Video game movies don’t have the best reputation, and many are closer to curiosities than masterpieces. But there’s still plenty of fun in these movies, especially if you don’t take them seriously. Here are 10 video game movies worth watching.
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The first animated movie based on Rovio’s mobile game was exactly what people expected out of a quickie cash-in on a fading fad. But The Angry Birds Movie 2 gets weirder with its approach to the world of birds and pigs at war on neighboring islands. Producers handed the sequel to The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack creator Thurop Van Orman. He takes some welcome detours in the story, adding in oddball new side characters and absurdist plot elements while keeping the kid-focused tone.
For many fans, 1995’s Mortal Kombat was the first legitimate video game movie, an action-filled spectacle with an indelible soundtrack and a genuine affinity for the game that inspired it. The movie captures the simplicity of Midway’s arcade fighting game with familiar characters and catchphrases. It features expertly choreographed martial arts within a vaguely fantasy-inspired storyline (which is really just an excuse for more fight scenes).
Mortal Kombat is streaming for free via many local libraries on Hoopla and is available for digital purchase ($7.99+) and rental ($2.99+) at Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and other digital outlets.
It seemed a little odd that the first-ever live-action Pokémon movie would be based on the spin-off game Detective Pikachu, but that turns out to be the perfect choice for a fun sci-fi movie with broad mainstream appeal. Cute little monster Pikachu becomes a cynical detective voiced by Ryan Reynolds, solving a mystery in a futuristic city populated by humans and Pokémon. Pikachu teams up with a missing police detective’s son (Justice Smith) in order to track down the young man’s father.
German filmmaker Uwe Boll made a career out of directing almost universally reviled video game adaptations, including Alone in the Dark and House of the Dead. Postal is Boll’s feature-length middle finger to his critics, an aggressively offensive comedy based on the button-pushing video game series. Postal is vulgar, violent, and deliberately unpleasant, featuring cameos from both Boll and game designer Vince Desiderio as themselves, essentially taunting the audience. It’s uniquely awful and awfully unique at the same time.
Postal is streaming on Amazon Prime Video ($119 per year after a 30-day free trial).
Do you like seeing giant monsters fight? Because that’s what you get in Rampage, a loose adaptation of the popular 1980s arcade game. Dwayne Johnson gets top billing, but the real stars of this movie are the mutated animals (gorilla, crocodile, and wolf) that wreak havoc across various landscapes. There’s more plot to this movie than there is to the simplistic game, but the filmmakers still introduce only as much narrative as is necessary to get the monsters to attack (and to give Johnson some cool one-liners).
Director Paul W.S. Anderson has attracted a cult following for his brand of no-frills action filmmaking, and he’s the main auteur behind the successful Resident Evil franchise. Anderson directed four of the six movies based on the Capcom game series, starting with this opening installment. The first movie introduces Milla Jovovich as Alice, a covert agent battling against the zombie apocalypse unleashed by the sinister Umbrella Corporation.
One of the most critically acclaimed video game adaptations, Silent Hill turns the creepy horror game into a creepy horror movie. Radha Mitchell stars as a mother searching for her missing daughter in the haunted town of Silent Hill. The more she explores the town, the deeper she falls into a nightmare world, with characters and imagery taken from the game. It’s a surreal, disturbing movie that follows the unpredictable logic of a dream.
After years of attempts to bring Sega’s flagship character to the big screen, Sonic the Hedgehog became a major box-office hit in 2020 with its mix of sci-fi action and goofy comedy. Ben Schwartz voices the hyperactive blue title character, with Jim Carrey as Sonic’s longtime nemesis Dr. Robotnik. It’s a family-friendly movie that doesn’t break new ground but still finds a way to effectively place Sonic in the framework of a crowd-pleasing blockbuster.
Sonic the Hedgehog is streaming on Amazon Prime Video ($119 per year after a 30-day free trial), Hulu ($5.99+ per month after a 30-day free trial), and Epix ($5.99 per month after a seven-day free trial), and is available for digital purchase ($12.99+) and rental ($2.99+) at Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and other digital outlets.
After the Angelina Jolie-led Tomb Raider movies fizzled out with two entries, adventurer Lara Croft was rebooted with this grittier take starring Alicia Vikander. Vikander’s Lara is still a globe-trotting treasure-hunter, but she’s more of a scrappy fighter than a glamorous socialite. Here, Lara goes on a quest to find her missing father, which takes her into ancient ruins on an island off the coast of Japan. There, she faces mythical dangers as well as the more common (but also dangerous) threat posed by human greed.
The highest-grossing video game movie of all time, Warcraft was a huge hit with international audiences. It was a passion project for sci-fi auteur Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code), who co-wrote and directed the adaptation of Blizzard Entertainment’s MMORPG. Warcraft is an action-fantasy epic about the battle between humans and orcs for the fate of two worlds. Jones brings his love of the game to this grand saga, setting up a potential franchise that has yet to arrive.