Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE fantasy

40 Years Later, Highlander Still Holds Up As a Dynamic and Thrilling Urban Fantasy

Revisit the classic time-spanning adventure (with classic Queen tunes!), streaming now on Peacock.

By Matthew Jackson

The first major sequence in Highlander is a sweeping, ethereal tracking shot across Madison Square Garden, where a large crowd cheers on a professional wrestling match. On the surface, it's a setup for the bigger battle at the heart of the story, the first encounter between two immortals in the film, in the parking garage beneath the arena. Look closer, though, and you'll see a kind of mission statement at work. 

Highlander is not about professional wrestling, of course, but like professional wrestling at its best, it is about an epic, over-the-top struggle between titans who defy human explanation. It's a comic book, a superhero story, a fantasy in every sense of the word, and once you understand that, you're in for quite a ride. Now streaming on Peacock, Russell Mulcahy's film is an enduring piece of '80s pop culture, but for those of us who love it, it's something more: a film that shamelessly, gloriously revels in its own bombast. 

For More on Highlander:
HighlanderThe Age of Adaline, Ray Bradbury and the Loneliness of Immortality
Futurist Predicts Human Immortality by 2030
Henry Cavill's Highlander Reboot is "Closer Than We've Ever Been"

Highlander, Now Streaming on Peacock, Is a Battle for the Ages

You know the story of Highlander, even if you haven't seen the movie, because there's something in the appeal of it all that's endured through home video, basic cable, and beyond to keep us hooked all these years later. Released in the spring of 1986, the film wasn't an immediate hit, but over time became one of those films that people found, passed on, and just couldn't stop quoting, in part because its premise is such a solid hook: Across the world, certain people are born, for mysterious reasons, as immortal warriors who cannot die unless they're beheaded by another immortal. These immortals live hundreds, even thousands of years, battling each other through the ages, until an event called "The Gathering" will draw the last of them together for a final fight, from which only one will emerge as the champion who is granted "The Prize," assumed to be dominion over the entire world. 

Lucky for us, The Gathering just happens to be taking place in New York City in the mid-1980s, where antique dealer and immortal Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) lives in hiding under an assumed name. When a battle with another immortal attracts a police presence, he's threatened with jail time and eventual exposure, particularly when a scientist and sword expert (Roxanne Hart) starts sniffing around his life. Oh, and of course the fierce, deadly immortal known as The Kurgan (Clancy Brown) is also around, gearing up for one last fight. 

In between present-day segments that put the pieces together for this final confrontation, we get flashbacks from throughout Connor's life, learning his history with Kurgan as well as his friendship with an immortal named Ramirez (Sean Connery) who trained him in the ways of combat and the rules of being an immortal. How does Ramirez know these rules? Who set them? The film really doesn't tell us, because it doesn't matter. What matters is the battle, something Mulcahy and the rest of the filmmaking team understand intimately.

Why Queen's "Princes of the Universe" Kicks off Highlander Perfectly

Highlander grew in esteem over the years for a lot of reasons, some of which have become mildly infamous among people who prefer to enjoy movies ironically. There's Connery's performance, of course, as well as Brown's scene-stealing monster work as Kurgan. There's the tagline "there can be only one" and the film's focus on various visual effects to achieve its battle between immortals. Then, of course, there's the soundtrack, which was provided by none other than Queen.

One of the first sounds you hear in the film is the Queen song "Princes of the Universe," which plays over the opening credits and sets the tone for what's to come in ways that even that wrestling match we briefly glimpse cannot. Queen is, after all, one of the most over-the-top bands in rock, renowned for their production, soaring vocals, stage shows, and so much more. They were never a subtle band, and their presence in this film about immortal warriors swinging swords at one another makes perfect sense. By setting the stage with Freddie Mercury's iconic voice, Highlander has firmly set its feet in a certain kind of tonal dance, and it never wavers from there.

Your mileage may vary when it comes to what happens next. You may find all the sword swinging and spark throwing a bit silly; you may question the logic of the film's mythology. But if you buy the ticket and take the ride of what Highlander is offering, if you understand that the film is basically a Queen song come to life, then you understand we're supposed to think of all of this as bombastic and big and too operatic for its surroundings. Highlander, put simply, is too much, and that makes it both a great '80s movie and a great film for anyone who's open to enjoying an epic adventure that refuses to slow down for anyone.

Highlander is now streaming on Peacock.

Read more about: