The 12 Best Video Game Movies Ranked

What should a great video game movie feel like? Should the "Final Fantasy" film mostly function like a playthrough with a bunch of extra cutscenes? Should plot developments be mostly fetch-quests? Films tell compelling stories, but an entire generation has been raised on video games, and they're used to feeling like they're participating in the plots of the media they consume, whether the project is based on a game or not. 

This, I would argue, is a quality the best video game movies share, no matter how faithfully or not they adapt their button-mashing source material. But giving a fixed narrative an active sense of play is unbelievably difficult. For every "Tomb Raider" (2018), there's a "Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life" (2003). Still, some films manage to pull it off — here, we're going to look at the 12 best video game movies (which, for our purposes, are movies based on a video game property, not movies that take place in a game), plus two honorable mentions.

Honorable Mention: Doom

If the video game movie sub-genre has a landmark moment, it's the third act of "Doom." For its first two thirds, director Andrzej Bartkowiak offers a boilerplate sci-fi menace. There are creatures. There is violence. Even if the presences of a shockingly young Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, a pre-"Dredd" Karl Urban, and a "wow, she's in this?" Rosumund Pike briefly alleviate the movie's frequent doldrums, for most of its runtime "Doom" feels exactly like its title. But then John Grimm (Urban) decides to blast his way through virus-infected crew members, Bartkowiak shifts to a first-person point of view, and boom! Iconic video game cinema is born. 

The first-person shooter sequence in "Doom" was enthusiastically received by fans of the game, a rarity for the genre, and remains emblematic of what video game movies aspire to be and what they're expected to deliver. From the way the camera moves to the frame rate, which seems ready to glitch out, Bartkowiak's unbroken shot mimics the rhythms of classic "Doom" so succinctly that it basically qualifies as meta. And while few other video game movies have channeled their source material so directly, this genuinely fun moment earns "Doom" a spot on both this list and also the annals of B-movie cinema. You don't necessarily get "Crank," "V/H/S," or "Hardcore Henry" without "Doom." 

Honorable Mention: Resident Evil

Over the course of compiling this list, two things became abundantly clear: One, Paul W.S. Anderson is the godfather of video game cinema. Two, most people like at least one "Resident Evil" movie — and there is no clear favorite.

There are arguments to be made for "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter" and its clear-eyed social conscience. Some pick "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" because it's actually a pretty good zombie movie. As an argument can be made for almost any film in the series, it would appear that the six-film franchise might be more highly thought of than its Rotten Tomatoes scores indicate. 

Therefore, let's give credit where credit is due and make some room for 2002's "Resident Evil" on this list, a choice that honors video game cinema's most persistent IP and one that, on its own terms, works as a strangely charming action movie. While it isn't Anderson's finest work, "Resident Evil" acts as a sort of stepping stone between his early movies and his best films, and the torch-bearer for video game movies' appeal in general.

12. Warcraft

Duncan Jones is not a director who settles for half-measures. His debut film, "Moon," hinges on a tone-shifting twist. His follow-up, "Source Code," constructs a convoluted time-loop thriller, then uses it as a Trojan horse for a love story. If Duncan Jones was going to make a video-game movie, it was always going to be huge. The only question was: how big?

The answer, it turned out, was "Warcraft." Jones' least successful movie with critics became one of the highest-grossing video game movies ever, amassing more than $400 million at the worldwide box office and offering, in my humble opinion, the largest scope and most ambitious world-building of any film in the sub-genre. 

"Warcraft" feels massive. Its colorful visuals pop. Its score demolishes subtlety. If its narrative stumbles, that's part of what makes watching it such a wild experience. I'm not sure "Warcraft" is an objectively good film, but I'd rather spend two hours watching a good filmmaker take a big swing and miss than 90 minutes of mediocrity. "Warcraft" is absolutely the former.

11. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Bill Simmons, founder of The Ringer, is fond of discussing actors' "apex mountain" on "The Rewatchables" podcast. Basically, if any given role finds a performer at the peak of their powers, then it is their artistic pinnacle and should be recognized as such. It's a goofy concept, but a great one, and it leads me to offer the following: "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" is Jake Gyllenhaal's apex mountain midpoint.

What on Earth does that mean? It means that the 40-year old's role in Mike Newell's adaptation of the classic Ubisoft platformer finds the actor trying to hit new acting heights, but often struggling to summit. Playing Dastan was, in Hollywood's estimation, the logical next step for Gyllenhaal — it's a straight-up movie star part, kind of like a yoked Captain Jack Sparrow. Ironically, however, it was the wrong role for Gyllenhaal (or, really, any white actor), who flourishes in movies by Denis Villeneuve and Dan Gilroy, but strains in PG-rated family-friendly action mode. 

That said, Gyllenhall's performance makes Newell's film fascinating even if it rarely rises above competency. Besides, if "Prince of Persia" is the film that makes Mysterio Gyllenhaal's next blockbuster role, it deserves praise. Not every mountain can be one's apex. 

10. Sonic the Hedgehog

Those teeth. If you were on Twitter in 2019, they're why you remember "Sonic the Hedgehog." The memes that Sonic's original design inspired were incendiary. The fans' outrage was palpable. By the time that Paramount Pictures committed to fixing Sonic's chompers and the discourse about the hours worked by digital animators hit a fever pitch, it was easy to forget that "Sonic the Hedgehog" was a film at all. 

And here's the thing: the Sonic movie is good. Is it great? I wouldn't go that far. It's still basically a remake of "Hop" with better action scenes. But "Sonic the Hedgehog" is sweet, memorable, and blissfully weird for a film that initially seemed so misguided. Ben Schwartz's voice work is endearing. The direction is crisp, unfussy, and very family-friendly. And Jim Carrey channels his entire blissed-out '90s comedy run into his performance as Doctor Robotnik. Whether he's arguing about whether James Marsden's Tom Wachowski was breastfed or dancing to "Where Evil Grows," "Sonic the Hedgehog" has — you guessed it — teeth. Now being on Stringer Bell's Knuckles.

9. Rampage

The Rock's second appearance on this list, 2018's "Rampage" is a notable improvement over his first for two reasons. One, director Brad Payton and the film's four credited writers bring an admirably goofy energy to their blockbuster, which is fitting for a movie based on an arcade game about punching nondescript buildings as a kaiju. Two, this film is nuts.

Again: "Rampage" is nuts. Do you want to see a movie in which the werewolf from "True Blood" gets eaten by a larger, flying wolf? That's "Rampage." Have you wondered if Jeffery Dean Morgan could play a character from every state in the South all at once? In "Rampage," he does. You thought Jake Lacy was the embodiment of toxic white privilege in "White Lotus?" You haven't seen "Rampage." 

"Rampage" is a film in which a giant lizard and gorilla destroy more of downtown Chicago than "The Blues Brothers" and "Transformers 3" combined — and yet, it's whatever Jake Lacy and Mailin Akerman are doing in their shared scenes that truly strains credibility. "Rampage" rocks even when is at its most questionable, and that, dear reader, is everything a "Rampage" adaptation ought to be.

8. Super Mario Bros. (The Morton-Jenkel Cut)

Let's get one thing clear: There will never — ever — be a film that strays more from its source material than 1994's "Super Mario Bros." If Aaron Sorkin adapted "Pride and Prejudice" and set it in deep space, it would somehow still be closer to Jane Austin's book than Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel's film is to Nintendo's platformers.

But in the case of the recently released Morton Jankel cut, that doesn't mean that "Super Mario Bros." is bad. While the box-office bomb flopped with fans, critics, and pretty much everyone else, it was also an extension of the aesthetics Morton and Jankel honed on the sci-fi cult classic "Max Headroom." "Super Mario Bros." is set in Dinohattan, a city where humans and dinosaurs co-exist. The dinosaurs' leader, King Koopa (Dennis Hopper), kidnaps Princess Peach (Samantha Mathis) to improve his popularity. Down into the rabbit hole of this dystopia come Mario and Luigi (Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo) to save the day. 

What follows is an epic deconstruction of the hero's journey, one as informed by the LA police state post-Rodney King as jumping over pits and gobbling up 8-bit mushrooms. The Morton Jankel cut, assembled by Super Mario Bros. The Movie Archive, is an attempt to capture the directors' eclectic vision as originally intended. While it's far from perfect, it's an eerily predictive ride that's as biting as it is ridiculous. Who knows what a game based on this would even look like? Not us, that's for sure.

7. Silent Hill

Of all of the films on the list, few have appreciated in value more than "Silent Hill." Debuting to a 32% percent Rotten Tomatoes score and reviews that called it "a train wreck" and "more deadly than silent," director Christopher Gans' take on Konami's popular chiller now charts on many rankings like this one. What happened?

A prevailing theory is that the cast and crew understood Keiichiro Toyama's game in a way that critics didn't. For all the notable fuss about the exquisite atmosphere of "Silent Hill" and its seamless blend of tension and violence, there is less written about its operatic tendencies. Though many derided the "Silent Hill" film's build towards a third act rife with phantasmagoria, doing so is remarkably faithful to the game — and, in the case of the creatures portrayed on screen (many of which were played by trained dancers, making the film's icky physical movement to be a practical effect), creepily accurate. 

As a game, "Silent Hill" was never for everyone. Gans' movie isn't, either. While it certainly falters at points, "Silent Hill" is consistently stunning, and creepy enough to transcend its many shortcomings.

6. The Angry Birds Movie 2

If anyone was equipped to turn a mobile game into cinematic lunacy, it was Thurop Van Orman. Orman is best known as the creator of Cartoon Network's "The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack," but that barely scratches the surface of his accomplishments. Van Orman also worked on "The Powerpuff Girls" and "Adventure Time, and voiced Lil' Gideon for Disney's cult hit "Gravity Falls." Van Orman has more animation bona fides than Jay-Z problems.

So, it's little wonder that he built a better blueprint for an "Angry Birds" movie with "The Angry Birds Movie 2." Characters move like clown-school graduates. Any chance for a pratfall — and there are many, including a rapid-fire "getting the team together" montage — is taken. The eclectic cast (Jason Sudeikis! Sterling K Brown!) seems bolstered by the new crew and brings their A-game to the voice acting. It's almost as surprising as the initial success of the "Angry Birds" game, and it should serve as Orman's calling card for any project he wants to tackle next.

5. Monster Hunter

Paul W.S. Anderson's "Monster Hunter" is relentless: relentlessly goofy, relentlessly fun, and relentlessly non-stop (yes, that's an oxymoron). It's a film that makes the bus in "Speed" feel like it's going at a leisurely pace. In between action setpieces, there are loads of crazy dialogue ("Never ever seen a flamethrower do this to a man"), ice-cold stares, and tons of killable creatures.

In short, "Monster Hunter" is exactly what it promises to be. To the credit of all involved, it doesn't stray far from the flimsy plots of its source material. Sure, in the "Monster Hunter" games, the protagonist is not a soldier from our world (Milla Jovovich) who gets sucked into an alternate universe full of evil beasts, but if that's what it takes to get to Tony Jaa to play character named the Hunter who travels around with an arsenal of exploding arrows, so be it. 

Unlike Anderson's "Resident Evil" films (which are goofily enjoyable in their own right), "Monster Hunter" doesn't get lost in excessive plots or lofty cinematic ambitions. It knows exactly what it is, and mainlines its own supply to deliver so much B-movie je ne sais quoi that it almost tilts back over into minimalism. In the midst of the pandemic that "Monster Hunter" was released in, that was enough to qualify as cinema. 

4. Tomb Raider

Let's try a thought exercise: Pretend that you don't know that "Tomb Raider" is video game royalty. Act as though Lara Croft is just a name, and that Angelina Jolie didn't play her (certainly not twice). Now then, can I interest you in an expensive survival-action film starring Walton Goggins and Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander? That's a much more compelling pitch, right? 

2018's "Tomb Raider," which was directed by Roar Uthag of "The Wave" fame, is a better film than its buzz indicated, largely due to the fact that said buzz was framed in the context of Tomb Raider games. While "Tomb Raider" isn't a great adaptation of the video games that inspired it, it's also both unpretentious and visually stunning. Furthermore, the movie never reduced Alicia Vikander to a simple caricature (something that cannot be said of the Jolie films). Ultimately, "Tomb Raider" serves as an example of what happens when you adapt the way a game makes you feel, not just its tropes and signature aesthetic elements. 

3. Mortal Kombat

To talk about Paul W.S. Anderson's "Mortal Kombat," we must discuss the reboot released in 2021. Why? Because while Simon McQuaid's gore-heavy film is, in many ways, a better realization of Ed Boon's brutal and colorful fighting game, it's a less successful film overall. The performances don't go for broke, and the fights are cut to shreds. What Anderson's film lacks in sheen it makes up for in spirit, flawlessly capturing the feeling of playing "Mortal Kombat" in a dusty arcade or on a just-out-the-box Sega Genesis. 

When Goro shows up, it is giggle and gasp-inspiring. When characters fight, it's never less than fun. In many ways, that's why 1995's "Mortal Kombat" is the template for video game movies. It sees and recognizes its audience. Fighting games are, generally, dialed up to 11. They paint their characters in broad strokes. The action is swift and frequent, and they're and never, ever boring. Anderson's film gets this. 

That's why battles happen every 10 minutes or so. That's why someone screaming "Mortal Kombat" ad nauseum over the greatest techno song ever written works like gangbusters. That's why "Mortal Kombat," decades after its release, is still a top-three video game movie. Test its might. 

2. Detective PIkachu

The only major summer tentpole to be shot on film in 2019 was Rob Latterman's "Detective Pikachu." I think about this once a week. It's a remarkable fact in its own right, but it's also the key to understanding why the two-year old video game film feels wildly elevated. Here is a family film that goes out of its way to stock up on noir tropes and shoots them like "The Long Goodbye" never happened, all while letting Ryan Reynolds go full Robin Williams. How does this movie exist? 

Never mind, that. What matters is that "Detective Pikachu" is excellent. It manages to cram an intelligent look at the limits of male communication and one legitimately frightening set piece into a rollercoaster ride of shadow-soaked comedy and plot twists. It was one of 2019's better films, and it's only going to age like a fine wine. It's place on top of this list was almost destined; however, one 2021 release gives it some seriously stiff competition.

1. Werewolves Within

Since its release in 1985, Jonathan Lynn's "Clue" has been an outlier. It's one of the best movies based on a game of any sort; it blends genres like Jamba does juices. Most importantly, it anchors both its story and its comedic engine to its peerless ensemble and their irascibly manic dialogue. "Clue" feels like well-built lightning in a bottle. It shouldn't exist. It does. There's never been anything else like it — until "Werewolves Within."

Is that too much praise for a movie that only came out recently? Absolutely not. Josh Ruben's follow up to the great "Scare Me" gathers an impressive assemblage of young, funny people like Sam Richardson and Harvey Guillen, veterans like Michaela Watkins and Catherine Curtin, and character actors like Wayne Duvall and Glenn Fleishler, and sets them loose upon a twisted supernatural mystery. 

"Werewolves Within" is fun. It's socially conscious. Most notably, it captures the exact blend of craft and chaos that made "Clue" so singular almost 40 years ago. It's not that there aren't any video game movies like it — it's that there are almost no movies like it, period. "Werewolves Within" sits as the undisputed king of video game movies. Long may it reign.