Romping through jungles in search of imminent danger and hidden treasure, the irrepressible Lara Croft is dashing back into theaters this week in a flashy new Tomb Raider feature starring Alicia Vikander and helmed by Norwegian director Roar Uthaug.
In the spirit of the season, and to prime you for more intrepid missions into ancient ruins, let's turn to the inspiring realm of fan films, where amateur enthusiasts churn out an admirable array of not-for-profit odes to their favorite franchises.
The British archaeologist and aristocratic adventurer first burst upon the video gaming scene in 1996 with the first Tomb Raider video game. From these brash beginnings the franchise has branched out into a media empire that includes more than a dozen video games along different timelines, comic books, tie-in novels, clothing, an animated series, and two Hollywood feature films starring Angelina Jolie, 2001's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and 2003's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life.
Slip on your tank top and hiking boots and let's trek along with Lara into SYFY WIRE's ranking of 12 Tomb Raider fan films that display a wealth of ingenuity and imagination.
Watch them all from the safe confines of your couch, then chime in to tell us which ones take the prize.
Tomb Raider Reborn 2013
Let's kick off the countdown with this little gem filmed in some interesting forested locations with abandoned concrete bunkers substituting for exotic ruins. Lara is effectively played by Aurelie Charissiadis and she makes for a tough, scuffed-up heroine fending off some brutal gun-toting thugs. Extra points for the evocative desaturated color scheme it was filmed with, giving it an added layer of atmosphere.
Tomb Raider: I Am Lara Croft 2013
Here's a fantastic re-edited trailer for the 2013 Tomb Raider video game that manages to be even better than the official release promo. Crafted by Raymond Croft (likely no relation), it builds in intensity using dramatic music and clever imagery from previous Tomb Raider video games to tell its haunting 2-minute tale of survival. An evocative and beautifully effective effort!
Raider Origins 2013
Another dedicated offering in the form of Canadian director Jerome Kruin's taut short recounting Lara's plane crash onto the island and the hunt for Kubla Khan's storied treasure. Beautiful location shooting and intriguing storytelling surrounding the suspected beginnings of the Tomb Raider Saga. Stars Irina Andreea as a kickass Lara who ends up in an unexpected cliffhanger in a torch-lit cave.
Lara Croft and the Orb of Truth 2013
A noble attempt at a fun short film playing in the Tomb Raider sandbox. Directed by Keegan Larwin, the 3-minute project follows Lara Croft as she happens upon a gang of scientists, historians, and archaeologists from which she steals the mystical Orb of Truth. Strong use of the moving camera and displays some budding talent in a brief outing into the enchanting Tomb Raider realm.
Tomb Raider: No Angel
Witness this excellent fan film written, shot and directed by UK-based photographer and digital artist Andrew Dobell. It stars captivating cosplayer Tabitha Lyons as Lara while she searches for a priceless artifact inside a secret tomb (is there any other kind?) where she encounters a greedy female treasure hunter named Anasaticia whom she encountered once years earlier. Injected with the essential flair and flavor of the franchise and carries a sassy spirit in tune with the character's dominant personality.
Lara Croft vs. Nathan Drake 2012
Let the smackdown begin! This is an epic edition of Bat in the Sun and Machinima's Super Power Beat Down that matches up sexy adventurer Lara Croft (Tess Kielhamer) against the hunky treasure hunter Nathan Drake (Chandler Maness) of the Uncharted gaming franchise. Place your bets and watch two heroic legends collide!
Tomb Raider: The Endless Path 2012
Italy gets in on the Tomb Raider fan film fun with this promising project written and directed by Daniele Misischia for Noose Industry and starring Marta Pecchia as the ambitious fortune seeker. Features a genuine love for the geeky details of the franchise with a battered and bruised Lara Croft brandishing her weapons against a cadre of heavily-armed villains amid gorgeous jungle-like settings. Sub-titles included. What's not to like?!
Tomb Raider: The Lost Valley 2013
A worthy effort shot with zero budget in one day, directed and animated by Graham Jones and starring Anna Tyrie as Lara. It's based on the 2007 Tomb Raider: Anniversary game and its The Lost Valley gameplay level. Infinitely watchable with atmospheric lighting, lush verdant foliage, and a charismatic performance by Tyrie as she dispatches hungry dinosaurs en route to locating an ancient temple. A top contender for sure!
Tomb Raider: Book Of The Dead 2013
Capably written and directed by Eric Vence Green for Throwback Studioz and spotlights the lovely Tory Steele as Lara and Keith Brooks as Robert Pierce. The intrepid English treasure hunter snags the Book of the Dead in the Peruvian jungle but her nemesis steals the supernatural relic from her and plans on resurrecting an army of zombies to take over the world. Lively and well-crafted. "Give me the power, I beg of you!"
Lara Croft: After Island 2015
Check out this awesome short written and directed by Russell Martin where a younger Lara Croft attempts to get some rest in a European safehouse after the turbulent events on the Island. However, her temporary peace is disturbed by a commando crew of assassins and she must crack some skulls and empty some clips to get away. A fine effort from Poland with professional production values and crisp,clean stuntwork.
With nearly three million views on YouTube, this passionate effort is a gun-blazing, blast into the world of Lara Croft. It's directed by Trevor Addie and stars Cassandra Ebner as the English adventurer risking everything to save a young girl held hostage in the rugged mountains of British Columbia by a ruthless band of mercenaries. A spirited attempt that benefits from superb fight choreography, solid actiing, fluid camerawork, and a flurry of flying bullets. Plus, they got a freakin' helicopter!
Tomb Raider: Divinations 2015
Here's the second fan film from director Graham Jones with the always watchable Anna Tyrie again playing the daring archaeologist. This effort feels more evolved than his first short and explores Viking and Saxon Dark Age entanglements, with Lara Croft investigating a Saxon burial ground while getting absorbed in the location's deadly past. Jones excels in his storytelling here and the script and pacing is particularly effective. Oh, and it's got a squad of skeletal warriors too! Watch it twice for good measure!