There are very few absolute truths in the world. However, I feel safe in saying most films based on video games are pretty terrible.
Much in the same way that most video games that are based on films are terrible.
Rarely, one of these films comes across as anything other than a desperate cash-grab.
Most of them stray so far away from the source material they are barely related or recognizable (Final Fantasy I’m looking at you). Or the original story just doesn’t translate well to film.
What makes a film good is highly subjective. And this is extra true for video game movies. Your experience with the source material can color your opinion.
So this is a list of video game movies I like. I’m not saying they’re the best films ever. They may not have the best rotten tomato or IMDB scores.
Critics may have hated them and fans might have sent the directors’ death threats. They’re just films I enjoyed and think you might enjoy too.
This list isn’t in a very strict order but I’m generally starting with films that are just kind of ok and building up to my favs.
List Of Video Game Movies
1. Max Payne
May Payne was released in 2008 and stars Mark Wahlberg as the titular hero, Max Payne. For anyone not old enough to have played the games, Payne is a New York detective who recently lost his family and is fighting to take down corruption in New York.
The film follows a similar storyline and Wahlberg’s portrayal of Payne is pretty spot on. He might not be the best actor in the world but he does the gritty action hero thingy pretty well at this point.
The film also copies the game’s noir stylings but with mixed results. The games tend to take themselves a little too seriously but make up for it with over-the-top slow-motion gunplay.
Unfortunately, the movie just takes itself a little too seriously which spoils the fun. However, if you’ve played the games or just like a film noir in general May Payne is still worth a look.
Games to Play
Max Payne is one of the few successful series not to see a remaster this generation. However if you’ve never played them and would like to, you can get them here and here. The third entry is a bit of a Blacksheep but can be got for a bargain here.
Rotten Tomatoes: 15%
Doom is a franchise that needs no introduction. Often hailed as the first FPS, the franchise has sold millions of copies. Of course, this meant it was only a matter of time until it got the Hollywood treatment.
The film was released in 2005 and is famous for being one of the films that kicked off Dwayne “the rock” Johnson’s movie career. I love The Rock but it’s honestly surprising this film didn’t bury him.
Doom suffers from an identity crisis. It’s trying to be an action/ horror and video game movie all at the same time and kinda fails at all three.
The film mimics the horror focus of Doom 3 rather than the fast-paced action of the originals. This angered fans. It also rewrote important parts of Doom lore (there’s no hell, demons are just mutants) and Doom Guy is really nowhere to be seen.
Karl Urban kind of plays a version of him but it’s pretty unrecognizable. Imagine making an Uncharted film without Nathan Drake or Halo without Master Chief.
However, turn the lights down with some popcorn and it’s dumb enough to still be fun. It’s worth watching for the first-person view scene on its own.
Games to Play
Doom has seen somewhat of a revival in the last few years. Doom 2016 revitalized the series, get it here.
Rotten Tomatoes: 18%
Another Dwayne Johnson entry so soon? He’s currently the king of dumb but watchable action films.
I can vaguely remember playing a Rampage game as a kid. It’s one of those series that everyone of a certain age has played but nobody seems to have ever owned.
If the games had a storyline I don’t remember. You played as a giant mutated animal and smashed up a city as quickly as you could. Good times.
The film takes this very basic premise and rolls with it. It has to be one of the dumbest films in recent times. And I enjoyed it.
There are no pretensions, the film knows what it is. This is the kind of film where the Rock is mortally wounded halfway through, grimaces for two scenes, and then seemingly forgets for the next 40 minutes that he should be long dead.
If you like dumb films with lots of explosions and very little sense I highly recommend this monster.
Games to Play
Rampage games haven’t been made for a while and it can be hard to pick up physical copies of them. If you’re interested it’s worth keeping an eye on the GameStop listings.
Rotten Tomatoes 51%
4. Resident Evil 1-7
The live-action Resident Evil films have to be the most successful example of a videogame to movie translation.
This isn’t to say they’re great films. They’re not. But they managed to milk 7 films out of this franchise until it shriveled up and died. That’s fast and furious levels of flogging a dead horse.
Much to my shame, I’m pretty sure I’ve watched every film in the series. I say pretty sure because the franchise is so repetitive and the storyline so convoluted it makes it hard to keep track of.
The films don’t have much in common with the games. Both storylines may be convoluted but there isn’t much crossover besides the basic beat of evil megacorporation creates zombies. Game characters appear in names but they’re mostly unrecognizable.
This all being said, if you like zombies (I love zombies) and like action films, there’s a lot of fun to be had here.
Milla Jovovich is a great lead and watching her mow through crowds of zombies never really gets dull. Like most films on this list, as long as you don’t overthink (or think) too much it’s great fun.
Games to Play
Resident Evil is a prolific series and they’re still churning out excellent games. Resident Evil Village came out this year and is a blast.
However, there aren’t many zombies. If you’re looking for something closer to the films you should try the recent Resident Evil 2 remake.
Rotten Tomatoes 36%
5. Pokemon: The First Movie
Yes, they have made so many Pokemon films at this point that the original has been retroactively named “the first movie”.
I’m a huge film geek but I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited as I was when this was released in 1998. To be fair I was only 8 at the time.
Whether it’s a good film or not is up for debate. I’ve honestly never gone back and rewatched it. Sometimes it’s a bad idea to revisit things you loved as a child.
But this film did introduce us to Mewtwo who’s awesome. There’s also a scene towards the end that I refuse to rewatch or think about because I’m pretty sure it’ll still make me cry.
Pokemon is still worth a watch for the nostalgia kick.
Games to Play
If you’re one of the few gamers who hasn’t played Pokemon you should definştely try it Especially if you’re an RPG fan.
The games have surprising depth. You can check out and buy all the Pokemon games past and present here.
Rotten Tomatoes 16%
6. Mortal Kombat 1995/ 2021
The Mortal Kombat series has been around for a long time. Like many long-running game franchises, it has a simple premise that has been fleshed out and developed over the decades.
The best fighters in the Universe meet up for a fighting tournament that will somehow save the world.
There are three films in this series, but only two of them are good. 1995 original opened to mixed reviews but has become a cult classic.
The third opened in 2021 to generally positive reviews. We don’t talk about the second movie….
Both the 1995 and 2021 films strike a good balance. They feature enough OTT martial action to keep your average movie-goer happy and enough lore to keep long-term fans happy.
More importantly, neither takes itself too seriously.
The 1995 original is ok but might feel a little dated by today’s standards. 90’s kids tend to see it through rose-tinted glasses. The 2021 film is great though, definitely give it a watch.
Games to Play
The game series is still alive and kicking. Mortal Kombat is still one of the highest-selling fighting games out there. The latest entry Mortal Kombat XI is great and can be picked up here.
7. Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog is impressive for the fact that it almost flopped before it even hit the theatres. That is how powerful fan backlash can be.
The story is this. The filmmakers released a trailer showcasing their Sonic design. The fanbase HATED the look of Sonic and the film’s release date had to be pushed back whilst they reworked the whole film.
I’m sure glad they did. I went into Sonic expecting nothing. I was bored, had nothing else to watch so decided out of curiosity to give it a try.
I loved this depiction of Sonic. He’s funny, likable and a complete badass once he gets going. Jim Carrey plays Dr Robotnik and is classic Carrey. Manic. James Marsden plays Tom who is the movie’s straight man. He’s the Jon to Sonic’s Garfield.
The film is quite clearly aimed at kids but as a grown man I still enjoyed it. I don’t even have fond memories of the original game to bias me.
Games to Play
The Sonic games range from excellent to downright awful. Even so, they’re an important part of gaming history and the best really shouldn’t be missed.
Especially if you’re a fan of fast-paced, old-school platforming. Check out the games here.
Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
8. Pokemon Detective Pikachu
Detective Pikachu is an interesting videogame movie. It’s based on Pokemon obviously but not one of the mainline games. Instead, it takes its inspiration from one of the spin-offs, even though the story is largely separate.
This is not the Pikachu we all grew up watching. This Pikachu can talk and is voiced by the legend, Ryan Reynolds. A lonely young boy discovers a talking Pikachu who thinks it’s a detective.
What starts as a pretty basic story grows into something pretty heartwarming. It’s also nice to see an interpretation of Pokemon that doesn’t solely revolve around people making their pets fight.
Even if you’re not a Pokemon the films are worth watching for CGI alone. They did an amazing job making these bizarre little monsters look life-like. Pikachu is of course adorable and it turns out Mr. Mime is pure nightmare fuel.
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
9. Free Guy
The most recent film on this list and another Ryan Reynold vehicle. This film is a little bit of a cheat but I don’t care because it’s awesome.
Free Guy isn’t based on one video game. It’s based on all of them. Ryan Reynolds plays Guy, a sentient NPC stranded in a videogame world (think GTA Online on steroids).
Reynolds is unsurprisingly superb. Refreshingly he plays someone naive and innocent rather than another Deadpool clone. The supporting cast is also excellent but is largely eclipsed by Reynolds’ charisma.
The reason I love this film though is it’s one big exploding easter egg. It feels like this was a game made and written by gamers for gamers.
It has fun with gaming cliches without relying on them. Most of the film features vague references to certain games but the last fight scene features plenty of direct references.
If I have one criticism it’s that as a gamer there are instances where it feels like the writers wanted to feature certain games but couldn’t due to licensing conflicts.
You should give Free Guy a try.
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
10. Wreck-It Ralph and Ralph Breaks the Internet
So yes, my top pick is another cheat. Sorry, not sorry.
Wreck-It Ralph and Ralph Breaks the Internet are amazing films. Don’t be fooled by their child-friendly exteriors. These films are love letters aimed at gaming history dressed up as kids’ entertainment.
The storyline is markedly similar to Free Guy. The video game character (Ralph) becomes sentient and wrecks everything.
However, what makes both Ralph films so amazing is the easter eggs. It features Ready Player One levels of blink and you’ll miss them deep dive references.
How the creators got the agreement from so many license holders to feature so many privately-owned video game characters I don’t know. It’s hugely impressive.
The stories in both films are also excellent so I won’t spoil them. But expect your heart to be warmed.
If you’re a gamer I can’t recommend these films enough. You’re already a gamer so don’t pretend you’re too cool to watch a kid’s film.
Games to Play
Wreck-It-Ralph is inspired by the old classic platformers. Unfortunately, these can be difficult to pick up these days. It’s easy to get ripped off when dipping your toes into the world of retro gaming. Gamestop however is a good place to start.
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
The video-game movies I rate most highly know they’re just a bit of fun. Films like Rampage and Resident Evil KNOW they’re stupid.
They just want you to have fun. Sonic works in a similar way. It’s funny and fast and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Or, they’re films like Wreck-It-Ralph and Free Guy who show reverence for gaming history and culture.
So when you watch these films I ask you to watch them how they’re intended, with a big bag of popcorn and don’t take them too seriously.