Here are the 11 best movies based on video games. Movies don’t usually get video games right, but when they do, they really do.

But First: The Mixed Legacy of Movies Based on Video Games

Disney

Video games have been a popular form of entertainment for decades, and it makes sense to try and adapt them into movies as they do with books. Most video games have stories to them, and it is a visual medium, so it was inevitable that games would start to be adapted into films.

However, the results have been poor. Many movies based on video games are mediocre, and a few amount of them are truly bad. Some of the worst movies ever have been based on video games. That being said, enough time has passed, and enough movies have been made, that there are 11 movies based on video games that are at least pretty good, and even a few that are good.

The Super Mario Bros Movie (2023)

Universal

We’d have more video game movies to pick from, save for one thing. Nintendo was out of the gate early. 1993’s Super Mario Bros. was the first film made adapted from a video game. Not just a video game, but the quintessential video game series. It also turned out terrible. Critics and moviegoers loathed it and it turned into a total flop. Because of this, Nintendo spent decades refusing to allow its games to be adapted.

Eventually, though, Nintendo agreed to let Mario and company feature in another movie. This time around, it would be animated and actually somewhat follow the narrative of the games. Bowser, for example, is not a humanoid mutant played by Dennis Hopper. While some quibbled with Chris Pratt voicing Mario, Jack Black was fun as Bowser, the animation looked great, and The Super Mario Bros. Movie made a ton of money, paving the way for more Nintendo movies to come.

This is one of the most watchable and fun movies based on video games.

Rampage (2018)

Warner Bros.

In Rampage, you play a giant animal monster and you destroy buildings. It’s fun! Of course, that plot is razor thin, but there is something there in terms of a movie. Could you, say, turn Rampage into a big, dumb action movie starring Dwayne Johnson? You sure could!

All in all, we’d have preferred more goofy action and building smashing and less plot, but Rampage did deliver what we wanted from a movie based on the game where the giant animal monsters destroy stuff. It’s kind of like Godzilla vs. Kong in that sense. In the end, we got Godzilla fighting Kong, and that was enough for us. The same ethos applies to Rampage, one of the most amusingly watchable movies based on video games.

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

Paramount

Poor Sonic the Hedgehog. First, there was the whole “Sonic looks deranged” fiasco, which led to an entire redesign for the titular hedgehog (which financially destroyed the special effects studio that handled it). Then, it had its run in the theaters curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the end, though, Sonic has prevailed.

The second movie is perhaps a bit better, but it all started here. James Marsden does well in the underbaked role of “Sonic’s human friend.” Ben Schwartz is a good voiceover actor. Jim Carrey chewing scenery is fun. There’s a reason why Sonic the Hedgehog has yielded two sequels (one arriving soon) and a TV spinoff in Knuckles.

Need for Speed (2014)

Disney

After Aaron Paul’s career exploded in popularity thanks to playing Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad, Hollywood wanted to figure out what to do with a reasonably-young, red-hot TV star with Emmys to his name.

Could Paul make it as a movie star? Need for Speed made $203.3 million off of a budget of $66 million. The reviews were a little cool, but the movie is fun.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017)

Sony

Paul W.S. Anderson directed four of the six delightfully-goofy Resident Evil movies starring Milla Jovovich. Well, they aren’t all delightfully goofy, but they got there, because the producers, and writer/director Anderson, realized that was where these zombie action movies buttered their bread.

The Final Chapter is the sixth and final movie in the original series, and it delivers. It’s the best of the bunch, and you can probably start here if you wanted. It’s one of the best movies based on video games.

Tomb Raider (2018)

Warner Bros.

The Tomb Raider movies starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft are, to be honest, not good. Successful, sure, but mediocre movies. Years later, the action-adventure series got a reboot, and this time around, they actually got a good movie out of it.

Jolie was out as Croft, with Alicia Vikander stepping into the role. They packed the movie with overqualified character actors like Walton Goggins and Kristin Scott Thomas, which helped, and the movie looks good. The action scenes are exciting, and it has the globe-trotting element you are looking for. A sequel never came to fruition, but that’s okay. Everything need not be a series or a franchise.

Sometimes, you just enjoy a good adventure movie built around a capable treasure hunter. This is one of those movies based on video games that stands strong on its own.

Uncharted (2022)

Sony

They spent years, years, trying to bring the super-popular Uncharted games to the big screen. Finally, it happened, and with a double dose of star power. Not only did they have Tom Holland playing Nathan Drake, but had Mark Wahlberg along as well. Here’s how long Uncharted was in development: Once upon a time, Wahlberg was in line to play Drake.

It’s nice to see Holland not as Peter Parker (though he is very good in that role) and Wahlberg knows how to do down-the-line action as well. Uncharted is another globetrotting adventure film, and it proved to be a massive hit. It’s maybe not quite as good as Tomb Raider, but after all that tumult, just getting a solid film out of the chaos was impressive.

This is one of those movies based on video games you might not even realize is based on a video game if you never play them.

Mortal Kombat (2021)

Warner Bros.

It’s not the first, or even the second, film based on the beloved, polarizing Mortal Kombat series of games. Paul W.S. Anderson even directed one of them. It’s bad! After years without a game based on the fighting series, we got a reboot in 2021.

Finally, they got wise about what to do with a Mortal Kombat movie. It should be violent, gory, and R-rated. You know, like the video game series that spawned it? Mortal Kombat was a phenomenon because of the fatalities, not the plotlines. You got to see your favorite fighters from the game on the big screen slicing dudes in half and what have you. That is what we had been waiting for all this time.

The Angry Birds Movie 2 (2019)

Sony

If you missed this one, we get it. The first Angry Birds movie was just passable, and sequels tend to be less creatively robust than the first film. As such, you may have heard they were doing an Angry Birds and figured that was a hard pass.

And yet… it turns out Angry Birds 2 is one of the best movies based on video games. It had new writers, a new director, introduced new characters into the Angry Birds universe, and generally had a freshness and creativity to it we did not expect.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

Columbia

Final Fantasy is as popular an RPG series as there is, though it is more popular in Japan than in the United States. It was popular enough at the turn of the millennium to get an animated feature, though, which was exciting at the time. Major effort went into the film. It was the first photorealistic computer-animated feature film ever made. The technological advances were remarkable.

Obviously, technology has advanced since 2001, but the film was impressive at the time, and it still feels pretty cool. The movie is solid, and enjoyable to see rendered, but it was also crazy expensive. While The Spirits Within made $85.1 million worldwide, it cost $137 million to make. In 2001! Hey, we are here to judge the merits of a movie, not how it did at the box office.

Pokemon Detective Pikachu (2019)

Warner Bros.

We end with, to us, the best of the best movies based on video games. It’s another adaptation we will admit we were heavily skeptical about. The trailer did it no favors. It was mostly Pikachu, as voiced by Ryan Reynolds, doing “Ryan Reynolds” riffing. A full movie of that would have been a chore.

Fortunately, it is not that, and also Reynolds is quite good as Pikachu (even his riffing works better in the overarching picture). They crafted a world where humans and Pokemon live together that feels detailed and clever. It is a bit funny here and there, with a story that justifies itself from start to finish. Detective Pikachu is more than just an excuse to have Pikachu running around in a deerstalker. It’s a movie that shows you how you can do a proper video game adaptation.

Liked This List of the Best Movies Based on Video Games?

Warner Bros.

Let us know if you think we missed one.

And you may also like this list of Movies That Made 100 Times Their Budget at the Box Office or this list of Old SNL Sketches That Wouldn’t Fly Today.

Main image: Milla Jovavich in the original Resident Evil, one of the most influential movies based on video games. Sony Pictures.

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