You can’t have a fighting game without a tier list. And since the Mortal Kombat movie has classic characters from all over the iconic franchise, it naturally warrants a tier list of its own.
The Mortal Kombat movie doesn’t officially launch in Australia until Thursday, April 22, and it’s basically a back-to-back extended fight sequence with the occasional bit of exposition in between. So with that in mind, it only makes sense to treat the movie the same as the video games — by ranking each of the characters from most useless to the most broken.
Let’s begin. Obviously, if you’re hoping to avoid spoilers, then you might want to click out and come back after you’ve seen the movie.
Right, let’s get into it.
F Tier: Goro
In the original Mortal Kombat games, Goro is effectively a mini-boss, the Prince of Outworld and one of your major “tests” before facing Shang Tsung. Canonically, Goro is supposed to have been the champion of the 9 Mortal Kombats straight — even defeating Kung Lao in his first tournament, something Shang Tsung apparently couldn’t even do. But in the 2021 reboot, Goro is so shit he ends up getting his arse kicked by Cole, the MMA fighter who a) ends up throwing his first fight on screen because he doesn’t know how to control the cage properly and b) hasn’t even fully unlocked anything special beyond taking even more of a beating than normal.
Just embarrassing. Get out of here Goro, you’re trash.
D Tier: Raiden, Cole, General Reiko, Jax
What does an MMA fighter, a lightning God, a Kiwi with a giant hammer and a dude with mechanical arms have in common? They all suck. The biggest disappointment of the lot is Raiden, who contributes precisely nothing to the actual fighting in Mortal Kombat. I’m not even joking: after seconding everyone to a dank-arse cave in the middle of South Australia (and a brief sojourn to some random white void), Raiden reminds everyone that he’s not allowed to get involved in the Mortal Kombat tournaments, even though Shang Tsung and Outworld are literally just straight up assassinating champions before the tournament.
If this was a tier list of Mortal Kombat‘s middle management, Raiden would probably be S rank. But for actual fighting? Dude would be worse than Goro, except he puts Kano on his arse a couple of times, which is pretty funny.
Cole fits into the D tier because, honestly, he’s actually a rubbish fighter. The dude loses by submission in his first fight after basically having his opponent in an armbar. (Who we don’t end up seeing for the rest of the whole movie.) He gets his arse completely beat by Kung Lao, who starts wondering whether Earthrealm should just let Outworld invade. It’s not until Goro shows up — who accidentally triggers Cole’s powers by going after his family instead of just kicking Cole’s arse first — and even then, Cole’s powers don’t really extend beyond being able to take a beating.
Also, if you watch the movie, there’s an unintentionally hilarious moment in the final fight. While Scorpion and Sub-Zero are bashing away at it, you can actually see Cole bashing away at the ice on the background. Instead of just helping Scorpion in the fight — and this is moments after Cole specifically told Raiden that everyone should fight Sub-Zero as a pack.
Useless and a dumb-arse. As for Jax and General Reiko, they end up here because, frankly, they don’t really get to do anything. Jax spends the majority of the film chasing after Cole, lying on his back and getting morale support from Sonya Blade. Losing your arms early on will kind of do that to you. Reiko shows up towards the end as one of Shang Tsung’s lackies, swinging around a hammer that looks like it was nicked from Shao Khan. He ends up getting quite literally clapped to death later on, and showcases no special ability or powers along the way. Given what everyone else can do, they both belong at the bottom of the barrel.
C Tier: Nitara, Mileena
I feel like this one is just from a lack of screentime or opportunity, more than anything else. Out of the two, Mileena’s powers get showcased the most towards the end. She’s able to teleport around a lot, and when she’s finally done with all the bullshit, her jaw widens to unveil a seriously impressive set of teeth. She also kicks the shit out of Sonya the first time around, and I feel like if she just stopped giving a shit from the start, Mileena could easily bite the legs/back muscles/arms off people from behind and win just about every fight imaginable.
But maybe mutilating people with your face isn’t everybody’s thing. It’s certainly not Mileena’s. All I’m saying, she’s got some untapped power there.
As for Nitara, the most we get to see of her is that she can fly and divebomb the shit out of people. There also seems to be some kind of echolocation thing going on, as she confuses the shit out of Kung Lao for a while using sound until he eventually decides to close his eyes and just stand in the middle of a pit of sand. Because hey, why bother moving if you know the enemy’s going to come to you anyway?
B Tier: Kung Lao, Shang Tsung, Sonya Blade
Shang Tsung doesn’t actually fight in Mortal Kombat, but unlike Raiden, he does actually get involved by showcasing a modicum of ability that indicates he’s someone to be feared. Bonus points for actually enjoying sucking out someone’s soul like you’re screaming out your lungs in a mosh pit, too.
Kung Lao has his teleport through the floor ability going on, and the way he deals with Nitara — and the Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks/MK9-inspired fatality is one of the best effects in the film by a mile. Sonya Blade also gets credit for how she deals with Kano — physically and verbally — but she’s mostly her because fuck me her OG Mortal Kombat powers seem broken. When you see it in the film, you’ll know what I mean.
A Tier: Liu Kang, Kabal, Sub-Zero, Scorpion
Liu Kang is one of those fighters who has always been kind of good by default, and as the champion of Earthrealm (and a sort-of acupuncture triage specialist?) he’s naturally a tier above all the other regular humans. His fight against Cabal is a pretty good fight, even though it has that ’90s style of one character loses, then the other character loses, and then you have the final finisher.
Still, Liu Kang can summon fire-breathing dragons and holy shit is the dude ripped. Forget the traditional 6 pack: Liu Kang’s rocking more like a 29 pack. He looks like he literally lives off water, boiled chicken breast and Vita-Weats. No wonder he’s punching literal fire.
That said, Liu Kang’s nowhere near as fun as this:
Scorpion/Hanzo Hasashi and Sub-Zero are the best hand-to-hand fighters in the movie from start to finish, and Sub-Zero has the benefit of being able to just freeze anything he wants from the off. It’s not only the most impressive sequences in the film, but they’re also the most lethal. Sub-Zero is probably the most threatening presence in the entire movie — most of Outworld’s presence actually comes from Sub-Zero leading the charge, rather than Shang Tsung doing anything.
Kabal’s attributes of super speed and the range from his swords have always made him a reliable pick. From the moment he shows up in Mortal Kombat he looks like the biggest threat next to Sub-Zero. He also helps move the plot forward after it starts to stall, and while it might not have been intentional, Kabal’s fights are also the ones that most closely mirror what playing Kabal is actually like.
S Tier: Kano
Why? Because lasers beat frisbee hats any day of the week.