The 18 Best Video Game Movies

Jan 24, 2020

Category: Entertainment

Hollywood is one of the most illustrious industries in the world, and as actors, directors, and production teams bathe in the wealth of adamant viewers, different forms of entertainment have enjoyed an expansion into different areas of everyday life. From age-old consoles and 8-bit players, all the way to modern-day VR and competitive gaming, the barrier between storytelling in film and that of its less-exposed counterpart has never seemed as inconsequential as it is today — but to get here, we had to go through some growing pains.

Video games have been around for a number of years — but if generational conditioning has taught us anything, it’s that mainstream media has never had an interest in virtual culture. In the 1980s and 1990s, the genre’s earliest IPs were being taken on by indie studios who sought to expand their storytelling capabilities outside of the realm of computers, reaching a larger audience, and promoting expansion into the virtual realm. It’s thanks to these endeavors that gaming culture is where it is today, and as the segment has grown to become more accepted, its normalcy has led to high-budget film adaptations to accompany, and market, specific fan-favorite IPs. Below, we’ll outline a few of our favorites, and give you a rundown of what makes them special.

Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed made its console debut all the way back in 2007 and after almost a decade of highly-revered releases, the series finally received a film adaptation. Within, Michael Fassbender takes on the role of Callum Lynch, a murderer who’s ancestral lineage leads to his apprehension by the Abstergo Foundation, a sect of Templar descendants who have spent hundreds of years trying to recover the Apple of Eden. Lynch’s connection to Aguilar de Nerha, a legendary assassin from 1492 Andalusia, makes him the prime suspect for Abstergo’s search, resulting in forced “time travel” through the company’s Animus, which allows Callum to relive the memories of his ancestor. Along the way, shocking truths are revealed, and Fassbender’s character is faced with a difficult choice, leading viewers on an action-packed adventure through history.

Budget: $125,000,000
Director: Justin Kurzel
Year Released: 2016

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

The universe of Final Fantasy is one of complex, but beautiful depth. And while the IPs expansive catalog of Japanese video games retains its spot as one of the industry’s longest-running franchises, its time on the silver screen is certainly limited. Although there have been a handful of other cinematic endeavors based throughout the FF timeline, Advent Children, which takes place two years after Final Fantasy VII, is as close as we’ll probably ever get to a film that actually references the game’s favorite characters. After fighting to contain an invasive, planetary disease two years prior, ex-SOLDIER Cloud Strife finds himself working a below-the-radar job at Tifa Lockheart’s orphanage for disease-stricken children. Eventually, Cloud is recommissioned by the former Shinra, Inc. president, Rufus, and asked to protect the company’s important assets, which have been targeted by a shady group of individuals. As fate would have it, Kadaj, the group’s mysterious leader, is connected to Cloud’s past and serves as a gateway to his understanding of events from years earlier.

Budget: $137,000,00
Director: Tetsuya Nomura
Year Released: 2005

Gamer

Gamer was released in 2009 and was one of the generation’s standout films due to its fresh approach toward the genre’s worn-out plots. In this hot take, Gerard Butler takes on the role of Kable, a death-row inmate that’s known throughout the circuit as one of its deadliest opponents. The twist? Each of these death-row inmates acts as a surrogate for their counterpart, or handler, to take full control of them via virtual online parallel reality gaming. Essentially, real humans are treated as playable characters in popular online games, resulting in death, dismemberment, and bodily injury. However, Kable has a very “specific” set of skills and convinces his controller, a teenage boy, to let him act on his own accord, resulting in an action-packed game of brutal redemption as he searches for the person behind all of the madness.

Budget: $50,000,000
Director: Mark Neveldine; Brian Taylor
Year Released: 2009

Hitman

Hitman draws its narrative inspiration from a series of highly-revered console titles revolving around Agent 47 — a genetically-engineered assassin who’s devoid of feeling, empathy, and operative control. After being commissioned by “The Organization” for a run-of-the-mill job, he finds himself in the middle of a long-running political conspiracy, becoming a primary suspect, and wanted individual, by Interpol, as well as the Russian military. Now a fugitive, Agent 47 makes his way across Europe, fighting for his life. But along the way, the once-thoughtless hitman becomes privy to a host of feelings, coming to an interesting understanding of human conscience and emotion.

Budget: $24,000,000
Director: Xavier Gens
Year Released: 2007

Indie Game: The Movie

The vast majority of films on this list revolve around or are based on already-existing IPs. But every so often, there’s one that looks at the gaming industry from an insider’s perspective — most notably, from the creator’s point of view. Indie Game: The Movie is a documentary of life as an independent game developer, following Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes (the minds behind Super Meat Boy), Phil Fish, of Fez fame, and Jonathan Blow, the creator of Braid, to reflect on their trials and tribulations over 300 hours of filming, shedding light on the sometimes dramatic world of game design and publication.

Budget: $76,500
Director: James Swirsky; Lisanne Pajot
Year Released: 2012

Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat has made its mark on the fighting genre through repeated supremacy, and aside from the game’s addictive play, its competitive proficiency has made it a favorite for die-hard aficionados looking to compete in a skill-based format. In 1995, the franchise received its first film adaptation, calling upon the likes of series mainstays Liu Kang, Sonja Blade, Johnny Cage, and Rayden to lead the charge against the forces of Outworld by participating in an action-packed Shaolin Martial Arts Tournament — all in an effort to decide the fate of Earth Realm. With one final victory needed to secure Outworld’s dominance over mankind, the four must traverse the boundary of life and death to challenge the group’s most formidable fighters, including Sub Zero, Scorpion, and Goro.

Budget: $20,000,000
Director: Paul W. S. Anderson
Year Released: 1995

Need For Speed

Need For Speed was one of many driving titles that set the bar for early-generation racing games. As such, its place in history has already been annotated; but with 2014’s film adaptation, the series was brought back to life on the big screen, attempting to recapture the allure of series’ adrenaline-filled racing, while also introducing a semblance of a plot. In the film, car enthusiast and builder Tobey Marshall (played by Aaron Paul) is framed for murder by his disgraced partner, spending two years in jail as a result. Upon his release, Marshall seeks revenge on his begotten friend by entering the secretive world of The DeLeon, an underground street racing league that’s as deadly as it is adrenaline-inducing, leading to a plot based around redemption, love, and dramatic proportions.

Budget: $66,000,000
Director: Scott Waugh
Year Released: 2014

Pokémon Detective Pikachu

Pokemon has had more than its fair share of animated film adaptations; but, amidst an endless torrent of theatrical and straight-to-Blu-ray releases, 2019’s Pokemon Detective Pikachu enamored audiences with something a bit different. Based in an alternative universe where Pokemon are living, talking beings, detective Tim Goodman (played by Justice Smith) sets out to investigate the whereabouts of his father, Harry Goodman, after his mysterious disappearance. At his side, Harry’s former partner, Detective Pickachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), takes the helm, helping him unravel a series of clues along the way. What they find is much larger than they anticipated, threatening the coexistence of humans and Pokemon, alike, and transitioning their journey from one of discovery, into one of full-fledged importance.

Budget: $150,000,000
Director: Rob Letterman
Year Released: 2019

Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia’s addictive gameplay and super slow-motion action made it a hit upon its console release, and in 2010, the series’ transition to film went surprisingly well. Calling upon the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton, the film follows Dastan, a warrior prince adopted and saved by Persia’s King Sharaman. After participating in a battle for the Holy City of Alamut, Dastan is accused of his father’s unlawful murder and must set out on an action-packed journey to prove his innocence. But not without the haughty Princess Tamina in tow. Together, the unlikely duo must learn about Alamut’s true relevance, while taking on mystical weapons and traits to control the world around them — including the sands of time.

Budget: $185,000,000
Director: Mike Newell
Year Released: 2010

Rampage

Inspired by a 1986 video game of the same name, 2018’s Rampage follows Primatologist Davis (played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) through a series of increasingly-complex trials. Following the mutation of an intelligent silverback gorilla named George, who had been placed under his care at a young age, Davis sets out to find his friend, tracing the mutation back to the influential umbrella of a less-than-exemplary super corporation. Unfortunately, other animals have also taken on the mutation, becoming power-hungry, super-sized monsters in the process. As Davis searches far and wide for an antidote, he and George must join forces to battle against an array of mischevious monsters who show blatant disregard for everything in their path, threatening the existence of mankind.

Budget: $120,000,000
Director: Brad Peyton
Year Released: 2018

Ready Player One

In 2018, Ready Player One shook the world as one of the finest video-game-inspired movies to date. Viewers follow Parzival, an ingenious character taking part in a virtual life devised in tandem to that of reality. The alias’ owner, Wade Watts (played by Tye Sheridan), is an immensely fanatic, but gifted player, striving to uncover the OASIS’ deepest secrets, tricks, and easter eggs. Along the way, he finds that would-be-mentor (and OASIS creator) James Halliday (played by Mark Rylance) has hidden a series of clues throughout the game’s multitudinous levels, uncovering a trail of deceit along the way. What Wade finds is an elusive plan to destroy the game world, and behind it, an evil mastermind who will stop at nothing to see his dreams come to fruition. Together with a cast of the games most dominant players, Parzival must find his way to the end of a three-part contest set in motion by the game’s late designer, seeking to acquire the right of heirship, and secure the future of OASIS in the process.

Budget: $175,000,000
Director: Steven Spielberg
Year Released: 2018

Resident Evil

Resident Evil is one of the most well-known horror game franchises of all time. As a result, it didn’t come as a surprise to the diverse player base when it was hand-picked for a film adaptation in 2002. The transition from controller- (or keyboard)-based gameplay to the silver screen roused suspicion in its targeted demographic, but when the film finally hit theaters in March, doubts were put to rest — for the most part. While it wasn’t a masterpiece, the initial film gifted audiences with an introduction to the series’ deadly virus, giving them an idea of its origin. After an accidental escape of the virus into Umbrella Corporation’s secretive underground facility, dubbed “The Hive,” a group of elite military soldiers is dispatched to contain the virus, as well as any infected individuals. What they find instead, are relentless waves of flesh-eating zombies, mutants, and a homicidal super-computer that’s deadset on cleansing every “lifeform” in the area. Inside, the team comes in contact with Alice, a mysterious woman who’s suffering from memory loss due to nerve gas exposure, who they take under their wing as one of the last remaining survivors. What they don’t know, however, is that true horror awaits them below.

Budget: $32,000,000
Director: Paul W. S. Anderson
Year Released: 2002

Silent Hill

Silent Hill is one of the most iconic horror game franchises around, rivaling Resident Evil as one of the genre’s formative projects. The film follows protagonist Rose Da Silva (played by Radha Mitchell), who loses her child, Sharon, following a freak vehicle accident on a seemingly off-grid mountain road. When she wakes up, she finds that she’s surrounded by an intense fog, similar to smoke, and stumbles upon the town of Silent Hill, where she searches for her lost child. However, the history of Silent Hill is shrouded in mystery, hate, and demonic influence, leading Da Silva down an ever-increasing road of danger, discovery, and horror as she fights for her life.

Budget: $50,000,000
Director: Christophe Gans
Year Released: 2006

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is an abnormal inclusion, but following its release all the way back in 1994, it was revealed to be one of the most prolific genre releases in quite some time, spawning a series of spin-offs and sequels. The story follows the game’s protagonist, Ryu (voiced by Kôjiro Shimizu), as he takes on Bison, the leader of feared international terrorist group Shadowlaw, who’s search for the world’s strongest fighter has remained fruitless. After approaching Ryu’s childhood friend and protege, Ken Masters, the search for Ryu begins to ramp up, resulting in the introduction of Major Guile and Chun Li, who embark on a journey to hunt down Bison and end his reign of international terror.

Budget: $6,000,000
Director: Gisaburō Sugii
Year Released: 1996

The Angry Birds Movie

In the age of mobile devices, a game like Angry Birds was primed and ready to woe the masses. After cultivating a gigantic fanbase and followership, the bird-flinging mobile IP decided that the next step was a full-fledged movie feature, and in 2016, Angry Birds made its theatrical debut. The Angry Birds Movie follows Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) and company as audiences are introduced to an island of flightless birds. Deprived of their calling, these “angry birds” are all-the-more exasperated when their island is invaded by green pigs — suspicious characters who seem well-to-do on the exterior, but harbor a nefarious plan that’s yet to be uncovered. Together with his friends Chuck and Bomb, the trio must uncover the pigs’ plot, and save their island.

Budget: $73,000,000
Director: Clay Kaytis; Fergal Reilly
Year Released: 2016

Tomb Raider (2018)

Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft has always represented an aura of empowerment, especially when it comes to adventure and breaking through the plateaus of one’s fears. In the game’s 2018 film adaptation, however, Croft takes on a far more realistic persona. As a twenty-one-year-old adventurer who has yet to find purpose or direction in life, Lara (played by Alicia Vikander) sets out to find her father, a revered adventurer who mysteriously disappeared when she was a teenager. As the heiress to her father’s global company, Croft straddles the line between a life devoted to her father’s ideals, or one on her own terms. Instead, she finds a medium between the two, setting out on a spectacular, but dangerous journey to the mythical island where her father was presumed to have died. Here, she finds a secret that wasn’t meant to be uncovered and realizes that the path to adulthood isn’t always clear cut.

Budget: $90,000,000
Director: Roar Uthaug
Year Released: 2018

Warcraft

For almost three decades now, the lore and world of Warcraft have enamored audiences. What started as a Real-Time-Strategy game has expanded into one of, if not the most, successful MMORPG’s of all time, falling upon the shoulders of the revered gaming studio, Blizzard, to keep the series’ fanbase appeased. In 2016, fans were treated to the game’s first film adaptation. Warcraft, the film’s functioning title, gave audiences a cinematic treat as an introduction to the series’ central plight between humans and orcs, outlining the influence and betrayal of orc warlock, Gul’dan, and the destruction of the Orcs of Draenor. Eventually, a portal is opened to Azeroth, allowing the race to escape to a new world; but it isn’t long before the human empire — led by Llane Wrynn and his brother-in-law, Anduin Lotha — decides to take matters into its own hands. After consulting with mankind’s visionary wizard, Medivh, regarding the next course of action, a low-level apprentice becomes privy to a secret that could change the course of human history forever, all while fighting a battle for Azeroth on multiple fronts.

Budget: $160,000,000
Director: 2016
Year Released: Duncan Jones

Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph draws much of its lauded story from the successes (and shortcomings) of other games and IPs. This wholesome animated film follows Ralph as he strives to become as prolific as his game’s protagonist, Fix-It Felix. However, with no room to become the game’s primary hero, he sets off on an adventure to become the hero in a different universe, eventually stumbling upon a first-person-shooter game where he decides to join its ranks. In the process, he once again becomes the FPS’ antagonist, and accidentally releases an evil enemy that threatens the livelihood of not only the game’s denizens — but the entire arcade. Together, he and Vanellope von Schweetz — a down-on-her-luck glitch from another of the arcade’s games — must find out how to stop the deadly foe, all while coming to a better, albeit heartwarming, understanding of who they are, their roles in the world, and trust in one another.

Budget: $165,000,000
Director: Rich Moore
Year Released: 2012

The 30 Most Anticipated Video Games Of 2020

In contrast to the films that have already been made, the gaming world harbors some of the finest storytelling and visual experiences around. While the classics will always be deemed as such, this year promises to be quite the year for gamers — so head over to our guide on the most anticipated games of 2020 to learn about a few of our favorites.

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