“Heeeeere we are. Born to be kings. We’re the princes of the universssse.” Man, let me tell you. That song is probably the best thing to come out of the Highlander movies, because some of these films really stink. I mean, hoooo boy. There are film series that have seen some rough patches, and then there’s Highlander, where almost the entire series has been a rough patch. And, this is coming from a fan! The truth is, when it comes to Highlander, the second-best thing to probably come out of it was the awesome TV series starring Adrian Paul, which aired from 1992 to 1998. You know how the recent Halloween pretty much erased every Halloween movie after the first one? Well, the Highlander TV series was doing that before it was cool.
That said, I still can’t help but love the Highlander series. So, when I say that most of the movies stink, it’s coming from a place of love. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the animated movie, Highlander: The Search for Vengeance, as that one’s pretty good. But, I’m sticking to the live-action movies for this list, as those are the ones that most fans will recognize. I’m actually pretty stoked for the Highlander reboot (even though I think it can learn a thing or two from the past), but I’m focusing on the current five live-action movies. So, with that said, here’s the list. And, if you don’t like it, then we must fight until only one remains!
Oh, and minor spoilers up ahead.
5. Highlander: The Source (2007)
A movie so bad it went straight to DVD, Highlander: The Source is the bottom of the barrel. So, why have I seen it three times, then? The story takes place in the not-too-distant future. Duncan MacLeod of the Clan Macleod, played by the star of the TV series, Adrian Paul, doubts that there’s any such great power known as The Source, even though many of the few remaining Immortals put faith in it. He soon gets swept into the whole mess when a pasty-white new villain known as The Guardian pops onto the scene and starts offing Immortals just to acquire whatever great power this thing known as The Source is. It’s...not very good.
In fact, it’s terrible. It looks like it was always destined for DVD with its awful special effects, and The Guardian has got to be one of the most ridiculous, lamest villains in the entire Highlander franchise. The Kurgan, he’s not. Highlander has always been a pretty ridiculous series, but Highlander: The Source made it ludicrous (and sadly, corny) beyond measure. I know most would consider The Quickening to be the worst movie in the series, but no. At least The Quickening has Christopher Lambert in it. Highlander: The Source doesn’t even have that, making it the de facto worse movie in the series. I’m sorry, but it's true.
4. Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)
Highlander II: The Quickening is the Zelda II: The Adventure of Link of Highlander movies. Actually, that’s not fair, since Zelda II isn’t terrible. What I mean is, you watch the first Highlander movie and you’re like, okay, that’s pretty cool. Then you watch Highlander II: The Quickening, and you’re just like, why the hell is this movie so radically different from the first one, which is how many fans feel about Zelda II. Highlander II is about aliens…ALIENS! The movie takes place in 2024, which is right around the corner, and Connor MacLeod is an old timer who gets his groove back after killing some assassins. He then faces an even bigger threat in General Katana, played by Michael Ironside.
There’s also this whole subplot involving an artificial ozone called the Shield, which is being controlled by a corporation. And, that’s the problem. This film is way too busy for its own good. That said, I don’t hate the fact that this once cool fantasy franchise did a 180 and became this weird sci-fi property with aliens. I’m actually kind of impressed. It’s like turning Super Mario Bros. into Blade Runner.
What I don’t like, though, is that the series itself didn’t commit to this new, weird direction, since the TV series and the next movie ignore it completely. So, in that way, it might actually be The Last Jedi of Highlander movies. Either way, fans hate it and like to pretend it doesn’t exist. Also like The Last Jedi.
3. Highlander III: The Sorcerer (1994)
Highlander III: The Sorcerer, also known as Highlander: The Final Dimension, is about Mario Van Peebles as a sorcerer who wants to fight Connor MacLeod to win immortality and...that’s about it. As you can see, I don’t have as much to say about Highlander III: The Sorcerer as I did Highlander II, because it takes very little risks. In fact, if Highlander II is The Last Jedi of the franchise, then Highlander III is The Rise of Skywalker: a flaccid sequel that is just trying to course correct the previous film to make the fans happy again. Unlike The Rise of Skywalker, Highlander III isn't terrible. It’s just not adventurous. Oh, and the last fight takes place in Jersey City, so I guess that’s kind of cool.
I really think the biggest sin of Highlander III is that it kind of just retreads the original movie. Obviously, after Highlander II made everything sci-fi, Highlander III tried to wash the taste of that movie out of people’s mouths and leaned even harder into fantasy, but it’s all just kind of meh. So, yeah, it’s not a terrible film, but probably the most forgettable in its “meh”ness.
2. Highlander: Endgame (2000)
I know I keep making comparisons to other movies with this ranking, but Highlander: Endgame is the Star Trek Generations of Highlander, as it combines both the lore from the movies (the first movie, anyway) and the awesome TV show. In this fourth entry, we get both Christopher Lambert, in his final role in the series, and Adrian Paul from the series teaming up against a ruthless Immortal who will do anything to claim the Prize. I kind of love Endgame, in a guilty pleasure kind of way. It definitely benefits if you’ve seen the show, as well as the side series, Highlander: Raven, as there’s talk of the Sanctuary and the Watchers. It’s pretty cool.
It’s also a great send-off of Connor MacLeod. The special effects look pretty bad, but the action is awesome and I love how Connor and Duncan interact. If I’m being completely honest, this is the only legitimately good Highlander sequel, but at least we got one, so that’s at least nice.
1. Highlander (1986)
Almost every fan will tell you that the first Highlander is the best movie in the series. It’s the story of Immortals hiding in plain sight and the war between them that has existed for centuries. Everything about the first movie feels fresh: The storylines in the past and present, the swordplay, and even the whole concept of “The Prize” and the idea of how "there can only be one,” are all excellent. Plus, Sean Connery, who is also in The Quickening, is actually awesome in this one as Connor’s mentor, Juan Sanchez-Villalobos Ramirez. Everything just works in this first movie. It’s the best.
A lot of people believe that we need a Highlander reboot, and I agree. To a certain extent. I will say that Highlander: The Source needs to be the death knell of what we once knew of Highlander. I think we really need a reinvention that is as groundbreaking and amazing as this first movie. What I’m saying is, the original Highlander is pretty much perfect at what it is, which is a fantasy action movie, and this new film needs to do the same (be super original), just like the first one.