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Mortal Kombat's ultra-violent, R-rated fatalities, ranked

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Apr 26, 2021, 11:30 AM EDT (Updated)

There were a lot of reasons to be excited about the much-anticipated Mortal Kombat film. For one thing, it had been years since we'd seen one of the most beloved video game franchises of all time get the big-screen treatment, and fans were eager for an update. For another, it's a chance to see a diverse cast of actors embody fan-favorite characters in new ways. Then there's the vast mythology of the games and the many ways in which the film has the chance to grow it.

But come on, as enticing as all of that stuff is, a lot of viewers really just came for the fatalities. 

As any kid who's ever stayed up late with a SEGA Genesis will tell you, learning the ins and outs of each and every fighter's fatalities is one of the highlights of the Mortal Kombat experience, and the new film promised to do that feeling justice with the help of an R rating and 2021 visual effects. We were promised plenty of fatalities, and we definitely got them, but which ones were flawless and which ones were a little lacking? We're here to break it down. These are the fatalities of the 2021 Mortal Kombat film, ranked worst to best. 

Note: In the games, a fatality requires some very specific circumstances, but for ease of discussion here we're calling a "fatality" basically any time one major player kills another major player in the film. Also, it should probably go without saying that there are SPOILERS here, so proceed with caution.

Mortal Kombat Outworld champions

Sonya vs. Mileena

Well, Sonya Blade did say she wanted to take on Mileena, and while she got her wish, it all went down in an almost blink-and-you-miss-it way. Yes, Sonya was just coming off another cool victory moment, but it would have also been fun to see her use her newfound arcana just a touch more before blowing a hole in Mileena's torso. It's still a brutal kill, but it could have been more of a brutal moment for someone who's spent the whole film building to champion status.

Mortal Kombat Goro

Cole vs. Goro

Longtime Mortal Kombat fans love it when the big dog we call Goro shows up, and it was especially fun to see him go full monster in a rural setting on Earthrealm, where he was able to rampage free of the tournament setting. It was also fun to tie Goro's arrival to the fight in which Cole discovers his arcana, which takes his ability to be a punching bag and makes it magic. It's a great metaphor for his resilience, but when it comes to the actual fatality portion of the fight, it's not quite as imaginative as some of the others.

Still, Cole looks nice in his new magic shirt.

Mortal Kombat Shang Tsung

Shang Tsung vs. Kung Lao

This is an especially brutal fatality more because of who's on the receiving end of it than because of the circumstances surrounding it.

Yes, Kung Lao rules, and he'd just proved it a few minutes earlier (more on that shortly), so there's a genuine emotional reaction when Shang Tsung brings him in for the soul suck. What weakens the fatality just a bit is how it seems to happen purely so the other characters can be motivated. Kung Lao doesn't really get to earn it. He just gets... sucked. (Not sorry.)

Mortal Kombat

Scorpion vs. Sub-Zero (Round 1)

Before heading to the modern day and the real meat of the story, Mortal Kombat launches it narrative in 17th-century Japan, where the rival warriors Bi-Han and Hanzo Hasashi have an emotional, and ultimately tragic grudge match that sets up a key point of the film's mythos. It's a beautifully shot, beautifully performed sequence, and while the fatality is more emotionally than physically brutal, it still lands.

Honestly, one of the reasons it's ranked this low is that we ended up wanting more of it — more of the stakes that set up this fight. Still, it's a very solid piece of backstory.

Mortal Kombat Kano

Kano vs. Reptile

Arguably the first real "fatality" of the film, this encounter between Kano and a very reptilian version of Reptile is both a nice setup for the brutality to come and a very fun marriage of comedy and battle that helps set the tone for the rest of the film. The heart-ripping finale is good old-fashioned MK brutality, and the self-declared "Kano Wins" is the icing on the bloody cake.

Mortal Kombat Sonya

Sonya vs. Kano

This is one of those kills that was basically telegraphed from the very first moment we met Kano and Sonya explained how he got his dragon mark even as Kano ribbed her for not having one of her own. Still, the fact that we knew where it was going doesn't diminish the fun of it finally unfolding.

Watching Sonya basically pulling a Home Alone on her old pal in her own house is a delight, as is the way it all wraps up. Imagine being so egotistical about your super laser eye only to then die when someone you hate stabs you through it with a garden gnome. 

Mortal Kombat Jax

Jax vs. Reiko

Of all the major antagonists in Mortal Kombat, Reiko is probably the least developed in the film itself, so it perhaps makes sense to just pair him off with the bruiser on the good guys' side, Jax. Still, we weren't sure how invested we'd be in the fight, particularly after Jax already had his big power moment when he gained his robot arms in the first place. Props to Mehcad Brooks for turning us around on that, and absolutely selling this victory in such a brief time. The brutal finish followed by the NSFW final quip was beautiful.

Mortal Kombat Liu Kang

Liu Kang vs. Kabal

Despite the tremendous power of his arcana, Liu Kang spends much of the film feeling like the guy who'd like to be everyone's pal, who's just happy to be there and do his part. Then his adoptive brother dies, and that's when the dragon comes out.

Watching Ludi Lin's masterfully bombastic performance as he unleashes a fire monster on Kabal, taking all his rage over Kung Lao's death out on him in the process, is a thing of beauty. 

Mortal Kombat Scorpion

Scorpion vs. Sub-Zero (Round 2)

After an entire film full of teases that he would finally return, Scorpion makes his dramatic entrance in a blaze of Netherrealm fire just in time to help Cole deal with Sub-Zero, and it's everything we were hoping it would be. Sure, you could chalk this victory up to the pair of them taking on the ice ninja at the same time, but here's why we think this win belongs to Scorpion and only Scorpion: When we were kids, watching Scorpion breathe fire on his opponents was one of our favorite things in the world. For that reason, plus the emotional buildup that it pays off,  we adore this moment.

Mortal Kombat Liu Kang and Kung Lao

Kung Lao vs. Nitara

We are willing to admit that this is not the most emotionally resonant moment in Mortal Kombat. That said, it's a man cutting a flying vampire in half with his hat, and that will never not be bonkers amazing.

If you do want to talk resonance, though, it's a great character moment because it allows Kung Lao to really show his stuff after being the tough talker in the temple for much of the film. He's showing Kano and anyone else who's paying attention exactly what he can do if you can cross him, and it's poetry in motion. It's the kind of thing that really makes us wish he'd have survived the film — because we want more hat saw tricks in the sequel. 

Also, again, just in case you're not getting it: He cut her in half. With his hat. It's awesome