We rank the top ultimate action video game crossover films of the Mortal Kombat franchise!

The Mortal Kombat video game franchise has a good reputation with action movie fans. A martial arts tournament where the winner decides the fate of humanity, characters with goofy superpowers, and crazy brutal violence should also be a guarantee for a full dose of kick-ass action on celluloid. Three live-action movies have been released so far, and all of them were were filled to the brim with fights. After the second film, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, tanked at the box office, we had to wait until 2021 before a new attempt was made to bring the franchise to the big screen. 

In this ranking, we’ll have a look at the three movies that have been made until now. For each film, there is also an in-depth article you can check out in case you want to know more. Let’s hope we can expand on this list in the future as one or more sequels to 2021’s Mortal Kombat keep coming in. So what are we waiting for, test your might!

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3) Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)

After the success of the first film, the inevitable sequel was made. A new tyrant from Outworld has a hunger for annihilating earth, and so the mighty heroes led by Lord Raiden once again fight for their life and that of humanity. The first Mortal Kombat had a solid story, cared for its characters, and created an atmospheric setting. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation drops all of this baggage and replaces it with a lot of dumb stuff. Even more than the first film it tries to cram as many tropes of the Mortal Kombat universe into its run-time, but nothing really fits together. 

Acting, sets, special effects, it’s all just one big, chaotic mess. On the upside, the fight scenes are solid, and radiate a lot of energy. The film is a product that is so wrongly executed in almost all aspects that it achieves uniqueness only in doing so. The best experience you can have with watching it is that you’ll be oscillating between disbelief at what you’re seeing, occasionally enjoying the absurdity, and being able to appreciate the fight scenes. If a serious trash factor is something you like in your movies, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was made for you.

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2) Mortal Kombat (2021)

The movie series got canceled in 1997 after the bizarre extravaganza Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, but the video games became even more successful over the years. And finally in 2021, a new attempt was made to bring the franchise to the big screen, this time with the promise to fully unleash the brutal violence of the games onto the audience. Shang Tsung and his minions seek dominion over earth, and as usual, they just need to win one more Mortal Kombat to achieve their goal. Thunder god Raiden assembles the best martial arts fighters earth has to offer and prepares them for the ultimate showdown.

The film checks all the boxes to needed to please the fans of the game. We get the familiar characters with their costumes and special powers, including the fatalities, for which the film more than earned its R-rating. And while Mortal Kombat succeeds in bringing these parts of its template to the big screen, the makers forgot to make a consistent movie. Clunky dialogues, boring villains, and a very uneven quality distribution of the fight scenes put some brakes on the spectacle. Overall it’s mission accomplished, but just barely, and let’s hope the possible sequel can kick it up a notch.

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1) Mortal Kombat (1995)

Video game adaptations were not held in high regard in the early 1990s after disasters like Super Mario Brothers and Street Fighter, and the unspectacular Double Dragon. But Mortal Kombat set things right big time. The film also marked director Paul W.S. Anderson’s rise to fame (or notoriety, depending on your point of view) as an expert for video game adaptations. Outworld sorcerer Shang Tsung seeks to conquer earth and just needs to win one more Mortal Kombat tournament. The mighty Lord Raiden assembles the best martial artists earth has to offer to defeat Shang Tsung and his champions.

Mortal Kombat has everything you would want from a kick-ass action movie, good pacing, no drama, a legendary techno soundtrack, and pretty awesome fights that are relying on very earthly martial arts for the most part without goofy superpowers. There’s no gore, but the absence of extreme violence fits the overall tone quite well. These days we would call it campy fun, but back then the film was a fairly sincere effort, and it also works well because you needn’t be a fan of the game to enjoy it. 

Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa nails it as Shang Tsung being in super hardcore evil mode all the time, and casting Christopher Lambert as Raiden as Raiden is just priceless, a singular stroke of insanity in an otherwise fairly balanced film. Up to this day, Mortal Kombat is one of the best video game adaptations, director Anderson’s best take on the genre by a wide margin, and the also best Mortal Kombat film created so far.

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