It’s been over a decade since the first Underworld movie hit the theaters, but the war between vampires and werewolves (sorry, Lycans) is still going strong.
Underworld (2003), Underworld: Evolution (2006) and Underworld: Awakening (2012) focused on Kate Beckinsale’s beautiful and deadly vampire assassin Selene, while Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009) went back in time to showcase the beginning of the war. This weekend, Underworld: Blood Wars arrives in theaters, continuing Selene’s saga as she finds new allies in her battle with the resurgent Lycan army.
The series has never been beloved by critics, but its relatively small budget (compared to other modern action films) and enthusiastic fan base have kept it going.
With the arrival of a new installment, it’s a good time to look back at some of the most memorable moments from the first four films in the franchise. Here are the 15 Coolest Moments In The Underworld Franchise – So Far.
15. Subway fight – Underworld
Underworld begins with the immortal Selene perched on a tall building, surveying the Gothic metropolis beneath her. She is tracking a group of Lycans who, unbeknownst to her, are tracking a human, Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), who leads them all onto a subway platform. When the warring factions spot each other, a battle erupts with dozens of civilian commuters caught in the crossfire.
With bullets flying and debris everywhere, it may initially look like a standard shootout scene, but it’s sprinkled with elements of the unique blend of action and horror that have made the series successful. The Lycans utilize special UV bullets that harness sunlight to kill vampires, a big leap in the ongoing arms race between the two species. Later in the battle, a number of Lycans transform into their more monstrous forms.
14. Raze obliterates a vampire – Underworld
In the Underworld universe, vampires are quick and strong, but they can easily be overpowered by a fully transformed (and very angry) Lycan. Though it is Lucian who leads the werewolves, the most intimidating of their number is undoubtedly Raze, his second-in-command.
Raze is scary enough in his human form; a hulking mass of muscle with a bad temper. It’s his attempt to capture Michael Corvin that is interrupted by Selene and her vampire allies. After riddling the subway platform with bullets, Raze squares off with a vampire inside the darkened tunnel. The vampire looks reasonably threatening with his fangs and black eyes, but as Raze begins his transformation into his wolf form (the first such transformation we witness), it becomes obvious that he is woefully outmatched. As scary a man Raze is, he’s even scarier as a werewolf, and he needs all of a few seconds to annihilate his rival.
13. Viktor awakened – Underworld
Throughout the first film, Selene struggles to uncover a conspiracy between vampire leader Kraven and Lucian. At a loss, she goes against the rules of her coven by reviving her mentor, the vampire elder Viktor. Having slept for hundreds of years, the awakened Viktor is a frightening, desiccated husk, only regaining his ‘human’ appearance after receiving blood transfusions.
Played with zeal by Bill Nighy, Viktor is initially viewed as a benevolent (by vampire standards) force by Selene, but she ultimately learns of his true, duplicitous nature. Selene had long believed Viktor had saved her from a werewolf massacre that had killed her human family, but in truth, it was he who slaughtered her family; he only spared Selene because she reminded him of his daughter, Sonja, who also met an unfortunate end at his hands.
Viktor is easily the best of the villains the franchise has produced thus far. Nighy’s performance is perhaps the main reason why, in addition to him simply being a compelling character. While he is ultimately Selene’s enemy, he isn’t evil in the traditional sense. Immoral, certainly, but not evil; he truly believes that everything he does is for the betterment of his species, and absolutely nothing will stand between him and that goal.
12. Michael becomes a hybrid – Underworld
Though his role in Awakening and the new Blood Wars is limited, Michael Corvin was a key part of the franchise in its early stages. In fact, Underworld was sold as much on the star-crossed romance between he and Selene as it was on the ‘vampires vs. werewolves’ premise.
Believed to be the last living ancestor of Alexander Corvinus (the man from whom both vampire and werewolf originate), Michael is hunted by the Lycans, and thus dragged into their war. Lucian believes that with his unique blood, Michael is capable of becoming the first hybrid of vampire and Lycan.
Michael’s path through the first film is a winding one; bitten by Lucian, abducted by Selene, on the run from both of the warring species. Ultimately shot with silver bullets by Kraven, Michael lies dying until Selene bites him, initiating his transformation into a hybrid.
His form as a hybrid isn’t as monstrous as a normal Lycan, nor as deceptively human as the vampires; his skin turns blue, his bone structure changes and his eyes darken. More importantly, he becomes remarkably strong and fast, and almost kills the powerful Viktor on his own.
11. Hunting the first werewolves – Evolution
The second film in the franchise, Underworld: Evolution begins with a flashback to the original conflict between vampires and werewolves. The vampire elders Viktor, Amelia and Markus are hunting the leader of the feral werewolves, who happens to be William, the twin brother of Markus. Whereas Markus was bitten by a bat and became the first vampire, William was bitten by a wolf and became the first werewolf, but unlike the Lycans of the future, William and his army were bound to their monstrous wolf forms and could never regain their humanity.
Though Markus is concerned for his brother’s well-being, Viktor is determined to exterminate all the werewolves with extreme prejudice. Finally capturing the monstrous William, Markus pleads for his brother’s life to be spared. Instead of killing him, Viktor condemns William to an eternity of captivity.
It’s intriguing to see another era of the ongoing war, and it allows for Bill Nighy to return. The sequence is also an effective introduction for Markus, the vampire elder who awakens in the present to bedevil Selene, and establishes his loyalty to his brother rather than his fellow vampires.
10. The vampire historian – Evolution
Living for centuries as immortals, vampires see a lot, so it makes sense that someone would be in charge of writing it all down.
That’s the job of Andreas Tanis, the vampire historian who has been exiled for centuries by the time of Underworld: Evolution. It’s not such a bad banishment, however; Tanis inhabits a sprawling compound, has some beautiful vampire ‘companions’ and even has werewolves as his personal guard dogs.
Visited by Selene and Michael, he deals out a lot of exposition, shedding light on the long history of the vampire and Lycan war. He reveals the history of the Corvinus line, and how Markus turned a dying Viktor and his entire army into vampires in order to enlist their help in stopping William’s rampage. He also reveals that Markus convinced Viktor that killing him or William would result in the deaths of all the vampires and werewolves that have followed them; meaning suicide for Viktor if he killed Markus, or losing his werewolf slaves if he killed William.
9. Meeting Corvinus – Evolution
Evolution is a fitting title for the second Underworld film, as we learn the history of both the vampires and the Lycans from their origins to the modern day.
Their origins lie with the first immortal, Alexander Corvinus, who had three sons; Markus, William, and a third who remained human and had children, a line of descendants culminating in Michael Corvin. In Evolution, we learn that not only is Corvinus still alive in the modern day, but he is a rich and powerful man who commands an elite team of operatives dedicated to keeping the vampire/Lycan war out of the public eye.
Derek Jacobi is a standout in the role of Corvinus, giving him a sense of world weariness and shame at the murderous legacy his family has carved through the centuries. Despite that shame, however, Corvinus still loves his sons and can’t bring himself to help Selene and Michael destroy them. After being mortally wounded by Markus, however, he shares his blood with Selene before he dies, setting the stage for her own evolution.
8. Markus and William vs. Selene and Michael – Evolution
Markus, the first vampire, takes a form much like the bat that bit him and gave rise to the new species. Throughout Evolution, he is on a quest to find and free his twin brother William, the first werewolf. Unlike the Lycans that would follow him, William is stuck in his wolf form, but he retains enough of his inner humanity to recognize his brother and fight alongside him.
The combined might of the first vampire and the first werewolf is seemingly unstoppable, and they lay waste to the remainder of their father’s forces. However, Selene (with the blood of Corvinus in her veins) is stronger and faster than ever before, and she and Michael (who was grievously wounded by Markus and believed to be dead) battle the elders of the two species.
Michael brutally dispatches William by literally ripping his head off, the sight of which predictably sends Markus into a rage. Still, Selene is able to best him in battle and kicks him into the spinning propellers of a fallen helicopter, a gruesome end for the first vampire.
7. Lucian’s speech and the Lycan uprising – Rise of the Lycans
For the third film in the franchise, the producers took us back in time to the origin of the war between the vampires and the Lycans. Not only did this enhance our knowledge of the franchise as a whole, it enabled a number of performers to return to play their characters once again, like Michael Sheen as Lucian, Bill Nighy as Viktor and Steven Mackintosh as Tanis.
In this film we learn that Lucian was the first werewolf born with human features, able to transform at will. Born into slavery, he served Viktor and the rest of the vampires, but was generally content with his lot in life, and even fell in love with Viktor’s daughter Sonja. When he defied his masters in order to save Sonja’s life, however, he was beaten and thrown in prison, setting the stage for his rivalry with Viktor and the vampires.
Enraged at his treatment after having been loyal to the vampires for years, Lucian rallied his fellow slaves with a passionate speech that inspired them to rise up and fight for their freedom. With the help of his love Sonja and the unlikely assistance of the duplicitous Tanis, Lucian and his Lycan hordes escaped the vampire compound and prepared for war.
6. Sonja’s death – Rise of the Lycans
Underworld focused on the “supernatural Romeo and Juliet” pairing of Selene and Michael, but they were not the first of their species to fall in love. Lucian’s backstory in that film revealed his love for Viktor’s daughter and the elder vampire’s decision to condemn her to death for what he saw as heresy. Rise of the Lycans fleshes out that story, showing us the full extent of their love story and of Viktor’s horrific retribution.
Seeing Lucian as an equal instead of a servant, Sonja (played with passion by Rhona Mitra) defies her father and her station by falling in love with him. Though they plan to run away together and start a new life, Lucian’s imprisonment makes that impossible. When she risks everything to help him escape, and reveals to her father that she is pregnant with the Lycan’s child, she seals her fate. Rather than finding renewed love for his daughter, Viktor is unable to accept this mixing of the species, and along with the rest of the vampire council, condemns her to death for her betrayal.
The vampires tie Sonja to a post and expose her to the sunlight, forcing a chained Lucian to watch as the woman he loves burns to ashes in front of his eyes. Viktor, for his part, cannot bring himself to watch, and though he condemned his daughter, we see his anguish as he listens to Lucian’s frantic and raging screams as she dies.
5. Start of the war/Lucian vs. Viktor – Rise of the Lycans
With his love Sonja dead at her own father’s hand, Lucian swears vengeance on Viktor and all the vampires. Set to be executed, Lucian calls to the wild werewolves in the nearby hills, and they, along with the slaves he helped free, storm the vampire castle.
Chronologically speaking, this is the first battle of the war, and it’s a fierce one. Feral werewolves and Lycans, in both beast and human forms, swarm the compound, massacring their former vampire masters as they go. But the real battle is the one between Lucian and Viktor, who find each other on the battlefield and engage in a brutal and intensely personal fight.
Though Viktor condemned Sonja to death, in his mind it’s Lucian who is responsible for her fate, having poisoned her against her own race. Lucian, of course, is still raging in his grief, and brings to bear all of his festering resentment and anger at his former master. Though Viktor is well established as a powerful warrior, Lucian is able to overcome him, and finally dispatches him in gruesome fashion, shoving his sword through Viktor’s mouth and through the back of his head. He doesn’t finish the job, however, as Viktor falls away into water far below and manages to recuperate over time, ensuring the continuation of the war.
4. Eve is a hybrid – Awakening
Released six years after Evolution, Awakening takes the story in a new direction, largely jettisoning Michael Corvin (save for select moments using a body double) and moving the story 12 years into the future. After the existence of vampires and Lycans is revealed to humanity, both species find themselves on the run, but Selene and Michael are captured and frozen in stasis by the Lycan-backed company Antigen. When she finally escapes years later, Selene believes Michael is dead and encounters a young hybrid named Eve.
Soon it is revealed that Eve is the daughter of Selene and Michael, hence her status as a hybrid. Though she is still a child mentally and emotionally, she possesses great power, which she proves again and again as Lycans come after her and Selene. Eve ably rips apart many of the adversaries she faces, culminating with her brutal dispatching of the Lycan Doctor who had imprisoned her and Selene.
3. Lycan conspiracy revealed – Awakening
Like Selene herself, viewers are cast into the future in Awakening and have to play catch up to understand exactly what has happened. When vampires and Lycans became public enemy number one, the corporation known as Antigen took the lead on studying them and, failing that, exterminating them. Eventually, Antigen reported that all Lycans had been killed, and only a dwindling number of vampires remained.
The truth is, the Lycans have not been hunted to extinction, but instead have been hiding in plain sight in their human forms at Antigen, which is run by their leader, Dr. Jacob Lane. Dr. Lane has spent the last 12 years studying Michael and Eve, trying to unlock the secrets of their hybrid blood in order to make normal Lycans stronger. His greatest success in this endeavor is his own son, Quint. Lane’s experimentation on his son has created a Lycan of enormous size and strength, and he plans to do the same for all Lycans.
When Eve escapes with Selene, Lane sends all of his Lycan soldiers out to hunt them down and return them. Eve, even more than Michael, is crucial to his research. He ultimately pays with his life, fittingly, at Eve’s hands.
2. Selene vs. the Super-Lycan – Awakening
While Dr. Lane and his son may not be memorable adversaries on the level of Viktor or Markus, they do provide an interesting challenge for Selene.
Selene has a couple of showdowns with Quint Lane in his Super-Lycan form; first in the coven of her new vampire ally David, where Quint is responsible for no small amount of carnage before squaring off with Selene and ultimately knocking her unconscious with his immense power.
The more memorable confrontation, however, is their final one at Antigen when Selene returns there to rescue Eve. While her hybrid daughter deals with the doctor, Selene is tasked with battling the remainder of the Lycan forces and Quint himself. Huge, super strong, immune to silver and capable of healing any wound instantaneously, he seems to be an unbeatable foe, but Selene’s creative thinking saves her when she cuts him, stuffs a grenade in the wound and lets Quint’s healing factor do the rest. With the wound healed, the Super-Lycan can’t remove the grenade, and he dies a rather messy death.
1. Kate Beckinsale in general
Let’s be honest. These movies are all about Kate Beckinsale being a badass and looking fantastic in leather. She is responsible for most of the truly memorable moments in the franchise, and five films in, it still revolves around her. Long after Scott Speedman’s Michael has essentially been excised from the movies, Selene continues to be the centerpiece of each new installment. She was understandably missing from Rise of the Lycans, but it’s hard to imagine any other Underworld movies being made that don’t feature her.
Previews for Blood Wars promise more of Beckinsale doing what she does best in the role of Selene; stylishly battling the forces of evil and looking absolutely stunning while doing it. It’s been a successful formula so far, and with a sixth movie already in the planning stages, it looks like the war between vampires and Lycans will continue for as long as fans want it to.