Best movies based on video games

Published 6:03 pm Friday, July 8, 2022

Paramount Pictures

Best movies based on video games

As technology has progressed, video games have become a beloved storytelling medium in their own right. So why not take things a step forward, and adapt bestselling games into films? Over the years, more and more filmmakers have done so, some with more success than others.

While video games are interactive, sprawling, and meant to be played upwards of 30 hours, movies must adhere to a specific plot, distilling entire video game worlds into just a couple of hours of story. While video game-to-film adaptations are no easy task, there are certainly those who have managed to transcend both genres, drawing in game fans and newcomers alike.

With this list, we have set out to honor the best movies based on video games. To do so, Stacker compiled IMDb data on all theatrically released feature films based on video games with over 10,000 user votes on IMDb, ranking the top 15. Web videos and TV movies were not considered.

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It should be noted that the word “best” is relative here. Even the #1 film on this list has an unimpressive IMDb score overall, and the majority have poor Metascores. Video game movie adaptations are certainly still finding their footing with audiences and critics, but that doesn’t mean that many of them haven’t left a lasting impression on viewers, especially overseas. All eight films in the “Resident Evil” franchise, for example, have made more overseas than in the U.S., some over six times more. Seven of the eight have made at least two-and-a-half times their budget. One of these films, “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter,” cost $40 million to produce, made $27 million domestically, and a whopping $287 million internationally, making back nearly eight times its budget. It is this international appeal that makes video game adaptations a viable commodity for studios.

So from “Pokémon” to “Tomb Raider” and everything in between, here are the best movies based on video games.

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Ash Ketchum and various pokémon in Pokémon: The First Movie - Mewtwo Strikes Back (1998)

Kids’ WB

#15. ‘Pokémon: The First Movie – Mewtwo Strikes Back’ (1998)

– Directors: Kunihiko Yuyama, Michael Haigney
– IMDb user rating: 6.2
– Metascore: 35
– Runtime: 96 minutes

As its full title suggests, “Mewtwo Strikes Back” marks the first feature-length Pokémon film. In the movie, Ash, Misty, Brock, and Pikachu must face off against the bioengineered Pokémon Mewtwo, who resents the scientists planning to experiment upon him and declares war on humans. Although the film tackles heady ethical topics like cloning and genetic modification, the English-language version faced criticism for its voice acting and the removal of the film’s more ethically complicated themes.

Three birds in The Angry Birds Movie

Columbia Pictures

#14. ‘The Angry Birds Movie’ (2016)

– Directors: Clay Kaytis, Fergal Reilly
– IMDb user rating: 6.2
– Metascore: 43
– Runtime: 97 minutes

Who would’ve thought that an app about launching birds at green pigs would become a feature film franchise? That’s exactly what happened with “The Angry Birds Movie,” which expands on its source material to tell the story of a misfit bird named Red (Jason Sudeikis). When he and his friends from anger management class discover that their new pig neighbors are hatching an evil scheme, the birds must band together and defend their island home. The film later sparked a sequel, which was released in 2019.

Timothy Olyphant (Agent 47) and Olga Kurylenko (Nika) in Hitman

Twentieth Century Fox

#13. ‘Hitman’ (2007)

– Director: Xavier Gens
– IMDb user rating: 6.2
– Metascore: 35
– Runtime: 100 minutes

Based on the popular third-person shooter game of the same name, “Hitman” stars Timothy Olyphant as Agent 47, an assassin raised from childhood to serve the shadowy Organization. When Agent 47 discovers that his lifelong employers have betrayed him, he must team up with enigmatic femme fatale Nika (Olga Kurylenko) to untangle a global conspiracy threatening both their lives. While “Hitman” was a box office success (grossing $101.3 million against a $24 million budget), it was slammed by critics for its “excessive violence, incoherent plot, and inane dialogue.”

Milla Jovovich (Alice) in Resident Evil: Extinction

Constantin Film

#12. ‘Resident Evil: Extinction’ (2007)

– Director: Russell Mulcahy
– IMDb user rating: 6.2
– Metascore: 41
– Runtime: 94 minutes

In the third installment of the “Resident Evil” franchise, protagonist Alice (Milla Jovovich) deals with the superhuman powers she possesses as the result of experimentation by the evil Umbrella Corp. Soon, she reunites with old and new allies alike to take Umbrella on in Death Valley, near post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. While the first two “Resident Evil” films followed their source material closely, Extinction’s plot largely diverged from the games, instead taking inspiration from the “Mad Max” series. However, the film does introduce two game characters from “Resident Evil 2”: Albert Wesker (Jason O’Mara) and Claire Redfield (Ali Larter).

Alicia Vikander (Lara Croft) in Tomb Raider

Warner Bros.

#11. ‘Tomb Raider’ (2018)

– Director: Roar Uthaug
– IMDb user rating: 6.3
– Metascore: 48
– Runtime: 119 minutes

Alicia Vikander takes over the titular role from Angelina Jolie in 2018’s “Tomb Raider,” which crafts a new origin story for iconic adventurer Lara Croft. Based on the 2013 video game of the same name, “Tomb Raider” follows Croft as she sets off on her first expedition, searching for her missing father. Although the film follows its source material closely, there are some key differences. For instance, notable antagonists (a violent cult called the Solarii Brotherhood) are excluded, and the supernatural paramilitary organization Trinity is introduced much earlier.

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Three pigs in The Angry Birds Movie 2

Sony Pictures Animation

#10. ‘The Angry Birds Movie 2’ (2019)

– Directors: Thurop Van Orman, John Rice
– IMDb user rating: 6.4
– Metascore: 60
– Runtime: 97 minutes

While the first “Angry Birds” movie builds upon the premise of the original game, “The Angry Birds Movie 2” flips that concept on its head entirely. This time, Red and his friends are forced to team up with their green pig enemies to defend their home from enemy birds seeking to destroy their way of life. In 2018, reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes declared that the film was the best-reviewed video game adaptation on its website at the time, surpassing its predecessor, though it has since slipped to #2.

Aki Ross in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Chris Lee Productions

#9. ‘Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within’ (2001)

– Directors: Hironobu Sakaguchi, Motonori Sakakibara
– IMDb user rating: 6.4
– Metascore: 49
– Runtime: 106 minutes

Drawing from the popular “Final Fantasy” game series, “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” follows scientists Doctor Sid (Donald Sutherland) and Aki Ross (Ming-Na Wen) as they attempt to save Earth from a cunning alien race known as the Phantoms. “The Spirits Within” made history as the first photorealistic computer-animated movie, taking animators nearly four years to finish. It also held the record for most expensive video game film, a record which was only broken by 2010’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.”

Tom Holland in Uncharted

Columbia Pictures

#8. ‘Uncharted’ (2022)

– Director: Ruben Fleischer
– IMDb user rating: 6.4
– Metascore: 45
– Runtime: 116 minutes

In “Uncharted,” treasure hunter Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) and his street-smart ally Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) must race to solve clues leading to a 500-year-old lost treasure before it falls into the hands of their ruthless adversary, Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas). In his review, Variety’s Owen Gleiberman described the film as “watchable in a thin ‘Raiders of the Lost National Treasure of the Fast & Furious Caribbean’ way.” Nevertheless, the movie grossed over $400 million at the box office, making it the fourth-highest-grossing movie based on a video game of all time.

Holland portrays Nathan as a geeky 20-something, notably different from the cocky 30-something he’s traditionally introduced as in the video game series. However, the opening set piece of him clinging onto airborne cargo was drawn directly from the third “Uncharted” game, and the flashback to his childhood in a boys’ home came from the fourth game.

Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots in Need for Speed

Dreamworks Pictures

#7. ‘Need for Speed’ (2014)

– Director: Scott Waugh
– IMDb user rating: 6.4
– Metascore: 39
– Runtime: 132 minutes

While the original “Need for Speed” game lacks a serialized narrative and instead provides players with different street racing tasks, the film adaptation marked a change of pace. In the movie, Aaron Paul stars as Tobey Marshall, a mechanic and underground racer who seeks revenge after his former partner Dino (Dominic Cooper)’s betrayal lands him in prison.

Notably, the film introduced a “helmet cam” POV, which allowed audiences to watch the action unfold from a behind-the-wheel perspective.

Ben Schwartz as Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog

Paramount Pictures

#6. ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ (2020)

– Director: Jeff Fowler
– IMDb user rating: 6.5
– Metascore: 47
– Runtime: 99 minutes

Adapted from the iconic Japanese video game franchise of the same name, “Sonic the Hedgehog” revolves around its titular blue hedgehog, now an anthropomorphized alien who arrives on Earth and befriends local sheriff Tom (James Marsden). Before long, it’s up to them to stop mad scientist Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) from exploiting Sonic’s abilities for his own gain.

Negative audience reactions to Sonic’s design in the first teaser trailer led Paramount to delay the film’s release by three months to redesign Sonic, adding an estimated $5 million to its budget. While the film was criticized for its excessive product placements, it inspired a 2022 sequel film (“Sonic the Hedgehog 2”).

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Ryan Reynolds, Kathryn Newton, and Justice Smith in Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

Warner Bros.

#5. ‘Pokémon: Detective Pikachu’ (2019)

– Director: Rob Letterman
– IMDb user rating: 6.5
– Metascore: 53
– Runtime: 104 minutes

Although the “Pokémon” franchise has been around since the 1990s, “Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” marked the first-ever live-action film adaptation. Loosely based on the 2016 game of the same name, “Detective Pikachu” follows 21-year-old Tim (Justice Smith) as he searches for his missing detective father with the help of his ex-partner, the clever Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds).

Perhaps surprisingly, “Detective Pikachu” doesn’t feature longtime “Pokémon” protagonist Ash Ketchum in the lead role. According to director Rob Letterman, “The Pokémon Company, they’ve already made many, many movies of Ash, and they came to [me] with this idea of using a new character.”

Tanya Allen, Laurie Holden, and Radha Mitchell in Silent Hill

TriStar Pictures

#4. ‘Silent Hill’ (2006)

– Director: Christophe Gans
– IMDb user rating: 6.5
– Metascore: 31
– Runtime: 125 minutes

As “Silent Hill” protagonist Rose (Radha Mitchell) seeks a cure for her adopted daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland)’s mysterious affliction, they enter the strange town of Silent Hill. When Sharon suddenly goes missing, Rose encounters a fearsome cult, and is forced to reckon with her daughter’s connection to the town’s monstrous past.

The film marks a change from the original “Silent Hill” game, in which the protagonist is Sharon’s adoptive father Harry. The original games’ score by Akira Yamaoka also comprises most of the “Silent Hill” movie’s music.

Milla Jovovich, Eric Mabius, and Michelle Rodriguez in Resident Evil

Constantin Film

#3. ‘Resident Evil’ (2002)

– Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
– IMDb user rating: 6.6
– Metascore: 33
– Runtime: 100 minutes

Marking the first entry in what would become a hit franchise, “Resident Evil” stars Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez as leaders of a rebel team seeking to infiltrate the evil Umbrella Corporation’s underground “hive” laboratory. There, a virus has been unleashed, turning employees into bloodthirsty zombies. Originally titled “Resident Evil: Ground Zero,” the film was retitled after 9/11.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Walt Disney Pictures

#2. ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’ (2010)

– Director: Mike Newell
– IMDb user rating: 6.6
– Metascore: 50
– Runtime: 116 minutes

Expanding upon the “Prince of Persia” video games, “The Sands of Time” centers on Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), the adopted son of Persia’s king. After acquiring an ancient dagger that grants him access to the powerful sands of time, Dastan and the Alamut princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) must use it to bring his father’s anonymous assassin to justice. “The Sands of Time” grossed over $336 million at the box office, making it the highest-grossing video game film until “Warcraft” broke its record in 2016.

Toby Kebbell in Warcraft

Legendary Entertainment

#1. ‘Warcraft’ (2016)

– Director: Duncan Jones
– IMDb user rating: 6.7
– Metascore: 32
– Runtime: 123 minutes

Adapted from the massively popular “World of Warcraft” games (and more specifically, the 1994 game “Warcraft: Orcs and Humans”), “Warcraft” follows human and orc efforts to stop the warlock Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) from invading the planet Azeroth with the help of a magic portal. In his review, Variety critic Geoff Berkshire described it as “an unwaveringly earnest film that never owns up to exactly how campy every character, every conflict and every new realm truly is.”

Nevertheless, the film was an international box office success, grossing over $439 million worldwide. This makes it the highest-grossing video game adaptation ever made.

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