The Top 10 Least Awful Video Game Movies

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Anyone can tell you that video game movies suck. The list of atrocious movies based on video games is a long one. In fact, I've already made a list of some of the worst offenders. It may leave one wondering if it’s even possible to make a good video game movie. However, once you wade through all the trash, there are some movies that offer a ray of hope. This is a list of the few video game movies that are actually decent or at least not utterly unwatchable. A few of these movies are even downright good. So hey, while there’s reason to be cautious of upcoming video game adaptations like Assassin’s Creed, this list shows there’s no need to write them off as definitely doomed just yet.

Do you agree or disagree with this list? Do you have any favorite video game movies of your own to add? Say so in the comments!

  1. Silent Hill (directed by Christophe Gans)

    The 2006 Silent Hill movie is based on the horror game of the same name. The movie is definitely over-long and doesn’t have a great plot. But it did at least didits job and provide a few scares for many viewers. Many were entranced by the film’s visuals, effects and atmosphere. While it’s not a good film, it at least has a decent aesthetic. 

  2. Warcraft (directed by Duncan Jones)

    As Screen Junkiesput it, this movie “changed the world’s expectations of video game movies from crappy looking low budget messes…to gorgeous looking high budget messes.” But that’s still a step up. This 2016 film shows the world of Warcraft, with its high fantasy setting of orcs, humans and elves, in exquisite CGI detail. Sure, the human actors are wooden and uninspiring, but at least those orcs looks cool!

  3. Mortal Kombat (Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson)

    Though incredibly dated by today’s standards, the Mortal Kombat movie actually holds the honor of being one of the most favorably reviewed video game movies out there. The 1995 film adapted early installments of the game series. The premise of Mortal Kombat is that a tournament is held between the greatest warriors of various realms. In order to conquer a realm, a warrior must defeat that realm’s representative several times. A band of warriors joins one of these tournaments, fighting for the continued freedom of their realm.

    The Mortal Kombat movie was notably less violent than its video game source material, which is famous for its bloody “fatalities”. This disappointed many fans, but plenty also enjoyed it for having some interesting fight sequences, imaginative set design, good soundtrack and general faithfulness to the game’s premise. It did pretty well for itself when it first came out and still has a sort of “camp” charm to many modern audiences. As a result, it’s one of the better regarded video game movie adaptations. There’s a reboot movie on the way, so let’s hope it does just as well- or even better.

  4. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (directed by Tetsuya Nomura)

    This 2005 CGI-Animated film takes place two years after Final Fantasy VII, a popular RPG that follows a mercenary who allies himself with an eco-terrorist organization in order to stop a megacorporation from draining the planet of life. This is a film that’s definitely just for fans of the game, as many who watched it complained that it wouldn’t make sense to people who hadn’t played them- and also doesn’t make sense to many who have. But there’s no denying this film is a visual feast, featuring great animation and mesmerizing fight scenes. So even if you don’t like the plot, at least there’s that. 

  5. Resident Evil (directed by Paul W.S. Anderson)

    This is another movie that’s pretty dated, but you have to admit the Resident Evil movie was successful and exciting when it first came out. In fact it was SO exciting that it produced several sequels…which got progressively worse and worse.

    The 2002 film adapts the popular game series that takes place in a world where as a result of a company trying to engineer bio-weapons, a zombie outbreak has happened. The over-the-top action of the movie was a big draw for many as were the gruesome monsters. And it’s not just a few fans who love it despite it’s schlock- James Cameron, the director of Terminator 2 and Titanic, has mentioned it as his favorite guilty pleasure flick.

    The movies were popular enough that Capcom incorporated some elements from them into later Resident Evil Games. The “laser hallway” scene from the first movie can be found in Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil is the most successful movie franchise based on video games, having grossed nearly $1 billion worldwide.

  6. Pokemon: The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back (Directed by Kunihiko Yuyama)

    The Pokemon anime adaptation has the same general premise and setting as the games its based on- this is a land where ten year olds catch and keep little “pocket monsters” and then has them fight each other in matches. The 1998 movie tells the tale of a Pokemon created as a result of genetic experimentation taking revenge on humanity.

    While adult critics weren’t too keen on the movie when it was released in the West, many kids loved it and it was an overall success. After all, for kids, it was an exciting and emotional storyline. This is the movie that “Pikachu crying” gif comes from, and many a tiny heart was broken during that scene:

    Even today, many of us still fondly remember this movie. So it’s definitely fair to say it’s a well-regarded adaptation.

  7. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (directed by Gisaburo Sugii)

    This 1994 animated film adaptation of the street-fighting Capcom game fares better than its live-action counterparts. It’s more faithful to the game’s story and features several well choreographed fight scenes that have a touch of realism while still being over the top.

    There’s tons of cameos of game characters and many special moves to please the hardcore fans.The animation is good enough to hold up just fine even twenty years later. It might actually be the best movie based off a fighting game out there. 

  8. Ace Attorney (Directed by Takashi Miike)

    This 2012 film by Takashi Miike adapted the first game of Capcom’s Ace Attorney saga. This game takes courtroom drama to an absurd extreme as put-upon defense attorney Phoenix Wright (Ryuichi Naruhodo in the original Japanese version) struggles to prove his client’s innocence against impossible odds, aided by Maya Fey (Mayoi Ayasato), a young spirit medium who can channel the dead.

    The Ace Attorney movie makes the good decision of embracing the inherent wackiness of the game that it’s based on, rather than trying to tone it down or cover it up. The absurd comedy of it all is played to a hilt- the scene where Phoenix awkwardly interrogates a parrot on the witness stand is simply beautiful to watch in all its ridiculousness. Most impressively, the movie also captures the experience of playing the game- the part where Phoenix stalls for time by talking super slowly in the middle of court will be familiar to any player who’s had to desperately try to draw out their trial a little longer.

     The movie did a good job making the mechanics of the game visually appealing as well, representing the evidence and situations being discussed in court as holograms that can be thrown around and made comically large, which actually gets across the intended slightly-futuristic setting of the story far better than the actual games did.

    And all of the characters look like they’ve stepped out of the game, impossible anime hair and all. The actor chosen to play Phoenix does a great job of capturing both the character’s nervous dorkiness and earnest determination. And the movie also doesn’t throw out the game’s dramatic beats and compelling emotional arcs that captured fans hearts.

    The game is still a better overall experience and story than the movie, since the plot is more detailed and the characters have more time to develop (and some characters, like Maya, are much livelier and more compelling in the game). But the movie is still a solid adaptation and a  fun treat for fans of the series, rather than an embarrassment.

  9. Wreck-It Ralph (Directed by Rich Moore)

    Wreck-it Ralph is not a movie based on a particular video game, but the 2012 film does feature several characters from various video game franchises in minor roles. Examples include Ryu from Street Fighter, Sonic the Hedgehog and Q*bert. The main reason it’s on the list is because it shows that movies really can capture the spirit of video games and be entertaining. The plot focuses on a video game villain who wants to transcend his role as bad guy. The film delivers a hearfelt, emotional story about finding your purpose and self-acceptance and all that.

    We watch the characters bounce around Call of Duty-like warzones and race in a setting that’s like a candy-coated Mario Kart and are taken back to a nostalgic reminder of the fun and magic of all those games. It’s an affectionate love letter to gaming that really works. Disney proved that a movie can draw on video games and still be fun. Now if only more actual video game adaptations would take that to heart…

  10. Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva (directed by Masakazu Hashimoto)

    This 2009 animated movie is based on the Level-5 game series about a British professor who solves mysteries and puzzles. It is widely regarded as a shocking example of a video game movie that’s actually good- not just “good for a video game movie” but as well-done, fun film.

    It actually manages to incorporate gameplay into the film itself- puzzles are presented much like in the game and viewers can take a crack at solving them before the characters do. They’re a bit easier than in the games, but it’s still a great experience. The plot has tons of exciting twists and turns, also much like the games. The film also carries over the game’s charming atmosphere, featuring crisp animation and a lovely orchestral soundtrack.