'There Can Be Only One:' Highlander's Famous Line Explained

By Jacob Shelton
Source: IMDB

The line from Highlander -- "There can be only one" -- is an immortal movie quote, a sentiment so simple and ominous that it resonates with people whether they've seen the Sean Connery-Christopher Lambert film or not. In this way, the line is arguably more famous than the movie it comes from.

See, in 1986, a B-movie about Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, a Scottish warrior cursed to live forever was released in America -- and it kind of bombed. Well, bomb is a harsh word -- it didn't perform well. American distributors didn't think that audiences understood the film, they felt like it was too European. They weren't wrong. The film's star, Christopher Lambert, was a Frenchman playing a Scottish Highlander. Sean Connery pops up playing a Spanish-Egyptian who speaks with a clear Scottish accent, and the plot has something to do with guys cutting off one another's heads in pursuit of a vague prize made up of soul lightning.

What American distributors didn't understand was that Highlander absolutely rocks. Every moment of this movie is genetically engineered in a lab by a mad scientist weaned on music videos and medieval history to make the audience pump their fists. There's swordfighting, a kind of magic, decapitations, and the whole thing is soundtracked by Queen. At the heart of the film is its tag line which tells audiences everything they need to know: there can be only one.