Every Fighting Game Movie Ever Made, Ranked From Worst to Best

The story portion of fighting games has rapidly evolved over the years. What started with a simple framing device — often a tournament of the world’s finest — has grown into cinematic epics like last month’s Mortal Kombat 11. But video games aren’t the only place where these stories unfold.

With the release of MK11, I thought it would be interesting to go back and revisit the original Mortal Kombat movie: a work so crucial to MK history that one of the actors became the canonical version of his character. This revisit gave way to a deeper, darker rabbit hole of fighting game adaptations on the silver screen. Against my better judgement, as well as the advice of loved ones and my editor, I have plumbed the depths of fighting game movie history to rank each and every one I could find, for your amusement.

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A few things to note before we get started: First, most of these movies are bad. There is a definite line, right around the top five, where we start to venture into territory marking some level of quality. But if you’re looking for cinematic mastery, look elsewhere. If you are, however, a connoisseur of cheese and ridiculousness that would make the robots of Mystery Science Theater 3000 blush… Welcome. Sit down. Pour yourself a drink!

Second, I did draw some guidelines for myself. My list is strictly limited to films — so animated series like the Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter ones don’t count. This extends to any length of television special series as well. And so, sadly, the Darkstalkers OVA series (which is pretty alright!), Battle Arena Toshinden, and two of the Fatal Fury specials do not appear.

Third, some of these movies make use of gross and shoddy reasons to compel their characters, so please heed this content warning for scenes including sexual violence and assault, especially on the lower end of the list.

Without any further delay, let’s get to the good stuff!

Samurai Shodown Motion Picture

18. Samurai Shodown: The Motion Picture

When evaluating these films, I examined several criteria. Is this faithful to the source material? If not, does the film re-imagine the fiction in an interesting way? Are the fight scenes solid? Is it watchable by a normal human — the kind of person that would let a thought like “I should pitch a fighting game movie ranking” dissipate in the void of their brain?

Samurai Shodown fails in every last one of these respects.

Shodown opens with the end of all things, as the “holy warriors” fall to a traitor in their ranks. At the last moment, their souls are whisked away into the ether and sent forward in time to be reborn 100 years later, with the intent to overthrow the evil Ambrosia and the traitor Amakusa.

The padding that follows is a long stretch of Haohmaru, a stoic samurai in the games, acting like a fool in a remote village with no recollection of his past. His days are apparently filled with destroying the ecosystem (he crushes a hive of bees and murders a bear for absolutely no reason), until Amakusa’s army attacks his village and slaughters everyone. That includes Haohmaru’s “mother,” who reveals that she found him as an infant in the mountains. The holy warriors then arrive and try to convince Haohmaru of his destiny. The samurai joins, but only because he wants revenge, and so the group runs off to Amakusa’s castle.

Samurai Shodown is filled with laughably bad voice acting (especially for Galford D. Weller) and a wholly color-by-numbers plot that moves at a snail’s pace, despite only lasting a little over an hour. Fights are stop-motion frames cast over seizure-inducing light shows. By the end of the film, any viewer will gain little and retain absolutely nothing. I honestly question whether anyone could view this and decide they wanted to give the video game, an excellent fighting game in its own right, a shot.

King of Fighters 2010 Movie

17. The King Of Fighters (2010)

The King of Fighters opens with an interesting premise. Longtime protagonist Mai Shiranui (Maggie Q) enters a seemingly virtual world to compete in the King of Fighters tournament (via a proto-AirPod looking thing). She soon learns, after a mishap at a museum opening, that this virtual world is an alternate dimension containing the mystical evil Orochi. This grants ultimate but corrupting power, and a fighter named Rugal is hell-bent on mastering it. Recruiting her love interest Iori (Will Yun Lee) and despondent clan descendant Kyo (Sean Faris), they venture to stop Rugal from unleashing the power of Orochi.

The setup quickly falls away as the movie descends into all the falterings of any Hollywood adaptation of a video game. Rugal is reduced to a fourth wall-breaking villain whose character sheet would just include words like “wacky,” “zany,” and “crass” scrawled in crayon. Vice and Mature, a pair of female fighters in a relationship, are two badasses reduced to titillation and blackmail — and brainwashed by Rugal forcing a kiss on them.

While the story twists and turns in some interesting ways, each lacks any weight thanks to a number of hand-waves and never-ending urgency to get to the next fight. Terry Bogard, a street fighter and best in the world in King of Fighters proper, is a CIA agent for some reason, always playing the skeptic and not believing any of the mystical fantasy. This continues even after he sees it happen. The choreography is the one saving grace, as well as Will Yun Lee’s attempt to salvage some degree of acting out of Iori’s constant dance with the dark side.

Tekken 2 Kazuya's Revenge

16. Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge

This is the sequel to a movie we’ll visit further down the list: 2009’s live-action Tekken film. Understanding why this movie is bad does, however, require some knowledge of that original work. Here’s the short version: In Tekken, Heihachi is an ultimately sympathetic character who wishes the best for his people, while Kazuya, his son, ends up being the ultimate evil behind the scenes.

Tekken 2 attempts to erase that dynamic by establishing a sympathetic origin story for Kazuya, a character who rapes and then attempts to murder the mother of his child. So… There’s a lot of heavy lifting ahead.

Kazuya wakes up in a hotel room with no memory before a squad of police burst through his door, attempting to kill him. He escapes and soon finds himself in the vice of a man who calls himself the “Minister.” In Tekken’s corpo-state world (which is cool and we’ll get to later), the Minister is attempting to rally the poor, while also recruiting the less-willing by putting remote explosives in their chest.

As Kazuya gains the trust of the Minister’s people, including a nice janitor and a few femme fatales, he gets his own apartment and job as a contract killer. While he carries out his missions, he starts to fall for neighbor tenant Laura, and finally discovers his initials are “K.M.” A mission goes wrong when he finds out the target is Tekken regular Bryan Fury. After getting Laura’s help in removing the explosive from his chest, Kazuya teams up with jaded Minister assassin Rhona to take out the Minister and rescue Laura… who was kidnapped by the Gentek Factory.

The movie, up to this exact point, is serviceable (albeit convoluted and forgettable). Laura is a weak love interest, many of the scenes drag, and Kane Kosugi can only do so much as Kazuya, a character who seems written to retain as little personality as possible. While Kazuya’s fight scenes are impressive, every other character gets bouts reduced to a couple of punches, resulting in some severely anticlimactic fights.

But Tekken 2 hits its peak stride of bad in its climax, where it’s revealed that Heihachi was pulling the strings all along. He wiped Kazuya’s memory and released him into the city to see how he would survive — specifically referencing a similar practice in ancient Sparta. Then Laura walks down the stairs, revealing herself as a double agent for Heihachi… just before the two make out in a sloppy display only surpassed by her immediately falling to the floor dead. That’s because, apparently, Heihachi had poison on his lips. Before Kazuya can attack him, Heihachi says some sort of code word that makes him blackout, and dad disappears, with vengeful son now set up for his eventual turn. I sincerely wish I was making this up!

Street Fighter Legend of Chun Li

15. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

By this point, I’m sure you can guess that most of these movies (especially the live-action ones) use their source material as little more than set dressing, honoring it mostly in reference. While this can lead to some interesting takes on games that, for a long time, traditionally had little to no actual storytelling, it can also lead to movies like Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, a Street Fighter movie in name only.

Chun-Li is a concert pianist who learned wushu martial arts from her father: a businessman abducted during her childhood by an organization called Shadaloo. Shadaloo is led by a character called M. Bison, but who couldn’t possibly be that iconic villain, right? This version is both Irish, for some reason, and is somehow not the most outlandish adaptation in film history.

Anyway. Chun-Li gets a lead on Shadaloo and heads off to find this supposed Bison guy.

That side of the story is mostly your traditional Chun-Li v. Bison story of revenge, but it’s the periphery that really takes some leaps. A gaunt Chris Klein plays Charlie Nash, an Interpol agent who sparks up an affair with detective Maya Sunee as they trail after both Bison and Chun-Li — who trains under Gen to learn skills like literal fireballs. The story rapidly oscillates between the horrible acting of Klein and the comical rogue’s gallery backing Irish Bison, including Michael Clarke Duncan (as an admittedly inspired choice for Balrog) and the Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo (as a less-inspired choice to play Vega).

The plot is held together by gum and string, culminating in the revelation that Bison gained his powers by killing his pregnant wife and transferring his conscience into his daughter. While the fight scenes are solid, every other facet of this movie seems made by someone wholly indifferent to the Street Fighter label, which is baffling considering the Capcom logo that rolls at the beginning. It’s an altogether bad film that can’t even muster enough campiness to circle back around to “watchable.”

14. Tekken: The Motion Picture

In keeping with the spirit of Tekken: The Motion Picture, my blurb will be short and repetitive — mostly just hitting the major beats of its better inspirations. Tekken is an obvious attempt to cash in on the popularity of Street Fighter II The Animated Movie. It even cribs entire scenes (most notably the infamous Chun-Li shower scene, sans the following fight with Vega).

Several fighters gather on an island, fight each other across more seizure-inducing flash scenes, and poor voice-acting abounds. The best things Tekken: The Motion Picture does, in no particular order, include:

  • Heihachi throwing Kazuya off a cliff
  • Showcasing fringe favorites like Roger and King
  • GivingJun Kazama the importance she deserves in Tekken canon

Double Dragon Movie

13. Double Dragon

Double Dragon isn’t really a fighting game as much as a beat ‘em up, but I felt it merited inclusion for a few reasons. One, the two genres are inextricably linked thanks to sharing many mechanics and general gameplay concepts. Two, Double Dragon on the Neo-Geo (a.k.a. Double Dragon ‘95) is a fighting game called Double Dragon. Three, this is my list and I should be allowed to elicit some degree of joy from my otherwise Sisyphean pursuit of the end. And while Double Dragon isn’t necessarily that good of a fighting game movie, it is a concentrated pinch of the ‘90s preserved in amber and truly a thing to behold.

Set in a dystopian, futuristic “New Angeles” ravaged by earthquakes, floods, and nuclear fallout, brothers Jimmy and Billy Lee fumble their way into protecting one half of the titular Double Dragon amulet from the owner of its other half, Koga Shuko. Shuko (Robert Patrick) gleefully gnaws on the scenery of every shot as a business mogul who only adopts the Shuko name over his real moniker, Victor.

Most of the fighting is well below par compared to the other films here — often relying on Home Alone antics and gags instead of actual combat. As a martial arts movie, it really lacks, but as an action-comedy, it’s a fascinating time capsule.

At one point, Marian (portrayed by Alyssa Milano) tortures a steroid-mutated Abobo by force-feeding him her “special spinach recipe” through a funnel. This apparently causes him extreme intestinal distress, as evidenced by multiple dubbed fart noises and shocked expressions… It’s not quite the adaptation we’re looking for, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Double Dragon isn’t worth your time if you’re seeking a specific brand of ‘90s film.

Tekken 2009 Movie

12. Tekken (2009)

It’s time for a spicy take: In different hands, this live-action Tekken movie could have been great. While series director and producer Katsuhiro Harada derided it, Tekken sheds the narrative of its source material, and for a brief moment, the new fiction seems like it could stick (it does not).

Set in a future ruled by corporations, where borders are determined by the industries and moguls that define them, the King of Iron Fist tournament is a yearly martial arts battle between the corporations to determine the world’s best, earning the winner a life of luxury. It’s bizarrely Hunger Games-like. Though it precedes that film series by a few years, and sets up an interesting twist on the classic martial arts tournament setting. It also gives Jin Kazama, as a member of the poor and downtrodden dwellers of slums called the Anvil, who appears through the open-entry bracket after the death of his mother Jun, an interesting twist.

Each Tekken fighter retains their look and style from the games. That fits just fine with the televised, game show-like broadcast in-universe. The bummer is the actual stages themselves, which end up looking like something out of a Nickelodeon series and end up deflating the otherwise stellar choreography. Side characters like Christie and Raven aren’t very endearing, and Kazuya makes for an especially odious villain that the film goes to insufferable lengths to vilify. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa has an interesting turn as Heihachi. It’s a role sadly superseded by the awful sequel, but is nonetheless solid.

Deep down, Tekken has the framework to make an interesting story about fighting for entertainment in a corporate-ruled hellworld, but it loses that thread the second Kazuya gets involved and the production can’t keep up with the action.

Street Fighter Ties That Bind

11. Street Fighter IV:The Ties That Bind

This animation ended up serving as the great divide of my list. An animated feature presented as a story lead-in for Street Fighter IV, it is ultimately neither bad nor good — memorable nor forgettable. There is some good animation and a few solid fight scenes. There’s also a decent dub, some lip service to the basic tenets of Street Fighter lore, and a lot of long, tedious monologuing for those not in the loop. I wouldn’t recommend watching it, but I also won’t deter you from it.

Mortal Kombat Annihilation

10. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation

If you are a casual watcher of the occasional video game movie, this might be the first film on this list you’ve actually seen. Annihilation is often heralded as one of the quintessential examples of bad video game movies, too. Though after surveying the scene, it might not deserve all the flak it receives.

Taking place directly after the first Mortal Kombat, expectations were already high for this film. So it’s a huge disappointment when the opening scene revealed two starring characters (Sonya Blade and Raiden) were recast while a third (Johnny Cage) was immediately killed. Attempting to adapt the story of Mortal Kombat 3, Shao Kahn invades Earthrealm thanks to the resurrection of his dead wife Sindel, and the Earthrealm fighters are forced to regroup and bolster their numbers for the coming battle.

Annihilation mainly suffers from glut, as it tries to cram too much into too little time. Introducing multiple ninja (including the brother of a dead Sub-Zero) as well as Jade, Sindel, Motaro, Ermac, Sheeva, Shinnok, Shao Kahn, and Nightwolf… it’s hard to track why all these characters are on-screen. James Remar doesn’t have the same “it” factor as Christopher Lambert’s Raiden, and a lot of major plot points revolve around characters just moving from one fight to the next.

It lacks a lot of the charm and natural charisma of the original. Few of the fight scenes are as memorable, either — especially the questionable inclusion of ultimately meaningless “Animalities.” Although the resulting CGI is hilarious. Annihilation simply lacks in comparison, unable to live up to the ever-present specter of its predecessor.

Fatal Fury Motion Picture

9. Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture

While the prior two Fatal Fury films were short-length TV specials, The Motion Picture is a mostly standalone story. And it’s pretty solid! It tells an original story about the armor pieces of Mars — as well as the siblings, Laocorn and Sulia, caught up in the search for them — Fatal Fury is more of a worldwide romp of fun characters and fights than your traditional martial arts tournament setup.

Terry Bogard is front and center, flirting with love interest Sulia while they search for the armor pieces her brother Laocorn Gaudeamus is gathering. If he gets them all, he’ll be consumed and become the avatar of Mars, bringing ruin upon the world. Terry is an endearing protagonist, though it’s the supporting cast who really grew on me. Andy and Mai are a consistent source of humor, the latter teasing the former’s chivalry and properness. The fights ramp up in spectacle well, without letting the beams and blasts get in the way of the martial arts.

What ultimately holds Fatal Fury back are some of the more tired storytelling tropes, as Sulia’s strong story arc in the first half gets shunted into a damsel role in the back half, ultimately resulting in a literal repeat of a motivational story beat for Terry. If you have to constantly imprison or kill your female love interests to keep a protagonist motivated, you should really seek new inspiration. The final battle is also a little anticlimactic, thanks to those beats. The journey ends up being a lot better than the destination, but Fatal Fury at least manages to craft a new story in an existing world without losing the charms of its source material.

Street Fighter IV OVA

8. Super Street Fighter IV

Okay, so I cheated a little here. This is technically an OVA: a film short released to coincide with Super Street Fighter IV that tells the backstory and motivation of one of its leading villains, Juri. But hear me out! I think Juri is rad, so I wanted to include it.

But mostly, I’ve included Super Street Fighter IV because its short length, animation, and storytelling style convinced me that an original Street Fighter series could totally work. By focusing on Juri and the special forces that pursue her (Cammy, Guile, and Chun-Li), Super Street Fighter IV maintains a focus and narrative consistency that makes for an effective piece of brief storytelling. The aesthetic is eerily reminiscent of Ghost in the Shell, and the pacing keeps the action moving even through quieter dialogues and breaks in the fighting. I came out of this short sorely wishing for a Netflix Street Fighter series, and that alone makes it a solid entry on this list.

Street Fighter Movie Bison

7. Street Fighter (1994)

Much like other movies on this list, Street Fighter has comically little to do with its source material outside of essential set dressing. Instead, it’s like someone gave a director a one-page summary of the setup for Street Fighter II (M. Bison, evil and bad; Guile and Chun-Li, good) and said “Work with it.”

The result is Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raúl Juliá trying to out-ham each other, in a camp-fest you simply cannot recreate. Its story is a haphazard mess, with characters like Sagat and Dhalsim used to fill time, while Charlie Nash somehow becomes Blanka thanks to a Clockwork Orange machine. It is a glorious, beautiful mess that I love in spite of itself.

It is easy to assess that Street Fighter is not a good movie, nor a good adaptation of its game. But is it enjoyable? Yes, remarkably so. This is the perfect stuff of bad movie nights, where you gather some friends and beers and riff on the cheesy awfulness, laughing the whole time. Let me leave you with one last clip to convince you of this: Guile’s speech to his troops, after he’s been told to pack up the operation and leave Bison to conquer a nation.

Please do not try to convince me that is anything but brilliant. You will fail.

Street Fighter Alpha Generations

6. Street Fighter Alpha Generations

Something of a sequel, yet also a standalone movie, Alpha Generations is another entry that excels thanks to its focus on just one solid story beat. If you’re not a Street Fighter aficionado, the crux of Ryu’s arc has always revolved around the Satsui no Hado — a.k.a. the Surge of Murderous Intent. The fighting style Ryu employs is potentially lethal, addictively so, and he constantly wrestles with his inner demons to grow stronger without losing his soul.

Alpha Generations has Ryu training at a house, preparing to fight Gouki (a.k.a. Akuma), a former pupil of the fighting style who killed his master. It intentionally mirrors Ryu and Gouki’s separate struggles, asking whether Ryu is willing to succumb to the Dark Hado for power like his predecessor once did.

It’s a short but effective story that does still fall into some storytelling pitfalls, like a creepy grandpa peeping on his adoptive daughter and Sakura in the baths. For the most part, though, it’s a nice companion piece to the story of Street Fighter and a good look at Ryu’s character, especially as an extension of the Alpha movie.

Tekken Blood Vengeance

5. Tekken: Blood Vengeance

The only all-CGI movie on this list, Blood Vengeance is a “what-if” alternate timeline story, revolving around Xiaoyu and her quest to reunite with Jin Kazama. She does so by helping Anna Williams and Jin’s corporation to find a student named Shin Kamiya. Also seeking Shin are the humanoid robot Alisa and Kazuya’s G Corporation.

While it helps to have some background Tekken knowledge, in order to follow the higher-level corporate intrigue, the core story of Xiaoyu and Alisa bonding is a good time. And the CG allows fights to be spectacular without losing intricacy. Fighters can fully imitate their in-game combat styles, leading to some really solid battles near the end of the movie — when all three Mishima descendants arrive at the same locale to fight it out. Seriously, the three-way Mishima fight is worth the price of entry alone.

Ultimately, Blood Vengeance falls squarely in the realm of fan service, but if you’re down for some of that, it’s a better option than any other Tekken film and definitely better than most of the entries on this list. It’s a good time for fighting and it even has some solid (if somewhat unintentional at one point) laughs.

DOA Dead or Alive

4. DOA: Dead or Alive

When starting this list, I absolutely did not expect DOA to do well. I certainly didn’t expect it to land this high on the list, at least! Yet with every passing day, and each new entry I watched, DOA stuck in my mind. I’ve mentioned honoring your source material frequently, and it was all building to this moment. DOA: Dead or Alive is faithful to its source material bordering on obsession. And that is exactly what makes it so terrible and excellent at the same time.

Really. Think about it! What would a real, honest Dead or Alive movie be like? A bunch of martial arts action with interspersed moments of innuendo, comedy, caricature, and a volleyball sequence? That is exactly what this movie is.

Following Christie, Tina, and Kasumi’s entrance into the Dead or Alive fighting contest on a secluded island, each brings their own reason for attending — which quickly fall to the wayside in favor of action, comedy, and gratuitous fan service. Yet it has a surprising amount of heart; one scene in particular set the Fanbyte Discord ablaze.

There’s a running joke where wrestler Tina winds up caught in compromising positions with other (female) contestants in front of her dad, Bass (played by former real-world pro wrestler Kevin Nash). Bass’s embarrassed but open acceptance of these moments sells the movie as camp with heart — like he’s the Kiryu Kazuma of DOA.

It all culminates in an absurd plan masterminded by bad guy Victor Donovan: a pair of sunglasses that somehow grant superior martial arts prowess. Meanwhile, a nerd hacks his way off the island and into the heart of Helena Douglas. Even the ending is a complete non sequitur — with the four female leads holding katana, ready to fight a horde of ninja, while they playfully banter about which ones are cute. This is DOA, despite some liberties taken with the story, and manages to be enjoyably watchable as a result.

Street Fighter Alpha Movie

3. Street Fighter Alpha

Ryu’s struggle with the Dark Hado is the crux of Street Fighter Alpha: an unofficial prequel to Street Fighter II and the origin story for many characters in the Street Fighter universe. While the main plot is nothing new (it even includes an evil villain stealing moves from fighters using a martial arts tournament) the use of Shun as a foil to Ryu’s struggle works well.

Alpha also expands on the relationship between Ryu and Ken, where the latter feels like he’s on the outside-looking-in on all of Ryu’s struggles. Gouki/Akuma returns as well, allowing the movie to really explore the inner struggle of Ryu as a fighter trying to maintain his path without falling to the allure of power.

The animation is gorgeous, too. Each character gets proper screen time and development, from a young Chun-Li, to side characters like Rose, Sakura, and Birdie. While this entry isn’t ever talked about as much as its animated predecessor, it’s a wholly worthwhile film and almost as good. My only wish is that some fight scenes got time to breathe and play out; some near the end are a little rushed or cut away to other events, leaving some fighters feeling short-changed.

Street Fighter 2 The Animated Movie

2. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie

I struggled over my top two placing. Honestly, either one of these next films could take it on any given day. So let’s talk about one of the films that kicked off this adaptation frenzy: Street Fighter II.

Street Fighter II features a bevy of the game’s world warriors jetting around, trying to stop Bison’s plan to become an ultra-powerful fighter by observing the world’s finest in street combat. The plot moves along just fine, but it’s delineated enough to give every character room to breathe and develop a life of their own. Ryu, Ken, Guile, Chun-Li, even smaller characters get their own spotlights.

And there are the fight scenes. Street Fighter II has incredible animation, as punches and kicks flow and clap without any stop-frames or seizure-inducing highlights. The Chun-Li vs. Vega fight is iconic in its own way, but bouts like Ken vs. Bison on top of the latter’s massive helicopter are also wonderfully done.

Street Fighter II was so well-received that it started a minor movement. Animated efforts for games like Tekken, Battle Arena Toshinden, and Fatal Fury stem directly from this earlier movie. Many of them even pay strange homage to it by … recreating the Chun-Li shower scene? I’m not kidding, most of the movies on this list have scenes eerily reminiscent of it. The English dub adds just a touch of camp as well, by replacing a solid Japanese soundtrack with American grunge that was popular at the time. At one point, Ken is cruising in his convertible, loudly blasting Alice in Chains’ “Them Bones.” It’s just fantastic.

This is the movie that became a blueprint for many to come, and none could ever replicate it. Street Fighter II, a prequel in a sense to the game, was so popular it even became a basis for the Alpha sub-series in terms of design and storytelling. What could top that?

Mortal Kombat Movie Header

1. Mortal Kombat

Part of me knew this was coming all along. It’s the easy answer. It’s the expected answer. But I won’t stretch my mental capacity to deliver steaming hot takes, just to give you a little surprise at the end. (DOA already did that for me). Mortal Kombat is simply the best fighting game movie adaptation.

I want to start with the pitch-perfect casting. Every character in this movie is wonderfully performed — to the point that one portrayal (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shang Tsung) has, as of Mortal Kombat 11, become the canon version of said character. Christopher Lambert’s Raiden also gets a special shoutout, as a version of the character radically different from the game, yet equally enthralling. He captures the disassociated thunder god extremely well, with a touch of self-aware smarm.

There are so many good things about Mortal Kombat. It tells its story at a brisk pace, balancing fantasy elements with the grounded Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage. It introduces big bads for the protagonists to fight early, establishes their power, and then provides satisfying conclusions to their arcs. For a movie made over two decades ago, the only painfully dated part is the 90s CGI used to animate Reptile. Even then, it works just fine for such a minor element.

Is it campy? Hell yeah! But it also finds some heart in Robin Shou’s Liu Kang, and in the growth of Linden Ashby’s Johnny Cage over time. Add in that incredible theme song — which the directors and producers had the clarity of mind to simply let rock during the introduction and again throughout the movie — and you have the perfect blend of cheese, heart, video game, and movie.

While Street Fighter II came to define early adaptations of this genre(?), Mortal Kombat turned back around to changed the source material itself. A lot of the nostalgia for MK that exists today can be traced back to this film: from the theme song, to the fights against characters like Scorpion or Goro, to the brilliant casting. In 2019, Mortal Kombat is still perfectly watchable, and the best of its kind.

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