Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, A, B, A, Start. Classic, right? We love video games, and hit or miss, video game movies are in our top 50 movie genres. Love 'em or hate 'em, video game movies definitely divide the hardcore fans from the franchise newbies, so we picked a few of our faves that'll help take your movie game to the next level!
Super Mario Bros.
Speed Run: Brooklyn plumbers Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) rescue Princess Daisy from King Koopa (Dennis Hopper) and the Goombas in a dinosaur world.
Character Select: Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Samantha Mathis, Fisher Stevens, Richard Edson, Fiona Shaw, Dana Kaminski
Extra Life: When film adaptations first hit the market, they weren’t met with much success, and that is in large part due to whatever the crap this movie is. To say it is LOOSELY based on Super Mario Bros. the game is even a stretch. Sure, it’s got the names of the characters right, but that’s about it.
However, for all its flaws, it’s become something of a cult classic, and is still a rollicking good time, even if it mostly just serves as an example of what NOT do do when adapting an internationally popular and beloved series for the big screen.
Speed Run: Cal Lynch travels back in time to 15th-century Spain through a revolutionary technology that unlocks the genetic memories contained in his DNA. There, he lives out the experiences of Aguilar de Nerha, a distant relative who’s also a member of the Assassins, a secret society that fights to protect free will from the power-hungry Templar Order. Transformed by the past, Cal begins to gain the knowledge and physical skills necessary to battle the oppressive organization in the present.
Character Select: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Kenneth Williams, Denis Ménochet, Ariane Labed
Extra Life: While not the best adaptation on our list, it is FAR from the worst. The pros: It captures most of the core elements of the game and is visually quite impressive. The cons: the diversity that is a benchmark of the series (the original having been set in the middle east during the Crusades) was shuffled off to the side in lieu of big name actor Michael Fassbender. Still, it’s got some great moments, and is at least worth the watch.
Speed Run: When aliens intercept video feeds of classic arcade games and misinterpret them as a declaration of war, they attack Earth, using the games as models. Knowing that he must employ a similar strategy, President Will Cooper (Kevin James) recruits his childhood pal, former video-game champ and home-theater installer Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), to lead a team of old-school arcade players and a military specialist (Michelle Monaghan) in an all-out battle to save the planet.
Character Select: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Brian Cox, Ashley Benson, Jane Krakowski
Extra Life: True, this isn’t a video game “adaptation” but it does feature some of the most popular video game characters of all time: Pac-Man, Q-Bert, Centipede, and more. This definitely ranks up there with Waterboy as one of Adam Sandler’s more palatable roles, but the real treasure here is in Peter Dinklage, who rocks not just some wicked arcade skills, but also a sick mullet. It’s definitely a 180 from his Game of Thrones persona.
D.O.A.: Dead or Alive
Speed Run: Four beautiful rivals at an invitation-only martial-arts tournament join forces against a sinister threat. Princess Kasumi (Devon Aoki) is an aristocratic warrior trained by martial-arts masters. Tina Armstrong (Jaime Pressly) is a wrestling superstar. Helena Douglas (Sarah Carter) is an athlete with a tragic past. Christie Allen (Holly Valance) earns her keep as a thief and an assassin-for-hire.
Character Select: Devon Aoki, Jaime Pressly, Sarah Carter, Holly Valance, Eric Roberts, Natassia Malthe, Matthew Marsden, Robin Shou
Extra Life: Does anyone even know what the games Dead or Alive are about? No? That’s OK. This movie is pure fluff, with some extremely over-the-top action, and Jaime Pressley trying to score a Razzie for the Worst Portrayal of a Professional Wrestler in the history of film. All that said, this one is special because of the female-driven cast and story that plays off traditional archetypes in some fun and forward-thinking ways. Plus, anyone who can put on a bra while taking out five guys with guns deserves some serious props.
Speed Run: Primatologist Davis Okoye shares an unshakable bond with George, an extraordinarily intelligent, silverback gorilla that’s been in his care since birth. When a rogue genetic experiment goes wrong, it causes George, a wolf and a reptile to grow to a monstrous size. As the mutated beasts embark on a path of destruction, Okoye teams up with a discredited genetic engineer and the military to secure an antidote and prevent a global catastrophe.
Character Select: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, Marley Shelton, P.J. Byrne
Extra Life: Rampage sets the bar for chaos and destruction. Based on a game with basically no plot, it manages to find its own legs while paying homage to its source. There are plenty of oversized monster battles to give you all the King Kong and Godzilla feels, and building-wrecking carnage that made the original game so much fun. Give it a watch!
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Speed Run: This live action feature is inspired by the most successful interactive video-game character in history — Lara Croft. Beautiful and brainy, Lara (Angelina Jolie) is the heroine of Eidos Interactive’s phenomenally successful “Tomb Raider” game series. It is one woman’s fearless quest criss-crossing the globe, in an amazing attempt to save the world.
Character Select: Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight, Iain Glen, Noah Taylor, Daniel Craig, Chris Barrie, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Richard Johnson
Extra Life: Overstuffed bra aside, the first film foray into the Tomb Raider universe gave us James Bond action with Indiana Jones dungeon-crawling. It was probably the first time a video game film really stuck close to the source, but still managed to make a fun, believable universe filled with all the bits that makes the game series great.
Speed Run: A team of space marines known as the Rapid Response Tactical Squad, led by Sarge (The Rock), is sent to a science facility on Mars after somebody reports a security breach. There, they learn that the alert came after a test subject, a mass murderer purposefully injected with alien DNA, broke free and began killing people. Dr. Grimm (Rosamund Pike), who is related to team member Reaper (Karl Urban), informs them all that the chromosome can mutate humans into monsters — and is highly infectious.
Character Select: Dwayne Johnson, Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike, Ben Daniels, Yao Chin, Dexter Fletcher, Razaaq Adoti, Al Weaver
Extra Life: Kudos to REALLY sticking to the game in some respects, namely the 2 minute first-person shooter section where the audience steps into the shoes of the main character and experiences DOOM the way it was meant to be. While not a great movie, it’s definitely a wild ride, and the SECOND film in our list to feature Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson.
Resident Evil (Series)
Speed Run: Based on the popular video game, Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez star as the leaders of a commando team who must break into “the hive,” a vast underground genetics laboratory operated by the powerful Umbrella Corporation. There, a deadly virus has been unleashed, killing the lab’s personnel and resurrecting them as the evil Un-dead. The team has just three hours to shut down the lab’s supercomputer and close the facility before the virus threatens to overrun the Earth.
Character Select: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, Ryan McCluskey, Oscar Pearce, Indra Ové, Anna Bolt, Joseph May
Extra Life: The first film serves as more of a prequel to the games, and was a pretty great ride for what it sought out to be. As the series progressed, it veered further and further away from the source, but still manages to serve up lots of zombie and monster blasting action. We’ve heard a reboot is in the works, and we couldn’t be more excited to return to the world of Umbrella, undead pups, and monstrous creatures with four-foot long tongues.
Speed Run: Searching for a cure to her adopted daughter’s nightmares and sleep-walking, Rose (Radha Mitchell) decides to take the girl to a town who’s name the girl calls out in her sleep: Silent Hill. On the way, a car crash leaves Rose and Sharron (Jodelle Ferland) separated and lost in the seemingly deserted and fog-shrouded town. As she searches desperately for her daughter, Rose encounters not only the religious cult that inhabits the town, but a dark world filled with terrifying monsters and a prophecy that calls for the birth of an ancient demon.
Character Select: Radha Mitchell, Laurie Holden, Sean Bean, Deborah Kara Unger, Tanya Allen, Chris Britton, Kim Coates, Jodelle Ferland
Extra Life: As far as adaptations go, this is one of the best. It manages to “mildly” detangle a story that can be a bit confusing, and gives us all the atmosphere, terror, and dark visuals to make us want more. Sadly, the followup film took too long to make, and the magic was lost. But, at least we’ve got one seriously twisted and visually accurate film to make us more of afraid of what’s in the dark that we can’t see, but might be watching us back.
Speed Run: Lord Rayden (Christopher Lambert) handpicks three martial artists — federal agent Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson), Shaolin monk Lui Kang (Robin Shou) and action movie sensation Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby) — and mentors them. After intense training, Rayden transports the trio to Outworld, the site of an inter-dimensional fighting tournament. There, the three humans must defeat the demonic warriors of the evil Shang Sung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) — or allow Sung to take over the Earth.
Character Select: Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Talisa Soto, Christopher Lambert, Trevor Goddard, Chris Casamassa
Extra Life: The second film on our list directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, and his first foray into the world of video game adaptations, Mortal Kombat gave us a cohesive story and some impressive visuals, even if the latter haven’t aged well. Fan service abounds as characters show off signature moves, and spout game-accurate one-liners good enough to give any fanboy (or girl) the giggles. Plus, Robin Shou as Liu Kang steals the show, so much so that he became a martial arts staple in Hollywood!
Speed Run: After his little brother, Jimmy (Luke Edwards), is put in a mental institution, Corey (Fred Savage) breaks him out and the pair run off together to California. On their travels, Corey meets a girl named Haley (Jenny Lewis) and discovers that Jimmy is a master at playing video games. With talents like his, he could easily win the top prize of $50,000 at Video Armageddon. While the three travelers hitchhike to the competition, the boys’ parents hire a bounty hunter to track them down.
Character Select: Fred Savage, Beau Bridges, Christian Slater, Jenny Lewis, Luke Edwards, Will Seltzer, Sam McMurray, Wendy Phillips
Extra Life: So this movie is basically a giant commercial for anything and everything Nintendo, but we aren’t complaining. We love Nintendo. And they managed to package their selling points with a touching story about family and reconnecting with things we’ve lost. Also, and huge showdown as three characters go head to head in the just released Super Mario Bros 3, arguably the best in the series.
Ready Player One
Speed Run: In 2045, the planet is on the brink of chaos and collapse, but people find salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by James Halliday. When Halliday dies, he promises his immense fortune to the first person to discover a digital Easter egg that’s hidden somewhere in the OASIS. When young Wade Watts joins the contest, he finds himself becoming an unlikely hero in a reality-bending treasure hunt through a fantastical world of mystery, discovery and danger.
Character Select: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance, Philip Zhao
Extra Life: While not based on a specific game, Ready Player One takes its cues from the abundance of MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) that dominate so much of the video game market, but the added twist? Tons of 80s and 90s references that feed the heart and soul of most people in the gaming industry. Based on the novel by Ernest Cline, it gives us a bleak “what if” future where gaming isn’t just a fun way to pass the time, but a way of life.
Speed Run: Video game designer Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has created a virtual reality game called eXistenZ. After a crazed fan attempts to kill her, Allegra goes on the run with Ted (Jude Law), a young businessman who falls into the role of bodyguard. In an attempt to save her game, Allegra implants into Ted’s body the video game pod that carries a damaged copy of eXistenZ. Allegra and Ted engage in a series of experiences that blur the lines between fantasy and reality.
Character Select: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, Ian Holm, Don McKellar, Callum Keith Rennie, Sarah Polley, Christopher Eccleston
Extra Life: Movies that develop their own games are sometimes more fun than real games themselves, and the ideas behind the gaming systems involved in Existenz are more the stuff of nightmares. But, we can see where the world is taking gaming, as they become more immersive and could lead to the point where the lines between what’s real and what is just a game blur.
Speed Run: Looking to escape from his dying world, the orc shaman Gul’dan utilizes dark magic to open a portal to the human realm of Azeroth. Supported by the fierce fighter Blackhand, Gul’dan organizes the orc clans into a conquering army called the Horde. Uniting to protect Azeroth from these hulking invaders are King Llane, the mighty warrior Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and the powerful wizard Medivh. As the two races collide, leaders from each side start to question if war is the only answer.
Character Select: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Clancy Brown
Extra Life: Another contender for worst game adaptation (so sayeth the fans and critics), we still enjoy the crap out of Warcraft. The games are sprawling, and visually, this movie ticks all the boxes. The CG is better than most, the action scenes are intense, and at its heart, there is a story that ALMOST gets us in the feels. Yeah… we rooted for the Orcs.
Speed Run: When talented computer engineer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) finds out that Ed Dillinger (David Warner), an executive at his company, has been stealing his work, he tries to hack into the system. However, Flynn is transported into the digital world, where he has to face off against Dillinger’s computerized likeness, Sark, and the imposing Master Control Program. Aided by Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) and Yori (Cindy Morgan), Flynn becomes a freedom fighter for the oppressed programs of the grid.
Character Select: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan, Barnard Hughes, Dan Shor, Peter Jurasik, Tony Stephano
Extra Life: Definitely the oldest movie on the list, Tron capitalized on the love of arcades and innovation of in-home gaming systems. It was also one of the first movies to feature fully computer generated imagery, something Disney had been playing around with for years, and gives us both a visual treat and a fantastically engaging story. I mean, who hasn’t dreamed of ending up inside a gaming world?
Speed Run: Arcade-game character Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) is tired of always being the “bad guy” and losing to his “good guy” opponent, Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer). Finally, after decades of seeing all the glory go to Felix, Ralph decides to take matters into his own hands. He sets off on a game-hopping trip to prove that he has what it takes to be a hero. However, while on his quest, Ralph accidentally unleashes a deadly enemy that threatens the entire arcade.
Character Select: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Mindy Kaling, Joe Lo Truglio, Ed O’Neill
Extra Life: While not based on one game specifically, Wreck-It Ralph’s in-movie game is based on Donkey Kong, with elements pulled from other sources like Rampage and Ice Climber. Of all the movies on this list, Wreck-It Ralph was hands down the most successful, spawning a sequel AND an actual game that appears in universe. It also has cameos from some of our favorite characters, like Q-Bert (again), Sonic, and Zangief of Street Fighter fame. It’s cute and hits us right in the feels, but also gives the most accurate depictions of some of the best game characters around.