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Top 20 Films Based on Video Games

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online since 2004.

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Video games have come a long way since the days of Pong and Space Invaders and the industry itself has rarely been bigger. In 2018, the industry generated a staggering $134.9 billion worldwide - almost exactly the same as the entire film industry made the same year ($136 billion). But it's the growth of the industry which has surprised many and it shows little sign of slowing down. As gaming has become more mainstream, film studios have frequently jumped aboard a gaming bandwagon in the hope of capitalising on a property or the legions of fans out there. It makes sense - games often have intricate plotlines, recognisable characters and a ready-made market but for whatever reason, cinema just seems to constantly get it wrong. Ever since Hollywood butchered Super Mario Bros. back in 1993, there have been countless efforts that have stumbled and flopped at the box office like a Magikarp on Pokemon Go.

For this list, I've compiled twenty of the best rated films based on video games as of the end of February 2022. I have averaged out ratings from three different sources - IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic - and in cases of a tie, I settle things by looking at box office revenue. There are some notorious films listed here, some surprises and some very recent additions before we arrive at the best video game adaptation so far. This list may well change completely within a few years as there are plenty of forthcoming films like Borderlands, Gears Of War and even Minecraft in the pipeline. Lastly, I'm only taking English language films into account - Japan has developed a great number of films from video games, both live action and animated but I'd be doing them a disservice because a) it's likely that I haven't seen them and b) I don't speak Japanese. So, strap yourselves in and power up as we dive straight in...

Number 20: DOA - Dead Or Alive (2006)

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IMDb Rating: 4.8

Box Office Earnings: $7.7 million

We start this list with a film that nicely encapsulates everything that is wrong with video game adaptations. DOA: Dead Or Alive takes the popular beat-em-up franchise and turns it into a substandard martial arts movie. The film is far more preoccupied with the other thing the games are known for - rampant objectification of its female characters - and concentrates on parading the likes of Jamie Pressly, Holly Valance and Devon Aoki kicking several types of bodily fluid out of a long line of anonymous bad guys. It's poorly produced, not entertaining, a little seedy and further proof that any film with Eric Roberts in it is just not worth watching.

Number 19: Hitman (2007)

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IMDb Rating: 6.3

Box Office Earnings: $101.3 million

Surprisingly making a decent amount at the box office, this adaptation of the popular assassination simulator features a bald Timothy Olyphant as Agent 47, a highly trained killer who finds himself caught between Interpol and the Russian secret service. But like so many others, it completely misunderstands the original game which is more about sneaking about in disguises and being discreet than noisy shootouts, explosions and a plot that makes very little sense. If Hitman had paid more attention to the game, it may have realised that perhaps a tense thriller might have been the way to go instead of yet another generic action pic. Still, it's better than the 2015 reboot.

Number 18: Assassin's Creed (2016)

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IMDb Rating: 5.7

Box Office Earnings: $240.7 million

Not being familiar with the games, I am largely unaware of the extensive back story involved which features a secret order of assassins in conflict with the Knights Templar over some pieces of an ancient artefact... or something like that. What it should be is a historical action flick heavily involving parkour-style antics but what Assassin's Creed the film gave us was essentially a Dan Brown-style caper with some big name stars like Michael Fassbender wasted in a dull and confused story. One thing in its favour is the high production values which you'd expect from a film that cost an eye-watering $125 million, illustrating how attitudes have changed towards video game adaptations. Hopefully, the days of low budget B-movies are now only the reserve of the likes of Uwe Boll.

Number 17: Need For Speed (2014)

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IMDb Rating: 6.4

Box Office Earnings: $203.3 million

Put this film's financial success purely down to the unfathomable success of the long running Fast & Furious franchise. Audiences apparently love watching fast cars going really fast so it's no wonder DreamWorks thought a film adaptation of the street racing video games would work. Starring Aaron Paul as a vengeful street racer driving expensive exotica all over the US for reasons, Need For Speed offers little that Vin Diesel and his "family" haven't already been showing on screen ever since 2001's very first The Fast And The Furious - the crew of buddies helping him race, a list of cars provided by various companies for product placement reasons and some ridiculous set pieces that could only happen thanks to a movie special effects crew.

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Number 16: Warcraft (2016)

top-20-films-based-on-video-games

IMDb Rating: 6.8

Box Office Earnings: $439 million

One of the highest earning video game adaptations of all time, Warcraft sees a human soldier and an orc warrior team up against a backdrop of war to stop a hidden evil from destroying the world in your typical fantasy film setting. A big budget outing from respected indie director Duncan Jones, the film wasn't warmly welcomed by critics who derided the film for essentially being heavily derivative of better fantasy films like The Lord Of The Rings. The film has plenty of big budget effects and visual depth but the story is pretty predictable and the proposed sequel has yet to be given the green light. And despite the box office returns, it was still considered a flop!

Number 15: The Angry Birds Movie (2016)

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IMDb Rating: 6.3

Box Office Earnings: $352.3 million

Boy, 2016 was a banner year for video game adaptations! Based on the incredibly popular app featuring everyone's favourite exploding avians, The Angry Birds Movie is a family friendly animation which depicts the now-classic battle between birds and the green pigs plotting some diabolical scheme. The film surprised a number of critics with many expecting the film to be your usual based-on-a-video-game trash but the film won them over with its colourful visuals and decent comedy, delivered by a big name cast featuring Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Sean Penn, Maya Rudolph and Danny McBride. It's not a game-changer by any means but it's considerably better than a number of other video game adaptations I could mention.

Number 14: Resident Evil (2002)

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IMDb Rating: 6.7

Box Office Earnings: $102.4 million

Perhaps unfairly, I have dismissed this film's five sequels to focus on this first entry which is generally considered the best of the lot anyway. Milla Jovovich finds herself trapped in acting purgatory as Alice, a young woman who wakes up in a secret science facility which has seen a deadly virus escape and turn everyone into zombies. Based on the iconic survival horror game, Resident Evil is again guilty of turning what should be a tense survival experience into a generic horror shooter set in a sleek laboratory instead of the creepy manor house fans of the first game might expect. For a film that failed to win over its many critics, it must be doing something right given how long the series has ran for - the last film, Welcome To Raccoon City, was released in 2021 and has rebooted the series without Jovovich for the first time.

Number 13: Monster Hunter (2020)

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IMDb Rating: 5.3

Box Office Earnings: $44.4 million

Released during the COVID-19 pandemic, Monster Hunter looks poor if you compare its earnings to some of its competition. However, the film's reviews weren't as bad as you may think - the action sequence and visual effects were well received and Jovovich was just pleased to be playing a different character after fourteen years playing the unfortunate Alice as mentioned above. Here, she plays a United Nations soldier who is transported with her team to another world to battle huge creatures with supernatural powers. It's not big and definitely not clever but fans looking for a mindless slice of cinematic mayhem can do much worse.

Number 12: Rampage (2018)

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IMDb Rating: 6.1

Box Office Ratings: $428 million

You'd be forgiven for not realising that Rampage is based on a video game but it is - the original Rampage arcade game was released way back in 1986 and saw you control a giant monster who has to destroy as much of a city as possible while avoiding pesky policemen and soldiers. The film sees another giant in the form of Dwayne Johnson who plays a primatologist teaming up with a mutant albino gorilla called George to prevent Chicago from imminent destruction. The film may be as dumb as its video game counterpart but it did receive a fair amount of praise for its effects, performances and action sequences. It also took a huge amount of money so this particular film might not be done just yet.

Number 11: Mortal Kombat (2021)

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IMDb Rating: 6.1

Box Office Earnings: $8.6 million

Another film perhaps hampered by the ongoing global pandemic, this reboot of the classic beat-em-up took a different approach to the first film by being a much more serious outing. Mortal Kombat is bloodier and more violent than the first film and was applauded by fans of the games for being closer to the source material than before. Critics were also more impressed, hailing the film as a suitably violent revival of the franchise. It's certainly done enough to get a sequel into development and hopefully it won't be hampered by Covid in the future, allowing it to earn a more respectable amount. Fingers crossed...

Number 10: Silent Hill (2006)

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IMDb Rating: 6.5

Box Office Earnings: $100.6 million

Another scary survival horror game gets the cinema treatment and despite not having as many lacklustre sequels as Resident Evil, Silent Hill is actually a slightly better effort. The film replicates the game's foggy visuals and isolated urban dystopia of the game while still bringing to the table the requisite jump scares and the series' trademark villain, Pyramid Head. Sadly, the film's big name cast (Sean Bean, Radha Mitchell, Alice Krige, Deborah Kara Unger) can't quite present the complete package as it's riddled with ridiculous dialogue, a plot that doesn't make much sense and ill-advised padded to stretch out the running time.

Number 9: Mortal Kombat (1995)

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IMDb Rating: 5.8

Box Office Earnings: $122.2 million

Let's not get things wrong - this first version of Mortal Kombat is not a good film. It's not even close. But compared to the other big screen fighting film (StreetFighter) released the year before, this is a virtual masterpiece. It certainly isn't as violent or bloody as its controversial video game forebear but the film works hard to contain as many characters, settings and action as the games themselves. The Highlander himself Christopher Lambert gives an... eccentric performance as series favourite Rayden and the film has a enthusiasm behind it that separates it from other video game adaptations from the time. This was possibly the first attempt at making a proper video game movie after the disastrous likes of Super Mario Bros. and Double Dragon and while it doesn't get things right, it still remains a fan favourite to this day.

Number 8: Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within (2001)

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IMDb Rating: 6.4

Box Office Earnings: $85.1 million

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within certainly didn't lack ambition, becoming the most expensively produced video game adaptation until the bombastic Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time in 2010. It featured a cast of true stars and cutting edge CG animation that still holds up more than twenty years later. Its lead character, Aki Ross, was intended to be the first ever photo-realistic CG character in cinema and she was, released a year before Peter Jackson's Gollum fully appeared in the second Lord Of The Rings film, The Two Towers. It should have been amazing but sadly, the filmmakers forgot a couple of crucial factors. Firstly, the film was an original story and not based on the most popular entry in the series, Final Fantasy VII. And more importantly, they forgot to make the film entertaining. It's a technical masterclass for sure but it's not my idea of a good time.

Number 7: Uncharted (2022)

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IMDb Rating: 6.7

Box Office Earnings: $226.4 million (at time of writing)

Talk about making an impact - the long awaited release of the long-running Playstation franchise has been a big money-spinner for an industry still recovering from the pandemic. A pity that star Tom Holland made considerably more in his more famous role as Spider-Man in No Way Home. Uncharted suffers on the big screen by feeling far too close to the cinematic predecessors that influenced the game's makers - namely the Indiana Jones series and another video game adaptation, the Angelina Jolie-helmed Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. It's not a bad film as such - Holland's performance has earned rave reviews and the film itself is a good deal of fun. But it isn't as brave as it might be and plays it safe. Maybe best wait for them to get things right for the inevitable sequel, assuming Holland isn't too busy slinging webs everywhere.

Number 6: Tomb Raider (2018)

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IMDb Rating: 6.3

Box Office Earnings: $274.7 million

And speaking of the most popular and prolific antique thief in video gaming history, Tomb Raider brings a more realistic version of Lara Croft to the screen in the fine form of Alicia Vikander. While the less campy tone of the film didn't win over everybody, the film's gritty tone and action sequences felt like a vast improvement on the earlier goofy exploits of Ms Jolie and actually mirror the same atmosphere and style of the later games rather than the blocky visuals of the early outings. With a sequel in development, here's hoping they can do a better job the second time around.

Number 5: Prince Of Persia - The Sands Of Time (2010)

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IMDb Rating: 6.6

Box Office Earnings: $336.4 million

Unfairly maligned by critics when it was initially released, this film is actually much more fun than you may think given its status as a box office failure (yes, even with those takings!). Capturing the spirit and style of the classic platformer, the film is a fun if somewhat flimsy adventure with Jake Gyllenhaal giving the film his everything. It also looks incredible, banishing the memories of shoddy, low budget adaptations of yesteryear but given how much the film cost to make (between $150-200 million!), it was always going to struggle to make money for anyone. Gyllenhaal may have dismissed the film as a career misstep but as we've already seen, there are plenty of other video game adaptations that are much, much worse.

Number 4: Sonic The Hedgehog (2020)

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IMDb Rating: 6.5

Box Office Earnings: $319.7 million

Now here's a heart-warming story - the backlash that greeted the film's first trailer when it debuted on YouTube was extraordinary. The CG Sonic was savaged by fans and critics alike - so much so that the studio went back to the drawing board and completely redid the character from the ground up. The result was a film that was warmly received by fans as a family-friendly outing for everyone's favourite speedy hedgehog and turned Sonic The Hedgehog from a potential box office disaster into a genuine success story. With two sequels in the pipeline and a spin-off featuring the character Knuckles, the future looks bright for this conceptually awkward but entertaining action comedy.

Number 3: Werewolves Within (2021)

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IMDb Rating: 6.0

Box Office Earnings: $941'000

Never heard of this? I'm not surprised - released last year, Werewolves Within is a comedy horror film based on the game of the same name which I also haven't heard of. However, don't be put off because this film is seriously underrated - both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes claim that this film is the best video game adaptation ever. The film centres on a group of people trapped by a storm in a small town in Vermont and one of them is a suspected werewolf, leading to lots of bloody injury and comedic mishaps. Made in conjunction with the game's developer Ubisoft, this was overshadowed by the release of the ninth Fast & Furious film but if you can find it, give it a try.

Number 2: The Angry Birds Movie 2 (2019)

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IMDb Rating: 6.4

Box Office Earnings: $152.8 million

Considered to be an improvement over the first film, The Angry Birds Movie 2 is that rare sequel that provides more of what made the first film enjoyable - more characters, more laughs, a more interesting story and the same bright visuals and design style as before. Once again, this film was developed alongside the game's developers Rovio Entertainment and this helped it to feel part of the same universe as the games rather than a straight-forward cinematic adaptation. Is it going to win any Academy Awards? No. But for younger viewers and families looking for a good time then this will suit the bill quite nicely and that's all you can really ask for.

Number 1: Detective Pikachu (2019)

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IMDb Rating: 6.6

Box Office Earnings: $433.9 million

Loosely based on a spin-off from the ever-expanding, ever popular Pokemon series, Detective Pikachu sees Deadpool himself Ryan Reynolds voice an investigative Pikachu alongside a young man trying to locate his missing father. Populated with life-like Pokemon throughout, the film is a bold take on the existing Pokemon setting that has been established through a long-running anime series. Thanks to Reynolds' performance and an adorably cute Pikachu, the film was a smash hit with audiences around the world and is the second highest earning game adaptation in history behind the equally popular Warcraft. It doesn't push the concept as far as it could but there is enough here to satisfy nearly all fans of the games and even non-fans. Given how badly Nintendo were burnt with the catastrophic adaptation of Super Mario Bros, it's little wonder that this was only the second film based on a Nintendo game. With any luck, we won't be waiting as long for the next one - can we now get a Legend Of Zelda adaptation, please?

© 2022 Benjamin Cox

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