The mummy genre has its origins in the 19th century when Egypt was being colonized by France and, subsequently, by Victorian Britain. The first living mummies in fiction were mostly female, and they were presented in a romantic and sexual light, often as love interests for the protagonist; this metaphorically represented the sexualized Orientalism and the colonial romanticization of the East. Notable examples of this trend include The Mummy's Foot by Théophile Gautier, The Jewel of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker, The Ring of Thoth by Arthur Conan Doyle, She: A History of Adventure and Smith and the Pharaohs by H. Rider Haggard, My New Year's Eve Among the Mummies by Grant Allen, The Unseen Man's Story by Julian Hawthorne, and Iras: A Mystery by H. D. Everett; the latter actually has the protagonist marry a mummy which takes on the form of a beautiful woman.
Starting from the 1930s, the "romantic mummy" was supplanted by the "monster mummy", pioneered by Boris Karloff in the 1932 movie The Mummy; mummies thus joined the pantheon of 19th century Gothic monsters, alongside Count Dracula and Frankenstein's monster.
However, the end of the 20th century saw the revival of interest in the "romantic mummy" archetype, starting with the 1989 novel The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned by Anne Rice, which involved a sexual relationship between a benevolent male mummy and a female archaeologist. The trend intensified throughout the late 1990s, the 2000s, and the 2010s: modern works of fiction featuring romanticized living mummies include the 1997 horror fiction novella Don't Tell Mummy by Tom B. Stone, the Inca Mummy Girl episode of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the 2006 fantasy novel Freaks: Alive on the Inside by Annette Curtis Klause, and the 2011 video game The Next Big Thing by Pendulo Studios.
During the 20th century, horror films and other mass media popularized the notion of a curse associated with mummies (see Curse of the pharaohs). The 1922 discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb by archaeologist Howard Carter brought mummies into the mainstream.
- One of the earliest appearances was The Jewel of Seven Stars, a horror novel by Bram Stoker first published in 1903 that concerned an archaeologist's plot to revive an ancient Egyptian mummy. This book later served as the basis for the 1971 film Blood from the Mummy's Tomb, the 1980 film The Awakening and the 1997 direct-to-video film Bram Stoker's Legend of the Mummy.
- Films representing such a belief include the 1932 movie The Mummy starring Boris Karloff as Imhotep; four subsequent 1940s' Universal Studios mummy films which featured a mummy named Kharis, and a 1959 Hammer remake of The Mummy's Hand and The Mummy's Tomb, which also featured Kharis. The belief in cursed mummies probably stems in part from the supposed curse on the tomb of Tutankhamun.
- in 1967, the Head of The Mummy gets a Cameo appearance on a Battering ram in The Jungle Book used by Monkeys to charge at Baloo to save Louie.
- In 1979, the American Broadcasting Company aired a TV holiday show, The Halloween That Almost Wasn't, in which a mummy from Egypt (Robert Fitch) arrived at Count Dracula's castle without speaking.
- Slapstick comedy trio The Three Stooges humorously exploited the discovery in the short film We Want Our Mummy, in which they explored the tomb of the midget King Rutentuten (and his Queen, Hotsy Totsy). A decade later, they played crooked used chariot salesmen in Mummy's Dummies, in which they ultimately assisted a different King Rootentootin (Vernon Dent) with a toothache.
- Comedy duo Abbott and Costello, as part of their series crossing over with the Universal Monsters, encountered a mummy named Klaris (a parody of Kharis) in 1955's Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.
- A Mummy was featured in the film Mad Monster Party?. He does not speak and is among the monsters invited to Baron Boris von Frankenstein's castle on the Isle of Evil. The Mummy's sarcophagus was carried to Baron Frankenstein's castle by the Hunchback of Notre Dame. In one scene, the Mummy dances with the Monster's Mate to "Do the Mummy" by Little Tibia and the Fibias.
- A Mummy was featured in Mad Mad Mad Monsters, voiced by Allen Swift. He is among the monsters invited by Baron Henry von Frankenstein to attend the wedding of the Frankenstein Monster and his Bride at the Transylvania Astoria Hotel on Friday the 13th.
- The Disney Channel film Under Wraps featured a mummy that was named Harold (performed by Bill Fagerbakke).
- The Halloweentown franchise featured different mummies.
- A new Hollywood series of films featuring an immortal undead High Priest began with The Mummy in 1999. The film was a box-office success and was followed by two sequels, The Mummy Returns in 2001 and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor in 2008. The first two movies featured the mummy of Imhotep (portrayed by Arnold Vosloo) and the third movie featured the mummy of Emperor Han (portrayed by Jet Li).
- The Night at the Museum franchise centers around the tablet of Ahkmenrah (portrayed by Rami Malek), intended to keep his family together forever, by granting life to his mummy. Later, his parents are also seen in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb with the tablet providing similar effects. Unlike in most portrayals of mummies, the magic is so thorough that the mummies are restored to full life-like appearance, as opposed to simple reanimation.
- The Hotel Transylvania franchise features Murray the Mummy (voiced by CeeLo Green in the first movie, Keegan-Michael Key in the second movie) as one of the main characters. In addition, there was also a female mummy that made background cameos.
- The 2017 film The Mummy features the mummy of Ahmanet (portrayed by Sofia Boutella).