell (Bruce Payne), a religious zealot-turned-Immortal with a grudge against Connor. His gimmick is that doesn't play by "The Rules" and can kill other Immortals wherever and however he pleases, but the cause behind it is unexplained. (The eruption of Mount Vesuvius was previously hinted to have been caused by two Immortals breaking The Rules.) Endgame's poor editing left fans confounded and casual viewers completely adrift. Like The Quickening, Endgame saw an extended cut which at least gives it some semblance of order.

  • Highlander: The Source (2007), released as a Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie, marks the final appearance of Duncan and his gang. Following an apocalyptic event, the dissolution of the Watchers, and a lot of other interesting stuff not explored in this movie, Duncan, Methos, Joe, and the few remaining Immortals on Earth embark on a search for the fabled "Source" of their immortality. Standing in their way is an Immortal (Cristian Solimeno) who tried to obtain the Source long ago; as punishment, he was cursed to become its "Guardian." Word of God stated that it was All Just a Dream.

  • A Continuity Reboot was announced in 2008, but has been in invokedDevelopment Hell for years. Ryan Reynolds was attached to play Connor, but has since dropped from the project. Dave Bautista was cast as the Kurgan in early 2015 and seemingly dropped from it. John Wick co-director Chad Stahelski signed on to direct in late 2016, and the project was confirmed to be in active development in May 2021 with Henry Cavill set to star in it.

Highlander in other media:

  • Highlander: The Animated Series (1994-1996) mostly ignores the established canon, though Connor MacLeod and Ramirez (from the original film) both make an appearance. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the Immortals have agreed to a truce. Once everyone else has taken the oath, however, a jerkass Immortal named Kortan takes advantage of the binding truce to become ruler of Earth. Several centuries later, new Immortal Quentin MacLeod is born. He is not bound by the oath, making him the sole warrior able to face Kortan. His mentor Vincente Ramirez leads him on a quest to find the other Immortals and receive their knowledge, before Kortan does. Tagging along is Clyde of the Dundee, Quentin's adoptive sister. The series eventually spawned a game Highlander: The Last of the MacLeods for the ill-fated Atari Jaguar CD. Seriously.
  • In 2001, a Flash animated fan series entitled The Methos Chronicles was made available online. The eponymous character is voiced by Peter Wingfield, reprising his old role from the TV series.
  • Highlander: The Search for Vengeance (2007) is an anime unrelated to any of the films or other adaptations. It starts in AD 125, somewhere in Roman Britain. A small village is wiped out by Roman troops led by Immortal Marcus Octavius. He is a Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist who thinks an Empire is necessary to build a utopian society. This battle leads to the rise of another Immortal, Colin MacLeod. He is mentored by Amergan, the ghost of a druid. Colin devotes his life to seeking vengeance by killing Octavius. The film follows them in brief scenes taking place during a period of two millennia. The film was a critical hit and is thought to have a far more complex plot than most of the live-action sequels.
  • Nine spinoff novels were released between 1995 and 1999, with an anthology of short stories (written by writers and actors who had worked on the show) being released in 2000. A tenth novel was scheduled, but was never written due to a serious illness on the author's part.
  • In 2009, Big Finish released a four-story season of Highlander audio dramas. A second season, centering on The Four Horsemen, was released in 2011.
  • Highlander: Imagine is a currently in-production series of Alternate Universe novels where Tessa survives instead of dying in season 2.

Comic Books

  • Highlander (2006-2007): A series set after the first film.
  • Highlander: Way Of The Sword (2007-2008)
  • Highlander Origins: The Kurgan (2009)
  • Highlander: The American Dream (2017)

Tabletop Games

  • Highlander: The Card Game (1996): First published as the TV series was gaining serious steam.
  • Highlander: The Board Game (2018) A Board Game from River Horse with up to 6 immortals battling to claim the prize.
  • Highlander: The Duel (2020)

Video Games

  • Highlander (1986)
  • Highlander: The Last of the MacLeods (1995)
  • Square Enix announced a videogame for the 360 / PS3 generation, and after numerous release pushbacks, it was set to be released but was cancelled in late 2010.

Here are the character sheets for the film series and TV series.

This series provides examples of:

  • After the End: A strangely popular setting for Highlander spinoffs, for no explicable reason. Highlander II, Highlander: The Source, Highlander: The Search for Vengeance, and the animated series all occur in post-apocalyptic settings. It's justifiable in The Search for Vengeance and the animated series, as they take place in the far future and immortals are one of the few likely to survive the end of the world, but less so in the case of The Quickening and The Source; both take place 20 Minutes into the Future and have most normal people living through the apocalypse as well.
  • Alternate Continuity: There are at least three — the (first three) films, the TV series (plus spinoffs and sequel movies), and the animated series. These are the broadest possible divisions as each one contains multiple Retcons within themselves.
  • Alternate Universe: As a result of the Loose Canon involved, there are no fewer than four different sets of canon.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Immortals tend to keep their Immortality a secret to avoid being subjected to this trope. When they fail, results tend towards Burn the Witch! or They Would Cut You Up, depending on the timeframe.
  • All There in the Manual: While the flashbacks do supplement some of the information, the DVDs (at least, for the Series) have the Watcher Chronicles, which include date of birth/first death, first teacher, background on the immortals, notes from the watchers, and information on the different swords used.
  • Animated Adaptation: Highlander: The Animated Series and Highlander: The Search For Vengeance.
  • Arc Words: "There can be only one!" - also a Pre Ass Kicking One Liner.
    • The fifth movie's only remotely redeeming moment is the Guardian subverting this with a gleeful "There can be only me!"
    • "It's a kind of magic" is also used as a call-back between Connor and Rachel (and a reference to the theme music).
  • Artistic License – Space: In The Source, concerning planetary alignment: "Well that could just be... orbital wobble." The very next line is (paraphrased) "that's not how orbital wobble works; this is clearly magic", then Double Subverted when all the the gas giants pass within Mars' orbit without causing any damage to Earth, themselves, the solar system as a whole, or about twenty other delicate astronomical systems.
  • Audible Sharpness: Not every sword, but a great many of them. The first film got great mileage out of a very unusual "sword clang" sound effect, most notably in the first duel between Connor and Fasil.
  • Badass Longcoat: A warehouse of them. The coat at least waves a hand at how the Immortals carry swords around unnoticed, and where they come from when they pull them out.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Despite Duncan insisting that "There are no all good or all bad Immortals, we run the spectrum just like you," The series has a clearly defined sense of right and wrong, heroes and villains, and only blurs it on occasion.
  • Blessed with Suck: Immortality is presented as this more than a few times, especially when it comes to having mortal lovers and friends who will eventually either die of old age or get killed from hanging around with Connor or Duncan. Starting with Connor's wife Heather, to the tune of Queen's "Who Wants to Live Forever?" Also, that the only friends you can have who can truly understand and share in your Immortal experience are other Immortals, and by the nature of The Game, even they are transitory (if you don't end up forced to face off with and kill them yourself).
  • Brave Scot / Man in a Kilt: The Clan MacLeod, which provides all the franchise's main characters.
  • Burn the Witch!:
    • In the series, happened to John Garrick.
    • A general reason why Immortals never stay for too long in one place. (Shading into They Would Cut You Up in modern times.)
  • Canon Discontinuity:
    • Highlander II: The Quickening. Parts of the plot of this film are so poorly received that numerous edits of the film have been released on DVD, and most of them completely ignore the "Zeist/Immortals are really aliens" sub-plot. To the point that some editions of the third film have it titled as Highlander 2.
    • The filmmakers themselves agree that The Source isn't Canon and supposed to be a nightmare Duncan is having.
  • Can't Grow Up: Kenny from the TV series. It's likely there were others, but they probably didn't last long. Connor himself was supposedly eighteen when he became Immortal.
  • Cape Busters: In the series, rogue Watchers called Hunters track and kill immortals, even on holy ground.
  • Captain Ersatz: The X-ternals, a group of mutants in Marvel's X-Men comics, were obviously based on the Highlander concept: they had powers that could only be accessed after they "died" and came back to life. Cannonball of the New Mutants turned out to be one. All of them were wiped out by Selene (herself an ancient immortal.) Rumor is that Marvel decided to get rid of them before they got sued.
  • Cartwright Curse: Technically all Immortals, because of the, you know, Immortal thing, but Duncan especially. It's even written on his palm that he will love many women, but marry none (for reasons usually related to death).
  • Classy Cat-Burglar: Amanda.
  • Clothes Make the Legend: Connor wears a beige overcoat during the majority of the first film. In the Pilot Episode of Highlander: The Series, you can probably guess what he's wearing in his cameo. (He's even shown wearing it in grassy Scotland.)
    • At least the long coat makes it somewhat plausible that he can carry a katana concealed in his clothing (see Hammerspace below).
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • If the fight's going against him, Methos is not above feigning helplessness (such as pretending to slip) and, when his opponent moves in for the kill, drawing a hidden dagger and stabbing him.
    • In one of Highlander: The Source's only intelligent moments, the Big Bad is shown wearing heavy armor around his neck designed to make decapitation almost impossible. Because this idea makes far too much sense for such a terrible movie, the resulting Quickening of his first battle makes it vanish for no reason, and he spends the rest of the film unarmored.
    • The series has quite a few. The biggest is probably Xavier St. Cloud, who in his first appearance tried to use poisonous gas against his opponents and later had hired mercenaries shoot his opponents and took their heads while they were recovering and helpless, but he was far from the only one. Just a few of the other examples seen in the series included an Immortal trapped forever in the body of a young boy who would get other Immortals to take him in and kill them after they lowered their guard around him, a guy who used a pack of huge attack dogs to injure and wear down his enemies, one Immortal who got his Watcher to fall in love with him and used her knowledge of Immortals to strike at times when they would be unarmed and helpless, an Immortal who led his enemies into a booby trapped base, bad guys with hypnotic powers, two Immortals attacking one target at the same time and planning to kill their enemy while he's receiving a Quickening if he does manage to defeat one of them, a guy who snipes his targets and takes their head before they can recover, and so on.
  • Confessional: A long, long confession.
  • Cycle of Revenge:
    • Immortals can hold blood feuds and grudges that last centuries - and usually the same guys fighting throughout history.
    • Think about that for a second...if you were immortal and made an enemy of a fellow immortal, spent centuries tracking them down to avenge yourself on them, only to find they got their head chopped off sometime last year, how would you feel?
    • At one point in the series Amanda tries to point out that this is likely to happen if either Duncan or his current opponent (a good guy who has a genuine beef with Duncan) dies fighting the other. Both are good men with lots of friends who will try to avenge them if they die. If the ball gets rolling, it's almost certain to never stop.
  • Decapitation Required: Immortals can only be killed this way.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Charlie.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: As might be expected from the franchise name, bagpipes appear. They're used sparingly, though.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In the films, Immortals truly are immortals and can take gunshots and avoid drowning. In The Series and the series' sequel films, however, Immortals are killed by regular means and then come back to life minutes later.
    • The concept of a "first death" triggering immortality is absent in the first film. The Kurgan is clearly after Connor's head in the battle between the Macleod's and the Frazers. Connor also could already sense The Kurgan. The "pre-immortals" of later installments cannot do this and taking their heads is of no value to another immmortal, although a full immortal CAN sense a pre-immortal.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Among the rules, fights on holy ground like a church are forbidden, though some villains like Kane attempt to do it anyway. Those are rare, though; even the most heinous Immortals like Kurgan, Kalas, and Larca respected the rule about Holy Ground, even if they were willing to break other rules or "bend" Holy Ground itself. For instance, Larca told his gang of new Immortals (who thought Larca was God who had brought them back to fight the Devil, i.e. Duncan) that even the Devil can claim sanctuary on Holy Ground. Kalas may have lain in wait for Immortals leaving his monastery to ambush them and take their heads, but he did wait until they'd left the monastery. How much of this is actual respect for Holy Ground, fear of potential divine retribution, or simple Pragmatic Villainy varies.
  • Evil Is Hammy: This is in effect for nearly all the notable villains, but especially the Kurgan from the first movie.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Kalas, due to a throat injury, though his voice has more of a raspy quality to it.
  • Exposition of Immortality: Let us count the ways that this happens. No, let's not; there's too many of them. The first film is a principal source, between MacLeod's many memories of times gone by; saving Rachel from Nazis, dueling drunk in 17th Century England, or the sizable collection of antiquities he's picked up over the years from their original time period. Ramirez' sword is a particular example, especially since it's older than it should be.
  • Facial Composite Failure: The news media, unaware of The Gathering or what is happening, attributes each of the original film's beheadings to a single killer. The newspapers release a composite sketch of The Kurgan, dubbing him the "Headhunter".
  • Flashback: Ahh, the Highlander flashback. Usually designated by being shown in Deliberately Monochrome.
    • Generally the case when a mortal has a flashback; flashbacks of immortals are undoctored. Possibly meant to reflect mortals having imperfect memories, while immortals remember everything?
      • Early on in the series Mac's flashbacks to his first days of immortality were in a sort of sepia tone, suggesting that those moments are the hardest to recall. Later on they abandoned this.
    • Usually with interesting framing, like a window the scene enters becoming a flashback for example.
  • Flynning: Almost all the swordfights, although this may be justified as the Immortal style of swordplay is very different from the mortal's idea of "find a vital place and stab it." To an Immortal, there's only one vital place, and merely poking it isn't enough; you need a good, firm, unimpeded swing. Furthermore, the really old Immortals have an incredibly high tolerance for pain and stabbing or slashing barely slow them down. In fact Duncan himself seems very fond of disarming his enemy first before deciding to take their head or not. Conversely, Connor was only able to beat the Kurgan by wearing him out and inflicting enough minor wounds on him quickly enough that it slowed him down at the final moment. Also justified because, after a few hundred years of practice, most Immortals would be ludicrously skilled swordsmen and women.
  • Friendly Enemy: Some Immortals, such as the MacLeod protagonists, have (very) old friendships with others, as they can relate to each other in a way mortals cannot, and weave in and out of each other's lives over the centuries, but they still know that sometime, they will either be killed by someone else, or fight each other to the death.
  • Friendly Rivalry: What any friendship between immortals can be.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: The Kurgan and General Katana. For the latter, the filmmakers applied makeup to the already-existing scar on Michael Ironside's head, exaggerating its grotesqueness.
  • Hammerspace: In the series at least, this is where the Immortals appear to store their swords when not in use. It's referred to as "Katanaspace" by the fans, or sometimes "Zeist pockets".
    • Probably the most egregious example comes to us courtesy of Annie Devlin (played by Sheena Easton), wearing a very tight white sweater and a very tight and short black leather vest. She's beating the stuffing out of Richie unarmed, then reaches behind her back and bam, sudden sword. Now, she is using a blade thin and short enough it could have been running down her spine under her clothes, with the hilt hidden in her hair, but the only way the blade could have appeared in her hand in the manner depicted is by teleporting through a layer of wool and a layer of leather.
  • Hollywood History: This franchise isn't meant to teach accurate history. Most of the time you'll be getting Broad Strokes or The Theme Park Version.
  • Holy Ground: Immortals will not - or possibly cannot - fight each other on holy ground. In the TV series, there's a legend that breaking this rule triggered the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. "Holy ground" is never explicitly defined but broadly includes any land that a human culture considers sacred, including religious structures such as churches, mosques, synagogues, etc.; and also indigenous holy sites (i.e. Stonehenge).
    • In the anime the main character merely trying to raise his sword within Stonehenge causes a lightning to strike him from a clear sky.
  • I Am X, Son of Y: "I am Connor/Duncan/Quentin/Colin MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."
  • Iconic Item: Connor's sword (given to him by Ramirez in the distant past) and Duncan's katana both count.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Ramirez cuts the Kurgan's throat in their duel, but instead of finishing the Kurgan off while he's staggered, he stands there and taunts him. The Kurgan gets his second wind and kills Ramirez, and goes on to commit atrocities for centuries, including raping Connor's wife Heather.
    • General Katana carries one to complement his Villain Ball in Highlander 2. For no apparent reason, he sends a couple of assassins to Earth after MacLeod, then goes himself. Never mind that MacLeod won The Game years ago and had no intention of going back to Zeist - within less than a decade, he would be dead by old age. Instead, the new arrivals make him immortal again, make him young, and also alert him ahead of time that he has to deal with Katana. One of the assassins even points out how pointless this is, and gets smacked for it. MacLeod practically spells it out for Katana what a huge, stupid, meaningless mistake stirring up this trouble really was.
  • Immortality Begins at Twenty: Averted, the Immortals seem to stop aging at the age where they first experience a violent death. Can lead to Not Growing Up Sucks if one meets their end at a significantly young age.
    • It's also explained that there are few child Immortals because they logically can't fight as well as an adult, so on a scale of centuries, most of them got picked off by other Immortals in the Game. There's a somewhat justified bias against the handful of remaining child Immortals as a result, because the only way they could survive for that long is by relying on deceit and trickery to overcome their enemies rather than a straight-up fight, and they're less willing to even temporarily befriend other Immortals out of fear, preferring to kill them first.
  • Immortal Procreation Clause: Immortals cannot have children. According to Joe Dawson in the series, even if their Immortality hadn't been "activated" by dying yet, they still can't have children, though the series itself leaves this a bit nebulous.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: They're the weapon of choice for every MacLeod, as well as Connor's mentor Ramirez. At various points in the series, Duncan did occasionally use a different type of blade, but the katana was his 'default' weapon. Subverted in Highlander: The Source where Duncan's katana is broken in half by the Guardian, and he goes into the final confrontation with a pair of knives. Could be partly justified by the katana's effectiveness as a cutting weapon; when the only way to kill someone is to decapitate them, a sword specifically designed for slashing comes in handy. Additionally the katana is a lot easier to carry around and hide in a trench-coat the way Connor did, and in modern day duels, the lack of effectiveness against armor isn't a factor.
    • Discussed in the original, when Brenda carbon-dates the ivory in the handle of Connor's katana back to 500 BC, loooong before folded-steel katanas had been developed (steel was new to the scene in India then). According to Ramirez, the sword was forged by Masamune (presumably an ancestor), and was probably the first steel katana ever made.
      • While Connor and Duncan both prefer katanas, it is mostly for sentimental reasons (Connor's belonged to Ramirez, and he took it when his teacher was killed, and Duncan's was a gift from a man who saved his life). Other Immortals are shown to carry a large number of different types of sword. The ones that show up more than once aren't always using the same sword from episode to episode either.
  • Killed Off for Real: Tessa, Darius, Charlie, Fitzcairn, Richie, Connor, Joe Not Joe.
  • Kill Steal: Immortal duels are supposed to be one-on-one, with the victor claiming the loser's head, and with it his power. Some Immortals aren't above landing the actual deathblow after one Immortal has defeated, but not killed, another. Amanda does it to Duncan once, and Methos attempts to have Duncan kill him to prevent Kalas from doing so.
    Methos: He can beat me. He might beat you. He can't beat us.
  • Kryptonite Factor: Invoked; while immortals can only be killed by decapitation, wounds to their throat apparently remain even if their heads weren't actually severed, such as the Kurgan and Kalas retaining damage to their throats at least decades since the wounds were inflicted.
  • Large Ham: The Kurgan, Ramirez, the Guardian, Katana.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: The opinion of a few, as illustrated by Queen's "Princes of the Universe".
  • Loophole Abuse: While almost no Immortal would dare fight on holy ground, some of them are more than willing to bend the rules a bit. Like waiting to ambush a rival the moment they leave the area or sending in mortal human subordinates to attack in their place.
  • Love Hurts: A frequent result of Who Wants to Live Forever?.
  • Master Swordsman: Fridge Logic would imply that any Immortal who lives long enough would eventually have to become one, but the MacLeods, Ramirez, and Graham Ashe (Ramirez's teacher) are explicitly referred to as such.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Any love interest for an Immortal. Duncan and Amanda are both immortal, but they come and go over time, not willing to be attached to each other for centuries.
  • Mortality Ensues: In the original continuity, part of the Prize is the option to live as a normal human; Connor states that this is his intention at the end of Highlander. The Series stated that the last Immortal will be powerful enough "to rule this planet forever".
  • Mr. Fanservice: Highlander: The Series
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: It seems to be a tradition that Immortals meeting for the first time introduce themselves properly, hence "I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod." Duncan and Connor go in for the formality, most Immortals just give their first and last names.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Immortals can sense the nearby presence of their kind.
  • New Old Flame: Duncan gets one in Endgame, and a completely different one in The Source.
  • Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: Highlander 2: The Quickening, Highlander 3: The Sorcerer, Highlander: Endgame and Highlander: The Source
    • "The Quickening" is probably the second most parodied subtitle after "Electric Boogaloo". Roger Ebert spent a third of the televised review time complaining about how stupid a subtitle he thought that was.
    • These may seem unusual but actually make sense, as Endgame and The Source are actually set in the TV series continuity and so could be considered "separate" enough to warrant a change in title format. (Highlander 3 ignores the existence of Highlander 2, but let's not get into that.)
      • In the US market, Highlander III: The Sorcerer was titled Highlander: The Final Dimension, making it clear that removing the numbering from the titles was mostly an attempt to pretend Highlander II never existed.
  • Obstructive Code of Conduct:
    • Immortals are only allowed to fight one-on-one, and are forbidden to do so on "holy ground". These rules are malleable, to put it lightly.
    • Watchers are not supposed to interfere in Immortal conflicts. Joe Dawson spends a lot of time bending, breaking, or just plain ignoring this rule (which almost gets him executed by his peers).
  • Parental Abandonment: Both Richie and Duncan on Highlander: The Series are orphans. Many in the fanbase have used this fact to conclude that all immortals must also be orphans. Whether this is true or not is unknown, and the idea is never mentioned again.
  • Place of Protection: Any consecrated site, in theory.
    • In the Series, Brother Paul (an Immortal) had set up a monastery specifically as one of these, a sort of safe retreat for Immortals weary and PTSD-ing from The Game to come and rest, recharge, collect themselves, and venture forth again in something resembling mental and spiritual health. The co-founder of the monastery, Kalas, ambushed Immortals as they were leaving and took their heads, Brother Paul was somewhat displeased when he learned of this.
  • Pop-Star Composer
    • We were born to be Queens of the universe.
    • The second film had Stewart Copeland of The Police providing the music. Fortunately, it's one of the few genuinely good aspects of the film.
  • Police Are Useless: Especially in the first film.
    "What does "in-com-pee-tant" mean?"
  • Rated M for Manly: Dudes running around lopping each other's heads off with swords and hooking up with beautiful women throughout all of human history. The introduction of female Immortals doesn't significantly curb this.
  • Really Dead Montage: The series does this many times when a supporting character or recurring character dies, most notably Darius, Tessa, Fitz, and Richie.
    • Connor gets one in Endgame as well.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Both Connor and Duncan are devout Catholics
  • Really 700 Years Old: Obviously, but invoked most strongly with Methos. Despite being at least five thousand years old, he appears to be in his late twenties to early thirties.
  • Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain: When chopping off someone's head is the only way to kill an Immortal, you end up with a lot of these.
  • Resurrective Immortality: Immortals can die just like anyone else, but their bodies heal and they revive. And it can turn into a cycle if conditions are bad, which can lead to an insane immortal or at least an immortal with a huge desire for revenge.
  • Retired Badass: Duncan is almost always trying to retire from "The Game" to various degrees of success. On the one hand he probably has more immortal friends than any other, but he also has countless enemies who come looking for him too. He refuses to "hunt" other immortals unless they personally threaten those he cares about and keeps a cabin on Native American holy ground he has been known to live on for very long periods of time.
    • Connor tried as well.
    • Darius and Brother Paul where Badasses who retired from the Game and into holy ground.
  • Satan: Ahriman, the supernatural Big Big of Season 6, is described as being the source of all evil in the universe.
  • Scars are Forever:
    • Subverted. None of the immortals' severe wounds appear to leave scars, except neck wounds (the Kurgan's slashed throat in the movie, and Kalas' slashed vocal cords in the series), probably due to the connection between decapitation and death for them.
    • Also Xavier St. Cloud's entire hand.
    • Colin in the anime retains a scar across his face from when he very nearly got his head cleaved in two.
    • Several Immortals from the series, most notably Kronos, have facial scars. Presumably wounds on the face get treated similarly to throat wounds (or it may be that the facial scars were inflicted before they became immortal).
  • Scary Impractical Armor: The Kurgan (and later Kane) are seen wearing this during their glory days.
  • Scotireland: Averted. They generally go out of their way to note the difference, and in Endgame Connor and Duncan are reminiscing about Scotland while travelling through Ireland. Scottish and Irish Immortals are frequently on fairly good terms, but mostly that involves being united in the common idea that England sucks.
  • Seeking Sanctuary: Any holy site (of any religion) is considered a Truce Zone between Immortals. Some creators have interpreted this as an honor system, others as an actual cosmic law - with dire consequences for breaking it.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The Source. It's not canon now, but its interpretation of The Prize renders all the fighting in the series practically pointless.
  • Skyward Scream: When Duncan finds Darius's body in the season 1 finale.
    • Connor manages to resurrect Ramirez in Highlander 2 by screaming his name to the heavens.
  • Squick: In-universe; Ramirez's reaction to Connor's explanation of Haggis.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: The Source. Nearly every character from the television series, nay, the franchise is presumed dead in the film's dystopian world. Yes, even Connor, who bit the dust in Endgame.
    • Rather heartlessly, Methos, a highly popular character, is last seen running off in to the woods, presumably to be killed offscreen.
    • Word of God states that The Source isn't canon and just some kind of trippy nightmare Duncan is having. Don't know if that helps, but there it is.
  • Super-Strength: While they don't display it as consistently as they should, the Immortals in Highlander are more than just Humans with the ability to regenerate and recover from fatal injuries and potentially live forever. Immortals are stronger, faster and tougher than Humans, and this grows as they age, train and acquire more Quickenings. Being able to cut off the heads of other Immortals, much less any human being requires a great deal of physical strength, seeing as how hard it is to do consistently. The Kurgan himself displays this when he's able to chop down a huge chunk of the tower that Connor lives in, and when he manages to stab a man and lift him up into the air with his sword. It's more obvious how much stronger and powerful Immortals are in The Search for Vengeance when you're not constrained by a special effects budget like they would in live-action films.
  • Synthetic Plague: In the series, Kronos plots to unleash one of these more or less For the Evulz. Search For Vengeance had Marcus planning to use one in order to wipe out people he deemed unfit of being part of his perfect, orderly society.
  • Take Up My Sword: Literally, as most Immortals get their weapons from their mentor, either as a gift or by claiming their weapon after they suffer Mentor Occupational Hazard. More generally, the "good" Immortals teach their students to stand up to and defeat the "evil" Immortals.
  • Technicolor Death: The Quickening that occurs when an immortal dies.
  • Theme Naming: Highlander's Big Bads tend to names beginning with a "K" (The Kurgan, General Katana, Kronos, Kell, etc).
  • The Reveal Prompts Romance: The 1986 film set one of these up between the secretly-immortal Connor MacLeod and his love interest. Made more remarkable by the fact that Connor made his reveal by stabbing himself in the chest.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: A flashback to Connor saving Rachael during the Holocaust ("Whatever you say, Jack; you're the Master Race") got cut from the first film's theatrical release, along with about four additional minutes of footage. There are a few Nazi Immortals; there were one or two in the TV series, both beheaded by Duncan. One of the failed tryouts for The Raven, Alex Raven (hence the odd title), worked as an Allied spy.
  • Training Montage:
    • In the original film, it takes place over the course of a few years.
    • Richie gets two of them in "Eye For An Eye."
    • The third film includes a sequence in which Connor returns to Scotland, and several beats from the first film's montage (running on the beach, rowing on the lake) are re-created with solo Connor.
  • Translation Convention: During flashbacks to previous eras, the MacLeods and other immortals are often seen in various countries, speaking English (sometimes accented, sometimes not) with people who may not have actually been speaking English at the time (again with the on-again, off-again accents.) During segments of the series which take place in Paris, the majority of the bystanders and bit characters will speak plain English, with one or two characters speaking in a French accent.
  • Truce Zone: Any "holy ground" is a safe zone for an immortal. (But only from other immortals. Poor Darius. Jacob Kell also breaks it.)
  • Undead Tax Exemption: Averted: Connor has to change his identity every so often to blend in with society. Though he doesn't move on, just transfers his home and assets to the next identity. This is what eventually gets him found out once there are enough government records signed with the same handwriting over two centuries to backtrack over. Duncan takes a different tack; whenever he 'dies', he moves to another country and sets up shop there for 50-60 years, which he also advises Richie to do after the latter dies in a motorcycle racing accident.
  • Undying Warrior: The Immortals cannot be killed unless their head is severed from their bodies. If an Immortal beheads another in combat, he will be imbued with their victim's power; as a result, Immortals have been fighting a secret war for ultimate power throughout history. Because Immortals only discover their powers in the event of their violent death, it's not uncommon for them to have been warriors or soldiers - as was the case with both Connor and Duncan MacLeod. Also, despite the need to keep their existence a secret, it's not unknown for some immortals to occasionally work as mercenaries in mortal wars.
  • Victor Gains Loser's Powers: One of the side effects of the quickening after one Immortal beheads another one. Not that pronounced in either the films or the series, but it's implied that the major villains (particularly The Kurgan) have so much skill and knowledge due to their high number of kills.
    • It's usually downplayed, but there are two notable explicit invocations. In the variously-titled Highlander 3, Kane gets the illusion powers of The Sorcerer Nakano after taking his head, after Nakano offered his Quickening to Connor, who refused to strike down his friend and mentor. In the series, the Immortal Coltec, who makes it his mission to take the heads of truly evil Immortals, takes one too many and suffers a Dark Quickening, not only turning evil but embracing the same crimes the various evil Immortals he had killed indulged in. Duncan is forced to kill him and suffers the same fate, temporarily.
    • The card game replicates this with Quickenings, Pregame cards that replicate the Persona powers of other Immortals, letting you combine, say, Amanda's extra attacks with Kurgan's extra damage. If your opponent defeats you via Head Shot, they get any Quickenings you were using.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: If you pay attention to the histories of some of the Immortals and where they have been, their particular weapon makes so much more sense.
  • Waxing Lyrical: The Kurgan - "I have somethin' to say! It's better to burn out, than to fade away!!"
  • Weapon Specialization: Each Immortal uses a different style of sword, usually related to what they grew up using. Some are very exacting about what kinds and qualities of sword they will use. Notably, Xavier St. Cloud uses a katana in his first appearance, but switches to a lighter rapier in his second. Makes sense, since his first appearance ended with him losing a hand, and rapiers are easier to use one-handed than katanas.
  • We Are as Mayflies: "All love must die" (from the soundtrack.) The Immortals see everyone they know grow old and die while they live on.
  • When the Planets Align: The impetus of Highlander: The Source.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Although the phrase is older than the movie, it was first used in the context of that trope here, when before it was about not being a coward in the face of danger. To wit:
    • Connor was a Scottish warrior in the 16th Century. He was stabbed through the chest in a battle and presumed dead by his clansmen, who promptly believed he had made a Deal with the Devil when he returned to life the following day. The only reason he wasn't burned at the stake (at the suggestion of his own lover no less) was because his Only Sane Man cousin exiled him instead. He met a blacksmith's daughter named Heather, fell in love with her and they are Happily Married for many long years... and then she dies of old age (and because immortals are sterile they had no kids, something she laments on her deathbed). By 1985, Connor is a recluse surrounded by antiques who occasionally takes the names of dead children to pass on his belongings and keep his identity a secret. His only social contact is Rachel, a Jewish girl he saved during World War II and by now looks way older than he is. By Highlander: Endgame Connor is a Death Seeker who has lost countless friends and loved ones over five centuries of living, most of them at the hands of the film's Big Bad Jacob Kell, and his Heroic Sacrifice death at the hands of Duncan and symbolically being Together in Death with Heather is treated as somewhat happy.
    • In a cut sequence from the first film (the footage was sadly destroyed in a fire) where the Kurgan fights a Korean immortal named Yung Dol Kim, who poses as a security guard in 1985 and fights with a pair of short Japanese swords. Kim actually throws down his swords and offers his neck because he is fed up with four hundred years of empty living and would be happy to just die. The Kurgan, an Ax-Crazy hedonistic barbarian who subscribes to Living Forever Is Awesome because it lets him engage in Forever War and Rape, Pillage, and Burn, is visibly taken aback by this - he cannot understand why Kim or anybody else for that matter would think living forever is bad. And Kim was relatively young for an immortal.
    • Ramirez was born in Ancient Egypt and lived over two thousand years before he was beheaded by the Kurgan in 1542. In that time he had three wives, including a Japanese princess named Shakiko (whose father Masamune forged his badass ivory-handled katana). Eventually he inevitably outlived Shakiko and swore off ever marrying mortal women again, even warning Connor against it. The way he talks about Shakiko even two millennia after her passing, he clearly still misses her dearly.
    • Endgame also shows how marrying immortals doesn't always work out either. Duncan falls in love with a woman who is a nascent immortal, and he deliberately causes her violent first death (on her wedding night no less) to activate her immortality without explaining his rationale. This causes her to freak out, run away and join forces with the Big Bad.
  • Women Are Delicate: According to the writers, there aren't as many female Immortals as male ones in the present day, because women were less likely to survive centuries of one-on-one duels with other Immortals in the Game. It's somewhat similar to the other point that there are few child Immortals, because they have even less chance of surviving centuries of personal combat. This eased up slightly in the modern era as people were less likely to walk around with swords for combat, combined with the fact that most of global society isn't as patriarchal as it used to be, with only men taught to fight. A medieval damsel with no combat training, only recently awakened as an Immortal, would tend to get picked off by stronger and more experienced male Immortals. In the present day, it's a bit more common for women to have self-defense training (police officers, soldiers, etc.). The few female Immortals from pre-modern society who survive to the present are those who through luck and skill managed to survive long enough to get proper combat training, and who have to be very good at it to compete with male Immortals.
  • World of Ham: The only Immortal in the first movie who is even the tiniest bit understated is Connor himself, and once he gets the Prize..."I KNOW EVERYTHING! I AM EVERYTHING!"
  • Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: Several evil Immortals like to taunt their opponents in this manner. If their opponent's last name is MacLeod, this is even dumber than making one your opponent in the first place.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: Kalas received a cut to his throat (like The Kurgan) in the series, as well as Xavier St. Cloud's severed hand (although the fandom has debated whether Xavier would have been able to reattach his hand if he'd retrieved it after it was cut off).

Hey, it's a kind of magic.