Video game movies are typically seen with the same cynicism as video games based on movies. There seems to be great difficulty, in most cases, for filmmakers to adapt the source material into a compelling movie, and vice versa. In fact, the vast majority of of video game movies are terrible.
That being said, while there has yet to be a video game movie that anyone can call truly spectacular, some of the films have been significantly better than the rest. These are the 5 best video game movies made so far.
[NOTE: Before we get to the list proper, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention Wreck-It Ralph, Disney's original animated feature film that pays homage to an exhausting number of video game franchises. Wreck-It Ralph is arguably the best film that features video games, but since it is not a direct adaptation of any one video game, it does not meet the requirements to be featured on this list.]
5. Ace Attorney (2012)
Capcom's Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney franchise may not be the most financially successful or popular series they've ever made, but it has developed a dedicated cult following over the years, thanks to its smart writing, great sense of humor, and unforgettable characters. The premise of prosecutors and defense attorneys battling it out in over-the-top, court-based combat is fairly absurd, and adapting it into a competent film seems like a nearly impossible challenge.
However, filmmakers in Japan realized that there was really no way to bring the adventures of defense lawyer Phoenix Wright to life and make it completely serious, so they decided to create what is perhaps the most faithful game to film adaptation ever made. Virtually everything in Ace Attorney is taken from the games, from the characters to the cases to the perfect costume design. While the fact that it's a foreign film may keep all fans from enjoying it to the fullest, Ace Attorney should nevertheless be praised for its unrelenting faithfulness to the game series that spawned it.
4. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
During the pre-production process of a video game movie, it's always exciting to see which Hollywood actors are cast as gaming's most iconic characters. Some choices may leave fans scratching their heads, but when it was announced that Angelina Jolie was going to play Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider movie, nobody was complaining.
Jolie is basically the perfect Lara Croft, and she completely and utterly nailed the character. While some took issue with various other aspects of the film, the thrill of seeing Lara in live-action is hard to beat. The film was also a major commercial success, surpassing Aliens to become the highest grossing action film with a woman in the lead role.
3. Silent Hill (2006)
Fans of the Silent Hill franchise are not exactly in the best of spirits right now. Konami abruptly pulled the plug on what was meant to be the newest game in the series, Silent Hills, and then to rub salt in the wound, they made it impossible to re-download the brilliant playable teaser game, P.T.
There is no new Silent Hill game in sight, unfortunately, but at least fans of the franchise have the classic games to go back to, as well as one of the best game to film adaptations to date. The Silent Hill movie is criticized for being a bit too long in the tooth and for having some pacing issues, but all in all, it's a pretty great horror film that does a terrific job of bringing the story of the original game in the series to a wider audience.
2. Resident Evil (series)
The Resident Evil film franchise is by far the most successful video game film franchise of all time. Each entry in the series defies the limitations of its R rating and does very well at the box office, mostly thanks to the over-the-top action and great special effects.
Many fans of the video games take issue with the films, but honestly, the films do a decent job of capturing the cheesy fun of the games. Capcom has certainly taken notice of the success of the films, and they've taken steps to incorporate elements of them into the game series, such as throwing in a crazy laser hallway of death into Resident Evil 4, mirroring a similar scene from the first movie. The recent Resident Evil: Revelations 2 also made a reference to the movies, adding the villainous Red Queen AI character to Raid Mode.
Love them or hate them, the Resident Evil movies have found an audience of significant size, and they're successful for a reason. They are pure popcorn-flick fun, and made so that those unfamiliar with the series can enjoy them as well, though there are references scattered throughout the series. Those expecting Citizen Kane may be disappointed, but the Resident Evil film series found a winning formula.
1. Mortal Kombat (1995)
After horrendous film adaptations of classic gaming franchises such as Super Mario Bros. and Double Dragon, it looked like the video game movie was dead right out of the gate in early '90s. However, the success of 1995's Mortal Kombat kept the idea of the video game movie alive, proving that there is big money in game to film adaptations.
The Mortal Kombat adaptation is corny and ridiculous, but it is also absurdly fun to watch. The fight scenes are a blast and the special effects are impressive for the time. It perfectly captures the essence of numerous Mortal Kombat characters, including Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Goro, and more.
While it lacked the over-the-top blood and gore that the franchise is known for, the Mortal Kombat film was still more faithful to the source material than most video game movies, and it has earned its status as a cult classic.
The best years of the video game movie are certainly ahead. So far, the bulk of video game movies have been varying degrees of terrible, but the 5 films listed here have enough redeeming qualities to be considered among the best video game film adaptations to date.
With game companies now retaining creative control over the film adaptations of their IP, and the gaming industry itself larger than ever before, perhaps 2016 will be the year of the video game movie. There's a chance that films such as Ratchet & Clank and Assassin's Creed - both releasing in 2016 - could be the first truly spectacular video game movies.
Remember it took Hollywood a while to get comic book movies right, but now comic book movies are consistently some of the most financially successful and critically acclaimed films released. As of now, it looks like gaming is about to be treated with the same respect as the comic book medium when it comes to adaptations, starting next year. The video game film renaissance could be upon us sooner rather than later.
Which video game movies are your favorites? Any guilty pleasures? Let us know in the comments!