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Audiences across the world fell in love with the swashbuckling Rick O’Connell and brilliant librarian Evelyn in the 1999 action-adventure The Mummy, which marked the start of a movie franchise. Completely different from the 1930s and ’40s Universal horror films (and the Hammer horror films which followed), the Stephen Sommers remake of the 1932 classic creature feature follows the unlikely pair as they battle against the undead Egyptian high priest Imhotep on his crusade to destroy humanity, combating his supernatural powers and terrifying plagues he unleashes upon the land.

The Sommers installments focus less on being straight horror films and more on adventure and romance, impressively incorporating comedy, special effects, and exciting action sequences in the thrilling Egyptian tale. The success of The Mummy went on to spawn two direct sequels: 2001’s The Mummy Returns and 2008’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, while also inspiring the 2002 prequel/spin-off The Scorpion King (and a lengthy wave of direct-to-video Scorpion King sequels).

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The entertaining and engrossing pictures helped further establish Brendan Fraser as a Hollywood leading man, and served as Rachel Weisz’s international breakthrough role, launching the pair to worldwide stardom. Dwayne Johnson made his cinematic debut in the 2001 sequel, and even nabbed his first leading role in the franchise’s prequel The Scorpion King, setting records in the process.

The Mummy trilogy were blockbuster hits that helped make monster movies hot commodities again, masterfully blending romance with horror, adventure, and humor, together that resulted in a fun and wild ride for audiences. Universal Studios attempted to reboot the beloved franchise in 2017 with the Tom Cruise-starring action movie The Mummy, which ended up being an ill-fated endeavor and box office blunder. Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy films are currently available for streaming on HBO Max.


The Mummy Movies in Chronological Order

The Scorpion King

Chronicling the electrifying rise to power of the legendary Egyptian Scorpion King Mathayus of Akkad, the 2002 action-adventure film The Scorpion King features Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in his first leading role. The former WWE superstar portrays the fierce desert warrior as he battles to protect his homeland and city of Gomorrah from a ruthless evil ruler. In the spellbinding picture, the assassin Mathayus enlists the help of the magical sorcerer Cassandra and a horse thief named Arpid to fight against the oppressive King Memnon, who wishes to exterminate the nomadic tribes of the desert. Though it serves as both a prequel and spin-off to the Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy trilogy, The Scorpion King was actually released after both The Mummy and The Mummy Returns in the lucrative franchise.


The character of the Scorpion King was previously introduced in 2001’s The Mummy Returns, in which the fabled warrior vows to give his soul to Anubis in order to defeat an opposing army; when he is victorious, the Scorpion King is dragged down to the Underworld, emerging thousands of years later as a monstrous, terrifying creature. In the prequel, the character is named Mathayus, is depicted as a powerful and noble hero as opposed to bloodthirsty villain. Dwayne Johnson made the Guinness Book of World Records when he nabbed top-billing in The Scorpion King, earning $5.5 million and becoming the record holder for highest-paid actor in their first leading role.

Related: Best Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Movies, Ranked

The Scorpion King garnered mixed reviews but was a commercial success, grossing over $180 million and propelling Johnson to Hollywood superstardom; his triumph as a leading man helped kick off his exceptional cinematic career. It spawned four straight-to-home videos not directly related to The Mummy trilogy, and a reboot of The Scorpion King is currently in production, with Johnson serving as a producer. The prequel helps to further establish the timeline and events leading up to the 1999 blockbuster hit The Mummy, which kicked off Sommers’ installments.


The Mummy

Stephen Sommers directed the 1999 fantasy action-adventure extravaganza The Mummy, which centers on American adventurer Rick O’Connell as he guides brilliant librarian and aspiring Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan and her bumbling older brother Jonathan to Hamunaptra, City of the Dead, for an archeological dig.

The sensational picture begins in Thebes in 1290 BC, where high priest Imhotep is having an affair with Anck-su-namun, the mistress of the powerful Pharaoh Seti. After their forbidden romance is discovered, Imhotep flees and his lover kills herself under the belief that he will resurrect her. His attempts to do just that are interrupted by the Pharaoh’s bodyguards, the Medjai, who bury the high priest alive and are sworn to prevent Imhotep’s return for all eternity.


The film picks up in 1926, after O’Connell is saved from impending death in a Cairo prison by the savvy Evelyn, who convinces the former French Foreign Legion captain to lead them to the mythical city since he is one of few men who have ever visited Hamunaptra and lived to tell the tale. The trio meet a band of treasure-hunting Americans led by Rick’s cowardly former acquaintance Beni Gabor, who are being watched by the Medjai and their leader Ardeth Bay. After reading from the Book of the Dead, Evelyn inadvertently awakens Imhotep, unleashing a terrifying curse upon the land that leaves bloodshed and violence in its wake. It’s up to Rick, Evelyn and the Medjai to send the high priest back to his Underworld grave.

Brendan Fraser stars stars as the swashbuckling, charming hero Rick O’Connell, appearing alongside Rachel Weisz in the film, with the duo captivating audiences with their dazzling onscreen chemistry and amusing banter. Sommers spent a year working on the screenplay, wanting to direct a romantic adventure with horror elements that included a scarier and more threatening monster than the shambling, bandaged mummy in the classic films.

Arnold Vosloo was awarded the role of Imhotep after a single audition, having told Sommer he wanted to play the part “absolutely straight. From Imhotep’s point of view, this is a skewed version of Romeo and Juliet.” The Mummy went on to garner praise for its performances, special effects, and fresh take on the old school creature feature, with its critical and commercial success leading to the 2001 follow-up, The Mummy Returns.

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The Mummy Returns

After defeating the vengeful undead high priest Imhotep, the 2001 adventure horror film The Mummy Returns picks up with the now-married Rick and Evelyn O’Connell in 1933, in which the danger-prone duo now have an eight-year-old son named Alex and live in a sprawling estate outside of London. The sequel begins with a flashback to 3067 BC, depicting the Scorpion King as he leads an army to conquer the world; after being defeated and exiled to the desert of Ahm Shere, the warrior promises his soul to Anubis in return for defeating his enemies. Upon his victory, Anubis claims his soul and is sent to the Underworld. While exploring ancient ruins with their son, Rick and Evelyn discover the powerful Bracelet of Anubis, setting forth a chain of events that threaten all humankind.

When an Egyptian cult resurrects Imhotep by using the Book of the Dead, with hopes he will defeat the Scorpion King and command his army, Alex is kidnapped by the cult’s enforcer Lock-Nah and the physical reincarnation of Anck-su-namun. The Bracelet of Anubis locked around his wrist and showed him a vision of Ahm Shere, with the boy being forced to lead the cult and revenge-seeking Imhotep to its location. Rick and Evelyn set out to rescue their son with the help of her brother Jonathan and loyal friend Ardeth Bay, battling against the undead and the living on their quest to save Alex. An epic showdown between Rick (who discovers he is a descendant of the Medjai), Imhotep and the monstrous beast the Scorpion King ensues, with only one emerging triumphant.

The Mummy Returns features much of the original film’s cast including John Hannah (Jonathan), Arnold Vosloo (Imhotep), and Oded Fehr (Ardeth Bay), in addition to new cast members like Freddie Boath as the inquisitive Alex and a great Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as the merciless fighter and foe of Ardeth, Lock-Nah. Many of the actors suffered for their craft during production, with Brendan Fraser having cracked a rib, torn a spinal disc, and injured his knees, and Dwayne Johnson having suffered from heat stroke and food poisoning. Rachel Weisz’s epic fight scene with Patricia Velasquez’s Anck-su-namun took five months of training, and they did their own stunts without any stunt women. The Mummy Returns was a massive hit at the box office and with moviegoers, once again leading to a third and final film, 2008’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

The Mummy trilogy underwent quite a few changes both in front and behind the camera with its final installment, the 2008 action-adventure The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Steven Sommers stepped away from directing duties for the picture, instead passing the torch to Rob Cohen and serving only as a producer, while Rachel Weisz departed the franchise and the role of Evelyn was taken over by Maria Bello.

The overall setting shifts from Egypt to China, and focuses more on the O’Connell’s now-adult son Alex (Luke Ford) as he discovers the mummy of the first Emperor of Qin, the evil warlord Han the Dragon Emperor who was granted immortality but was mummified alive with his soldiers. When Rick and Evelyn arrive in China to return the ancient gemstone known as the Eye of Shangri-La, a rogue military leader named General Yang steals the stone and resurrects Han, believing he can heal China after the turmoil of World War II.

The O’Connells and Evelyn’s brother Jonathan must band together to stop Han from reaching Shangri-La and awakening his vicious army, joining forces with the guardian of the emperor’s tomb Lin, who possesses the only weapon that can kill the powerful warrior: a cursed dagger. The father and son find themselves in an epic showdown against Han, something the now retired Rick knows all too well after his misadventures in Egypt. The concept of The Emperor and his army was based on the real-life Qin emperor Qin Shi Huang, who was actually buried amongst thousands of terracotta soldiers, known as the Terracotta Army.

Related: 12 Best Brendan Fraser Movies, Ranked

The critical and fan reaction to The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was lackluster and condemning, with many believing the installment failed to capture the magic and charisma of its predecessors; audiences were dismayed by the new setting and missed the appearance of Oded Fehr’s Ardeth Bay and Rachel Weisz’s Evelyn. Brendan Fraser was praised for his uncanny ability to bring charm to any scene, and martial arts star Jet Li also earned positive feedback for his performance as the villain Han.

The third film did go on to earn $400 million at the box office, yet was the trilogy’s lowest-grossing installment. While there were early talks of a potential fourth picture, Universal Pictures canceled such plans and instead decided to reboot the franchise completely with the ill-fated 2017 Tom Cruise led action-adventure film The Mummy.

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The Mummy (2017 Reboot)

Intended to kick off the Dark Universe that would be based on the classic Universal Monsters made famous between the ‘30s and the ‘50s, the 2017 fantasy action-adventure film The Mummy features action legend Tom Cruise as U.S. Army Sergeant Nick Morton, who pillages ancient artifacts to sell, but in the process accidentally awakens the entrapped Egyptian princess Ahmanet.

Plans for a modern reboot of the franchise were first announced in 2012, with Cruise signing on in 2015 to lead the epic picture. Variety reported that the actor had excessive control over the film in nearly every aspect of production, allegedly leading to creative discord between him and director Alex Kurtzman. Kurtzman called the experience “brutal” and described The Mummy as “probably the biggest failure” of his life, having said on the Bingeworthy podcast:

I tend to subscribe to the point of view that you learn nothing from your successes, and you learn everything from your failures. And that was probably the biggest failure of my life, both personally and professionally. There’s about a million things I regret about it, but it also gave me so many gifts that are inexpressibly beautiful. I didn’t become a director until I made that movie, and it wasn’t because it was well-directed – it was because it wasn’t.

It’s hard to comprehend a movie that made over $400 million at the box office could possibly be considered a failure, but due to the high production and marketing costs the film needed to make at least $450 million to break even; it ended up losing Universal Studios between $60-$100 million. Not only did The Mummy fail to recoup costs, it also was ineffective at connecting with audiences and reviewers, with many criticizing the reboot for its plot points, tone and overall performances.

As with any reboot, there are going to be countless comparisons to the original picture(s), and it seems that audiences just couldn’t get on board with Cruise running around the City of London, kicking butt against a legion of zombies and a seriously enraged mummy. What began as a high-concept opening to an extensive series of new horror remakes from Universal based on their classic monsters, with The Mummy, many considered that the Dark Universe failed before it even began.

The Mummy Movies in Order of Release Date

Return to The Mummy Movies in Chronological Order


The Mummy Needs a Legacy Sequel with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz

The Mummy Needs a Legacy Sequel with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz

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