Villain Overview
Anck-es-en-Amon, my love has lasted longer than the temples of our gods. No man ever suffered as I did for you
~ Imhotep to Helen, Anck-es-en-Amon' reincarnated self

Imhotep is the main antagonist of the 1932 classic horror film The Mummy. He was an Egyptian High Priest who was cursed and mummified alive when he tried to resurrect his lost love.

This character's iteration was portrayed by the late Boris Karloff, who also played Frankenstein's Monster in Universal's Frankenstein series, Fu Manchu in The Mask of Fu Manchu, Hjalmar Poelzig in The Black Cat, and The Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas!.

Appearance and Character Concept

With discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb by Howard Carter in 1922, alongside notions of a curse associated with mummies (see Curse of the Pharaohs for more information) and process of mummification on deceased Egyptians in the past, The Mummy is conceived as one of Universal Monster's iconic characters, depicted as cursed undead being and reanimated mummy who awakened by desecration of his/her grave and proceed to wreak havoc on humanity. With more horror films and other mass media in the 20th century popularizing the idea about both curses associated with mummies (particularly Egyptian ones) and concept of mummies rise as undead monster, The Mummy's characterization began to taking more sinister turn as the character's ambition expanded to world domination and possessing additional dark powers stemmed from very maladies that keeping him/her alive as undead being.

For The Mummy's incarnation of Imhotep, he is loosely inspired by the historical figure Imhotep, a noted polymath and counselor to the Pharaoh Djoser in the 27th century BC.


You will not remember what I show you now, and yet I shall awaken memories of love... and crime... and death...
~ Imhotep about to tell Helen his past

Imhotep presented himself as a calm, charismatic, and sophisticated man, but it was a facade of an embittered soul who will do anything to be with his love, even if he has to turn her current incarnation to an undead being like him and killing those who stood in his way. He also manipulative and cunning, having masquerading as a modern Egyptian named Ardath Bey for 10 years and tricking many archaeologists to aid him finding Ankh-es-en-amon's tomb without anyone suspecting his true nature up until the after Helen, his lover's reincarnated self.


Ardeth Bey

Imhotep disguised as Ardeth Bey.

Imhotep was a High Priest during the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep. He fell in love with Princess Ankh-es-en-amon, who was a priestess of the goddess Isis, but she grew ill and died. Distraught, Imhotep stole the Scroll of Thoth from its hiding place in the Temple of Isis and brought it to the princess's tomb in an attempt to resurrect her. He was caught in the act before the ritual could be completed and carried off by the Pharaoh's soldiers. Imhotep was sentenced to be buried alive for his sacrilege, and he was buried in a remote spot, the scroll in a casket alongside him.

His body remained there until it was rediscovered in 1921 by the archaeologist Sir Joseph Whemple and his assistant Ralph Norton. Unsure of what to make of his find, Whemple brought in his friend, Professor Muller, a noted occult expert, to look at the mummy and he unopened the box. While Whemple and Muller debated over opening the box outside, Norton opened it and read aloud from the scroll. This awakened Imhotep, who took the scroll and walked off into the desert. The sight of the walking mummy drove Norton mad, and he spent the rest of his life in a straightjacket. Upset by what had happened to his assistant, Whemple left Egypt and went home to England, never planning to return. 11 years later in 1932, Whemple's son Frank was part of a new archaeological expedition in the same area as his father's had taken place. Imhotep, who had been restored to his normal appearance, approached Frank and his superior, Professor Pearson.

He used the alias of Ardeth Bey and claimed he was an Egyptian archaeologist. He claims to have found clues to the location of Ankh-es-en-amon's tomb and leads them to it. He allows them to dig up the tomb and install its contents in the Cairo Museum. There he met Whemple, who had returned to Egypt to view his son's discovery. Imhotep stays in the museum past closing time in order to make another attempt at resurrecting his love's mummy. While using the scroll to call her spirit back from the land of the dead, he discovers that the princess has actually reincarnated in the form of Helen Grovesnor, a wealthy young Anglo-Egyptian woman living in Cairo. She also happens to be a patient of Professor Muller. Imhotep is discovered in the museum by the night watchman, whom Imhotep kills with a spell that stops his heart.

However, he leaves the scroll behind the accident. He goes in search of Helen, only to find her at Whemple's house, where she was taken after the Whemples discovered her trying to get inside the museum. Imhotep also learned that Whemple had been given the scroll by the museum staff after the guard was found dead. Professor Muller, coming to retrieve his patient, divined that Ardeth Bey was really Imhotep. Imhotep left the Whemples' house but planned to retrieve the scroll. To this end, he brought Whemple's Nubian servant under his control. Later, he killed Whemple with his heart-stopping spell and had the Nubian bring it to him. Meanwhile, Frank and Helen had begun to fall in love. This caused Imhotep to try to kill Frank, an attempt that almost succeeded, if not for the charm of Isis Professor Muller had given to Frank.

Imhotep called to Helen's soul and brought her to the museum. There he awakened her memories and informed her of his true purpose: to make her into a living mummy like himself. Frank and Muller arrived at the museum before he could hear, and Imhotep attempted to use his spell on them. However, they resisted Imhotep and drove him back. Meanwhile, Helen/Ankh-es-en-amon had kneeled down to a statue of Isis and prayed for help. The statue raised its hand and struck Imhotep with divine lightning, as well as the scroll. Imhotep disintegrated, and the scroll burned away.

Powers and Abilities


As a mortal, Imhotep demonstrated great mystical powers as the pharaoh's high priest. Though his powers are pale compared to his 1999 film counterpart, he still a formidable adversary through his charisma and deception.

  • Immortality: As a result of being mummified alive and later, accidentally revived by a spell from Scroll of Thoth that removed from the cursed casket that buried alongside him, Imhotep became an immortal undead being.
  • Self-Sustenance; As a mummy, Imhotep has shown to have no need to eat, drink or breathe to survive.
  • Necrokinesis: With aid of spells in Scroll of Thoth, Imhotep able to resurrect the dead. He attempted to use it to revive Ankh-es-en-amon only for learning that her love has been reincarnated into Helen. He then made another attempt to use it to turn Helen into another mummy.
  • Hypnosis: Imhotep had demonstrated the power to actually hypnotize people, putting them into any time period he desired. In 1932 film, Imhotep used this to brainwash a Nubian to become his servant and even hypnotize Helen so she is willing to mummified and reanimated as an undead bride for him.
  • Heart-Stopping: Imhotep can cause the hearts of others to instantly stop, effectively killing them via magic.


  • Multilingualism: Imhotep had shown to mostly speak in his native tongue of Ancient Egyptian, however, he was fully capable of speaking English, having mastered it in order to masquerade as a normal modern Egyptian.


  • Ancient Egyptian Artifacts: The Scroll of Thoth which brought Imhotep back from the dead must remain intact, otherwise his resurrection will be undone and he reverts back to his mummy form.


  • "Imhotep" is the title of a videogame.
  • Imhotep was featured in the British comedy television series Look Around You. He is depicted as an invisible Moai.
  • In the 2010 Marvel Comics series S.H.I.E.L.D., Imhotep was the name of a man who formed the very first SHIELD.
  • For the most part, Imhotep is the Big Bad of The Mummy franchise.
  • In the 2017 remake film, Imhotep would be replaced by Princess Ahmanet, which marked the first time the titular mummy would be female. Also, the said film reimagines the titular antagonist's origins where she emerges in the modern world for the first time, given majorities of the film mainly set in the 1930s.
  • Imhotep also appears as the secondary antagonist of "Monster Family".

See also


           TheMummyTitle Villains

The Mummy (1932): Imhotep
The Mummy (1999): Imhotep | Beni Gabor | Anck-Su-Namun
The Mummy Returns: Imhotep | Mathayus the Scorpion King | Cult of Imhotep (Baltus Hafez, Meela Nais/Anck-Su-Namun, Lock-Nah & Shafek) | Army of Anubis | Pygmies | "Red" Willits | Jacob Spivey | Jacques Clemons | Anubis
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: Emperor Han | General Yang | Colonel Choi | Roger Wilson | Terracotta Warriors
The Scorpion King: Memnon | Takmet | Thorak
The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior: Sargon
The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption: King Talus
The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power: Drazen | Boris | Roland
The Scorpion King: Book of Souls: Nebserek | Khensa | Mennofer
The Mummy (2017): Ahmanet | Set | Mr. Hyde

Video Games
The Mummy: Sword of Osiris: Menthu
The Mummy: Rise of the Akkadian: Magus | Apep

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