The Mummy is a classic Universal movie monster whose appearance on the silver screen spans almost a century, from origins in a 1932 black-and-white movie to the 2017 Tom Cruise iteration.

Most iterations follow the same basic story premise: a figure from ancient Egypt is buried alive as punishment for defying the gods and is brought back to life when archaeologists plunder their grave despite copious warning. Currently, there are other Dark Universe properties in development following Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man such as a Karyn Kusama led Dracula and a James Wan produced movie that many suspect to be Frankenstein. However, no update to The Mummy has been announced.


From 1931 to 2017, there are plenty of things to love and criticize in The Mummy movies. At their worst, they fall into problematic Orientalism. At their best, they speak to consequences of colonialism, indulging the supernatural adventure streak within audiences. Here’s how the many different iterations of the creature feature rank, from worst to best.

10. The Mummy (2017)

The Mummy was so ill-received by critics and audiences alike that it forced Universal to reevaluate its approach to the Dark Universe. Many fans were frustrated by the movie’s focus. Its mummy Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) is a compelling, well-executed character who doesn’t get nearly enough screen time, shunted aside to develop the much blander storyline of Tom Cruise’s Nick.

9. The Mummy’s Tomb (1942)

The second movie in a quadrilogy about the mummy Kharis’ (Lon Chaney Jr.) quest for vengeance, it offers little new. Its use of footage from the prior movie slows its already glacial pace. The Mummy’s Tomb falls into the realm of the forgettable: not a bad watch, but not a good one either.

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8. The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor (2008)

Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor suffered from problems in execution. The CGI was notoriously bad, while the comedy often veered into the overtly cheesy. Changing setting from Egypt to China was an interesting idea, but the film ultimately lacked the charm of its predecessors.

7. Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)

Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy is a hollow parody that, aside from providing a few laughs, doesn’t bring much new to the table. There is certainly some fun slapstick humor throughout, but it isn’t the most creative cross-over between the comedic duo and classic movie monsters.

6. The Mummy’s Ghost (1944)

The plot of The Mummy’s Ghost is somewhat repetitive: a mummy seeks to bring the woman he loves back to life through a living vessel. However, the film’s presentation is fun and captivating, providing a surprise ending in a series that had, until that point, followed predictable story beats.

5. The Mummy’s Curse (1944)

One of the most interesting things about The Mummy’s Curse is the amount of agency it gives to Ananka (Virginia Christine), a female mummy. While most films play a game of cat-and-mouse between the Mummy and his love, this final installment sees both Ananka and Kharis actively pushing the plot forward.

4. The Mummy’s Hand (1940)

The Mummy’s Hand imbues the monster flick with light-heartedness. While some of its comedy is overtly racist and sexist, the movie also introduces Marta (Peggy Moran), a smart, savvy woman who holds her own and steals every scene she’s in.

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3. The Mummy Returns (2001)

The Mummy Returns captures many of the same beats that made its predecessor charming, leaning into Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weiss’ onscreen chemistry. Dwayne Johnson is memorable as the Scorpion King, while the bracelet that locks onto Alex’s (Freddie Boath) arm remains a goosebumps-inducing plot mechanic to this day.

2. The Mummy (1932)

This 1932 feature is a classic for a reason. The Mummy uses slow, measured tension to move its plot forward. The reciprocal love between Imhotep (Boris Karloff) and Ankh-es-en-Amon (Zita Johann) is refreshing, especially compared to the more predatory representations of later movies.

1. The Mummy (1999)

The Mummy blended the archeological adventure of Indiana Jones with the forbidden supernatural dread. Fraser is his usual charming self, but it is Weiss’ Evie that has stood the test of time: intelligent, self-assured, her femininity never negates from her strength. Highly rewatchable, the movie is a cult classic.

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