Maybe there should only have been one, but here’s every Highlander live-action movie ranked. Highlander is a fantasy action movie that cast Christopher Lambert as an immortal Scotsman who must battle others like himself until only one remains. The movie’s cool premise, slick visuals and fight sequences – not to mention Queen’s iconic soundtrack – should have made Highlander an instant success, but it underperformed on release. It later became a success in Europe and VHS, leading to an unlikely franchise.
The reason the Highlander movie series is so unlikely is that the original ended on an extremely conclusive note. MacLeod slays his final foe the Kurgan, wins the “Prize” and is turned mortal by the end. Making a sequel that undid this ending would prove tricky, and the subsequent follow-ups tied themselves in knots trying to make it work. Highlander became a full-blown media franchise too, spawning Highlander: The Series, – which introduced cult favorite Methos – a cartoon show, an anime movie and much more.
None of the Highlander sequels lived up to the original, but what some lack in quality, they make up for in sheer weirdness. Here are the live-action Highlander movies, ranked.
5. Highlander: The Source (2007)
Not only is Highlander: The Source the worst of the saga, it’s a solid contender for one of the worst movies of the 2000s. The fifth – and to date, final – entry saw Adrian Paul’s Duncan leading a band of immortals on a quest for the source of immortality itself; they are also stalked by its nigh unkillable Guardian. Despite a genuinely intriguing setup, The Source is a nightmarish blend of bad acting, headache-inducing action sequences – which are seemingly trying to mimic an anime aesthetic – and a truly obnoxious villain.
4. Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)
If nothing else, The Source managed the impressive feat of making Highlander II: The Quickening only the second-worst Highlander – which Henry Cavill is remaking – outing. There’s so much wrong with this sequel it’s difficult to catalog it all, but its biggest mistake is grossly retconning the original to explain that immortals are really aliens from the planet Zeist. The Quickening is a slog littered with huge plot holes, a muddy storyline and poor dialogue. On the plus side, director Russell Mulcahy invests it with his typical visual flair, the sets can be quite impressive while Sean Connery and Michael Ironside are hammy delights. A later re-edit dubbed the Renegade Version addressed some of the complaints, but did little to improve the end product.
3. Highlander III: The Sorcerer (1995)
Highlander III: The Sorcerer was an early example of a franchise ignoring a badly received sequel, with the film acting as an alternate follow-up to the original. Unfortunately, this amounts to being a cheaper, less stylish remake. The story sees Connor – who cameoed on Highlander: The Series – having to face off with Mario Van Peebles’ Kane, an immortal sorcerer who was buried for centuries in a cave and thus not counted in the original film’s “Gathering.” The third film apes the structure of the first Highlander far too close and adds nothing new. Some of the fights are fun and a sequence where Connor forges a new sword is oddly beautiful, but Highlander III is still very skippable.
2. Highlander: Endgame (2000)
Highlander: Endgame was billed as something of an event, as it was a crossover between the movie and TV series. Connor teamed with Paul’s Duncan to take on Kell, an old nemesis of Connor’s who is the most powerful immortal alive. Endgame is another mess that goes heavy on franchise lore, while Lambert – who starred in chess slasher Knight Moves – feels like a guest star despite being the lead of the franchise. The story is also hard to follow and – once again – the dialogue has many clangers. That said, there’s fun to be had with Endgame, from its gory action to Bruce Payne’s epic scene-chewing as Kell. It also tragically underuses Donnie Yen – as both an actor and choreographer – but he’s still cool whenever he appears.
1. Highlander (1986)
There was only one choice for the top spot. Highlander is a movie that probably shouldn’t work, and its MTV aesthetic making it very dated now. Somehow, it all works, from Mulcahy’s wild camerawork, Lambert and Connery’s soulful performances, the awesome soundtrack and the energetic action. Highlander has remained a beloved cult film for a reason, and even bad sequels couldn’t demise that.
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