The best video game movies offer so much variety that there’s something for everyone, whether you’re a hardcore horror game fan with a taste for gore or a lapsed Nintendo kid who needs something fun for family movie night.
Thanks to a new generation of filmmakers who grew up playing games, the days of cheap spin-offs seem to be behind us, with big studios instead investing time and money in giving game worlds the adaptations they deserve. We’ve got ten of the best video game movies below, and we’ll keep the list updated as new movies like Uncharted hit theaters, and try to earn their spot in our prestigious rankings.
Our rules for best video game movies are firm but fair. They need to be based on a specific game – not just set in a fictional game world like Free Guy or Ready Player One – and do justice to their subject matter. Whatever you like to play, there will be a movie on this list that is worth putting down the controller for and picking up the popcorn instead. We’ve got comedy, horror, and gory fatalities. Enjoy!
Finally released in 2022 after years and years and years of production delays and rumors, Tom Holland gave us a baby-faced Nathan Drake in the Uncharted movie. It’s not perfect – in fact what the movie did to the character of Chloe Frazier is probably a war crime – but there’s plenty of charm and some scenes capture the spirit of the game so well you’ll find your hands reaching for your PlayStation controller out of pure instinct. Mark Wahlberg is a passable Sully but Holland’s charm and athletic stunt ability – honed with a little help from his role as Spider-Man – carries the whole movie on his impressively sculpted shoulders, spitting comebacks like he was born to it. Fans can also play “spot the weird Nolan North cameo” game, which is a bonus.
9. Silent Hill
Sure, it’s needlessly clunky in places but it certainly bring the chills. In hindsight, Silent Hill was a perfect fit to cut through the thicket of below-average video game movies that seemed to come out every few months in the mid-‘00s. Packed with a decent cast (including a rare sight: Sean Bean surviving!) and more than its fair share of scares, Silent Hill may not stack up to its horror peers but, for a video game effort, it’s more than good enough. Bonus points for including Pyramid Head; just as terrifying (perhaps more so) than its video game counterpart and a sight that will be sure to have you hiding behind the sofa long after the credits roll.
8. Werewolves Within
Werewolves Within has no right to be as entertaining as it is. Based loosely on Ubisoft’s 2016 VR game, it takes the central theme – a small group where anyone could be the monster in disguise – and weaves a smart and funny horror film around it. Forest Ranger Finn arrives in Beaverfield just a storm hits, power generators are sabotaged and a dead body or two turns up. Only one of a handful of residents could be responsible, and the group starts to give in to paranoia and suspicion. The director is Josh Ruben, who wrote and lead Shudder’s equally smart Scare Me, and he’s a perfect fit. Star Sam Richardson – from Veep and The Tomorrow War – makes Finn equally funny and likeable, and What We Do In The Shadows fans will be happy to see Harvey Guillén thriving as one half of a tech millionaire couple.
7. Mortal Kombat (2021)
The 2021 adaptation of Mortal Kombat scores a place on the list for the fight scenes alone, and has enough gore splashing around that fake blood supplies must have plummeted during production. Protagonist Cole Young (Lewis Tan) is a new addition to the Mortal Kombat universe, but his fate to fight in Mortal Kombat competition means we get to see fan favorites like Sub Zero and Sonya Blade in action. Sure the dialogue is a little clunky, but these characters get hit in the head a lot, so it’s perhaps understandable they’re not spouting Shakespeare. If you’re a fan of the fighting series or just want to disconnect your brain and relax in front of some brutal fatalities, this is the movie for you.
World of Warcraft was just ripe for being picked up by Hollywood. Being brushed aside as Lord of the Rings-lite, Blizzard’s jewel in the crown is packed with lore in abundance and it’s all guided under the steady hand of indie darling Duncan Jones. It’s not only the best-performing video game adaptation of all-time (as of writing) grossing $433m, it chooses to give the world of Warcraft (opens in new tab) (heh) a pedestal to stand on – and it is beautiful.
The film does fall down by over-egging the pudding under the creaking weight of its ensemble but it’s still an outlier in the video game movie world: a movie that isn’t scared to take a chance, chuck a massive budget at an acclaimed director and just letting him run riot with the world. More of that, please.
5. Sonic the Hedgehog
The early signs for the Sonic the Hedgehog (opens in new tab) movie didn’t look good. Fans reacted badly to initial designs for the blue blur, so much so that the filmmakers went back to the digital drawing board. When the movie was finally released this year, it won over audiences with Ben Schwartz’s enthusiastic voice-over work and Jim Carrey hamming it up as Dr. Robotnik. The movie follows Sonic and a Montana sheriff as they try to evade Robotnik and track down Sonic’s iconic rings. Sequels are already planned.
4. Resident Evil
Resident Evil has so many movies (six by our count) that it’s hard to pin a single one down to present a dead cert for this list. They range from the shambling effort that is Afterlife to, this, the original and (probably) the best. It’s streamlined and only pokes around at the edges of Resi’s sprawling lore, and with good reason: the emphasis is on the action. That may grate with some but, back in 2002, a slow-burn experience through a mansion just wouldn’t have turned out as kinetic and overly entertaining as this first effort – and it still holds up well today.
Milla Jovovich is exceptional in her role as Alice (and, honestly, doesn’t get enough credit) and the set-pieces come thick and fast. It’s also notable in that it looks to set-up sequels and sprawling universes long because Iron Man heard about the Avengers Initiative. Well worth a re-watch.
3. Assassin’s Creed
Assassin’s Creed (opens in new tab) felt like the moment video game movies stepped into the spotlight for the very first time. Where others were dismissed as oddities or only for a certain audience, Assassin’s Creed attempted to put that all to bed with a compelling take on the eternal struggle between the Creed and the Templar Order.
Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Michael K. Williams, Assassin’s Creed is a movie that doesn’t lack for stars. It gives the movie a real legitimacy and it is flanked by an impressive-looking Animus adventure in 15th Century Spain and a parkour-heavy style that pays homage to the series without – as some movies do – going too far on the fan-service. It may have disappointed some fans and filmgoers but give it another go. It soars higher than you might think.
2. Tomb Raider (2018)
Following in the footsteps (and ice pick) of the 2013 rebooted game, Tomb Raider (opens in new tab) returns to the big-screen by giving us a newly-vulnerable Lara and a movie that – while it doesn’t quite break out into an all-time great action flick – is a welcome homage to one of the finer games of its generation.
While the movie riffs on rather than directly pulls from the games, Alicia Vikander gives us a Lara that is bursting with life and, interestingly, a character who appears more at home in London than raiding the tombs of a lost kingdom. Tomb Raider certainly marks a watershed moment for video game movies: no longer content with being kept to the shadows, this is a forceful entry filled with star talent that might open up the door for even more video game treasures down the line, particularly in the forthcoming Ben Wheatley-directed sequel.
1. Detective Pikachu
Here it is: the best video game movie: The minute we found out Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool himself – would be voicing the fuzzy little yellow guy, we knew Detective Pikachu (opens in new tab) would do justice to the Pokemon brand. The movie focuses on 21-year-old Tim Goodman, who just wants to find his missing private investigator dad Henry and teams up with Pikachu in the process. Cue lots of CGI, lots of sentimental stuff about family, and – most importantly – enough jokes to tickle a Snorlax.
Goosebumps director Rob Letterman is in charge of an eclectic cast that includes pop singer Rita Ora, Bill Nighy, Ken Watanabe, and the DJ Diplo, but it’s the love and care given to the Pokemon world-at-large that stands out most.