How ‘The Mummy’ Became a Cornerstone of Bisexual Cinema

I don’t remember where I was when I first watched The Mummy (1999), a movie seemingly made for every teen obsessed with hieroglyphics and checking the sidewalks for stray asps. I might’ve gone to see it at the theater, peering through my hands at the deaths by carnivorous scarab beetles. I might’ve encountered it at a sleepover, doing my best to stay in my sleeping bag as the adrenaline surged. I might’ve just been channel-surfing to find Nick at Nite, only to stumble upon some of the best hair I’d ever seen on film flouncing in the locust-laden wind. Whenever it was, I’m pretty sure I don’t remember the details because I was too busy picking my jaw off the floor at the sight of such hot people searching for treasure in an even hotter desert, too busy pretending like my tiny world wasn’t collapsing in on itself at the speed of a flirty camel race. I might not have known exactly what it was I was feeling, but I at least knew that there was my life before The Mummy, and there was my life after The Mummy, and the latter was a whole lot more compelling in ways I couldn’t quite express.

Early on in the film, when curious librarian Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) meets wayward explorer Rick (Brendan Fraser), they immediately share an unmistakable truth: If they don’t mash faces with the other one as soon as possible, they just might die of thirst. She, faced with a wild-eyed man with a mysterious past, instinctively holds her breath when they make eye contact; he, certain he’s about to die, sees one last opportunity to make out with a heartstoppingly beautiful woman. Rick’s a classic Indiana Jones adventure hero type with the snarky grin to match; Evie, a stubborn academic with a simmering love of the exact kind of danger he represents. Both become supercharged with a desperate lust that surprises them equally, a tension that never once lets up throughout the rest of the movie until the titular mummy is vanquished and they can finally act out their  clear carnal desires.

Looking back at my obsession with The Mummy (and its even more bombastic 2004 sequel The Mummy Returns), its root seems almost too obvious. There I was, teetering on the precipice between childhood and puberty, confronted with the charisma magnets of Rachel Weisz and Brendan Fraser at the height of his ne’er do well scamp powers. My friends also loved the movie, but when we watched it together, I sat there knowing I was watching it somewhat differently. It just took way longer for me to realize that when I saw that first scene of their characters meeting through the bars of Rick’s prison cell, locking eyes and knowing their lives would never be the same, I was relating extremely hard to them both. They wanted each other so badly, so obviously, that it made me realize — years before I ever said it out loud — how badly I wanted them both, too.

Of course, it only took logging on to Tumblr dot com as a late teen for me to realize I was far from alone. All across the world, it seemed, The Mummy had shaken a generation of dormant bisexuals awake. Some waxed poetic about Evie and Rick as separate lust-worthy entities; some focused on their combined heat as a couple; others credited the movie for their sexuality entirely (“The Mummy is why I’m bisexual”). A smaller but no less passionate faction attributed their adolescent yearnings to the coupling of Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) and Anck-su-namun (Patricia Velasquez), whose ancient Egyptian affair was so forbidden (hot) that it doomed them both to an eternity of suffering (less hot, but very important as the instigating incident for how a human man became The Almighty Mummy). Many of us leaned into that particularly annoying kind of “we were there first” smugness as Weisz, an impossibly charismatic performer in general, seemed to pick more and more roles that aimed her sexual energy squarely at other women. Unto every queer generation, a new inspiration for that “ohhhh that’s why I’m so into this” moment is born, and so me and my siblings in bisexual millennial arms latched onto The Mummy.

Now that we’re 25 years out from its release, though, there’s another crucial reason why this movie in particular activated so many of our imaginations in this way. Weisz and Fraser are obviously good-looking, but that holds true for basically every star of every action movie ever made. It bears noting, for example, that when a 2017 reboot tried to draft off The Mummy’s popularity with Tom Cruise, huge CGI action set-pieces, and no memorable romance to speak of, it flopped hard enough that Universal canceled much of its planned “Monsters” universe altogether. It’s not enough to just cast competent action heroes and expect sparks to fly. Being hot in the most basic of terms is a prerequisite for any film that’ll send its main characters into mortal peril and back again. It’s much rarer — especially now — to see an action movie like The Mummy that prioritizes the electric sexual chemistry of its leads as much as the explosive twists and turns of its plot. “Everyone Is Beautiful and No One is Horny,” as RS Benedict put it so memorably and succinctly, and God forbid if a character feels a frisson of lust while trying to save the world! Increasingly, it just feels like the biggest Hollywood movies are happy enough to present its audience with the veneer of sex but not the tantalizing possibilities that come with foreplay, or the relief of satisfaction when it becomes something more.

That memo, thankfully, came too late for Evie and Rick. Even getting married and having a kid, as portrayed in The Mummy Returns five years later, did nothing to dull their visceral need to throw each other against a wall, a bed, a dusty tomb, whatever works. Without their mutual hunger, The Mummy would’ve been a perfectly fine adventure movie. With it, The Mummy became so much bigger than itself, and a bisexual beacon for the cinematic ages.

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Caroline Darya Framke

Caroline Darya Framke is a writer and critic living with her anxious fox-dog in Brooklyn, NYC. She was previously Chief TV Critic at Variety, where she wrote features, cover stories, and approx. 80 million reviews. Her pop culture writing has also appeared on Vox, The Atlantic, NPR, and more. You can follow her (for now) on Twitter dot com.

Caroline Darya has written 3 articles for us.


  1. god so very much agreed – and i also think that Classic Bi Films have a sort of roguish energy to them; the ones in my canon, at least, tend toward the fun and rompy rather than the Serious Cinema

    • “roguish energy” yes!! I feel like for the micro-generation below me, the “Pirates of the Carribean” franchise v much channeled this same vibe.

  2. The 1999-2005 era gave us so many iconic bisexual adventure movies. In addition to the Mummy, we have Pirates of the Caribbean, Road to El Dorado, Treaure Planet, and the final if somewhat lesser coda on the era, National Treasure.
    Then Casino Royale happened and we went back to very straight action movies.

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