Action movies have been around for a long time — from the early silent movies to the current streaming service binges. While some might argue that many action movies are made for the sole purpose of getting people to watch them and not art, many other people (including me) enjoy watching these films when they come out. I think that’s because games based movies have a great way of incorporating elements from all different types of media and combining them into something completely new.
Videogame movies are almost like regular movies. Sure, they have to be made by the movie makers playing games and looking at screen shots, but there is a lot of similarities between the two mediums. Professional movie makers have been making wise decisions when it comes to making videogame movies. If they just tried to make the same movie as any other major film, then you would only see certain movies gaining commercial success and that wouldn’t help out the industry as a whole because everyone will make similar movies which will basically lead to a few blockbusters and nothing else. But if they do something different when trying to make videogame movies, then they stand out from the other films that are being made at the same time.
With the rise of digital distribution, a lot of games that see limited or zero physical releases nowadays (in non-casual gaming) can also count on being made into movies. While some of these movies were made with good intentions from developers and entertainment companies who either saw the potential in making them, or had the means to do so. However, others are more like cynical money grabs aimed at existing audiences by casting the most popular voice actors available without any regard for their acting skills beyond winning an award once and being finished with one job.
Video games have an enormous amount of revenue and profit potential. Videos are not just about the story but also the look and sound. And sometimes the goal is to create movie-like experiences inside of the game itself. How can the two things fit together? Well, it’s easy when you know how a movie-game works.
When you’re thinking of a game and movie, what image comes to mind?
Are you picturing a team of mercenaries using virtual reality consoles to shoot at the bad guys in some futuristic post-apocalyptic setting? Are you thinking about Luke Skywalker flying his X-Wing fighter through space to destroy giant laser stakes that poke out from asteroids on an asteroid mine field?
There’s a lot of hubbub right now about game-based movies — but why is that?
Here are the 15 All-Time Greatest Video Game Movies, Ranked
15. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Temple of Life (2003)
Fine. Tomb Raider by Lara Croft wasn’t very excellent. Neither was its marginally superior follow-up, The Temple of Life from 2003. (This list kind of sets the bar too low, OK?) But Angelina Jolie deserves praise for creating one of the first watchable video game movies. You walked so that movies in the future could go at a conversational speed.
14. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
OK. Since Wreck-It Ralph isn’t actually a game, it isn’t strictly a video game movie. But the movie imagines a universe where characters from arcade games get together in a virtual romp, which results in a celebration of a movie about video games and the villains who inhabit them. It’s strange. It’s crazy. It is heartfelt. a Bowser cameo, as well. What more do you require?
13. Final Fantasy: Advent Children (2005)
Another well-known gaming series with its own subculture is Final Fantasy. Fans have often pondered how their favorite RPG would seem on film. The lone live-action movie on this list, Advent Children, responded to the appeal in 2005. The creative, occasionally completely insane retelling of the popular Square Enix series substituted computer-generated 3D graphics for actual actors, blurring the lines between cinema and gaming.
12. Pixels (2015)
I bet you didn’t anticipate seeing Pixels here. You were undoubtedly advised in 2015 to despise everything and anything Adam Sandler. We once again enjoy the Sandman in the year 2021. Pixels is a devoted, albeit unsatisfactory, tribute to the 1980s arcade classics (think: Pac-Man and Centipede). Peter Dinklage and Brian Cox are also featured. Michelle Monaghan as well. Yeah. It’s time to replay Pixels.
After years and years and of development setbacks and speculations, the Uncharted film starring Tom Holland finally came out in 2022 with a baby-faced Nathan Drake. It’s not perfect; in fact, what the movie did to Chloe Frazier’s character is probably a war crime, but it has a lot of charm, and there are a few scenes that so perfectly capture the essence of the game that you’ll find yourself reaching instinctively for your PlayStation controller. Mark Wahlberg is merely adequate. Sully yet Holland carries the entire film on his impressively chiselled shoulders, spouting comebacks like he was born to it, thanks to his charm and athletic stunt skill, which he honed with a little aid from his position as Spider-Man.. Fans can also play “spot the weird Nolan North cameo” game, which is a bonus.
10. Silent Hill
Even though it occasionally feels overly clumsy, it definitely gives you the chills. In retrospect, Silent Hill was the ideal choice to cut through the glut of mediocre video game movies that appeared to be released every few months in the middle of the 2000s. Silent Hill may not compare to other horror games, but for a video game effort, it is more than adequate. It features a respectable cast (including the unusual sight of Sean Bean surviving!) and more than its fair amount of horrors. Bonus points for including Pyramid Head, a sight that will undoubtedly keep you hiding under the couch long after the credits have rolled. It is just as horrifying (or perhaps more so) than its video game equivalent.
9. Werewolves Within
It has no business being as interesting as Werewolves Within is. It takes the main theme—a small group where anyone may be the monster in disguise—and builds a clever and humorous horror movie around it, largely based on Ubisoft’s 2016 VR game. Beaverfield is just about to experience a storm, power generators are sabotaged, and a death or two are discovered when Forest Ranger Finn arrives. Only one of the few occupants might be accountable, and as a result, the group begins to become suspicious and paranoid.
Josh Ruben, who wrote and directed Shudder’s equally intelligent Scare Me, is the director, and he’s the ideal choice. Fans of What We Do In The Shadows will be pleased to see Harvey Guillén succeeding as one half of a tech wealthy couple. Star Sam Richardson from Veep and The Tomorrow War makes Finn equally amusing and appealing.
8. Mortal Kombat (2021)
The combat scenes in the Mortal Kombat adaption from 2021 earn it a spot on the list, and there is so much fake blood spraying everywhere that fake blood supplies must have decreased during filming. The Mortal Kombat universe welcomes new hero Cole Young (Lewis Tan), but thanks to Cole’s fate to compete in Mortal Kombat matches, we get to watch Sub Zero and Sonya Blade in action. The dialogue is a touch awkward, but considering how often these individuals are hit in the head, it’s somewhat acceptable that they aren’t quoting Shakespeare. This movie is for you if you enjoy the combat series or simply want to turn off your head and unwind while seeing some horrifying deaths.
Hollywood was just waiting to pick up World of Warcraft. Blizzard’s crown jewel, which has been dismissed as Lord of the Rings-lite, is brimming with backstory, all of which is overseen by indie star Duncan Jones. With $433 million in sales as of this writing, it is not only the best-performing video game adaptation of all time, but it also chooses to elevate the Warcraft universe, which is stunning.
A video game movie that isn’t afraid to take a gamble, throw a huge budget at an acclaimed director, and just let him run wild with the world is still an outlier in the video game movie world. The movie does break down by over-egging the pudding beneath the groaning weight of its cast. Please do that more often.
With a diverse cast that includes pop singer Rita Ora, actor Bill Nighy, actor Ken Watanabe, and DJ Diplo, Goosebumps director Rob Letterman is in control, but it’s the love and attention paid to the Pokemon universe as a whole that really jumps out.
6. Sonic the Hedgehog
The Sonic the Hedgehog(opens in new tab) movie’s early signals weren’t promising. Initial concepts for the blue blur received a poor reception from fans, prompting the producers to start over digitally. When the film was finally released this year, Jim Carrey’s hammy portrayal of Dr. Robotnik and Ben Schwartz’s passionate voice-over performance won over moviegoers. In order to avoid Robotnik and find Sonic’s fabled rings, the movie follows Sonic and a sheriff from Montana. There are already planned sequels.
5. Resident Evil.
Six films make up Resident Evil’s filmography, making it difficult to select out one as a sure thing for this list. They range from this, the original and (probably) greatest, to the clumsy effort Afterlife. For good reason—the focus is on the action—it is concise and just skims the surface of Resi’s expansive lore. This may irritate some people, but in 2002, a slow-burn journey through a house simply wouldn’t have been as energetic and excessively enjoyable. And it still holds up well now.
4. Assassin’s Creed
Assassin’s Creed gave the impression that this was the first time video game movies were given serious consideration. With a captivating perspective on the ongoing conflict between the Creed and the Templar Order, Assassin’s Creed tried to put an end to the idea that some things are unusual or only for a particular audience.
Assassin’s Creed has a star-studded cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Michael K. Williams. The impressive-looking Animus adventure in 15th-century Spain and the parkour-heavy aesthetic that pays respect to the series give the film real authenticity without going overboard with fan service, as other films do. Give it another shot even though it may have disappointed some fans and moviegoers. You wouldn’t believe how high it soars.
The set-pieces are plenty, and Milla Jovovich is superb in her part as Alice (and, honestly, doesn’t get enough credit). Another noteworthy aspect is that it hints at sequels and expansive universes, long after Iron Man first learned about the Avengers Initiative. Well worth a re-watch.
3. Mortal Kombat (1995)
What else can be said about the Mortal Kombat movie, really? It is cheesy. It is thrilling. It’s stupid. It’s fantastic. The spirit of the ’90s is alive in full force in this film, and to this day, the techno-futuristic-cage-match title still stands as the most satisfying video game movie to date. Sure, it may not be the most “high-art” example on this list. But Mortal Kombat perfectly captured the essence of a game franchise, and it cannot be beat.
2. Tomb Raider (2018)
With a freshly vulnerable Lara and a film that, although it doesn’t quite break out into an all-time great action blockbuster, is a nice homage to one of the better games of its generation, Tomb Raider(opens in new tab) follows in the footsteps (and ice pick) of the 2013 rebooted game.
Alicia Vikander portrays a Lara who is full of life and, oddly, a figure who seems more at home in London than robbing the tombs of a lost kingdom, even though the movie plays on the games rather than taking direct inspiration from them. Tomb Raider undoubtedly represents a turning point for video game movies: no longer satisfied to remain in the background, this is a star-studded entry that might pave the way for even more video game treasures in the future, especially in the upcoming Ben Wheatley-directed sequel.
1. Detective Pikachu
Here’s the top video game film: As soon as it was revealed that Deadpool himself, Ryan Reynolds, would be lending his voice to the squishy little yellow character, we knew Detective Pikachu(opens in new tab)would live up to the Pokemon name. The main character of the film is 21-year-old Tim Goodman, who joins forces with Pikachu to search for his missing private eye father Henry. Bring on the CGI, family-related sentimentality, and — most crucially — enough quips to make a Snorlax laugh.