The 10 best video game movies ever made
It's not a stretch to say that video game movies have a reputation for being absolutely terrible, due in large part to the high volume of cinematic stinkers that have been released over the years. Quite frankly, it's hard to turn audience perceptions around when someone like Uwe Boll, known by many as the world's worst director, keeps pumping out heinous films based on video game properties (he's made 10 so far).
Still, just like anything else, video game movies have their good moments, too. Sometimes, they're well made and do the games they're based on justice. Sometimes they're kinda crap, but joyously entertaining regardless. Not all game adaptations make you want to scream "Game over, man. Game over!"
With that in mind, we've decided to put together a list of the 10 best video game movies to date. Not all of them can be considered 'good movies', but every one of them aims to entertain and mostly gets away with it. There are two kinds of video game movie on this list – those that are based on famous gaming franchises, and those that are about the world of video games. We've opted to leave out documentaries for the time being, as those could fill a respectable list all on their own!
- Movies based on games have a better success rate than games based on movies!
1. Street Fighter
Okay, here's the thing – the hate for the Street Fighter movie has got to stop. Commonly brought up in many 'worst video game movies' lists, Street Fighter: The Movie actually deserves to be recognised as one of the most entertaining video game adaptations of all time. Sure, as a representation of what the Street Fighter franchise stands for, it's an utter failure, but as a comedic martial arts adventure movie in its own right, it's a camp classic.
Never once is the movie boring. Jean-Claude Van Damme's portrayal of Guile is downright hilarious, with his rousing speech to his troops being a particular highlight. Also, the casting of Andrew Bryniarski as Zangief was a divine moment of inspiration that needs to be congratulated. It was also Raul Julia's final performance, and while that might strike many of you as a lame ending to a remarkable career, he clearly had a lot of fun with the role, despite being noticeably sick in many of his scenes. Do yourself a favour and revisit this film with a sense of humour in your heart – you're guaranteed to enjoy yourself.
2. Ace Attorney
Takashi Miike is a filmmaker whose output veers from downright terrifying to absolutely ridiculous and madcap, and it's safe to say that Ace Attorney fits squarely in the latter category. Miike's film is a note-perfect adaptation that captures the zaniness, the in-court yelling and the awe-inspiring haircuts of Capcom's uniquely hilarious series. Think you've seen your fair share of courtroom drama movies? Well, these aren't your ordinary courtroom battles – these ones feature crazy characters (that look like they've just stepped out of an anime) performing special powers to win arguments. The film might be too wacky for some people, but fans of the game will get a huge kick out of it.
3. The Wizard
The Wizard is basically a giant commercial for Nintendo, and yet, we can't help but love it. Starring Fred Savage of The Wonder Years fame, The Wizard tells the story of a group of kids who undertake a dangerous cross-country road trip to California in an effort to compete in a video game championship. Bonus points – they also get to play Super Mario Bros. 3 ahead of release. Featuring a stack of NES-era video game references (Double Dragon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the freakin' Power Glove!), The Wizard is pure gaming nostalgia-bait. Regardless of its commercial intentions, no other film has ever tapped into 8-bit gaming zeitgeist quite like it since. Pro tip – watch out for an appearance by a very young Tobey Maguire as a background extra.
4. Wreck-It Ralph
Another film that's all about video games but isn't actually based on any real gaming franchise, Disney's Wreck-It Ralph is a loving ode to the medium which is filled with guest appearances by video game icons, like Sonic the Hedgehog, Q*Bert and M. Bison, with a copious amount of gaming references sprinkled throughout. Much like a video game version of Toy Story, the characters live in their own world outside of playtime. Their individual journeys pull at your heartstrings, making us believe that a video game character's existence is a sad one, eventually leading to the kind of beautifully uplifting ending that Disney excels at. Easily one of the best video game movies ever made. Let's hope its eventual sequel is just as good.
5. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
While the big screen adaptation of Prince of Persia wasn't as great as it could've been, it was certainly handled with an immense level of respect and a keen sense of spectacle, with an enormous Hollywood budget that put the film in the same tentpole leagues as Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter. Visually, the film is flawless, with incredible cinematography, sets, costumes and production design. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer wanted to give Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time a Lawrence of Arabia-sized sense of scope, and in terms of sheer hugeness, he succeeded. Fans of the franchise may not have gotten the film they'd built up in their minds, but the finished product is far from the embarrassment it could've been.
6. Mortal Kombat
While this film is probably not as good as you remember it, Mortal Kombat is nevertheless a respectful adaptation of the violent fighting game series that absolutely nails the game's premise and (most of) its characters. Director Paul W.S. Anderson gave MK fans exactly what they wanted – a tournament setting where their favourite characters could fight to the death. Featuring an absolutely wonderful techno soundtrack, memorable fight scenes and some of the most dated '90s effects this side of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie, the movie is about as good as a PG-13 Mortal Kombat adaptation could ever hope to be.
7. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie
Easily the best Street Fighter adaptation ever made, Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie hits like a hadouken to the chest. Its beautiful animation does justice to the property, with gloriously realised battles that let the film stand head and shoulders above almost all of its anime contemporaries (sorry, Dragon Ball Z fans). The film wisely focuses on Ryu and Ken as they take on the dreaded M. Bison, though Guile and Chun-Li also get their fair share of screen time (Chun-Li's fight scene with Vega is probably the best in the whole film). It also has a wicked soundtrack, with songs from the likes of Silverchair, KMFDM, Alice in Chains and Korn, making the English language dub of the movie the preferred version to watch in many fans' eyes.
One of the most visually impressive films of the early '80s, TRON pushed special effects into a whole new dimension. Famously denied a Visual Effect Oscar nomination on the grounds that using computers was 'cheating', TRON's groundbreaking computer graphics actually worked in service of the film's story, unlike most CGI blockbusters of today. The idea of a computer hacker/game designer being abducted into a virtual video game world and forced to compete in gladiatorial games is an extremely compelling one, and was thought up by writer-director Steven Lisberger after playing the game PONG in 1976. The film eventually got a sequel in TRON: Legacy, though we believe that the original is still the best.
9. The Last Starfighter
Yet another video game film that wasn't based on an existing game franchise, The Last Starfighter features a brilliant premise in which a video game-obsessed teenager is recruited into an Alien Defense Force after achieving a high score on a mysterious arcade machine. It turns out that the machine was actually a training and recruiting instrument for a real-life intergalactic war. Now, the teen must use the skills he displayed in the game in real-life space combat. With a truly excellent premise and some impressive early CGI, The Last Starfighter is a classic video game movie.
10. Summer Wars
This anime film from director Mamoru Hosoda envisions a computer-simulated virtual reality world called OZ, which the entire country of Japan depends on to function. Young student Kenji accidentally allows a hacker to use his OZ account. Though the damage is caused in the virtual world, much of it translates to the real world, too. Now the hacker is on a quest to shut the whole system down, and it's up to Kenji to defeat him and stop it from happening. At once a story about a virtual world and computer hackers, Summer Wars is also a beautiful coming of age story about family, responsibility, and love. Summer Wars is one of the few films on this list that can be considered a genuine masterpiece.
BONUS ROUND: Need For Speed
Okay, this film is not what you'd call 'original' or 'well written', but it is our opinion that the Need For Speed film adaptation cops an unfair amount of flak. Anyone who has ever played a Need For Speed game can attest to just how incredibly faithful this movie is to the franchise it's based on. Featuring elements directly out of the Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted entries of Need For Speed, the story is exactly the right kind of ludicrous, feeling just like one of the franchise's campaign modes. Featuring a crazy, overly melodramatic story, brilliantly choreographed races and chases that opt for real cars and drivers instead of weightless CGI, and some wonderful cockpit-view car crashes, Need For Speed delivers everything a fan of the series would want out of a movie adaptation (it even features super aggressive police pursuits). Don't expect too much and you'll find yourself enjoying the hell out of this movie.
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