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Every Mortal Kombat Movie Ranked Worst To Best

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The Mortal Kombat media franchise has inspired a huge number of video games, an animated series, two live-action TV shows, and multiple films, but the question of the franchise champion lingers. Some 25 years after the original live-action film was released, the decision to fire up the tournament once more feels like a gift to long-term fans, but it's also an opportunity to revisit the other films.

Bringing back some of the franchise's most recognizable characters in the likes of Lord Raiden, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Jax, Kano, and Sonya Blade, Simon McQuoid's reboot is a strong answer to why studios continue to mine video games for movies. Yes, there have been notable missteps, but time has been kind to 1995's Mortal Kombat to the extent that it's now considered one of the video game movies that didn't completely fail. If the initial success of the reboot translates into a more concentrated effort to launch a Mortal Kombat movie franchise - including spin-offs - that faith will be repaid in spades.

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RELATED: Mortal Kombat 2021: Every Character’s Powers Explained

But this isn't only the second time the Mortal Kombat games have been adapted for the screen, of course. In total, there have now been six films, varying in length and quality, but now that the newest chapter is out, it's time to crown a victor. Here's every Mortal Kombat film ranked.

6. Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins

While Paul W.S. Anderson's 1995 live-action movie is widely considered the first Mortal Kombat movie, that honor actually goes to its animated unofficial prequel. Released by Turner Home Entertainment straight-to-video (VHS and laserdisc), the 54-minute feature seeks to fill in some mythology gaps, telling the story of the titular tournament and some of the key characters through some particularly badly-aged animated segments. Out of print for years, it was included as an Extra on the 2011 blu-ray release of the main 1995 film and exists partly as a time capsule reminding everyone how far animation has come and partly as a welcome mythology builder that the 2021 reboot could probably have benefited from too.

5. Mortal Kombat Annihilation

Mortal Kombat's second live-action chapter allegedly has an excuse for being a poor sequel to the 1995 original: according to the film-makers Annihilation was simply not complete. Whatever the cause, Annihilation was a huge missed opportunity after the popularity of the original, despite the fact that a test screening of an early print was received so well that it was allegedly released without finished effects. It certainly feels unfinished.

Annihilation is escalation done wrong. It picks up immediately after the original movie's end and promptly kills off one of the franchise's most popular characters in what amounts to the prolog, which isn't the best start. And the agenda beyond that appears to be using as many Mortal Kombat franchise characters as possible, but the script and editing are so poor that ends up feeling something more like a conveyor belt than a means to add depth. In the end, it's remembered for its high number of inferior recasting choices and some embarrassingly bad effects sequences.

RELATED: Mortal Kombat 2021 Timeline Explained

4. Mortal Kombat: Rebirth

Though necessarily limited alongside its live-action Mortal Kombat siblings, Rebirth is arguably the most important step in the modern history of Mortal Kombat movies. Because while it's an enjoyable experience in its own right, the 8-minute film was intended to be a pitch to Warner Bros. by director Kevin Tancharoen for the job of making a new live-action MK movie. The tone feels a lot less supernatural than the other movies, with energy landing somewhere between The Raid and Sin City, but it's an intriguing spin, buoyed by a gruff performance by Michael Jai White as a non-metal armed Jax, a starry cameo by Jeri Ryan as Sonya Blade and some interesting reimaginings of iconic characters that seek to ground them.

The idea of Shang Tsung organizing a tournament of the world's best fighters and worst killers is also intriguing, but the removal of Mortal Kombat lore may have been too much for fans also contending with the murder of Johnny Cage. That said, his fight with Baraka, choreographed by Larnell Stovall was a brief shot of what could have been in combat terms and the short of course led to fan-favorite web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy.

4. Mortal Kombat (1995)

The cast of Paul W.S. Anderson's live-action adaptation may have been badly let down by the white-washing of Lord Raiden, but Mortal Kombat is a true nostalgic gem that often transcends its more frayed edges. It's far from the R-rated bloodbath some Mortal Kombat game fans may have been expecting, but what it does have is bags of charm and it never belittles the source material. It also embraces the game mythology proudly, offering a compelling take on the magical tournament that doesn't require any kind of lexicon to understand.

There are certainly elements that could have been done better - like Christopher Lambert's provocatively spelled Rayden and some of the effects work - but the critical response was always a little heavy-handed. There's a gleeful willingness not to be terribly po-faced about the sillier side of the lore and the choreography is mostly great. The past 25 years have been kind to Anderson's take on Mortal Kombat and it's just a shame he didn't return for the sequel.

RELATED: Mortal Kombat: Cole Young’s True Identity Explained

2. Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge (2020)

Though Rebirth breathed new life into the Mortal Kombat franchise and set Warner Bros. on the path to 2021's reboot, the next MK movie after its release came with animated film Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge in 2o20. Following closely to the plot of the early games, Scorpion's Revenge shares some narrative genetics with Simon McQuoid's take on the franchise as Raiden leads Earthrealm's champions and Sub-Zero and Scorpion's bad blood plays out. The major difference is the central tournament, in which Liu Kang, Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage compete to save Earth. It's in the dynamic between Scorpion and Sub-Zero that the film inevitably soars, though Joel McHale's Johnny Cage proves exactly why the character was such a miss in 2021's Mortal Kombat.

While the animation provides opportunity to embrace Cage's humor alongside the more tragic elements of Scorpion's story, it does hold back the potential for impressive effects and the action sequences are somewhat limited by the medium too. But all-in-all, it's a very close contender as the best Mortal Kombat film out there.

1. Mortal Kombat (2021)

It's not a flawless victory, but Mortal Kombat's reboot is the best offering of the franchise so far, without even including one of the most popular characters. The decision to focus on a new character in Lewis Tan's Cole Young could have been divisive, but it's a good way of bringing in a narrative heart without requiring a dump of exposition for him in what is already a packed marketplace. To the same end, the film makes compromises on lore and leaves out the Mortal Kombat tournament entirely, but it's all balanced well by the more intense focus on Scorpion and Sub-Zero's rivalry as the main supernatural element. That's the standout part of the narrative and while it's given a little too limited screentime, therein lies lots of potential for sequels.

The fight choreography is great, the effects are mostly very good and the fidelity to Mortal Kombat lore is a reward to those fans who have committed to the franchise for decades. There are some changes in there, such as the decision to update some character designs and to completely change Sonya Blade's fatality, but none are ruinous and the story mostly zips by as an excuse to set up more fights. The R-rating is well-suited, but it comes with the side issue that Mortal Kombat has now effectively killed off some of its most interesting characters in the name of added stakes. Still, there's always another fighter and always another fight.

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