The relationship between video games and movies is often a rocky one. Games with great premises don’t always translate to an equally excellent movie plot. Then again, sometimes a flimsy game plot can make for a terrific set-up for major action set pieces in a movie. With Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson dropping Rampage on the world, it also serves as a reminder for us to reexamine the game-to-movie relationship that’s spanned the last three decades.
Whether they’re genuinely good movies or so bad they’re actually good, here is the definitive ranking of the 20 greatest movies based on video games.
20. Super Mario Bros. (1993)
This ill-conceived gem is on this list because it’s a must-watch for any person who ever played a Mario game. Seemingly made by people who had read that Super Mario Bros. was about plumbers who chase down a lizard but never actually played the game, SMB the movie was definitely a low point in Bob Hoskins’ career but remains a high point for movies that are such awful trainwrecks you simply can’t not watch them.
19. Street Fighter (1994)
Street Fighter’s premise as a cornerstone fighting game is little more than “colorful characters fight each other.” Teasing that out into the plot of an entire movie must have been a daunting task but that didn’t stop the folks behind Street Fighter from trying and failing in spectacular fashion. Jean Claude Van Damme is a hugely redeeming aspect of this flick even if he’s bizarrely cast as an all-American soldier...with a Belgian accent.
18. Doom (2005)
Before The Rock turned all of his movies into gold, he made this cinematic stinker that’s only fun to watch if you’re totally baked. Doom itself is a great game and this movie shouldn’t have been bad, rounding out the cast with Karl Urban (Dredd, Star Trek) and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) but major changes from the game’s mythology and some shitty SFX made Doom worth a watch, if only to see one of The Rock’s worst movies ever.
17. Max Payne (2008)
This half-baked remake is fine for fans of awesome, bullet-time styled action sequences, but lulls hard when Mark Wahlberg's acting doesn't exactly bring Max Payne to life. The honest truth is that Rockstar Studios - the team behind the game - is so good at storytelling in their own games that we have to scratch our head and wonder why they ever let this misfire happen, but it's still worth a goof whenever it pops up on on TV during a hangover binge session.
16. Wing Commander (1999)
Before they went for the big Scooby Doo payday, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Matt Lillard brought Wing Commander to the big screen. We’re not sure which is the better movie but, if we had to watch a beloved spaceship combat game get turned into a flick, things certainly could have gone worse than what we got from this one.
15. Warcraft (2016)
The massively and endlessly popular World of Warcraft inevitably gave way to a movie version. The CGI here happens to be excellent and fans seemed mostly pleased with the film adaptation. Fans looking for a fantasy boner won’t be disappointed with the humans vs orcs plot of Warcraft but it’s undeniably without the mass appeal that’s kept the game around for so long.
14. BloodRayne (2005)
Bringing the sexy vampires of the BloodRayne games to the screen wasn’t such a bad idea and the movie fares well as a result of the fantasy horror genre and a surprisingly good cast. Oddly enough this is not the only time you’ll see Ben Kingsley show up in this list.
13. Assassin’s Creed (2016)
We desperately wanted Assassin’s Creed to be a good movie. We were excited when Fassbender was announced as the lead and the supporting cast gave us additional hope. It’s undeniable that the stunts and action were solid but, when all was said and done, AC’s movie translation severely lacked the magic that made the AC games mysterious and fun romps through history. Still, Fassbender’s AC did manage to bring to life some of the game’s most important sci-fi elements even if it whiffed on the historical fiction that justified a video game franchise that’s more than ten games deep.
12. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
Welcome to 90 minutes of Jake Gyllenhaal wearing eyeliner. Prince of Persia games were adventures through the desert. Prince of Persia the movie is an oddball collaboration between Gyllenhaal and Ben Kingsley that feels more suited to be a part of Brendan Fraser’s series of The Mummy movies - the same series that gave The Rock his film debut - than a video game off-shoot. Still, Prince of Persia does adhere loosely to what made the games interesting and the actors have some serious cred with recognition from the Academy Awards.
11. Ace Attorney (2012)
The oddball Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games have been a staple on Nintendo systems for a long time and made for a surprisingly decent flick, even if you can only watch it in Japanese with subtitles. The slightly dystopian future of law presented in the game still manages to capture some of the sillier parts of the games, leaving Ace Attorney closer to its video game namesake than many on this list.
10. Far Cry (2008)
The Far Cry series has come a long way since its roots and recent additions, like Far Cry 5, seem better suited for a movie remake than the original. But in 2008, this is what we got; a Uwe Boll flick starring a German actor that borrows little more from the game than running around in the jungle. As an action flick, it holds up, though fans of the games might feel left out in the cold.
9. Rampage (2018)
The Rock’s latest sure-to-be blockbuster resembles its gamesake only in that the game had giant animals destroying cities. We loved playing Rampage in arcades back in the day but definitely don’t remember the part where an incedibly jacked Hawaiian guy came in to save the day...unless he was that pixelated guy we pulled out of a window and ate.
8. Silent Hill (2006)
The Silent Hill games are truly terrifying so there’s no real shock to know that they lent their premise to a slew of films that borrow from game’s horror-filled setting. This is the first movie on the list that actually has sequels so you know we’re getting into higher quality territory here. Still, we’ll stick with the original since it really is the best of the bunch.
7. Hitman (2007)
Timothy Olyphant’s Agent 47 comes off as very true to the games, often feeling like its plot could easily have been a mission in the stealth-killing franchise. Nailing the exotic locales and the often-political elements of 47’s assassinations, Hitman remains a great example of a video game turned movie. And the sequel with the dude from Homeland (Rupert Friend) wasn’t bad either.
6. Mortal Kombat (1995)
So bad it’s actually great. It’s impossible to see the first Mortal Kombat movie as anything but what it was at the time; a cash grab to rake it in on the popularity of the games moms hated. Despite its lack of quality and budget, the movie is full of gorgeous cinematography, crazy fight scenes and, unlike Street Fighter, actually makes sense of the premise laid out in the games.
5. Need for Speed (2014)
Take Aaron Paul and Rami Malek, add a dash of Michael Keaton and a whole bunch of incredible cars, from supercars to customs, in a cross country race against time and Need for Speed is one of the movies on this list that truly feels like it captures the spirit of the game on which it was based. This is car porn at its finest, and we wouldn’t change it at all.
4. Tron (1982)
Probably the biggest question mark in this list, Tron is the video game movie equivalent of chicken and the egg. It’s a movie, based on a game that only existed in the movie until the movie came out, at which point the game was created. It’s that kind of meta that makes this classic a top five entry on this list. If we weren’t doubling down, Tron: Legacy, the sequel that took place three decades later, would be up here too.
3. Final Fantasy: Kingsglaive (2016)
There aren’t as many Final Fantasy movies as there are Final Fantasy games but there’s also no shortage either. FF movies have been coming out since early this millennium and they have all employed a unique, almost-realistic CGI style, teasing out an entire movie from what looks like video game cut-scenes. With superb voice acting talent and telling the important backstory to set the stage for the amazing Final Fantasy XV video game, Kingsglaive gets our top honors among all the FF movies.
2. Resident Evil (2002)
In our mind, Milla Jovovich will always be Alice. The Resident Evil series is blockbuster fodder on both the video game AND the movie side of things but Milla’s tenure as the mainstay hero has always been a huge draw for us to revisit the horror action of the RE movies.
1. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
No disrespect to Alicia Vikander--we love her too-- but the only big screen Lara Croft we care about is Angelina Jolie. Capturing the over-the-top adventures and scenery of the original games, Jolie’s globetrotting adventures, other-worldly McGuffins and oddly believable British accent, make Lara’s original movies perpetual favorites, even if we are digging Lara’s new, gritty look in Vikander’s reboot.