When it comes to cinematic video game adapations, the results have been…less than stellar to say the least. Most movies that are based on a video game range from mediocre to utter trash, with many studios and filmmakers missing the point of the source material entirely or opting to focus too much on generic characters and action in hopes that it will appeal to a wider audience. Films like the Super Mario Bros, starring the late Bob Hopskins for instance, should be avoided at all costs. But are there any good movies based on video games? The options are incredibly limited (and here’s hoping the upcoming Mortal Kombat movie can deliver) but let’s dive into what’s on offer.
While the story and acting may be a bit questionable in the 2006 film Silent Hill, this horror movie is fondly remembered with fans for actually being scary, something many horror movies can’t get right. After her daughter’s sleepwalking and nightmares lead Rosa to the abandoned town of Silent Hill, a mysterious and terrifying cult and the supernatural begin to bring terror down upon those who have decided to investigate. The film boasts surprisingly good cinematography and an ambiguous ending that leaves it up to the audience to decide for themselves rather than spelling everything out for you.
Based on the wildly popular fantasy series, Warcraft is a bit of an oddity. Directed by Duncan Jones (Moon), the film has two primary stories told in tandem. One of these stories, featuring the human characters, bogs the movie down, but Toby Kebbell steals the movie as the motion-captured orc Durotan. When your CGI characters are more fleshed out than your humans, there’s a bit of a problem, especially given the limited run time of the movie. If this were a series or a trilogy, Warcraft could have gone on to become something far greater than it was. In the end, the only reason to watch this movie is for Kebbell’s legitimately good performance.
Need for Speed
Back in the day, the Need for Speed franchise didn’t have much in the way of a story, just enough reasons to get you to drive really fast in lavishly expensive cars. But in the 2010s, the series began experimenting with narrative (with mixed results) while the popularity of the mega-franchise continued to soar. So it’s no surprise that a movie adaptation happened. This is basically the poor-mans Fast and Furious, but the film has a good cast with Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots and Rami Malek with some nice car scenes. Dumb sure, but not the worst video game movie ever made for sure.
Of all the movies on this list, Rampage is the one that has certainly taken the most creative liberties when it came to adapting the source material. The original game was simply about you playing as one of three gigantic monsters with one sole objective: wreck a city while the military tries to stop you. Not much to go on, but add the star power of Dwayne Johnson, who is basically the other reason you watch this monster mash, and suddenly, a lot more eyes are on your movie. He stars as Davis Okoye, a former US Army Special Forces type working as a primatologist. When a number of animals, including one of the apes Okoye studies, gets infected with a mysterious chemical, they all turn into massive creatures and only The Rock can save the day.
The Resident Evil film series is a bit of an odd one to classify. While there are certainly connections to the video games, the films by Paul W.S. Anderson and starring his wife, Mila Jovovich, are more inspired by the games than based on them. Case in point, Jovovich plays Alice, a completely original character that’s never seen or mentioned before in the games. There’s a lot of liberties, but the first movie at least embraces the horror roots of the game, offering an action/horror zombie film that’s the best in the series, which begins to degrade the further you go into the franchise. The first one keeps it simple for the best.
The first Hitman film tried very hard to capture the spirit of the Bourne movies. For that, it at least feels a cut above most video game films. It also has a fun performance from Timothy Olyphant and that’s never a bad thing. This film is all about spies, political intrigue and assassination. The main problem, I would say, is that Olyphant plays Agent 47 with too much charisma, as opposed to the silent and stoic lead from the games. But that would be far less compelling for a film lead. It also leaned a little too heavily into action as opposed to stealth and infiltration but in the end, it’s a decent romp that feels like a Bourne ripoff from time to time.
Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider
The original Tomb Raider movie, starring Angelina Jolie in the title role as Lara Croft, is undoubtedly a bad movie. But it’s also incredibly fun. And the movie seems to know this, which makes it great popcorn fun. It seems to be riding on the tailwinds of The Matrix from time to time and it feels more like an action movie than Indiana Jones-lite, but for some light treasure hunting, lots of shootouts and a conspiracy theory that will no doubt be the end of the world unless Miss Croft can save the day, make for a ludicrous yet enjoyable feature. Just avoid the sequel.
Sonic the Hedgehog
It’s no secret that the 2020 movie Sonic the Hedgehog got off to a bad start. When the trailer was initially released, the movie was roasted by fans for it’s frightening portrayal of Sonic. But the studio did the unimaginable: they delayed the film and redid all the animation for Sonic, making him appear more faithful to his classic design. This may have actually paid off, because the movie currently sits at a 63% critical score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 93% audience approval, which helped green light a sequel due in 2022. Plus, we get a 1990s era Jim Carey, and fans of the comedic actor will no doubt love to see his manic performance as Dr. Robotnik.
Mortal Kombat (1995)
The 1995 version of Mortal Kombat is something of an oddity. It’s based on an ultra violent video game series, yet comes in with a PG-13 rating, meaning those gory fatalities are a no show here. The CGI is laughable, the fights are nothing to write home about and the movie is overall campy. But grab some friends and sit down to watch Mortal Kombat and you’ll have a good time. The movie is light, doesn’t take itself too seriously and has an epic theme song. It’s one of those, it’s so bad that it’s actually insanely good kind of movies. Let us know if you preferred the original 1995 version or the more recent 2021 R-rated remake of Mortal Kombat.
Up until the time of this writing, Detective Pikachu is, without doubt, the best video game movie ever made. Is it cinematic gold? Goodness no, but it’s leaps and bounds above the competition in the subgenre. Which is amusing, as the game the movie is based on was a spinoff that was a bit of an oddity when it came out. But with a talking Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds (doing his best Ryan Reynolds impression), live-action mixed with CG Pokemon, a mystery that reminded me of the beloved Who Framed Roger Rabbit and a decent performance by Justice Smith, the movie is way more fun than it has any right to be.
And those are our picks for the best video game movie adaptations of all time. Was there any flicks that we missed? What’s your favorite video game movie and what would you like to see Hollywood attempt next?