The Mortal Kombat Movies Are Utterly Bananas, As They Rightfully Should Be

Mortal Kombat is an integral part of '90s culture, as are the two film adaptations inspired by its loose narrative. While gaming movies are almost exclusively always bad, the first Mortal Kombat film actually managed to turn a profit.

The original film's success paved the way for blockbusters films like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Resident Evil, as it proved people wanted to see their favorite games brought to life. The sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, was less groundbreaking, but still fun in a “what the f*ck am I watching” sort of way.

Stories from the set of Mortal Kombat make it sound like everyone had a great time making the first film, sans Cameron Diaz, who broke her wrist while training and had to step down from her role as Sonya Blade

The commercial failure of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation halted plans for another full-length sequel, but the behind the scenes stories from the original two films give die hard fatality fans a glimpse at the amazing video game movie that never happened. 


  • The First 'Mortal Kombat' Was An Unexpected Success

    The First 'Mortal Kombat' Was An Unexpected Success
    Video: YouTube

    No one expected a movie about an arcade game to make bank, but the first Mortal Kombat film grossed $122.1 million on an $18 million budget. In addition to slaying at the box office, the soundtrack managed to go platinum, selling over a million units just 10 days after it was released. 

    This success shocked pretty much everybody, including the cast and crew. In the days leading up to Mortal Kombat's premiere, director Paul W.S. Anderson was terrified the film would flop, so he decided to go on an impromptu vacation to Hawaii during the opening weekend. 

    In a retrospective interview, Anderson told the Hollywood Reporter, "we get to the middle of absolute nowhere in Hawaii and I read the movie is No. 1. And I go 'Damnit! Why aren't we in LA?' I've got the number one movie. I should be in LA making the most of it."

  • Cameron Diaz Almost Starred As Sonya Blade

    The list of Hollywood heroes who were almost cast in the first Mortal Kombat movie reads like a rap sheet of every famous person from the '90s. While tons of stars (such as Sean Connery and Johny Depp) didn't make the cut, Cameron Diaz was cast as Sonya Blade thanks to her performance in The Mask. 

    Lauri Apelian, the film's associate producer, described seeing Diaz on-screen to the Hollywood Reportersaying, "As soon as we saw the dailies from The Mask, there was no question that she was a star. We put her into training, because she had not really done this kind of martial arts work before."

    Unfortunately, Diaz broke her wrist during a practice session, and had to be replaced by Bridgette Wilson-Sampras.

  • Tom Cruise Wasn't Allowed To Visit The Set

    Before moving to Thailand for the majority of the shoot, the first month of filming for Mortal Kombat took place in Santa Monica, CA. After wrapping on Fridays, the crew liked to frequent a bar located by the airfield where Tom Cruise owned a hangar.

    One fateful night, Cruise (who was actually considered for the part of Johnny Cage) stopped by the bar, but an on-set medic wouldn't let him in. Linden Ashby (who was picked to play Johnny Cage) said Cruise asked if he could hang out, to which the medic replied, "You're not in this movie. Go away!" Cruise objected, saying, "I just want to see," but the medic was adamant, and turned him away. 

  • No One Cared For The Sequel

    The first Mortal Kombat film succeeded in part because the cast and crew came together to make the best of a tough situation. Despite the tight budget and mandated PG-13 rating, the crew tried to keep the mood light while on-set, and leaned into guilty pleasures intrinsic to the fantasy karate genre. Unfortunately, none of this brilliance stuck around for the film's sequel. 

    For various reasons, all but two of the original cast members refused to reprise their roles for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. While some allegedly had scheduling conflicts, many were likely turned off by the script, which (judging by the final product) was a complete mess.

    In a 1997 review for Entertainment Weekly, film critic John R. Leonetti condemned Annihilation, calling it "fragmented and monotonous, without a semblance of the gymnastic cleverness that at least made the first Mortal Kombat film into watchable trash... as debased as movies come."

    Other critics seemed to agree. As of 2018, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation has a 3% score on Rotten Tomatoes. The single positive review listed is a 2003 retrospective published in a daily newspaper from Lawrence, KS.  

  • Danny Glover And Sean Connery Were Considered To Play Raiden

    When it came time to cast Raiden, the franchise's thunder god and appointed defender of Earth, the film's creators had a lot of options. In a retrospective interview, co-creator Ed Boon explained how the original game "never showed his face that clearly... so we never really defined a race," meaning Raiden could theoretically be played by anyone. 

    This creative freedom allowed the crew to consider a wide array of actors. Associate producer Lauri Apelian described the selection process, saying: 

    We... inquired about Sean Connery for the Raiden role. But we understood at that time that he really wanted to golf. He wasn't interested at that time in doing a physical role.

    While at first, Boon was convinced the film would be canceled prior to the start of filming, his attitude began to change as they started seriously considering actors: 

    All of a sudden we were getting phone calls about casting and they were saying, 'What about this guy for this character? What about this guy for that character?' I remember them saying, 'What do you think of Danny Glover as Raiden?'

    While Boon admits Christopher Lambert was not the first actor he thought to call, he also believes "Lambert did a great job" with the role, as "he brought a lot of his own personal performance to it." 

  • The First Film's Soundtrack Got A Sequel

    The First Film's Soundtrack Got A Sequel
    Video: YouTube

    The original Mortal Kombat movie's soundtrack is remarkable. It's loaded with danceable electronic tracks and songs from some of the most popular metal bands of the 1990s. Within 10 days of its release, the record went platinum, and earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most successful video game spin-off soundtrack album. 

    The soundtrack was so popular that a second complication album titled Mortal Kombat: More Kombat released the following year in 1996. While the sequel record is not tied to any film, a few of the featured songs were later used in other Mortal Kombat releases.