In Thebes, Egypt, 1290 BC, high priest Imhotep has an affair with Anck-su-namun, the mistress of PharaohSeti I. Imhotep and Anck-su-namun kill the Pharaoh after he discovers their relationship. Imhotep flees, while Anck-su-namun kills herself, believing that Imhotep can resurrect her. Imhotep and his priests steal her corpse and travel to Hamunaptra, the city of the dead. The resurrection ritual is stopped by Pharaoh’s bodyguards, the Medjai. Imhotep is buried alive with flesh-eating scarab beetles and sealed in a sarcophagus at the feet of a statue of the Egyptian god Anubis. The Medjai are sworn to prevent Imhotep’s return.
In 1926, Jonathan Carnahan presents his sister Evelyn—a librarian and aspiring Egyptologist—with an intricate box and map that lead to Hamunaptra. Jonathan reveals he stole the box from an American adventurer, Rick O’Connell, who discovered the city while in the French Foreign Legion. Evelyn and Jonathan find Rick and make a deal with him to lead them to the city.
Rick guides Evelyn and her party to the city, encountering a band of American treasure hunters led by Rick’s cowardly acquaintance Beni Gabor. Despite being warned to leave by Ardeth Bay, leader of the Medjai, the two expeditions continue their excavations. Evelyn searches for the Book of Amun-Ra, made of pure gold. Instead of finding the book, she stumbles upon Imhotep’s remains. The team of Americans, meanwhile, discover the black Book of the Dead, accompanied by canopic jars carrying Anck-su-namun’s preserved organs.
At night, Evelyn reads from the Book of the Dead aloud, accidentally awakening Imhotep. The expeditions return to Cairo, and Imhotep follows them with the help of Beni, who has agreed to serve him. Imhotep regenerates his full strength by killing the members of the American expedition and brings the ten plagues back to Egypt.
Rick, Evelyn, and Jonathan meet Ardeth at a museum. Ardeth hypothesizes that Imhotep wants to resurrect Anck-su-namun by sacrificing Evelyn. Evelyn believes that if the Book of the Dead brought Imhotep back to life, the Book of Amun-Ra can kill him again and deduces the book’s whereabouts in Hamunaptra. Imhotep corners the group with an army of slaves. Evelyn agrees to accompany Imhotep if he spares the rest of the group. Although Imhotep does not honor his word, Rick and the others fight their way to safety.
Imhotep, Evelyn, and Beni return to Hamunaptra, pursued by Rick, Jonathan, and Ardeth, who are able to locate the Book of Amun-Ra. Imhotep prepares to sacrifice Evelyn, but she is rescued after a battle with Imhotep’s mummified priests. Evelyn reads from the Book of Amun-Ra, making Imhotep mortal, and he is fatally wounded by Rick. Imhotep vows revenge.
Beni accidentally sets off a booby trap while looting the city of its riches, and is killed by a swarm of flesh-eating scarabs as Hamunaptra collapses into the sand. Ardeth bids Rick, Evelyn, and Jonathan goodbye, and the trio rides away on a pair of camels laden with Beni’s treasure.
A great adventure film that really got us on our toes.