Arts & Entertainment

The 7 Best Video Game Movies of All Time, Ranked

Detective Pikachu is one of the greatest, but it doesn't top our list.
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Making a movie based on a video game is no easy feat—even though it shouldn't be any more difficult than adapting a novel or a comic book to screen. Oftentimes, these films are plagued by boring, uninspired Hollywood tropes with narratives that seem wholly foreign to the original video games themselves. We've seen blatant whitewashing in terrible movies like Prince of Persia, absurdly hollow cash-grabs such as the Street Fightermovie or the Angelina Jolie-helmed Tomb Raider, and, of course, the Super Mario Bros.movie, which still stands as one of cinema's greatest disasters. For whatever reason, the secret recipe has eluded filmmakers for decades.

Though the gaming community is known for being hard to please, it's not as if there's a shortage of good stories in video games to tell onscreen. The medium of gaming, itself inspired very much by the traditional "hero's journey" of cinematic storytelling, is rich with gripping tales both sensational and intimate.

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But not all video game movies are bad. In fact, some of them are formidable, and the genre itself seems to be getting better every day. To prove it, here are the best video game movie adaptations of all time, ranked.

7 | Assassin's Creed (2016)

Photo by Ubisoft, Shutterstock.

The creative team behind the Assassin's Creed film took the correct approach. Ubisoft, the game studio, decided to snag the creative reins of the project itself and attach a reliable talent who believed in the potential of the franchise. This talent, of course, was budding Hollywood leading man Michael Fassbender. What he did with the film may not have been exactly a box office pleaser, but it was an example of a video game movie that was done artfully, made with a deep, meticulous understanding of the game series’ lore.

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6 | The Resident Evil Series (2002-2016)

Photo by Capcom, Shutterstock.

Say what you will about Paul W.S. Anderson, but he created a world all his own in the Resident Evil film series. The movies, frustratingly, diverge greatly from the storytelling of the games, but Milla Jovovich has become something of a screen icon thanks to her enduring leading role in them. While they take a lot of liberties with the Resident Evil franchise, the world-building in the films is captivating enough to make these a stand-out in the genre.

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5 | Warcraft (2016)

Photo by Blizzard Entertainment, Shutterstock.

World of Warcraft is one of the most beloved video game series of all time. Its fan base is large, spanning generations of kids who, in some cases, have been playing it for decades. Duncan Jones’ take on the series showed, perhaps for the first time, what happens when a huge fan of a video game is given the keys to a film franchise. Jones is an outspoken WoW-head, and his knowledge of the series was apparent in this film.

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4 | Tomb Raider (2018)

Photo by Crystal Dynamics, Shutterstock.

After Angelina Jolie’s disappointing take on the franchise in the early 2000s, it seemed like Tomb Raiderwould never achieve its full potential onscreen. The series itself is extremely cinematic, and, aside from the burdensome exploitation and sexism in the games, it offers what could be a very strong woman-led Indiana Jones-type movie series. In 2018, Alicia Vikander starred in this much darker—and much more realistic—version of Tomb Raider, and she really nailed it.

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3 | Final Fantasy: Advent Children (2005)

Photo by Square Enix, Shutterstock.

Final Fantasy is another major gaming franchise that has a subculture all its own. For decades, fans wondered how their beloved RPG would look onscreen. Advent Children, the only film on this list that’s not live-action, answered that call in 2005. The imaginative and at times fully bonkers take on the beloved Square Enix series used computer-generated 3D graphics instead of real life actors, and it really blurred the line between film and gaming.

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2 | Detective Pikachu (2019)

Photo by Creatures Inc., Shutterstock.
When it was first announced, this movie seemed like an outright joke. After so many incredible years of Pokémon in pop culture, it seemed insane that the franchise’s first trip to the box office in live-action form would come by way of a Detective Pikachu game. Somehow, it actually happened, and it was fantastic. An emotional and personal exploration of what it means to be a Pokémon trainer, Detective Pikachu set a new bar for video game movies for years to come.
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1 | Mortal Kombat (1995)

Photo by NetherRealm Studios, Shutterstock.
What is there to say about the Mortal Kombat movie that hasn’t already been said? It’s campy. It’s exciting. It’s dumb. It’s brilliant. The spirit of the '90s is alive in full force in this film, and to this day, the techno-futuristic-cage-match title still stands as the most satisfying video game movie to date. Sure, it may not be the most “high-art” example on this list. But Mortal Kombat perfectly captured the essence of a game franchise, and it cannot be beat.
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This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.

* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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