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12 best and worst films inspired by video games

By Paul Hsiao 10 March 2020

It’s Mario Day (also written as Mar10 Day, geddit?) and in honour of this annual celebration of Nintendo’s Super Mario franchise, we have compiled a list of the 12 best and worst films based on and inspired by video games. Hopefully, these titles will tide you over as you patiently wait for the summer release of Ryan Reynolds’s Free Guy.

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Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

This film is amazing for several reasons. Jim Carrey is back in full-on manic 1990s mode as the evil Dr Robotnik, which alone is worth the price of admission. Ben Schwartz channels the funny as the film’s eponymous lead. James Marsden is charming as what I imagine a male version of Amy Adams would look like in a family flick. But the most amazing thing is how the filmmakers managed to redo Sonic’s look in a record amount of time after the world reacted in disgust at Sonic’s CGI big-screen debut in the first few trailers. Movie studios, pay attention: This is how you do fan service.

Ready Player One (2017)

When James Halliday, the creator of a virtual reality called OASIS, dies, Wade Watts attempts to find Halliday’s last easter egg—the digital key to inheriting Halliday’s world and immense fortune. Think Tron combined with young Indiana Jones. I admit, I enjoyed this way more than I thought I would, with inventive action scenes and a mind-boggling amount of pop culture references. Ben Mendelsohn, who you may know as the bad guy from Star Wars: Rogue One, Animal Kingdom, Robin Hood, Captain Marvel, or Bloodlines (wow, this guy is typecast), is worth mentioning here delightfully chewing up the scenery in what could have been a typical “bad guy” role.

Edge of Tomorrow: Live Die Repeat (2014)

I know, I know, the action vehicle starring a fantastic Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise is actually based on a popular Japanese manga. But for anyone who has played videogames, the “git gud” philosophy of gaming—repeating a section of the game until one achieves total mastery—is the main tenet of this 2014 action flick. In a war between machine-like aliens and a mechanised human race, Tom Cruise’s character William Cage finds himself with the ability to repeat the same critical day over and over, and learns how to turn the tide of the war. Edge of Tomorrow is one of the rare Hollywood films that has been inspired by the spirit of gaming, instead of shoehorning a franchise narrative from one medium into another.

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

Detective Pikachu (2019)

Though it could be considered a stealth remake of Disney’s Zootopia, Detective Pikachu succeeds in bringing your favourite pocket monsters to life in a furry package all the while convincing millions of people worldwide that the voice of Ryan Reynolds is somehow appropriate as a mystery-solving electric rabbit/mouse hybrid. Also worth seeing esteemed British actor Bill Nighy attempt to bring gravitas as a corporate titan in a world with walking Squirtles and googly-eyed Psyducks.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)

It was hard choosing between the 2018 Alicia Vikander interpretation or the more cheesy 2001 Angelina Jolie film. I went with the latter. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is probably the most successful Hollywood interpretation of a video game franchise for a long time while featuring a strong female action hero lead (Happy International Women’s Day, everyone!). As a bonus, the movie also starred the likes of future 007 Daniel Craig, who will don the tux one last time this year in No Time to Die, and Iain Glenn, whom most people know as Jorah of House Friend-zone from Game Of Thrones.

The Witcher (2020)

Again, I know this is technically based on the fantasy book series by Andrzej Sapkowski, there’s so much of the videogame there: from Henry Cavill’s interpretation of the main character Geralt’s voice, the depiction of iconic scenes, and the fact that everyone wants to kill him and or give him a quest. Though the comparisons to Game of Thrones are apt, it’s clear to me that the show clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously and has some of the best action Netflix has to offer. Solid adaption with much of the budget clearly on the screen.

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

Silent Hill: Revelation 3-D (2012)

The popular horror video game series deserved better than this. Silent Hill 3, of which the film is based on, is widely regarded as a horror classic combining the suburban anxiety felt in Twin Peaks with the industrial nightmarish imagery seen in the likes of Jacob’s Ladder. The movie… not so much. The filmmakers opted for a more action movie vibe with the climax of the movie showing a cage match between two of the film’s monsters, which ended up being more silly than thrilling.

While the costume and production design underpin solid art direction adapted from the videogames, the 3-D filmmaking exacerbates the weightlessness of the CGI characters. On the plus side, if you did want to see Ned Stark and Jon Snow on the screen one more time, you’re in luck, as Sean Bean and Kit Harrington star alongside each other in lead roles, where they still don’t talk about Jon’s mum.

Alone in the Dark (2005)

I really tried hard not to include another Uwe Boll movie (the other one being Postal), but I couldn’t avoid mentioning this 2005 disaster, based on the supernatural horror videogame series starring Christian Slater, Tara Reid, and Stephen Dorff. In fact, I’ll let the writer of the first draft of the script describe the film in his own words:

”The original script took the Alone In the Dark premise and depicted it as if it were actually based on a true story of a private investigator in the northeastern US, whose missing persons cases begin to uncover a disturbing paranormal secret. It was told through the eyes of a writer following Edward Carnby and his co-worker for a novel, and depicted them as real-life blue-collar folks who never expected to find hideous beings waiting for them in the dark. We tried to stick close to the H. P. Lovecraft style and the low-tech nature of the original game, always keeping the horror in the shadows so you never saw what was coming for them.

Thankfully, Dr Boll was able to hire his loyal team of hacks to crank out something much better than our crappy story and add in all sorts of terrifying horror movie essentials, like opening gateways to alternate dimensions, bimbo blonde archaeologists, sex scenes, mad scientists, slimy dog monsters, special army forces designed to battle slimy CG dog monsters, Tara Reid, Matrix slow-motion gun battles, and car chases. Oh yeah, and a ten-minute opening back story scroll read aloud to the illiterate audience, the only people able to successfully miss all the negative reviews. I mean, hell, Boll knows that’s where the real scares lie.”

Bottom line, the idea of Tara Reid as an archaeologist may be scarier than the actual film itself.

Need for Speed (2014)

Looking back, this film makes me appreciate the Fast and Furious franchise a bit more. Who would have thought you could make driving fancy cars at high speeds with Aaron Paul, Michael Keaton, and Rami Malek feel like watching someone parallel park? From the uninspired dialogue (“That was amazing! You’re amazing! We’re amazing!”) and feeling that the movie was just an expensive Ford ad (given the number of glamour shots on its featured Mustang) to staying a bit longer than its welcome (it is two-plus hours in length), you may be better off watching pro-gamers stream the latest Need for Speed game.

Keep scrolling for the rest of the list 👇

By Catharina Cheung 6 February 2020

Postal (2007)

Someone once said to me that charisma without message can be dangerous. I think the same can be said about satire. Postal is an ugly film that is offensive to virtually everyone with a script that seemed to have been a stream of consciousness diatribe rather than a narrative. The story, if you can call it that, follows Dude, an average American who takes up arms against his wife, the government, and terrorists when he gets mocked at his unemployment office. Amazingly, the film has received a 9 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and returned even less than that to its investors.

Super Mario Bros (1993)

There are a couple of things I admire about this movie. First, it really does try to distance itself from its videogame roots with a tagline of “This Ain’t No Game” and it does try to bring a unique take on Nintendo’s crown jewel to life with a darkly comic tone rather than its bright and eager videogame counterpart.

However, I can’t get over the fact that this movie single-handedly gave me nightmares with its shocking depiction of a dystopian fever dream collection of characters and imagery. In fact, Bob Hoskins, who played the titular Mario, said that the film is “The worst thing I ever did.” Also, of all the movies I’ve listed, this is by far the most different to its video game origins. Hopefully, the animated reboot, set to release in 2022 from the folks who did Despicable Me, will be more successful.

Streetfighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)

Oh god, where do I start? On the face of it, a Batman Begins-style origin story of videogame’s most famous characters is not the worst idea. However, this straight-to-DVD movie’s over-reliance on narration, nauseating cut fight scenes, and a career-worst performance from Chris Klein makes me cringe all over. I will say that Kristen Kreuk held promise as a future lead actress before she got involved with some crazy cult stuff.

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Paul Hsiao


Paul, the founder of Movieconomist, likes to watch movies and make graphs. He also writes a monthly column on Localiiz about new Netflix releases and is a lead community director for Finimize. His writing has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, CNBC, Financial Times, Asia Investor, and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He also spends a great deal of time playing squash.