Evaluating the best films based on video games has the potential to be a fruitless endeavor, since most of them are notoriously bad. However, after further inspection it’s clear that the subgenre is beginning to shake that reputation with more and more quality titles arriving on the scene. The depth of video game adaptions will improve further during 2016. The recently released Ratchet & Clank successfully made the transition from game to movie, and the highly anticipated Warcraft will follow in June. The following 10 movies are video game adaptations that avoided the poor fate of their peers and are well worth your time. Until Warcraft arrives, these are the cream of the crop.
10. Doom (2005)
2005’s Doom, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is an enjoyable but rather formulaic action/sci-fi that will appeal solely to the young male demographic. However, the film is saved with an ingenious scene near the end of the movie that really brings out the video game side of the franchise. After a marine named John “Reaper” Grimm (played by Karl Urban) injects a serum to enhance his abilities, the camera perspective shifts to first person as Reaper goes on a rampage to annihilate the mutated creatures that roam the halls. The first-person mode is, of course, reminiscent of the game itself and is a beautifully choreographed scene. Unfortunately, the remainder of the film lacks the inspiration this wonderful moment contains, but that scene saves a movie that would otherwise have become quite forgettable and elevates it to become a memorable video game adaptation.
9. Max Payne (2008)
Max Payne desperately attempts to differentiate itself with a dark artistic style, and its film noir roots draws comparisons with Sin City. Unfortunately, Max Payne lacks the gorgeous artwork of Sin City and doesn’t have features that pop off the screen. The snowy backdrop in Max Payne instead serves as a dark, dreary atmosphere that’s rather dull. The film certainly features color, but many of the outdoor scenes just look depressing. The highlight for Max Payne is an outstanding ensemble cast featuring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Ludacris and Chris O’Donnell. Considering the weak competition of other games-to-film, Max Payne is definitely worth checking out for a faithful video game adaptation that will provide cheap thrills and entertaining action.
8. Resident Evil (2002)
Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise seemed the perfect source material for a film to exploit. Many video games are forced onto the silver screen, but Resident Evil, with its cinematic storyline, scenes of horror and relatable characters, made perfect sense to make the transition to a film. When 2002’s Resident Evil arrived, it’s safe to say those traits were ignored. Despite being passable entertainment and better than most video game adaptations, it really seemed like a wasted opportunity. Resident Evil begins with an inspired opening and shows potential, but the problems that plague it are all too common with video game adaptations. The film becomes immensely cheesy, which detracts from the overall experience. It’s difficult to become frightened when over-the-top gags distract from the experience. This leads to the biggest issue, namely that the film isn’t very frightening. Resident Evil should be a horror movie and this film fails to provide the necessary scares associated with its name. With zombies that never appear truly terrifying, it’s difficult to take the threat in Resident Evil seriously. Regardless, it’s certainly fun, heart-pounding action. We simply hold Resident Evil to a higher standard and know how much more there was to offer here.
7. Hitman (2007)
A surprisingly good video game adaptation that far too few people discuss is the wonderful Hitman, a stylish flick that proves captivating from start to finish. While there’s nothing entirely groundbreaking here, Hitman does settle as a very strong and suspenseful action movie. Fast-paced, wonderfully shot and featuring strong performances from the entire cast, Hitman’s cinematic treatment goes over much better than the typical video game adaptation. The movie is very absorbing as a simple action movie, but also as a movie that explores human relationships. Hitman proves to be much deeper than expected and succeeds in delivering strong entertainment.
6. Ratchet & Clank (2016)
Unlike the majority of video game adaptations that tend to favor live action, Ratchet & Clank is an animated affair that is certainly family-friendly. Ratchet & Clank lacks the depth of writing that Disney and Pixar films contain in their dialogue, as the jokes appeal to a young audience and don’t contain many hidden euphemisms or morals. This makes Ratchet & Clank rather shallow, as the film is best described as a children’s movie. That being said, fans of the video game series will still love the story and the distinct feel of the movie. The trademark guns the series is known for are on full display, and while far too few unique weapons are shown, there’s still enough for fans to become nostalgic. The “Sheepinator” in particular is sure to draw a smile from longtime players. There’s nothing wrong with a film that caters toward a younger demographic, it simply must be noted that the best films that animation has to offer will resonate with a wider range of ages.
5. Silent Hill (2006)
The film adaptation of Konami’s survival horror series Silent Hill is an atmospheric search through a desolate town that proves to be both chilling and mortifying. The film takes elements from the four games in the series that had been released prior to the 2006 movie. Silent Hill is one of the best movies based on video games due to the balance it strikes between loyalty to its source material and accessibility for mainstream audiences. Fans that have played the game will surely enjoy the visual sight of the intense fog that envelops Silent Hill as well as Pyramid Head, the iconic villain from Silent Hill 2, a game considered by many to be the best horror game ever made. Meanwhile, it’s fully acceptable to watch Silent Hill without ever playing any of the games and the story will be just as engaging. Clearly, that is excellent filmmaking and direction. The movie proves to be very enjoyable despite featuring an unresolved ending, as the title clearly sets the stage for a sequel. Fans of horror movies should bump this title up a few notches, as the genre isn’t for everybody, but even those who are squeamish should visit the mysterious Silent Hill.
4. Mortal Kombat (1995)
Throughout the early ’90s, the two fighting games constantly competing for supremacy were Mortal Kombat and Super Street Fighter. The debate regarding the games can be saved for another day, but when it comes to the movies, it’s not even close. Mortal Kombat blows away the dreary Street Fighter and is an enjoyable romp that holds up surprisingly well. Considering that the visual effects are extremely dated by today’s standards, audiences wouldn’t expect Mortal Kombat to be a good film. However, it’s surprisingly fun to watch and genuinely funny to boot. Containing all the iconic characters from the franchise that fans expect to see, Mortal Kombat has a certain charm that allows it to overcome its overly cheesy nature. Eventually, the Mortal Kombat film franchise will be revived and one necessity that fans should demand is an R rating. The franchise is known for its trademark blood and gore. While Mortal Kombat is a fun and engaging film, it had the potential to be so much more if it would have sacrificed for an R rating.
3. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
Despite having been released 15 years ago, Tomb Raider still holds the record as the highest grossing video game adaptation in North America. In this case, audiences have great taste as a stunning Angelina Jolie steals the show and turns this summer blockbuster into an enjoyable Indiana Jones-like affair. When thinking of the iconic heroine Lara Croft, Angelina Jolie is now the image that appears. Jolie’s masterful take on the character allowed her to truly become Lara Croft and fuse with the character. The film is highly enjoyable, and has a strong supporting cast behind Jolie that includes Jon Voight and Daniel Craig. Seeing the future James Bond is very interesting, even if it is a small role, as Craig’s adoption of an American accent is fascinating to hear. Tomb Raider spawned a sequel named The Cradle of Life that was actually quite decent, and is easily the best gaming sequel ever made.
2. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2006)
Advent Children takes place two years after the events of Final Fantasy VII. It was a love letter for fans of the series that had been pining for more content since the game’s initial release in 1997. Advent Children contains gorgeous animation as well as an engaging plot that helps expand the story of Final Fantasy VII. The playable characters from the game that fans expect to see are all here, and there’s even a late appearance from a character fans wouldn’t expect to hear from. For fans of the source material, Advent Children is a satisfying film that easily meets expectations. Unfortunately, newcomers to the story will find a narrative that is nearly incomprehensible as the film practically requires an intimate knowledge of the game. The film successfully presents a tale worthy of the name Final Fantasy VII and appeals specifically to the demographic it was intended for. However, films based on video games should still be accessible for anyone. Advent Children’s lack of accessibility for those unfamiliar with the game’s story keeps the film from taking the top spot on this list, but for those familiar with Final Fantasy VII, this movie can’t be missed.
1. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
Despite not blowing away the domestic box office, Prince of Persia dominated the foreign market and surpassed Tomb Raider to become the highest grossing video game adaptation worldwide. Audiences chose well because Prince of Persia is excellent family film that’s enjoyable for all ages. It stands tall as a film that doesn’t require knowledge of the video games. That said, with a faithful translation of the game’s plot elements, fans of the series have a film to make the franchise proud. Prince of Persia is a swashbuckling tale that attempts to capture the magic of Pirates of the Caribbean and provide that electric enjoyment. The film borrows elements from all three titles in the video game series that appeared on the PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox, although the first title, named The Sands of Time, is the primary basis for the story. Prince of Persia stands in a tier of its own as an amazing video game adaptation.