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

A long-running Historical Fantasy franchise 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. 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 paragraph contains the agreed-upon facts. Beyond that, things get a bit fuzzy. Calling it "a canon" is being charitable. More accurate would be "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:

  • It all started with a single film: 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 Connor's sworn enemy, the Kurgan (Clancy Brown). The film's other half takes place in Eighties-era New York City, where all the world's Immortals, whose numbers are now growing thin, are drawn together to battle to the last man in a final showdown dubbed "The Gathering". By the end of the film, Connor and the Kurgan are the only Immortals left. Connor kills him in a Final Battle, saves the girl (Roxanne Hart), and gains The Prize.
  • Highlander 2: The Quickening (1991) flash-forwards to the year 2024. Connor is back, having parlayed The Prize (the ability to read the minds of all the world's mortals at once) into building a vast planetary force field to replace the broken ozone layer; the downside is that the entire planet is now permanently dark. In other news, the Immortals are revealed to be space aliens from planet Zeist, while the evil General Katana (Michael Ironside) has come to Earth to kill Connor off. While it enjoyed a much bigger budget, it gained a large amount of hate from the fans. It should be noted however, that the bizarre changes that contradicted the original film, were due to Executive Meddling (the film ran out of budget halfway through the shooting). Several years after the theatrical screening the director re-cast the actors, shot new scenes, deleted the stupid parts out, and basically re-edited The Quickening into what he called The Renegade Version. That version was released on home video twice. The re-edited film had all references to Zeist removed. The troubled history of the film's production is explained in this mini-documentary.
  • Highlander: The Series (1992-1998) follows the life of Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul), an Immortal who happens to be a cousin of the movies' Connor MacLeod (then again, who isn't?). The series takes the original film as its Backstory in Broad Strokes (except, obviously, Connor being the last Immortal and winning The Prize), and (like everything else) it ignores the second film. It also introduces the Watchers, a mysterious group which has observed and chronicled Immortal activities throughout history. The series coined the term "The Game", which refers to the Immortals' ongoing battle. For the most part it was well-received.
  • Highlander: The Final Dimension (1994) -- alternatively titled Highlander III: The Sorcerer -- 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 savage Immortal out to claim Connor's head, as Kane (Mario Van Peebles) was trapped in a cave for 400 years and so didn't quite make it to The Gathering. Despite following a similar formula to the first film, Highlander 3 was better received than The Quickening.
  • Highlander: Endgame (2000), the fourth film to be made, followed on from the TV series continuity but attempted to incorporate the events of the original film into its Backstory as well (although ultimately it ended up contradicting both). Duncan and Connor MacLeod team up to face Jacob Kell (Bruce Payne), a scenery-chewing Immortal with a massive grudge against Connor. Endgame's poor editing left fans confounded and casual viewers completely adrift. Like The Quickening, Endgame saw an extended cut which gives it at least some semblance of order.
  • As it turned out, Wingfield wasn't burned out on playing Methos just yet. In 2008, he and two other Highlander: The Series alumni (Jim Byrnes and Elizabeth Gracen) released a Short Film entitled Reunion, depicting the characters 10 years after the series finale. Wingfield shot the entire episode in his house (and it shows), but as far as send-offs go, it still beats The Source.
  • And apparently someone has bought the rights to (insert drumroll here) remake the original Highlander. The script for the remake was written by the screenwriter of the Twilight films. Yay?[1]

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 Atari Jaguar.
  • 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 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.
  • They also announced a videogame for the current generation a while ago, 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.

Highlander is the Trope Namer for:
The following tropes are common to many or all entries in the Highlander franchise.
For tropes specific to individual installments, visit their respective work pages.
  • Actually Not a Vampire: One episode of the TV series features what appears to be a string of vampire attacks in South London in 1840. The victims in Paris all have missing blood and piercing wounds on their neck. There's even a Van Helsing-type character hunting the vampire. He catches him too, only the be shocked when the vampire gets up from being staked. Turns out the vampire was an immortal faking vampire attacks so that he could kill his young bride and inherit her money.
  • 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 Twenty 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. Of course, these are the broadest possible divisions as each one contains multiple Retcons within themselves.
  • Alternate Universe
  • Aliens Steal Cable: While not exactly stated, General Katana has knowledge of The Wizard of Oz, sports drafts, and highschool reunions, implying he watches Earth TV.
  • All of the Other Reindeer
  • 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.
  • Always Save the Girl: Duncan has this bad and several people use this against him, repeatedly.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too:

Kurgan: Who is the woman?
Ramirez: Sh-she's mine.

  • Animated Adaptation
  • 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 Astronomy: In The Source, concerning planetary alignment: "Well that could just be... orbital wobble."
  • Artistic License History: The original 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.
    • The existence of katanas is lampshaded: the fact that katanas were not around at the time is actually used in a major plot point! Unfortunately, Masamune's time-hop is left unexplained.
  • Artistic License Physics: During the final battle in Endgame, Kell knocks Duncan's sword out of his hands, sending it tumbling off a catwalk. Duncan leaps over the railing and jumps after it, grabbing it in mid-air.
  • The Atoner: Darius.
  • Audible Sharpness
  • Badass Longcoat: An entire 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.
  • Ballistic Discount: An episode of the series did this with swords. An Immortal walked into an antiques shop that sold assorted bladed weaponry. He asked the proprietor to show him an authentic sword that could stand up to the stresses of combat. The Immortal tested and took a Toledo sword by stabbing the proprietor with it.
  • Barehanded Blade Block: Done in one episode of the series.
  • Battle Couple: Duncan and Amanda.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty: "There can only be one."
  • Beardness Protection Program: In the first movie the Kurgan does a very messy job of shaving his head hair to evade police capture after several witnesses see him lop off a guy's head.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: In "The Modern Prometheus", Lord Byron is revealed to have been not only an Immortal, but a pupil of Methos. During a scuffle with another Immortal, Byron was spotted by a drunk Mary Shelley. The sight of Byron healing from his wounds, plus the Quickening which ensued, were the inspiration for Shelley's Frankenstein.
  • Best Served Cold: Jacob Kell is peeved at Connor for killing his foster father, a Scottish Priest. Kell bides his time for five centuries (!) before carrying out his vengeance.
  • Big No:
    • The series of course has a Big DAARRRRIIIUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSSS!
    • Kortan, the villain of the animated series, emits a bizarrely strangled sounding Big No after Quentin MacLeod is stabbed by one of his henchmen, which activates Quentin's immortality.
  • 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.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder
  • Blessed with Suck: Immortality is presented as this more than a few times, especially when it comes to having mortal friends who will eventually either die of old age or get killed from hanging around with Duncan.
  • Brave Scot / Man in a Kilt
  • Bragging Theme Tune: We're the Princes of the Uuuuuniveerrrrse!
  • Burn the Witch: In the original movie.
    • Also 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.
  • Can't Grow Up
  • Cape Busters: In the series, rogue Watchers called Hunters track and kill immortals, even on holy ground.
  • Captain Obvious: The Kurgan: "I am in disguise. This way, no one will recognize me."
  • 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
  • Cassandra Truth: Cassandra, whose initial efforts to get Duncan and Joe to believe her about Kronos, Methos and The Horsemen meet with some extreme doubt.
  • The Cast Showoff Jim Byrnes was showcased numerous times playing guitar and singing blues music.
  • Chaotic Stupid: The Kurgan's joyride-rampage through New York in the first movie, wherein he drives down the wrong side of the road, singing New York New York while playing chicken and running over pedestrians, served no purpose other than a hilarious classic moment in comedy history.
    • Considering he's fricking immortal and he was just trying to scare the shit out of Brenda anyway, it's kinda justified. It's still hilarious. No such excuse for the same scene in Highlander 3, mind.
    • The same goes for the subway scene in Highlander 2, where Katana somehow gets a New York subway train to go over 400 mph and ends with him plowing the train through a wall onto the street. For no reason - this is the very first thing Katana does when he gets to Earth.
  • 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.)
  • Combat Pragmatist: If the fight's going against him, Methos is not above feigning helplessness (such as pretending to slip) and then, 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.
  • Confessional: A long, long confession.
  • Create Your Own Villain: It was Methos and Don Salzer's idea to create a database for The Watchers to track Immortals in the modern age. Nice job, guys.
  • Cult Soundtrack: The soundtrack to the first movie, 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).
  • Cyberpunk:
    • Highlander: The Search for Vengeance uses this for the future segments. It works extremely well.
    • Highlander II: The Quickening tries for a Cyberpunk motif as well. It works... less well.
  • 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?
    • Invoked in the anime. At one point, the Big Bad has the hero helpless (again) and at his mercy... and points out the vendetta's centuries old. Maybe it's time to get a hobby?
  • Deadly Closing Credits
  • Devour the Dragon: A rare heroic example
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Charlie.
    • Heather in the first film.
  • Distracted From Death: Connor tells a dying Heather a story that'll let her die happy. She dies halfway through it, and he doesn't notice until he's finished.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength
  • Doing In the Wizard: Infamously mishandled in Highlander II.
  • Doing It for the Art: The cast had such a good time doing the original movie, they filmed additional scenes for free, detailing Macleod's relationship with his assistant.
  • Doppelganger Replacement Love Interest: Lisa Milon.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Charlie in the second episode of season four, and Richie in the fifth season finale.
    • Also, Connor MacLeod in the animated series.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Appears in the episode "Courage".
  • Dual-Wielding: Having lost his signature weapon in The Source, Duncan switches to two long-bladed knives.
  • Estrogen Brigade Bait: Highlander: The Series
  • Enfant Terrible: Supposedly ten-year-old Kenny, whose M.O. is convincing other Immortals of his helplessness, then taking their heads.
  • Eternal Love: Duncan and Amanda's very-long-running off-again, on-again relationship.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes
  • Evil Albino: The Guardian.
  • Evil Is Hammy
  • Evil Laugh: The Kurgan is the undisputed EMPEROR of this trope.
  • Evil Sounds Deep:
    • The Kurgan, played by Clancy Brown.
    • And 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".
  • Fair Cop: Brenda J. Wyatt, Forensics specialist for the NYPD.
  • Fake Nationality: Christopher Lambert (American, raised French-speaking Swiss) plays Connor MacLeod (Scottish). Sean Connery (Scottish) plays Ramirez (ancient Egyptian pretending to be Spanish). Clancy Brown (American) plays the Kurgan (early Russian or Ukrainian). Adrian Paul (English of Greek parentage) plays Duncan MacLeod (Scottish). However, Lambert pulls off a decent Scottish accent for Connor's early days, then puts on a deliberately vague "layered" accent for the present-day scenes, having lived all over the place. Brown doesn't attempt a Russian accent.
    • Brown's accent, after all, would be only hypothetical: temporally speaking, the Kurgans lie close to the source of the Indo-European language family itself, dating roughly 4000-5000 BC (and which today includes all varieties of Celtic, Romance, Greek, Slavic and Indo-Iranian languages).
    • The Kurgan was from a group of people called the Scythians, whose burial mounds were called kurgans. Extremely vicious people. But yeah, they were essentially early nomadic horse-riders from the steppes of Russia.
    • Although since, if you believe the second film, they're all aliens, the characters' supposed nationalities really becomes a moot point.
    • Notably, for Highlander 3 Lambert doesn't make even a token attempt at a Scottish accent for the scenes in Japan, which take place only a few years after the flashbacks in the first film. Likewise for the scenes in Endgame taking place during the flashbacks from the first film.
    • And, of course, Sean Connery doesn't even try for Spanish or originally-Egyptian-and-by-now-Spanish. Scottish all the way.
      • Which makes his grossed-out reaction to Connor's description of the classic Scottish food haggis particularly funny.
  • Flash Back: 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 of the sword fights.
    • 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. Furthmore, 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.
  • The Fog of Ages: Even before meeting him, Duncan has heard that Methos is five thousand years old. Methos tells him that he's actually older, possibly much older, but "before that, it all starts to blur".
  • Forging Scene: The third Highlander film has Connor's sword shattering, meaning he has to go home to reforge his Katana.
  • Good Guy Bar: Joe's.
  • 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.
  • Halfbreed: Charlie DeSalvo (half black, half Italian).
  • 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.
  • Handicapped Badass: Joe Dawson, who has no legs and can still kick your ass all day long.
  • Heel Faith Turn: Darius
    • Colin Macleod in the finale of Vengeance., who after 2000 years of atheism and mortally wounded, is about to witness his rival murder an entire city of innocents with a super-virus, hears the dying voice of his resurrected love calling to him from Heaven...

(Picks up his Katana) "God... please give me the strength... for them... for her...."

  • He Who Fights Monsters: Word of God states James Horton's hatred of Immortals and desire to Kill'Em All stems from that fact that he spent most of his career as Watcher to The Kurgan, of all people. The conflict between Horton's oath of non-interference and his devout Catholic beliefs eventually drove him to insanity.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Too many to list. The series had a regular string of musicians in guest roles: Roger Daltry, Joan Jett, Nia Peeples, and more. Also, Wesley and Giles from the Buffyverse and Nick from Forever Knight.
  • Hollywood History
  • Hollywood Silencer: Subverted to a surprising degree in "Bad Day in Building A" - the silenced weapons sound just as loud as they would without.
  • Honor Before Reason: Duncan suffers from this. A lot.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Dahlia from The Search for Vengeance.
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: They were immortals from the distant past, including Methos.
  • Hot Scientist: Brenda Wyatt the forensic scientist, Louise Marcus the environmental scientist, Dr. Alexandra Johnson the archaeologist. Connor seems to have a thing for sexy nerds.
  • Hot Scoop: Randi McFarland.
  • Houseboat Hero: Duncan, who keeps a massive barge houseboat in Paris.
  • I Am Not Shazam: Invoked: the name of Clancy Brown's character is not Kurgan. In fact, he has no name. Kurgan refers to the part of the world he came from, and characters refer to him as the Kurgan. Likewise, "Highlander" is not the name of the Immortals race, but a reference to Connor's (and Duncan's) Scottish origins.
  • 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. In Endgame, Jacob Kell is always shown wearing a type of footwear with crucifixes on them (sandals in the 16th century, black shoes in the present).
  • Idiot Ball: 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'd be dead by old age. Instead, the new arrivals make him immortal again, makes him young, and also alerts 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.
    • Idiot Ball: Duncan's wedding flashback in Highlander: Endgame. Having previously discovered that his bride-to-be is a latent Immortal, Duncan stabs her through the chest on their wedding night without warning, triggering her immortality. Faith's horrified reaction is (ironically) the most plausible character moment of the entire movie.
  • IKEA Weaponry: the Kurgan's modern-day sword.
  • Immortality Begins At Twenty: Averted, the Immortals seem to stop aging at the age where they first experience a violent death.
  • Immortality Infertility
  • Implausible Fencing Powers: The Kurgan, who can use his blade to cut down an entire stone tower.
  • Incoming Ham: Pretty much every time the Guardian shows up in Highlander: The Source, especially when he "introduces himself" to Duncan:


    • Even Duncan has an expression on his face that just screams "Who the hell is THIS moron?"
  • In-Series Nickname: Duncan MacLeod's name is often shortened to just "Mac".
  • 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.
    • 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 (heck, steel was new to the scene in India then). According to Ramierez, the sword was forged by Masamune, and was probably the first steel katana ever made.
      • It is also worthwhile to note that while Connor and Duncan both prefer katanas, it is mostly for sentimental reasons. 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.
  • Keep the Home Fires Burning: The episode "They Also Serve..."
  • Killed Off for Real: Tessa, Darius, Charlie, Fitzcairn, Richie, Connor, Joe Not Joe.
  • Kill One, and the Others Get Stronger: The premise behind the Quickening.
  • Kill Steal
  • Large Ham: The Kurgan, Ramirez, the Guardian.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: The opinion of a few, as illustrated by Queen's "Princes of the Universe".
  • Load-Bearing Hero
  • Love Hurts
  • Manipulative Bastard: James Horton.
  • 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 Hash (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 attached to each other for centuries.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: Off camera, Clancy Brown (The Kurgan) is consistently cited by his coworkers to be the warmest, gentlest, most sensitive and kind-hearted man they have ever worked with. To the point that, after filming the scene where The Kurgan confronts MacLeod in the church, Brown actually appologized to the priest and nuns there for his character's dialouge for fear that he had offended them.
    • Many of the villians from Highlander: The Series count. In fact, when Kronos and Horton were Killed Off for Real the cast and crew were reportedly very bummed out.
  • Mortality Ensues: Part of the Prize is the option to live as a normal human; Connor states that this is his intention at the end of the original film.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Immortals can sense the nearby presence of their kind.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer for Highlander: Endgame shows Jacob Kell wielding godlike powers, splitting into clones of himself, and freezing a sword in mid-air. If you didn't know better, you'd almost think that the filmmakers spent a couple thousand dollars on bogus special effects shots that were never going to be included in the movie.
  • New Old Flame: Duncan gets one in Endgame, and a completely different one in The Source.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Where to begin? In The Quickening, Connor brings Ramirez Back from the Dead simply by screaming his name. He also regains his Immortality (de-aging 40 years in the process) after beheading one of General Katana's mooks. But the kicker would have to be Ramirez rewinding time to allow Connor and Louise to escape Blake's spinning fan Death Trap.
    • The ending of The Source exhibits plenty of this.
  • No Sense of Humor: Kurgan accuses nuns of being this.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Ramirez. An ancient Egyptian pretending to be a Spaniard having a Scottish accent is an Egregious example even for Sean Connery. Especially in a film with a protagonist who is Scottish.
  • Not Growing Up Sucks: Kenny.
  • Not Quite Saved Enough
  • Oddly-Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: Oh dear God. 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. (Of course, Highlander 3 ignores the existence of Highlander 2, but let's not get into that.)
      • In the US market, Highlander 3: The Sorceror was titled Highlander: The Final Dimension, making it clear that removing the numbering from the titles was mostly an attempt to pretend Highlander 2 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.
      • It's better to say that they're only supposed to do these things... they're basically the equivalent of "the rules of war", which are things most countries agree not to do because they don't want other countries doing it to them. There's nothing explicitly preventing countries... or Immortals... from doing these things, which a lot of the viewers seem to have missed.
    • Watchers are not supposed to interfere in Immortal conflicts. Joe Dawson spends a lot of time bending, breaking, or just plain ignoring this rule.
  • Office Golf: A mobster in a flashback, who gives the Villain of the Week his first death.
  • One Last Smoke: Played straight in the series when Hugh Fitzcairn is captured by the Hunters and as a last request he asks for "A last smoke of my pipe." Horton considers it for a moment before denying him, but the delay buys MacLeod the time he needs to make it there and rescue Fitz.
  • Only One Name: In the TV series, the majority of Immortals that Duncan enounters go by one name.
  • Parental Abandonment: All Immortals are orphans.
  • Parental Substitute: Duncan and Tessa, for Richie.
  • 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.
  • Proud Adopted Warrior Foreigner: Connor and Duncan still claim to be Samurai in spite of being Catholic and Scottish.
    • Considering the literal meaning of "Samurai" they are technically correct.
  • Police Are Useless: Especially in the first film.

"What does "in-com-pee-tant" mean?"

  • Rape as Backstory: A bit, in the first movie. 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 Death Glare 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Rated "M" for Manly
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Both Connor and Duncan are astaoundingly still devout Catholics, in spite of the fact that the superstitious xenophobia of their Catholic kin is precisely what caused them them to be hated and feared exiles driven from their homes.
  • Really Seven Hundred 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.
  • Red Pill, Blue Pill: A flashback in the episode "Brothers in Arms" shows that Joe was given this choice in Vietnam by a Watcher, after his first encounter with an Immortal.
  • Rear Window Witness
  • Recycled: the Series
  • Resurrective Immortality: Immortals can die just like anyone else, but their bodies then 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 even keeps a cabin on Native American holy ground he's 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.
  • Retired Monster: Methos. Although the trope is played with as he does regret at least some of his actions, and by the end of the "Four Horseman" arc, Duncan suspects that Methos manipulated the situation to kill off the rest of the Horsemen. Methos refuses to explicitly confirm or deny this, although he hints that he couldn't kill Kronos by himself. (As he is both physically and psychologically incapable.)
    • Surprisingly enough, Darius too.
  • 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.
  • Scary Impractical Armor: The Kurgan (and later Kane) are seen wearing this dring their glory days.
  • Scotireland
  • Shaggy Dog Story: The police investigation in the first film. It 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.
    • Also, The Source. It's not canon now, but its interpretation of The Prize renders all the fighting in the series practically pointless.
  • Shut UP, Hannibal: Inverted, in that it is deliver by the villain to the hero. In The Search for Vengeance, after about a thousand years of butting horns, Marcus Octavius admonishes Colin MacLeod to stop feeling sorry for himself and do something constructive with his immortality.
  • Skyward Scream: When Duncan finds Darius's body in the season 1 finale.
  • 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.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Iman Fasil, Connor's first opponent in the original Highlander.
  • Sword and Sorcery
  • Synthetic Plague: This is the sub-plot in the anime Highlander: The Search for Vengeance, where Marcus has released a virus over New York to wipe out all of people who haven't conformed to his ancient Roman ideals. The virus only had an 80% kill rate but by the end of the movie he's managed to make a 100% version.
    • In the series, Kronos plots to unleash one of these more or less For the Evulz.
  • Take Up My Sword
  • Technicolor Death: The Quickening that occurs when an immortal dies.
  • That's Gotta Hurt: "Oh. That'll hurt," as the resident Obi Wan observes as MacLeod falls off a skyscraper in the Anime.
  • Theme Naming: Highlander's Big Bads tend to names beginning with a "K" (The Kurgan, General Katana, Kronos, Kell, etc). This earned them the Fan Nickname of "K'immies".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: If you pay attention to the histories of some of the Immortals and where they've been their particular Weapon of Choice makes so much more sense.
  • Wakeup Makeup: particularly obvious when Duncan unwraps the mummy of Nefertiri after being unconscious for 2,000 years, and she still has perfect hair and makeup. Note that she also knows English.
  • The Watcher: A whole organization of them.
  • Water Source Tampering: In the series multi-parter about the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Big Bad plans to contaminate water supplies with a bioweapon, For the Evulz.
  • Waxing Lyrical: The Kurgan - "I have somethin' to say! It's better to burn out, than to fade away!!"
  • Weapon Tombstone: Connor marked Heather's grave with his claymore. Slightly unusual (though no less effective) for the trope, as she wasn't a warrior herself.
    • Could also be marking the death of 'Connor MacLeod' as he fully embraces his immortal wanderings.
  • We Gotta Stop Meeting Like This: In the series, episode "Judgement Day"

Methos: We've got to stop meeting like this, people will talk.

    • And from The Sea Witch:

Duncan: We have to stop meeting this way Alexi. It's been half a century, what will people say?

  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: James Horton.
  • 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.
    • Artistic License Astronomy: A character who is observing the phenomenon warns that the entire Earth will be bombarded with "cosmic radation". Methos, for his part, contends that the planets are merely exhibiting "orbital wobble". And, of course, in the film's climax, not only do the planets quickly move into alignment, but they're close enough to be clearly visible and huge in the night sky.
  • 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.
  • Wicked Cultured: Marcus Octavius from The Search For Vengeance.
  • Woman Scorned: Faith (Lisa Barbuscia), Duncan's wife in Endgame.
  • Worth It: Invoked in Highlander: The Series when the evil Kalas taunts Duncan with knowledge of a computer set up to email out the entire Watcher database to every news agency in the world unless Duncan lets himself be killed.

Kalas: Remember, if you do kill me, you're finished, too.
Duncan: Maybe it's worth it if it rids the world of you.



Hey, it's a kind of magic.

  1. In all fairness, she also works on Dexter as a writer-producer.