Most video game movies are pretty bad, but it seems a shift for the better is happening. These are my top 10 best video game movies.
It’s no secret that video game movie adaptations, for the most part, have ranged from average, to terrible. But, in recent years, it seems these films are taking a turn for the better, which is great to see. I won’t go ahead and say they’re groundbreaking or impeccable pieces of filmmaking, but the recent efforts have shown these video game film adaptations have potential if done correctly.
With this genre heading in the right direction after so many years, I think it’s time to rank the 10 best adaptations so far. Honestly, I think they’re only going to get better from here on out.
The majority of this list will contain films that are directly adapted straight from a video game series. However, there are some films I believe are video game movies in every way, shape, or form, even though they aren’t actual video games.
Some of these films aren’t even very good, but that just goes to show you the quality of some of the movies that have released throughout all of these years.
10. Assassin’s Creed
The problems with this movie almost have nothing to do with the source material or the actors involved. Michael Fassbender is pretty great in almost everything, including this, but even he couldn’t save the poorly written script. Some of the redeeming qualities are the action set pieces, which borrows quite a bit from the games, along with with some of the effects, but that’s about it. It’s not the worst and in reality, it ranks fairly high when it comes to video game film adaptations overall. But, I think the video game series deserved better than this.
9. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Being produced by Disney, it’s obvious this was going to be harmless, family fun and it was exactly that. Sure, maybe back then, it was a decent watch and Jake Gyllenhaal is pretty convincing in any role. However, it hasn’t aged very well and it isn’t exactly a great adaptation of the video game either. It isn’t terrible and completely unwatchable, but it’s definitely more enjoyable than Assassin’s Creed, even if the series also deserved more.
I’m a big fan of Duncan Jones, even though his movies can be hit or miss. I think Warcraft falls somewhere in the middle. It’s not great, but it isn’t horrible either. Maybe it leans more to the bad than the good, but there are some good things I wish could’ve saved this film. For example, the visual effects are stunning in various scenes, as well as some of the action sequences. But, the plot was pretty messy and crowded at times. It makes it a challenge to even care about some of the characters involved. Overall, a valiant effort that ultimately fell short, but it did show some promise for what video game films can be moving forward if done correctly.
7. Street Fighter
This is one of those “it’s so bad, it’s good” kind of movies. It was outrageously over-the-top and extremely exaggerated when it came out in 1994, so just imagine what it’s like watching it now almost 26 years later. At most, it uses a ton of fan service and nostalgia to capture your attention, which is why I enjoy it for what it is. You see some of the most iconic characters from the series come to life, even if the portrayals are comical to watch. I distinctly remember one scene where Jean-Claude Van Damme (Guile) is doing a flying kick and the wire he’s attached to is noticeable if you pay close enough attention to it. Yeah, the production value isn’t exactly admirable. But, as mentioned, you can have fun with it if you try hard enough.
6. Tomb Raider
Recently, the latest Tomb Raider movie adaptation is one of the better video game movies to release in recent memory. Credit has to be given to Alicia Vikander for her great portrayal of Lara Croft. It’s much better than the Angelina Jolie ones and I believe a huge part that factors into its success is how it follows the rebooted video game series closely. I believe these games do a much better job of making Lara Croft a much more relatable protagonist, along with the set pieces. The movie mostly does the same thing, while adding some subtle changes, which was expected. It isn’t a perfect film, of course, but it’s one of the better video game movies, for sure. It’s not as good as the games and quite frankly, I don’t think any video game movie ever will be.
5. Mortal Kombat
Rewatching the classic Mortal Kombat movie shows you how ridiculous it is, honestly. Although the games are somewhat serious, especially when it comes to the fighting, if you really think about it, the premise, at times, can’t be taken seriously and some of the characters showcase exactly that. For example, characters like Johnny Cage rely mostly on their humorous and sometimes careless personality. I believe this film perfectly captures the essence of that. Then again, there are some serious moments in the games, especially with some of the characters. But, overall, the movie plays into the nostalgia and the craziness more than anything. The fighting scenes are enjoyable, but very unrealistic and, as mentioned a bit ridiculous. This is a guilty pleasure if I’ve ever seen one and it definitely has developed a cult following throughout the years. You also can’t forget the iconic theme song.
4. Detective Pikachu
There have been countless fantastic games in the Pokémon series for so many years, along with different iterations of the anime, and quite a few animated films. Detective Pikachu was the first attempt at a live-action Pokémon film and I believe it paid off in every way imaginable. Having Ryan Reynolds involved as the voice of Pikachu was a great choice since he delivers a ton of comedic relief and, in typical Reynolds fashion, breaks the fourth wall. The story was also pretty engaging and, in many ways, very emotional. I wish more was done with the Pokémon in general and I wish the world was a bit more convincing rather than it just being another city or town that could’ve been used in any other film that isn’t related to Pokémon. But, for the most part, the designs are pretty great and I think this was a solid launching point for future live-action Pokémon films.
3. Wreck-It Ralph series
Yes, this is a series that isn’t an actual video game. But, in reality, they are video game movies based on the story, the characters in the films, and the setting. Both films do a fantastic job at portraying this, especially the first when you consider who Wreck-It Ralph is and where he comes from. You also have to consider the journey he goes on and the characters he encounters, which are very familiar if you’re a video game fan. For example, some of the cameos include Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and Doctor Eggman from the Sonic series. Despite all of those incredible factors, you watch these movies because of the story and the stunning animation. It is Disney after all, so I wouldn’t expect anything less.
2. Sonic the Hedgehog
If I’m being honest, the Wreck-It Ralph series is better than this movie, but for the sake of the article, I truly believe Sonic the Hedgehog is a bit more relevant to what this is all about. I went into this movie with very low expectations since nothing in the trailer really caught my eye. However, I was convinced in seeing it not only because I grew up playing the good games in the series, but also because of the creator’s decision to go back and rework the design of the titular character after all the negative feedback. They didn’t have to do that, but they did, and it worked out in every way. The film is very good, in my opinion, despite some minor things that I believe could’ve been done better. The visual effects are great and they remind me a ton of what we see while playing the actual games. Most of the characters are also very likable, especially the dynamic relationship between Sonic (Ben Schwartz) and Tom Wachowski (James Marsden). Jim Carrey steals the show as Dr. Robotnik, though. I’m looking forward to future sequels, which I believe are all but confirmed given the positive reception both critically and commercially.
1. Ready Player One
This is, by far, the greatest video game movie. Yes, this is also not a playable video game, but it’s definitely a video game movie based on the premise. I can’t think of another director to actually pull this off other than Steven Spielberg. He was able to craft a film that tells a variety of different stories, create unique characters, both good and bad, and somehow, create two different worlds, one real and one virtual, and make it coherent and easy to follow. Ready Player One is a pop culture fan’s dream, especially with all the references to other video games and films in it. If only the OASIS was actually real. I think we, too, would leave this world behind in order to live in that one.
What are some of your favorite video game movies? Feel free to discuss down below!