Imhotep is now old enough to drink. Well, I guess he already was plenty old enough, as the ancient Egyptian villain from the 1999 film The Mummy had been entombed for more than 600 years by the time he rose up from the dead. In the real world, though, it’s been 21 years since The Mummy hit theaters, as the beloved horror-adventure-comedy classic opened on May 7, 1999. Brendan Fraser was able to defeat Imhotep, but he wasn’t the only bandage-wrapped baddie around.
There have been many other Mummy movies, starting with the 1932 classic Universal monster flick starring Boris Karloff, who also famously played the creature in the 1931 Frankenstein movie. More recently, Universal rebooted the monster for a third time with 2017’s The Mummy, a Tom Cruise vehicle that failed to launch a much-ballyhooed “Dark Universe.”
With so many Mummies shambling around, and with the 1999 Mummy having just celebrated a birthday, it seems as good a time as any to see which supernatural foe would win in a fight. Which Mummy is the Pharaoh of Frights, and which get a bad wrap? Let’s meet the contenders:
The Mummy is a classic monster entirely because of this black-and-white movie. Universal turned Dracula and Frankenstein — both based on classic novels — into horror hits, and in the early ‘30s they wanted to make a monster based on Ancient Egypt. There was no pre-existing story to adapt, so instead Universal took inspiration from the so-called “curse of the pharaohs” that allegedly caused the untimely deaths of many people who opened Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922. Boris Karloff got wrapped up in the production, lending his intense, haunting gaze to Imhotep.
The 1932 Mummy is a good flick, but chances are modern viewers who are more likely to have seen the action-packed Brendan Fraser version would be bored. There’s really no action in the movie, and Karloff is only wrapped in bandages for one real scene (an admittedly haunting one where he first comes to life and the sight of him instantly drives a man to madness). Most of the action takes place 10 years after he’s been revived, and an unwrapped Imhotep covers himself with makeup and operates in ‘30s Egyptian society. He attempts to sacrifice a woman under the belief that she’s his reincarnated lover, Princess Ankh-es-en-Amon.
This Mummy is by far the most human of the Mummies. Rather than summon swarms of city-destroying CGI (this movie was made in 1932, remember), Karloff’s Mummy gets by with a hypnotic gaze and some heart-stopping magic spells. He’s really just a smart zombie, which is scary but not enough to compete with his blockbuster successors.
Unlike the original Imhotep, the 1999 version has a bunch of cool supernatural powers, including turning his whole body into bad CGI. So, yeah, there are some aspects of the 1999 Mummy that haven’t aged especially well, but more than two decades later, it’s a really fun adventure romp that deftly balances between Fraser at his most charismatic and some legitimately gruesome and exciting scares. If the first movie was a horror film with some romance aspects, this Mummy is primarily an adventure film.
As you might expect, the titular Mummy has a much more dynamic set of abilities. Imhotep, played quite well by Arnold Vosloo, doesn’t just slap some makeup on to make himself look like less of an emaciated corpse. No, this Mummy steals the flesh and organs from those who freed him from his sarcophagus. He’s also super-strong and able to hypnotize people, resurrect the dead, control massive amounts of sand or water, and at one point he causes a total eclipse of the sun.
Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) is the first female Mummy, and perhaps more importantly, the first Mummy to rampage in modern times (the 1932 Mummy was contemporary when it came out, granted, but the 1999 flick was set in the ‘30s as well). Perhaps because this Mummy no longer faces off against foes who have only pre-World War II weapons and technologies, she’s considerably stronger than even her '99 counterpart.
Ahmanet is faster and more agile than any other Mummy, and she’s stronger than any other contenders, too. Her powers are essentially leveled-up versions of the second Imhotep’s abilities. Her summoned sandstorms can turn an entire city’s worth of glass shards into a deadly maelstrom, and she can also force a murder of crows to make Sully look like child’s play. Her necromancy is highly advanced and she shares the '99 Imhotep’s ability to siphon the life force from living victims to restore her own form.
She boasts such a wide array of powerful abilities that she seems more like a supernatural supervillain, rather than a movie monster. That tracks, considering that the movie she’s from was taking after The Avengers and the MCU as much as it was cribbing from the 1932 Mummy who started it all.
SO, WHO WOULD WIN?
Look, no offense to the 1932 Mummy, but he’d get destroyed in this fight. Heck, enough normal people fighting over toilet paper might be able to take down the O.G. Imhotep. That shouldn’t be held against him, though. He’s a classic movie monster, and his subtlety is part of his charm.
Who would win in a fight between the '99 Imhotep and Ahmanet, though? Both have similar powers, but Ahmanet would probably take the day. It’s up for debate which Mummy’s sand-controlling abilities are more formidable, as Ahmanet does more damage, but Imhotep covers a lot of ground. Imhotep is able to cause a solar eclipse, and the implications of that are wild, but we’re giving the Golden Scarab to Ahmanet, if only because if they got into a hand-to-hand fight, Ahmanet would have the upper hand.
Plus, Ahmanet has already proven that she has the ability to destroy an entire universe — her and Cruise’s movie bombed, dooming the Dark Universe and taking down the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man, and Dracula with her.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBCUniversal.