From Universal to Hammer, the reincarnated baddies in the ‘Mummy’ franchise have presented themselves in various iterations throughout the years — some scary, some funny, others a little bit of both, some neither. Let’s rank ’em.
If we’ve learned one thing from watching horror movies, it’s that monsters don’t stay dead for too long. And that’s especially true if they’re hits at the box office. Since its inception in 1932, the Mummy franchise has returned from the sarcophagus every couple of decades and managed to be somewhat successful. The original film, which was inspired by the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 and the legendary curse surrounding it, focused primarily on horror, suspense, Egyptian mysticism, and dark romance.
However, subsequent films saw the franchise move away from its roots in terror to implement elements of the action and adventure genres. In 1999, the franchise was resurrected as big blockbuster entertainment starring Brendan Fraser. It spawned two sequels and a spin-off series we can at least thank for giving Dwayne Johnson his big break. Now the series is back with a brand new reboot that’s even bigger than the last. This will usher in the Dark Universe, which will see all the iconic monsters we know and love from Universal’s canon return from their graves and tombs to share a world immersed in spooky shenanigans. Like the DC Extended Universe, only messier.
With so many movies and so many different interpretations of the Mummy itself throughout the years, now would is a good time to look back at the monstrosities and rank them best to worst based on their appearance; from the early days of Boris Karloff to the new movie’s Sofia Boutella, and everyone in between.
11. Jet Li in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)
Let’s get the worst out of the way first. Afterwards, we can get back to living life to the fullest. Directed by Rob Cohen, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor capped off the millennium reboot trilogy Stephen Sommers helmed for the first two (genuinely good) flicks. For some, there is dumb fun to be found here, but it’s not one of the high points of the franchise, and we’ll just leave it at that. Jet Li plays the villainous mummified emperor, Han, and Fraser returned for the paycheck. As for the Mummy design? Well, even for a trilogy that didn’t blow people’s minds with its use of CGI in the first place, this is lackluster. Thankfully the film makes up for it in other areas — but only just. Let’s just move on.
10. Valerie Leon in Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)
Loosely based on Bram Stoker’s novel “The Jewel of Seven Stars,” Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb is a standout entry in the franchise. The only reason why it isn’t higher up on the list is because the villain of the piece, Queen Tera, looks too human. If we ranking these by the quality of the films then this would be much higher. But for what we’re looking for here, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb isn’t noteworthy apart from the fact the Mummy is arguably the most attractive of the bunch. We need more than that from high-ranking monsters on prestigious lists, such as this one.
9. Eddie Parker in Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
No matter how terrifying the rascals were to audience’s during their original silver screen outings, Universal Monsters are pretty silly when you think about it. Genius, for sure. Groundbreaking? Absolutely. But they are ripe for spoofing. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were masters when it came to the art of the spoof, and their Universal adventures saw them encounter Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, to name a few. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy marked the comedy duo’s final confrontation with a monster from the Universal canon, and by that point the series had run its course. It’s not a bad flick by any means — there are frequent laughs to be had if you’re easily amused — but it’s hardly the most inspired entry in the Universal Monsters crossovers, let alone their illustrious filmography. And that extends to the Mummy design as well, which looks like a dude in bandages, like he’s been in the hospital for weeks after an accident. Sure, the point of Abbot and Costello Meet the Mummy isn’t to impress us with memorable monsters. It’s mindless comedy after all. But it’s far from the most impressive Mummy in the tomb and that is what’s important here.
8. Arnold Vosloo in The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001)
I love what Stephen Sommers did with this franchise, and I’m not ashamed to admit that. Furthermore, Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep is one of my favorite Mummies of the bunch. These movies aren’t necessarily good, but they are lots of fun when the mood takes. It’s all a matter of taste, but these are the types of movies I live for. The only reason this entry isn’t higher on the list is because the monster stuff is hampered by the mediocre video game aesthetic of the CGI. Vosloo’s general performance is enjoyable throughout, but when he transforms into a computer-generated corpse, the look of the Mummy isn’t exactly on par with the franchise’s greatest nightmarish creations. There’s nothing shockingly off-putting with it per se, but it could have been so much better.
7. Dickie Owen in The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
An unofficial sequel to Hammer’s 1959 version of The Mummy starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, everything about The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb screams of phoning it in, and this includes the Mummy’s appearance. In all fairness to actor Dickie Owen, he executes his performance as the Egyptian priest, Ra, with enough aplomb to elevate the film, but the costume and makeup aren’t befitting of the performance of the man beneath. Hammer production values were rarely bad, so it’s hard to find any particular faults with the monster design other than it pales in comparison to the individual qualities which make the other Mummies in the series distinguishable and unique. All in all, this is a meh effort. But it beats goofy CGI.