If anyone was waiting for yet another premature reboot of a franchise that had its last appearance less than a decade ago, they were definitely disappointed in what they got. The unlikely Tom Cruise vehicle (creatively renamed… The Mummy), didn’t test well to begin with, and despite the gobs of money spent on marketing and promotion, the film is headed to go down in history as one of the biggest duds of 2017. Its only saving grace lately is the fact that an even bigger flop, Transformers: The Last Knight, is bigger AND worse.
The unfortunate thing is that mummies have a long and storied career in the monster genre — a genre Universal pioneered in the thirties. Boris Karloff has become an immortal icon for his appearances in films like Frankenstein and, you guessed it, The Mummy. The 1999 Mummy spawned one of the most successful franchises in Universal’s history. Frankly, it’s a shame that this latest iteration will sully the reputation of the older properties. So, in an effort to save the reputation of such an enduring trope, we’ve compiled a list of mummies and mummy-centric movies that are way, WAY more worth your time and money than going to see the unfortunate mess Universal is trying so hard to pass off as cinema.
15. THE AZTEC MUMMY FROM LAS LUCHADORAS VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY
Guaranteed if Tom Cruise got on a loudspeaker and told everyone The Mummy was now called Las Luchadoras vs. The Aztec Mummy, you’d see it. We’d see it. Everyone would see it and Gal Gadot would probably demand a future Wonder Woman crossover deal. But, alas, no one had the foresight to remake THIS groundbreaking feat of filmmaking, and we really don’t know why. The film is actually the third of four in a series of Mexican sci-fi/horror movies based on Universal’s mummy movies of the 1930s.
The story’s pretty self-explanatory. A team of female Mexican wrestlers attempt to stop the sacrifice of a young girl to appease the newly enlivened Aztec Mummy’s desire for a mate. Complicating matters is the fact that the mummy turns into a bat or a spider at any given time. But fear not! Las Luchadoras are triumphant and the creature is subdued once more.
14. BUBBA HO-TEP
While Elvis-is-still-alive conspiracy theories still abound, we’re pretty sure Bruce Campbell is the only one who envisioned the King’s alternate history in quite this unique a way. In the cult classic, Elvis is alive and well, living out his last days in a nursing home with an African-American JFK. The justification for why these two are still alive (and why one has changed his race) is vintage Campbell, and if you haven’t seen it, we won’t spoil it for you.
Suffice it to say, the two get word that a Mummy is on the loose, stealing the souls of the other residents of their nursing home. They decide to get to the mummy-slaying, and the two make a pretty… killer team, despite being wheelchair-bound septuagenarians.
13. N’KANTU, THE LIVING MUMMY
There are several reasons we’d want to hang out with N’Kantu in any capacity instead of seeing The Mummy, not the least of which is his very dead, but very large heart. Born 3,000 years ago and a chief of an African tribe near the Egyptian Empire, N’Kantu was turned into a mummy after attempting to save his tribe from Egyptian enslavement. He leads a rebellion and even manages to kill the Egyptian emperor, but an evil priest essentially maces N’Kantu, who is then mummified and forced to retain consciousness in a sarcophagus for several thousand years.
Once he’s let out, he goes on a violent rampage in Cairo, but calms down enough to become of use to various Marvel enterprises in the coming years. During Civil War, he fought alongside the ranks of those opposed to the Superhuman Registration Act, and he was a member of the Howling Commandos.
12. ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY
In the classic, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, there’s more than just the one mummy. That’s right, not one, not two, but THREE mummies are there to amuse you in place of The Mummy’s piddling ONE. Abbott and Costello are in Cairo, see? And while they’re there, they manage to come across an enchanted medallion that not only leads to an ancient treasure, but also contains the key to waking an honest-to-Ra Egyptian mummy.
Abbott and Costello come to the obvious conclusion that the way to thwart both the robbery and the resurrection is to dress up like a mummy and fool their rivals. Their rivals have the same idea, however, AND they actually manage to complete the spell awakening the ACTUAL mummy. And that’s how three mummies appeared on screen for the first time in the history of American cinema.
11. AHKMENRAH, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM
We’re pretty sure that we’d rather spend time with most iterations of Rami Malek than half of what shows up in The Mummy, but the fact that he plays such a LOVELY mummy in the Night at the Museum franchise is too perfect to ignore.
If you’re not familiar (or you thought one of those movies was quite enough and stopped after the first one 10 damn years ago), Malek plays Ahkmenrah. He’s the resident Egyptian exhibit at New York’s famous American Museum of Natural History , and while he isn’t as… gregarious as Robin Williams’ Teddy Roosevelt or as bumblingly hilarious as Steve Coogan and Owen Wilson’s history mashup mini-buddy cop movie, he’s sweet and charming and just wants to do the right thing. In this case, he helps Ben Stiller regain control of the museum and the tablets that bring all the museum residents to life. So sweet!
10. MUMMIES ALIVE!
Just the premise of this adorable, albeit short-lived, cartoon is more interesting than the Universal Reboot No One Asked For Not Even China. In Ancient Egypt, an evil sorcerer kills a pharaoh’s son (Rapses) to become immortal. He’s caught and executed, but manages to revive in modern times and tracks down the reincarnated version of the boy, who lives in San Francisco.
The whole thing is a bit reminiscent of Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief and it’s made even more fun by the fact that Rapses’ bodyguards awake along with the evil sorcerer, so they head to San Francisco too. Fun fact: if you like Gargoyles, you’ll like Mummies Alive! — Eric and Julia Lewald who were writers and producers for the latter, also were head writers for the third season of the former.
9. TALE OF THE MUMMY
Otherwise known as The Other Mummy Movie from 1999, Tale of the Mummy was about as well-received as the latest incarnation. The British film follows the story of an Egyptian prince, buried in a cursed tomb as payment for his apparently evil ways. Predictably, some enterprising Westerners break-in, everything goes sideways, and the mummy gets loose. If you learn nothing from this list, please learn this: STAY THE FRACK OUT OF PYRAMIDS THAT DON’T BELONG TO YOU.
The movie climaxes in a ridiculous chase through London as an English archeologist and an American detective race to defeat the mummy before some kind of dangerous planetary alignment. BUT it’s still more worth your time than The Mummy not only because of the ridiculously convoluted plot, but also because Christopher Lee is in it. It can at least promise the fun of pretending Saruman is some kind of undercover archeologist.
8. MOONEYED MUMMY, THE SMURFS
Among their many adventures, the three-apple high blue tribe managed to get lost in time and wind up in ancient Egypt. As is common in very accurate, not at all make-believe time travel stories, the Smurfs encounter Gargamel’s dopplegang-y Egyptian ancestor, Gargatec, along with his cat, Azreal, in the form of cat pharoh, Azra.
Unsurprisingly, Gargatec is chafing under the cat’s rule, so he breaks into one of the pyramids and steals a ruby pendant from around the neck of a seemingly lifeless mummy. In a shocking (SHOCKING) twist, this wakes the mummy from its “slumber,” and it goes on to wreak havoc until the Smurfs set things right again. Well, first they screw everything up even more, THEN they set it right, mostly, per usual, thanks to Papa Smurf.
7. KAHMUNRAH, BATTLE FOR THE SMITHSONIAN
Okay, well maybe you wouldn’t want to get tea with this guy, but Hank Azaria’s Kahmunrah, Akmenrah’s bitter, grouchy older brother from the Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, is still far more entertaining than anyone in The Mummy. Upset that he was passed over for the Egyptian throne in favor of his much nicer and much cuter little bro, Kahmunrah wreaks havoc on the Smithsonian museum in DC.
His plan, which he’s clearly lifted from other inspirational villains like the Shredder or Pinky and the Brain, is to use the magical tablets that bring artifacts to life to take over the world. No moony whining over lost love here, thank you very much. This guy just wants all the power he can grab, like a respectable villain!
6. UNIVERSAL’S THE MUMMY: THE ANIMATED SERIES
Hot off the success of any franchise is its cartoon companion. Thus, in 2003, Universal launched The Mummy: The Animated Series, a cartoon loosely based on The Mummy Returns. The O’Connells’ son, Alex, puts on the magic (and hilariously irremovable) Manacle of Osiris that allows the wearer great power. So, naturally, Imhotep and the forces of evil come out in force to find the manacle and magic it off little Alex’s wrist. The O’Connell family is forced into a life on the run as they try to evade their enemies while simultaneously searching for the Lost Scrolls of Thebes, which hold the key to getting the stupid bracelet off their son for good.
The series only ran for two seasons, but in it, Alex becomes kind of a badass. In a surprisingly mature storyline, eventually the O’Connells discover that the Scrolls of Thebes were actually destroyed in order to prevent Imhotep from possessing the Manacle of Osiris EVER. So Alex just learns to wield the manacle and becomes a really powerful Medjai trained to fight the Mummy and whatever else may come along. Way to make some lemonade, kid!
5. THE MONSTER SQUAD
The Monster Squad is kind of like Goonies but with actual monsters and not just dead pirates and greedy developers. Dracula, a mummy, Frankenstein’s monster and a werewolf invade a suburban neighborhood (duh) and a group of monster-obsessed kids unite to defeat them. It might not sound like it’s worth your time, but Shane Black wrote this one. You remember Shane Black as a preeminent action writer with a list of credits as long as your arm.
It’s a charming little flick, and we dare you not to at least squee a little when Frankenstein’s monster decides he doesn’t WANT to be a villain and makes friends with a five-year-old after walking alone in the woods. This slightly-under-the-radar kid-friendly flick is high on the nostalgia, if low on actual mummy time. Still a better way to spend your time than watching the excruciating decline of Tom Cruise.
4. THOTH KHEPERA, BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES
Okay, so this one’s not technically a mummy, but she’s close enough. Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols voiced Thoth Khepera, the mummy responsible for Ra’s Al-Ghul’s immortality. She’s gorgeous (until she’s not), and not to be f**king trifled with. When Ra’s finally makes it to her tomb to steal her secrets, it’s literally filled with the corpses of people who’ve tried and failed to do the same thing. Considering she managed to boss around an entire empire for over a thousand years, she’s not someone you want to mess with, even in death.
It’s also immensely satisfying watching her suck the life out of the megalomaniacal Ra’s. Unfortunately, she’s not discriminatory when it comes to whom she wants to murder, and when she goes after Talia, Batman crushes the pseudo-mummy with a statue.
3. BORIS KARLOFF’S CLASSIC MUMMY
Universal’s original The Mummy from 1932 is still alive and well in the different adaptations it’s spawned. The 1999 film of the same name was actually a low-key reboot of the original story, with a helluva lot more bells and whistles attached. THAT movie, in turn, sparked the currently lamented Tom Cruise vehicle, though if Boris Karloff were alive today, he probably wouldn’t appreciate being associated with it. That’s because the original Mummy is an enduring representation of the classic monster movie genre, unlike its modern counterpart.
Karloff is magnetic in his portrayal of the eternally lovelorn Imhotep, and it’s the height of good-natured camp watching him bum around modern Cairo. Universal seems hellbent on resurrecting their own Monster Universe, so let’s hope their future forays into what were other Karloff vehicles like Frankenstein are a little closer to their original counterparts.
2. STEVE MARTIN’S KING TUT
Not that this needs much of an explanation, but Steve Martin’s iconic(ally weird and wonderful) musical interpretation of King Tut could be played on repeat in our homes for at least 48 hours before we got sick of it. Martin wrote the song and brought it with him when he hosted the 1978 episode. Lorne Michaels liked it so much, he threw a ton of the production budget behind him, making it one of the most expensive sketches the show had put on to date.
It turned out to be a great strategic move considering it’s become a perennial favorite and a classic example of Steve Martin’s unique style. If you’re as big a fan of the song as we are, you’d do well to check out the bluegrass cover by the Steep Canyon Rangers.
1. THE MUMMY 1999
Okay, while this movie absolutely does not deserve the comparisons to Indiana Jones that are constantly thrown its way, it’s still one of the most entertaining entries on this list. That’s a fact that makes this tragic reboot even more frustratingly unnecessary. Rachel Weisz is daffily adorable, and Brendan Fraser somehow manages to turn his caveman-esque persona into a charming intensity that makes the movie an enduring classic.
It’s an exciting, but lighthearted monster flick that never takes itself too seriously (or not seriously enough). Also, the sequels aren’t… awful. When you compare that to the fact that literally no one is looking forward to any of the other projects promised in Universal’s contrived AF monster franchise, it proves just how far ahead of the pack the 1999 feature is.
Which was your favorite rendition of the Mummy in pop culture? Let us know in the comments!
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