Mortal Kombat from 1995 to 2021

All the ‘Mortal Kombat’ Movies, Ranked From ‘Fatality’ to ‘Flawless’

A handful of people on a leaky boat are gonna rank some movies.

Mortal Kombat is a franchise that’s been attempting to expand beyond its video game roots for decades. As you’ve probably guessed from the headline, we’ll be delving into the film series—animated films included (yes, all three animated movies).

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We’ll be ranking the movies from “slice this apart with Kung Lao’s hat” to “all right, I’ll respond to this with an autograph from Johnny Cage,” a.k.a: worst to best.

The worst is obvious: Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)

An immediate go-to example whenever video game movies are talked about with disdain, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is one of the worst things to happen to the franchise (and to cinema itself). A major downgrade with effects, soul-suckingly lackluster fights, plot threads no one asked for (WHY are Shao Kahn and Raiden BROTHERS?!), and a lightning round of characters that’s a disservice to them all (RAIN DIDN’T EVEN GET TO FIGHT WTF???). Honestly, you’d be better off watching cutscenes from Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero.

Does anyone even remember this one?: Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins (1995)

Released as a tie-in to the original Mortal Kombat movie, this straight-to-VHS (and Laserdisc) animated film is a mixed bag of questionable sequences and laughable CGI—that I’m sure they were very proud of back then. This served as an origin story for certain characters, told through Raiden’s POV, and also had some behind-the-scenes footage of the live-action movie. Was it good? No. Did I watch it on repeat because I was 12 and wanted more MK content? Yes.

Kinda all over the place: Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms (2021)

This is one of those movies that really could’ve been a series. There’s a lot going on and only about 80 minutes of film to try to get through it all. You got the Lin Kuei cyber initiative, Scorpion’s got the key to Shinnok’s imprisonment bound to his soul, Shinnok’s trying to revive the “One Being” and end all creation, and there’s STILL a tournament—it’s just so much in so little time. The games, at least, had hours of story mode to play through when things went off the walls.

Always here for Scorpion: Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge (2020)

About half of the movie is about Scorpion wanting revenge for the death of his family, while the other half, is the main MK story with Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, and Sonya fighting for Earthrealm. It’s an interesting retelling of the original Mortal Kombat that gives Scorpion a more prominent role, but I waffle between wanting this to solely be about him and liking how much he ends up interacting with Liu Kang and the others. One thing I will say is that this is definitely worth a watch if you want a brutal MK story.

The potential is there: Mortal Kombat (2021)

Not a bad attempt at a Mortal Kombat movie—especially since it has characters who have no right to be as entertaining as they were (looking at you, Kano). It does have its rushed plotlines, odd explanation for characters having powers, and unnecessary characters (sorry Cole), but the fights are fun, the violence is fantastically brutal, and the parts they get right they really get right (Scorpion and Sub-Zero). The nods to other characters and series lore leave us with interesting possibilities for the sequel, let’s just hope we don’t get a repeat of Annihilation.

The best: Mortal Kombat (1995)

To this day, the original Mortal Kombat movie is one I can recite line for line. What can I say, it’s comfort food for me. It’s cheesy, it’s got entertaining fight choreography, the characters are delightful to watch, and it’s got the best video game movie theme song of all time. Sure, there are flaws you can point to, but I’m honestly too busy giggling about Johnny Cage telling Goro “this is where you fall down.” There’s a reason why the game series recognizes the impact of the 90s film. A handful of people on a leaky boat really can save the world.

(Featured image: Warner Bros/New Line Cinema/edit by Briana Lawrence)

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Briana Lawrence
Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)