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Who’s who in Mortal Kombat? A brief guide to every fighter in the upcoming movie

Mortal Kombat movie
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Mortal Kombat movie is almost here but, unless you’ve followed the iconic fighting series from its '90s arcade heyday, you might feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of kombatants making their on-screen mark in the 2021 movie.

Away from the characters, the premise is simple: several fighters have been chosen to take part in a fight-to-the-death tournament, as well as representing one of the main ‘realms’ – Earthrealm, the franchise’s version of Earth, or the monstrous Outworld, home to all manner of warlords and warriors. If one side wins 10 times in a row, they get to conquer the other. So, there’s more than just personal pride at stake. But it’s the faces behind the fatalities that will intrigue just as much as the outlandish concept.

Whether you’re an expert on all things Netherrealm or are heading in wide-eyed to your first bloody, brutal Mortal Kombat experience, it won’t hurt to ensure we’re all on the same page before the buckets of blood start filling the screen in the R-Rated adaptation.

That’s what this guide is for: a quick lowdown on what we know about all the runners and riders in the Mortal Kombat movie, including their big trailer moments and a brief glance at their previous video game histories in the hopes they’ll clue us in on what to expect moving forward.

After all, Mortal Kombat includes a rich, vibrant cast filled with literal gods, ice-wielding assassins, and soldiers. Once you know who’s who, you can enjoy who’s left standing once the dust finally settles.

Cole Young (Lewis Tan)

Mortal Kombat movie

(Image credit: Warner Bros/New Line Cinema)

Cole Young is a unique case in the Mortal Kombat movie – he’s not based on any pre-existing character and appears, at least on the face of it, to be a wholly original creation.

As evidenced by the trailers, Young is an MMA fighter, albeit one with a very distinctive birthmark on his chest. Fans will recognize it as the Mortal Kombat logo, and it’s an indicator that Young has been ‘chosen’ for a “tournament of champions” known as Mortal Kombat.

He’s the lead of the movie and, for the time being, on the side of the angels. He’s seen talking with Sonya Blade in one scene from the trailers as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

Goro (Angus Sampson)

Mortal Kombat movie Goro

(Image credit: New Line Cinema/Warner Bros.)

Goro hasn’t been spotlighted much in Mortal Kombat marketing so far. The only appearance of the multi-armed warrior has been when he’s seen facing off with Cole Young in a fight sequence.

In the games, he’s usually positioned as a monstrous threat, a skilled fighter, and a one-time champion of the Mortal Kombat tournament – for over 500 years. He’s also half-dragon, naturally, and can count literally ripping people’s arms off among his specialities. Not a guy to mess with, then.

Jax (Mehcad Brooks)

Mortal Kombat movie

(Image credit: Warner Bros/New Line Cinema)

Jax in the movie is pretty close to his video game counterpart: he’s a member of the Special Forces and comes equipped with a nifty pair of bionic arms. That imbues him with super-strength and is best characterized by his no-nonsense head-popping fatalities in the game series. He also outranks Sonya Blade, in case military hierarchy is your thing.

In terms of the 2021 movie, the trailers and teasers have shown him to be part of the motley crew looking to take down an impending threat. That threat could even be Sub-Zero, whom Jax encounters (and fails to shoot, with Sub-Zero freezing the bullets) in one climactic trailer scene.

Kabal (Daniel Nelson)

Mortal Kombat Kabal

(Image credit: New Line Cinema/Warner Bros.)

Another who has mostly kept to the shadows in Mortal Kombat’s promotional material, Kabal is also among the most secretive in the games too. Sporting a mask with glowing red eyes and a Darth Vader-like respirator, Kabal is also handy with the pair of swords he has draped over his back at all times.

In the games, Kabal shares a history with Kano, with the latter nursing Kabal back to health after an attack and even gifting him his unique mask. He was also the head of the Black Dragon Clan, a gang of mercenaries for hire.

As such, Kabal traditionally double-crosses whoever he’s working for – or sides with whoever is offering the most coin and leverage. The duplicitous fighter, though, is only seen flanking villain Shang Tsung in the trailers so far. Expect him to butt heads (and clash swords) with the likes of Cole, Jax, and Liu Kang – as seen in a featurette.

Kano (Josh Lawson)

Mortal Kombat Kano

(Image credit: New Line Cinema/Warner Bros.)

In the movie – at least to start off – Kano is actually missing his distinctive metal plating around his right eye. What he isn’t missing, though, is his trademark red laser beam. He’s seen firing that off at an unknown assailant in February’s first trailer.

Curiously, Kano appears to align himself with those on the side of the good – at least judging by the trailer, though he also clutches a human heart in his hand in one scene. In the games, he’s part of the Black Dragon Clan (of which Kabal is leader) and has locked horns with Sonya Blade and Jax throughout the series’ history. Whichever side he’s on, expect him to fire up his usual fatality: a no-nonsense laser beam that disintegrates anyone unlucky enough to be caught in its blast.

Kung Lao (Max Huang)

Mortal Kombat Kung Lao

(Image credit: New Line Cinema/Warner Bros.)

A Shaolin monk may not be the best fit for a fight to the death – but this is Mortal Kombat we’re talking about here. Kung Lao’s skillset doesn’t just extend to his fists, either. While he is a highly skilled martial artist, he also possesses a razor hat that can cut opponents in half.

So far in the trailers, we’ve seen Kung Lao fight side by side with Liu Kang, and he’s been putting that hat to good use. He’s used the headwear as both an offensive weapon and as a shield. Expect him to be one of the more entertaining fighters to watch in the movie.

Liu Kang (Ludi Lin)

Mortal Kombat Liu Kang

(Image credit: New Line Cinema/Warner Bros.)

In the games, Liu Kang is one of the most noble and righteous fighters. He’s also usually positioned as the main protagonist of the franchise – even winning the very first Mortal Kombat tournament. He’s adept with his fists, and can even summon fireballs. Liu Kang’s main fatality, though, is transforming into a dragon and consuming his foe. Ouch.

Interestingly enough, Liu Kang’s movie look is heavily inspired by Netherrealm Studios’ recent Mortal Kombat games, which saw Kang briefly become corrupted and installed as the ruler of Netherrealm – the franchise’s version of Hell. A sign of things to come, perhaps?

Mileena (Sisi Stringer)

Mortal Kombat movie

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Mileena has already undergone her fair share of controversy before the credits have even rolled on the movie.

Some fans were disappointed by Mileena’s killer hook – her toothy, razor-sharp fangs – being not quite on par with the games. "That’s not all of her," producer Todd Gardner said on Twitter, hinting there’s more hiding behind her iconic mask.

As part of Outworld’s troupe, Mileena wields a pair of Sai blades and is a famed assassin. In the games, Mileena is also the heir to the Outworld throne held by Mortal Kombat’s iconic villain Shao Kahn. We don’t know yet if he’s in the movie – but Mileena could offer up the easiest pathway to introducing the hammer-wielding tyrant.

Nitara (Mel Jarnson)

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A rare outlier, Nitara is one of the few confirmed characters in the Mortal Kombat movie that we’ve barely seen in promotional material. Writer Greg Russo has posted a glimpse on Twitter but, if she’s anywhere close to her game counterpart, she’s going to live long in the memory.

Hailing from Outworld, Nitara is a winged vampire with a taste for blood. Her Fatalities traditionally pack bite as she deploys Dracula-style techniques to drain the essence from whomever she’s up against. She’s also likely to be more of a deep cut character for newcomers to the series – she hasn’t made a fully-fledged appearance since 2006’s Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.

Raiden (Tadanobu Asano)

Mortal Kombat movie

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Arguably the most powerful figure in the Mortal Kombat universe, Raiden is a god of thunder and is the designated protector of Earthrrealm. In the movie, he gathers together those with the Mortal Kombat dragon mark to help train for the impending tournament.

In the opening 10 minutes of the movie, Raiden also makes his presence felt: he arrives via lightning bolt after a climactic confrontation (which we won’t spoil here) and sets the events of the movie in motion. For many, it’ll be interesting to see if his power levels are dampened or we get to see the true arsenal of Raiden’s lightning-based attacks.

Scorpion (Huroyuki Sanada)

Mortal Kombat movie

(Image credit: Warner Bros/New Line Cinema)

One of the most well-recognized figures from the games, Scorpion is, essentially, an undead ninja having been resurrected on multiple occasions in the franchise. His primary nemesis is Bi-Han/Sub-Zero (something that is backed up by their tussle in the recent trailers) and is best known for his “Get over here!” catchphrase and chained spear attacks.

Scorpion often walks the line between good and evil, though the recent Netherrealm Studios games has positioned him more as an anti-hero that ultimately fights with honor. He's one of the main characters in the 2021 movie – and could potentially be a major force moving forward if there are sequels and spin-offs.

Shang Tsung (Chin Han)

Mortal Kombat movie

(Image credit: New Line Cinema/Warner Bros.)

Mortal Kombat often features characters that change allegiances on a seemingly game-by-game basis. Not so for Shang Tsung; the dude is straight up evil. Acting as a host of some Mortal Kombat tournaments, Tsung is anything but hospitable thanks to his penchant for stealing souls and mimicking the styles of the vanquished fighters.

In the movie, he’s seen flanked by Kabal and Mileena hinting that, yes, his intentions are not god. The sorcerer may hail from Earthrrealm, but his intentions are almost always self-serving – even if he rarely sees the need to get involved in the bloody and brutal fights himself. The 2021 movie also sets him up as the main villain and is someone who commands Sub-Zero to do his bidding.

Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee)

Mortal Kombat movie

(Image credit: Warner Bros/New Line Cinema)

A member of Earthrrealm’s Special Forces, Sonya Blade has an antagonistic relationship with Kano – one backed up by the soldier taking down the Australian motormouth in one of the movie trailer’s main desert-set scenes.

In the game series, her fighting style mirrors her military background, with the exception of her Fatality, a ‘Kiss of Death’ that is quite literally a flaming kiss blown to her opponent. In the 2021 movie, she is seen alongside her colleague, Jax, and is one of the key players when it comes to protecting Earthrrealm ahead of the Mortal Kombat tournament.

Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim)

Mortal Kombat movie

(Image credit: Warner Bros/New Line Cinema)

The movie’s primary villain, Sub-Zero is seen attacking Jax and Scorpion in the movie’s promotional material. He also has a major role to play in the movie’s blood-soaked opening.

In the games, though, he’s usually painted as a good guy, using his ice-themed attacks to battle opponents such as his nemesis, Scorpion. Don’t be surprised to see Sub-Zero eventually switch sides – a common theme in Mortal Kombat – by the end of the 2021 movie.

Mortal Kombat will be showing on HBO Max from April 23. Check out the latest HBO Max prices if you want to look at signing up.

GamesRadar+'s Entertainment Writer. Lover of all things Nintendo, in a tortured love/hate relationship with Crystal Palace, and also possesses an unhealthy knowledge of The Simpsons (which is of no use at parties).