“We’ve got established characters, set action pieces, and an iconic plot. How can we best fuck this up?”
For the longest time, the entertainment industry didn’t know what to do with super hero movies. With the exception of 1978’s Superman and the Tim Burton Batman films, comic book movies tended to be either bad, box office bombs, or both. Sure you had a Spiderman 2 here and an “let’s forget there was a third X-Men movie” there, you couldn’t find many great representations of comic books on the big screen. It’s hard to remember those days now that Marvel has come along and made comic book movies that pretty much print their own currency while D.C. um, well, you know, they try hard and we love them for it.
We bring this up because comic books had to exist for a long time before anyone figured out how to translate them to the silver screen with any modicum of success. And that’s where we are now with video games.
Video games have been “things that exist” for only about forty or fifty years at this point, and we’re sad to report that America has yet to unlock how to make those games work as movies. It’s a little surprising, honestly—we have hundreds of popular video games that are basically movies that you play, yet we haven’t managed to turn that into compelling cinema.
Don’t believe us? Well fuck you, then. Wait, wait, sorry, that was maybe a bit defensive. But we’ll show you. Below we’ve listed every movie based off a comic book that’s been made in America, and listed them in reverse order of their critical score on the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. And folks, it is…dire.
Every American Video Game Movie (Pretty Much Sucks)
We don’t want to get into the specifics of film financing, because we would have absolutely no idea what we’re talking about on that topic, but a lot of movies that we call “American” tend to be some mix of “financed by America and another country.” Street Fighter, for example, is described as “Japanese-American,” we assume because it was a movie in English, meant for American audiences, but it was largely financed by Capcom, which is a Japanese country. Or something. The point we’re making is that there are a lot of movies that we aren’t listing because they don’t have that American hyphen in place.
Like Far Cry. That movie, which was produced and directed by Uwe Boll in 2008 is listed as an English-language German film, so it doesn’t make the list. But if it did, it would be dead last in our rankings—it doesn’t even have a Rotten Tomatoes rating, just two negative reviews and a 12% audience score. Ouch.
The other video game movies are almost all animated Japanese films, with all but two produced by the Japanese studio Toho. Those include some movies with no Rotten Tomatoes score at all, like Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, Pokemon: Zorroark: Master of Illusions, and Yo-Kai Watch: Enma Daio to Itsutsu no Monogatari da Nyan! (…sure!).
They also include two films that actually got decent reviews by American critics (last year’s Pokémon: the Power of Us pulled off a Fresh 67% rating, and Yo-Kai Watch: The Movie from 2016 has 80%…based on five reviews). There’s Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, which impressed critics to a 13% Rotten Tomatoes score while raking in $6 million at the box office. And finally, we have a whole shitload of Pokémon animated movies, which are *deep breath*, Pokémon: The First Movie (1998, 15%), Pokémon 4Ever (2001, 16%), Pokémon Heroes (2002, 17%), Pokémon: The movie 2000 (1999, 19%), Pokémon 3: The Movie (2000, 21%), andPokémon the Movie: I Choose You! (2017, 33%).
Anyway, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s go into the actual video game movies that arbitrarily count because they were made with American participation. USA! USA!
Every single movie made after a basic fighter game has been a horrendous idea, but Tekken might be the most horrendous. With zero positive reviews out of five on Rotten Tomatoes, this movie tells the tale of Jun Kazama as he attempts to enter the Iron Fist Tournament in order to avenge the death of his mother. It takes place in 2039 in a world devastated by the, sigh, Terror War of the 2010s which resulted in the entire planet being divided among eight different megacorporations who run everything. Tekken Corporation owns North America, and each year they host a fighting competition between all the megacorporations, held in Tekken City, with the winner to be lavished in wealth and fame. If that all sounds kind of dumb, it is! We honestly were going to give it a pass, because we thought that they just were using the plot from the actual game, but they’re not even doing that! It’s doubly stupid, since their decision to name the corporation Tekken makes no sense—Tekken is just the Japanese word for “Iron Fist,” which is the name of the tournament. That’d be like someone making a Mortal Kombat movie where Mortal Kombat Inc is the name of the people putting on the tournament, with the whole thing taking place in Mortal Kombat Island.
Anyway, this is a bland cheap ass fighting movie that honestly looks like it had all the resources of a film student’s thesis behind it. It stars a list of names so generic we’ve put a fake one in here that you won’t be able to figure out, such as Jon Foo, Kelly Overton, Ian Anthony Dale, John Ho, Luke Goss, and Gary Daniels. The director of the Tekken video game series had some strong thoughts about it, saying, “That Hollywood movie is terrible,” so you know it must be good!
Not a great start…Anyway, next movie!
Alone in the Dark (2005): 1%
We might as well take this moment to talk to you about the German director Uwe Boll, who probably has done more harm to the video game industry’s attempts at being viewed legitimately than Gamergate and Mountain Dew commercials combined. Boll was a German director who got out of the business in 2016 to, and we’re not making this up, start a career as a restauranteur (somewhat successfully!). But before that, he made thirty films, including a number of video game adaptations that managed to cast legitimate movie stars despite their almost impressive awfulness. He wrote and financed many of his films, and the mere fact that Uwe Boll managed to get people to give him millions of dollars to make films thirty times is proof that rich people might not understand what money is supposed to be for. Oh and he once boxed a bunch of movie critics and kicked their asses. One was 17 years old. Very cool. Super manly.
Anyway, during the height of his infamy he made Alone in the Dark, an action-horror film based on the fourth installment of the video game franchise. The film followed Christian Slater, a supernatural detective specializing in the occult. Tara Reid plays the love interest (and like, a fucking anthropologist!) at a time in her career where the phrase “starring Tara Reid” wasn’t just reserved for casting gimmicks.
If you care about the plot (you shouldn’t) it basically involves trying to stop a bunch of alien demons from coming through a portal that was opened by artifacts from an ancient South American civilization. Despite many listing it as one of the worst movies of all time (it’s the 13th lowest rated movie of all time according to IMDB), it managed to get a sequel (produced by Boll, but not directed) that went straight to video, which leads us to again ask, who the fuck kept giving this dude money?
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997): 2%
The second Mortal Kombat movie was, in a word, bad. In more than a word, this is one of the handful of movies that everyone on our staff has watched, and none of us can tell you a damn thing that happened in the movie.
There are a few characters with a bunch of arms, and the exact quality of CGI you would expect from a 1997 low-budget sequel with a 2% RT score. The plot summary of this movie on Wikipedia is literally 700 words long, and if you think we’re going to slog through that to give you a recap, you can fuck right off. Just consider this—it’s a sequel to a shitty movie made two years prior, and only two of those people bothered to reprieve their parts for this one.
The best part of this movie is the theme song, and the theme song is a Euro trash as fuck 90s beat that was made for the video game, so the movie can’t even take credit for it. Every line in this movie is delivered like they didn’t have money for stuntmen and actors so they just cut their loses and cast stuntmen who had never acted. Just look at this shit, for God’s sake. This is a trash movie. All of these are trash movies. What did we get ourselves into?
House of the Dead (2003): 3%
Oh great, it’s Uwe Boll again. If you want to get really mad really fast, just read two sentences over and over—Uwe Boll directed a zombie video game adaptation that takes place on an abandoned rave island in the early 2000s. He was given a $12 million budget, and it technically turned a profit. Excuse us, we need to throw a safe off an interstate bridge. This one actually has a Movie Sins video out there, if you want to spend 16 minutes muttering, “$12 million budget? How? Where?”
The biggest name in this movie is Clint Howard, who you know as Ron Howard’s weirder-looking brother, and pretty much everything that it has in common with the actual video game franchise boils down to like, one character and the fact that it has zombies. It’s really bad. IMDB actually lists this as the 8th worst movie of all time, so there’s that. Anyway, are you ready for some more Uwe fucking Boll? No? Well too bad.
BloodRayne (2006): 4%
Here are just a handful of “fun facts” about what arguably might be Uwe Boll’s most infamous box office bomb.
- It made $3.7 million on a $25 million budget. Worldwide.
- The original video game was a third-person shooter game that takes place in the 1930’s. So naturally the movie is set in 18th-Century Romania.
- Yes, that picture up there supposedly represents attire that was worn in the 1700s. Apparently the 1700s also saw people wearing this, this, this and, ugh, this.
- It spawned two direct-to-DVD sequels, one set in 1880s America and another actually set in World War II (you know, like the actual game) entitled BloodRayne: The Third Reich.
- Its cast includes Michael Madsen, Meat Loaf, Billy Zane and Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley.
- We’ll say that again—the villain in this movie is Ben Kingsley.
Anyway, this movie is pure trash, and we’re going to declare war against Uwe Boll by the end of this article.
HOW DID UWE BOLL KEEP GETTING WORK?
In the Name of the King is a garbage movie about like, a farmer fighting rock monsters or something, fuck off, the Wikipedia page for this dumpster fire is 800 goddamn words long, we don’t have time to care that much about an Uwe Boll movie. It earned $13 million dollars back on its, wait that can’t be right, $60 million budget!? What? And it featured Jason Statham, Leelee Sobieski, John Rhys-Davies, Ron Pearlman, Matthew Lillard, Ray Liotta and goddamn Burt Reynolds, which is a pretty large list of very famous people that Boll apparently has compromising photos of.
The entirety of Uwe Boll’s career in the mid-2000s exists solely to insult every screenwriter and director in Hollywood who hasn’t sold a project yet. Every movie he made was basically a video game adaptation specifically designed to say, “Fuck you, I’m more successful than you’ll ever be and honestly I don’t know why either.” This makes us so mad we’re this close to writing an article insulting Uwe Boll so much he ends up challenging one of our writers to a fucking fight.
The concept behind this sort-of-spin-off of Street Fighter has merit. Instead of trying to just do a Street Fighter movie that’s essentially “hey a fighting tournament like every other fucking fighting game that’s been turned into a movie” they made this into a sort of origin story of just one of the fighters (in this case, the titular Chun-Li). That’s not the worst approach, it allows you chance to build characters, and you could try to do a Marvel thing where each character from the game gets a movie, and they all meet up in an eventual Street Fighters movie.
Now ideas are one thing, but execution is another. This movie is ranked as the 81st worst movie of all time on IMDB, and some of the more kind reviews from critics include statements like, “Not Thrilling”, “[A] painful background tale”, and, “Can I please stop thinking about this movie now?” Good idea, Scott Beggs, we’re going to stop thinking about this movie now too.
Postal is a shooter game franchise that’s essentially the video game equivalent of someone just grinning and saying, “What, U Mad?” as they unload a machine gun into your torso. It was turned into a movie by…GODDAMN IT, UWE FUCKING BOLL. By now you have realized that “directed by Uwe Boll” is a cursed statement if ever there was one, but thankfully this is the last time he’ll appear in this article. Which yes, does mean that his best reviewed film of his entire career was liked by 7% of critics.
We’ll try our best to summarize this one for you, because it’s…well it’s something. It starts off with some wacky 9/11 hijinks (when Bin Laden tells the terrorists there won’t be enough virgins in heaven to go around, they try to fly to the Bahamas instead, but the passengers end up storming the cockpit and accidentally flying it into the World Trade Center. Lol?) before cutting to our “hero” named Postal Dude (played by Zack Ward, ie the bully in The Christmas Story that played the brother in Titus).
Here are just a few random sentences in the Wikipedia description of this movie which honestly wouldn’t make any sense even if we gave you context.
“[He discovers] that his morbidly obese wife is cheating on him with various and skinny townsmen.”
“With the help of Uncle Dave’s right-hand man Richie and an army of big-breasted, scantily clad cult members, the Dude devises a plan to hijack a shipment of 2,000 Krotchy Dolls, a rare, sought-after plush toy resembling a giant scrotum. Uncle Dave plans to sell them online, where their prices have reached as high as $4,000 a doll.”
“Osama bin Laden and his group of Al-Qaeda terrorists…had been secretly hiding in Paradise since September 11, under the watchful eye of bin Laden’s best friend, George W. Bush.”
“As per Uncle Dave’s Bible, the event initiating the apocalypse is the rape of a ‘tiny entertainer’ by a thousand monkeys.”
“At that moment, all of the nuclear missiles hit, and the country, and possibly the world is destroyed.”
Okay. Yeah. Don’t watch this movie.
Double Dragon (1994): 8%
One of our staffers does a thing where he gets friends to watch bad movies at his place while they get drunk on mimosas, and he actually watched this movie for one of his “Bad Movie Brunches.” And when we asked him what he had to say about it, he just said, “Mid-90’s low-production martial arts based on a video game featuring the dude from Party of 5, the American Iron Chef guy, Alyssa Milano and the T-1000 looking, frankly, like a Garden State-era Peter Sarsgaard in a costume that somehow seems racist for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on?”
We then looked up what Robert Patrick looked like in the movie and…well…
He’s not wrong. The whole thing is one of those “how they thought 2007 would look like in the early 1990s” sets which means it’s a lot of like, punk dystopia bullshit and overacting. Apparently our writer enjoyed it, but he was drunk—we’d have to imagine if we watched it sober we’d probably agree with this reviewer who said, “Even at eleven years old I knew Double Dragon sucked.”
Silent Hill: Revelation (2012): 8%
Listen, the gypsy warned every single cast member of Game of Thrones that they would be doomed to spend their fame making shitty movies no one watches, so we can’t feel too bad for Kit Harrington’s role in the sequel of that one horror video game movie you totally forgot existed. Sean Bean was in this too, along with Malcolm McDowell and Carrie-Anne Moss, rounding out a quality-cast-to-shitty-reviews ratio so skewed that we had to double check to make sure our boy Uwe Boll wasn’t involved in the production at all.
The film was an actual box office success, netting over $50 million on a $20 budget, but if you told us you remembered this movie coming out in theaters that would just helpfully let us know that you’re a damn liar. As far as we can tell the movie is based on the third Silent Hill video game, and involves a woman turning 18 years old and discovering she’s been living under a false identity, and it has something to do with her having to go to Silent Hill, which apparently is like, a spooky town in an alternate dimension. Okay.
Hitman: Agent 47 (2015): 9%
We don’t understand Hollywood. We really, really don’t. Because, just like our previous entry, they released a movie based on a video game, saw it perform decently in the box office amid horrible reviews, and then waited over half a decade to follow up with a differently cast sequel.
You won’t have to go far down this list to find the 2007 film that spawned this lukewarm action thriller, since the original Hitman rocked a robust 15% RT score, but seriously what was the strategy here? Although again, the problem is probably that people still go out and see this shit—it made over $80 million despite costing $35. So fuck, who are we to tell Hollywood what to do, they seem to have this shit figured out, much to our dismay.
Anyway, it’s a shoot-em-up movie based on a shoot-em-up video featuring genetically enhanced supersoldiers. It sounds like about a thousand other movies, but this one made money, so that’s something.
Wing Commander (1999): 10%
Okay hold on, because we’re about to send you screaming back in time to the late 90s by uttering a single sentence—Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Matthew Lillard starring in a film adaptation of an MS-DOS game. WOOSH. Wow, nice neon LA Lights there, reader. Anyway, yeah, so this is the most 90s thing ever, and it did not cost any money at all but also did not make any money at all.
Not surprisingly the decision to pump only $30 million into a movie that’s about star ships shooting at each other in fucking space yielded a less-than-appetizing end product. They basically shelled out to get Freddie Prinze, Jr. at the peak of his bankability then outsourced all the CGI to your younger cousin Gary who’s pretty hot shit with Adobe Suites.
Also, we’d talk about whatever the fuck Freddie Prinze’s hat situation is in this picture, but we don’t want to start shouting for the next three hundred words.
Street Fighter (1994): 11%
This movie should have been good, dammit. It has peak-camp Jean-Claude Van Damme and a scene-chewing Raul Julia (who, we should point out, was filming this movie while dying of cancer simply because his kid liked the game and he wanted to make a movie he’d like). The plot is standard action film fair—the bad guy wants to take over the world using his genetic supersoldiers (natch) while JCVD gets a bunch of street fighters to help stop his evil plan. It’s exactly as campy as you’d think, and it’s kind of depressing that this was the last movie that Raul Julia would ever do, though he was posthumously nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor.
We have very little to say about this movie that we didn’t already say about its sequel, other than the fact that Timothy Olyphant is the main guy in here, and we love Timothy Olyphant. Just not in this. Not in this.
We know that Max Payne and Hitman have barely anything in common, but we always confuse the two movies for some reason. Sort of like Bill Paxton versus Bill Pullman. One is a mindless action film based on a shooter video game while the other is a mindless action film based on a different shooter video game that also is like, moody.
Granted, this movie has a bit of a different plot than a lot of the other shooter movies. First of all, there are no genetic supersoldiers involved. Instead it centers on a cop turned vigilante after his family got killed. So it’s basically The Punisher as a video game movie.
Again, we have a movie with a pretty strong cast, with Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Ludacris, Chris O’Donnell, Nelly Furtado, and Olga Kurylenko. With that kind of cast, it’s no surprise that it was directed by Uwe…no we’re just kidding. This was directed by the guy who did A Good Day to Die Hard, a.k.a. the one actually bad Die Hard movie. That sounds about right.
Assassin’s Creed (2016): 18%
We honestly thought that this movie had a chance to be good. You had a hit video game series that focused heavily on world building and giving itself rich historical context.
They had a stellar cast who have combined for two Oscar wins and six nominations spread out among four actors during their careers, including a starring turn from Michael Fassbender as he was coming off strong performances Steve Jobs and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Then a turd of a movie came out, and Fassbender started a truly disastrous streak that saw him appearing in the two worst X-Men films and the gooddamn Snowman back-to-back-to-back. We’re not saying this movie has some sort of evil spell attached to it, but Fassbender went from earning his second Oscar nomination to starring in a confusing Norwegian detective film where his character was named Harry Hole, and the only thing that has changed is that now Michael Fassbender is an actor who has Assassins Creed on his resume. But who’s to say.
Do you even care what it’s about at this point? Okay there are two different timelines, sigh, one in 2016 and one during the Spanish Inquisition. It involves a league of assassins and, we’re not 100% sure here but we think we’re correct in saying this, the Apple of Eden which has code that can be used to control humanity’s free will? And they have to protect it from the Knights Templar? So they basically gave the video game the Da Vinci Code treatment? Cool. Very cool idea you guys.
Doom was one of the most important video games to ever come out, completely revolutionizing the very concept of how video games work with its breakthrough first-person shooter technology. It also was not exactly a particularly philosophical exercise. The “point” primarily consisted of “just wander around the maze and kill the monsters and occasional robot Hitler, and that’s it.”
That makes adapting it into a movie pretty difficult. Obviously, you want to make sure to get the first person shooter shots in there, which they had…passable success with. Then you need a good cast, and you can do a lot worse than The Rock, Karl Urban and Rosamund Pike.
Then you need to figure out what sort of plot you want, and they decided to go with…monsters attacking an outpost on Mars? And we get to Mars via a portal? And there’s a serum that turns people into monsters? It’s both needlessly complicated but also somehow blandly generic, which of course is what everyone wants with their film experience. Multiple members of our staff have actually sat down to watch this movie, and they immediately forgot everything that happened in it within the week.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001): 20%
Listen, Tomb Raider was based on a video game that’s best known because a programmer accidentally gave its character giant boobs. And when they cast Angelina Jolie, an Academy Award winner who put way more effort into the role for a film that really did not deserve it, the most important question was of course…but how big are the bewbs gonna be? Thankfully we live in a more enlightened society where we’d never loose our collective shit about the chest size of an actress playing Lara Craft ever again.
That said, they spent more time focusing on casting the right actress and getting the right amount of padding in her costume to really give three shits about the script. Oh, they also cast her dad Jon Voight in the film shortly before she basically cut off contact with him forever.
Anyway, it’s a movie about keeping powerful artifacts out of the hands of the Illuminati, and half of the movie is pretty much shit like this. It is not a good movie.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004): 20%
The Resident Evil franchise is going to show up here a lot, so let’s just keep in mind that each and every one centers on Milla Jovovich, a survivor of a man-man plague, killing a bunch of zombies while battling the powerful Umbrella Corporation.
The six movies in that series have made over $1.2 billion worldwide, so even though they don’t get much love for critics they’re doing something right at least. This one was the second in the series, though it’s the highest grossing domestically of the whole set (it falls to second place when you account for foreign box office totals, but still $300 worldwide is nothing to shake a stick at).
Anyway, we’re not going to spend too much on any of these movies because they all blend together to us at a certain point, and also because we know everyone wants to get to the next entry on this list, which has been called “Lol, just a fucking wreck” as well as “a visionary cyberpunk masterpiece, and if anyone trashes it in this article we are over professionally.” And that movie is…
Super Mario Bros. (1993): 21%
This is one of the movies that most of you are looking specifically for, because ho boy not only is this movie bad it is famously bad. It’s less a movie and more a series of stories about the making of the movie you find out years down the line. Bob Hoskins, who played Mario, took the role without realizing it was based on a video game. Hoskins and John Leguizamo, who played Luigi, constantly drank on set to get through the experience, with Hoskins saying that it was the worst thing he had ever done in his life.
They gave Mario and Luigi a last name, and that last name was fucking Mario. Mario Mario and Luigi Mario. No we’re not kidding. Dennis Hopper played King Koopa solely for the paycheck, and they landed on making his character *checks notes* a business man descended from dinosaurs.
The Mario video games centered on a plumber going through brightly lit magical kingdoms in order to rescue a princess who had been kidnapped by a giant shelled lizard monster. You know, standard stuff. The movie, however, is about two plumbers who find themselves in a murky, dystopian parallel universe created when a meteorite crashed into Earth 65 million years ago, where they need to rescue Luigi’s girlfriend, an NYU student who was kidnapped because she has magic necklace.
Yoshi, a loveable dinosaur who is ridden around by Mario in the game appears as a two-foot-tall mix between a T-Rex and an iguana with a total of two minutes of screen time. Toad, a…um…guy into mushroom hats (?) in the game became a…musician played by a “third-rate Tom Waits for half the price” (or at least that’s how the actor’s agent billed him). This movie is so bad it’s almost funny enough to make it good again. Almost.
Ratchet & Clank (2016): 22%
The majority of video game tend to be live-action R-rated fare, but there are a few that take the logical “kids animated film” route, and here’s one of them. The original game is famous for its over-the-top weapons and gadgetry, which work well enough in here, but the end result was an animated movie that mostly appealed to kids too young to even play the game, with a resulting critical shrug. It didn’t even make money, which we thought was impossible for animated family films—on its modest $20 million budget, it only made back $16, and we have to imagine someone got fired over that.
Need for Speed (2014): 22%
Poor Aaron Paul. After Breaking Bad everyone tried to make him a movie star, and as it turns out the only way to successfully pull that off is to put him in a Breaking Bad movie. Because Need for Speed was not the vehicle (ugh, we hate ourselves) that was going to drive (stop us please) Paul to stardom. Vroom.
It was, instead, a clunky movie with one-dimensional characters and a stupid plot based on a popular video game that required nothing more than just racing cars against other cars in different places. Not a lot of story there. And honestly, after Mad Max: Fury Road taught us that you can make a good movie that just is a single car chase scene, we wonder why they even bothered trying to cram in a plot where, like, Aaron Paul is struggling to keep his garage open, and also gets framed for manslaughter during an unsanctioned street race. Who cares, just make the cars go vroom vroom next time.
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007): 23%
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010): 23%
You can go right to hell if you think we’re going to give the two Resident Evil movies from three years apart with the exact same fucking Rotten Tomatoes score their own individual entries. They’re all pretty much basically the same damn movies—Mila Jovovich has super powers from experiments, and wants to find zombie survivors. Neat. The main difference between the two is that Afterlife takes place in Los Angeles (which is overrun by zombies, duh) and apparently was also filmed in 3D which just reading about that gives us a headache. The next one better not be rehashing another franchise we’ve already covered.
Oh goddamn it. We honestly 100% forgot that the Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider actually got a sequel, and we definitely forgot that it got better reviews than the original. We tend to forget that in the early 2000s Jolie wasn’t exactly a can’t-miss star, she was a recent Oscar-nominee whose agent was still advising her to take roles in schlock like Original Sin.
So her getting Lara Croft was a big step up for her, basically her version of getting a Marvel film. But…she saw the first one, and still decided to give it a go just two years later? Granted, a big payday is a big payday so we can’t really cast any stones at Jolie for getting her money.
As for the movie—it’s better than the first one, which is the same as saying that getting punched in the throat is better than getting punched in the dick. It’s got Pandora’s Box in it and its villain is a “Nobel-Prize winning scientist turned bio—terrorist.” Because sure. The fight scenes are okay, the plot is ridiculous, and Angelina Jolie does what she can with the material. Though to her credit, as this film was also financially profitable, the studio tried to turn this into a trilogy until Jolie responded to that offer with a polite, “No fucking way am I doing another one of these.” Good for her.
We find every fact about Warcraft outside of “it is bad” supremely surprising. It’s directed by David Bowie’s son. That same director’s previous two films were Source Code and Moon which both topped 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.
It made $47 million domestically on a $160 million budget, yet somehow was still a smashing success due to its nearly $400 million take from foreign markets. This is literally the highest-grossing video game adaptation of all time, but let’s not get too crazy about that fact, since it only had to beat out Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.
We could go ahead and try to tell you about the plot, with orcs and fel magic and warlocks and stuff, but honestly we’re good. We’re going on a limb to assume that there are two camps of people—those who have played Warcraft and thus already know what the deal is, more or less, and those who have never played Warcraft and as such give roughly zero fucks what the movie version would be about.
The good news is that there is at least one thing that unites those two camps of people—they both think the Warcraft movie sucks.
Resident Evil: Retribution (2012): 29%
Listen, we have a hard time distinguishing between Mission: Impossible movies, and that franchise is actually good, so how the fuck are you going to expect us to offer any distinguishing details to an entire franchise that never managed to get more than 37% of critics to begrudgingly deem it “fine”? All you need to know about this movie is that it’s the fifth, fifth, movie based on the Resident Evil video games. What more do you want us to say? We apparently devised an article concept that would force us to talk about Resident Evil, a series of movies that we give zero shits about, six times. What is wrong with us?
Silent Hill (2006): 30%
Silent Hill is a spooky video game that was turned into a spooky psychological horror film with some shoddy writing but impressive visuals, which honestly means it managed to avoid like 50% of the pitfalls out there for video game adaptations.
The movie follows a mother whose child has been diagnosed with psychiatric issues requiring institutionalization. The mom calls bullshit and runs away to the town of Silent Hill, which is smothered by fog and filled with walking nightmares lifted from the video game.
It was universally met with profitable shrugs, making $100 million worldwide on a $50 budget. It’s one of those poorly reviewed movies that isn’t bad, it’s just got an absence of good, the kind of movie every critic would give two and a half stars.
But again, as you saw earlier, somehow this movie managed to get enough backing to warrant a sequel six years later, which is just enough time to pass to lead us to believe that the sequel got greenlit after some movie executive was just rifling through the back catalog of movies that ended up making money and was like, “Oh, we did a video game movie in 2006? That should work. Get Sean Bean on the phone and see if he’s free to reprieve his role. Haha just kidding of course he is.”
DOA: Dead or Alive (2007): 33%
Dead or Alive is a trashy fighting game that’s best known for your ability to select, um, let’s call it “generously proportioned, scantily clad female fighters.” So yeah, that translated into a movie about…a fighting tournament featuring four scantily clad women whose, and we’re quoting a plot summary here, “outwardly sexy appearances betray their true lethal natures.” Neat.
The biggest name in the cast was Jaime Pressly during her My Name Is Earl years, so she was cashing in on the absolute peak of her fame, which did not translate into critical or box office gold here. Is there an “extreme” beach volleyball scene with requisite bikinis on the four main characters? Folks, you know there is.
How about a wet t-shirt fight? Duh. Imagine if a 12 year old kid who is just learning what boobs are but whose parents forbid him from going on the internet conjured up a movie, and you’d have this. By the way, DOA made $480,000 in the United States. Total. Because, again, if you want to see women in bikinis and don’t live near a beach you can just go online and not waste 90 minutes of your life.
Resident Evil (2002): 35%
We swear this article might as well be called “Resident Evil Movies (and other video game adaptations we guess).” At least here we’re finally at the actual origin film in the series which, while not the highest rated in the series, is generally considered to be one of, if not the, best in the franchise.
We know we said a few back that we refuse to spell out the plot of these movies, but we’ll at least give the general set up of this one since it starts everything off. Unlike the rest of the series, the first Resident Evil takes place in just one, enclosed location, which is a genetic testing lab called The Hive. Everyone inside is contaminated by a T-virus which turns them into zombies, and Alice, played by Milla Jovovich, is a woman with amnesia who fights them off as she tries to get out of The Hive.
There’s a lot more to it than what we just said, but goddamn it there are six of these films and we have to talk about every single one apparently. Fun fact—the Resident Evil franchise accounts for 15% of all the video game movies ever made. We’re sure there’s something deeper to go into about that, but we don’t really care enough to delve.
Jake Gyllenhaal is a goddamn national treasure. That being said, one of the biggest swings-and-misses Hollywood has ever made was trying to make him into a stand-alone action star. That’s just not his jam. If you want some Oscar-worthy weirdos, sociopaths and tricksters, you cast a Gyllenhaal. If you want engagingly baffling performances that are just filled with capital C Choices, you cast a Gyllenhaal. You want a sword-wielding, white-washed Persian prince? Maybe don’t cast a Gyllenhaal.
As far as a film goes, despite its 37% rating, it wasn’t particularly panned by critics. Pretty much everything about this film’s critical reception was all the amassed ambivalence of the purest form of “meh.” The average rating of each review was 5/10, Roger Ebert gave it two out of four stars, and the Metacritic score of it is, you guessed it, 50/100. This might be the most scientifically average movie that has ever been put to film. And hell, an average film is practically Oscar-worthy compared to 99% of video game movies.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017): 37%
The good news is that this film is, mercifully, the last in the franchise. A franchise that, somehow, ran for 15 years and lasted six movies. It also was the best reviewed film in the series, which is sort of like being the most famous Baldwin brother not named Alec.
Are we going to summarize the plot of this one, that supposedly finally wraps things up and sees the zombie virus thing finally defeated? We will fucking not. This was the last movie in the series. Critics basically said if you haven’t watched the movies its pointless, but if you actually like the franchise it at least ends things well.
Oh, and if you are one of those people and, for some ungodly reason, you were sad to hear that the Resident Evil film experiment had finally come to an end, we have good (?) news for you because of fucking course they’re planning on rebooting the damn franchise. Of fucking course.
The Angry Birds Movie (2016): 43%
Listen, we could either go on an enraged rant that a movie based on a goddamn data stealing app is the eight best reviewed video game movie of all time, but we’ll talk about everything wrong with the mere existence of this film universe when we talk about the sequel, which, Jesus Christ, is actually somehow even rated higher. We’re already shaking just thinking about where it ended up on our list.
This movie made $300 million worldwide. Culture is a drug.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001): 45%
Square Pictures was a Hawaii-based computer animation arm of Square Enix (also known as SquareSoft), who made the Final Fantasy series, arguably the most successful and idolized video game franchises of all time. In translating such an iconic property to film, they brought on the creator of the series as its director, and spent four years paying a staff of 200 people to painstakingly render the most advanced photorealistic computer-animation ever put on film.
The plan was to turn the main character into the first ever photorealistic computer-animated actress, who could be dropped in other movies and franchises to play different roles. That’s right, they basically wanted to make a fake actor that other studios could hire. They failed on that part, but critics and audiences agreed that the animation was cutting edge and revolutionary.
The rest of the movie though? Ehhh… You’re bound to be disappointed when you spend two years and $137 million to make a gorgeous movie that ended up as just a lineup of every general sci-fi action film cliché. It earned just $85 million worldwide. Oh, and Square Pictures? It no longer exists. We’re not saying that the entire company went belly up because of this movie, but that’s only because other people already said it for us.
Mortal Kombat (1995): 46%
Sing it with us…. MORTAL KOMBATTTTT!
Anyway, featuring such big name stars as *checks notes* Pete Sampras’ wife, the guy from The Highlander, and Dr. Brett Cooper from Melrose Place, Mortal Kombat managed to make over $100 million in the world wide box office, which is why this sucky movie spawned the sucky sequel mentioned earlier in this article. Frankly, it’s pretty shocking that Mortal Kombat somehow managed to get 46% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, especially because we have seen it and it is a goddamn shitshow.
The critics consensus states, “despite an effective otherworldly atmosphere and appropriately cheesy visuals, Mortal Kombat suffers from its poorly constructed plot, laughable dialogue, and subpar acting.” Not to state the obvious, but it’s not a good sign when “cheesy visuals” is listed BEFORE the “unfortunately, it’s bad for the following reasons” part of the review.
The plot exists insomuch as the game famous for making people clutch their pearls about violent video games in the 90s required a plot to justify “you’re going to fight a bunch of dudes and it’s gonna be bloody.”
The movie itself, surprisingly, doesn’t lean in on the whole “gore” aspect of things, opting for a PG-13 rating since in the 90s it was next to impossible to get an R-rated blockbuster off the ground, and the idea of “gritty reboot” was about a few decades away from becoming the new norm. Surprisingly, a few actually relevant critics, such as Gene Siskel, gave it positive reviews, but, like, come on guys. This clip pretty much sums up the whole movie.
Interestingly enough, this movie was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, who directed or wrote every single Resident Evil movie, because even when the movie we’re talking about has nothing to do with Resident Evil somehow we end up talking about goddamn Resident Evil.
Tomb Raider (2018): 52%
The Tomb Raider reboot really followed the script of the Angelina Jolie franchise almost to a T. First, you cast an up-and-coming actress fresh off an Oscar win. Then, a bunch of mouthbreathers argue among themselves over the pressing question of whether or not she has enough boobage to play the part.
Then you have the actress put forth a well-reviewed performance while earning enough money to warrant a sequel. Then you just sort of don’t give too much of a crap about the storyline or like the rest of the film and hope no one notices.
Tomb Raider is an origin story, which means that the best action scene in the whole thing is literally a bike race at the beginning of the film. Pretty much every critic said that Vikander was great…but also not even the primary focus of the movie, which is a bold way to handle a title character. Ultimately, as a stand alone movie this is forgettable fare, but forgettable is better than, like, Uwe Boll and Resident Evil, so we’ll take it.
It’s interesting that the only movies with positive marks from over half of critics have only come out in the past two years. This kind of speaks to the larger point of this article—eventually respectable video game movies are going to come out. It’s just a matter of time.
The first real video games consumed by the public in general came out just 40 years ago. Compare that to Superman, which came out exactly 40 years after the first Superman comic strip, and you’ll find that mediums tend to take a while before we really figure out how to adapt it to the screen.
We’re starting to get to the point where comic book movies aren’t guaranteed to suck but we still got a way to go—at this point they’re just more than likely to be forgettable, like Rampage.
This is one of those movies that people who tend to enjoy it do so with conditions. “It’s good…for a mindless blockbuster” seems to be the general opinion of Rampage. And frankly, that probably was the best case scenario for a movie based on an old arcade game where a bunch of giant animals smash up a random pixilated city.
Sonic the Hedgehog (2020): 64%
This entry was added after the posting of the original article, during a time where everyone assumed that the Sonic the Hedgehog movie would be a steaming pile of Uncanny Valley after their disastrous teaser trailer caused them to spend millions to make underpaid animators fix the studio’s mistake.
But even with the…human teeth originally portrayed, this movie had signs of potentially being fun. Sonic was voiced by Jean Ralphio. James Marsden is always incredibly charming and handsome. Jim Carrey was doing his thing.
And you know what? This might end up being the best movie on this list. Originally, we said Pokemon Detective earned that spot, because it was an enjoyable movie, but the 93% audience approval rating of this one kind of synchs it for us. It’s fun, the right amount of silly and self-aware, and deep down it was about lonely people making friends that, just maybe, our staff watched while being forced into self-isolation.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu (2019): 68%
Even though we just gave the title to Sonic the Hedgehog, for a solid year Detective Pikachu was the best video game movie that has been made so far, which is a crazy thing to say. And indeed, when it came out it earned the distinction of being the first ever video game adaptation to get a Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
If you grew up with Pokémon in your life, you’re likely to enjoy the world building so long as you don’t focus too much on the plot (this is a movie that succeeds despite the fact that the plot falls apart as the most ridiculous thing ever under just a hint of scrutiny).
Almost every movie on this list has been somewhere between “so bad it’s kind of enjoyable” to “completely bland, leaving no impact on the viewer” with six fucking Resident Evil movies sandwiched between.
And outside of Sonic stealing our hearts with friendship, this film is the only video game film that toes the line between “I liked what they tried to do, I just think they could have done more with it” and “I actually enjoyed this movie!”
Video game movies might be slowly and steadily improving, but they still generally suck, especially when you consider that the highest rated video game movie of all time is…
The Angry Birds Movie 2 (2019): 74% (!?)
Fucking. Angry. Birds.
We spent all this time writing about all these movies and…the top of the list is going to be…the sequel to The Angry Birds Movie?
We’re so fucking mad right now.
Okay, calm down calm down, let’s find a silver lining… so most of the reason the score looks to be so high is that you had a lot of reviews including words like “surprising” in their assessment, like, “Surprisingly, it didn’t suck hog ass.” The average rating from critics was a 5.74 out of 10, which was lower than Detective Pikachu, and its official Megacritic designation is “mixed or average reviews.”
So this isn’t necessarily a “good” movie, it’s just a movie that isn’t terrible, which came after a pretty terrible original film. While it’s still in theaters as of the writing of this article, it’s likely going to end up making just around $40 million domestically, so its not like The Angry Birds are going to become the next Marvel. Or even DC.
But it all just goes to show you, we’ve made movies based on interesting video games, and mind numbing video games, games with intriguing, complicated plots, and like, you know they’re gonna make an adaptation of Tetris? And no matter what we’ve tried we’ve yet to get a truly good movie based on video games.
There are some movies that you might find good, but nothing universally praised, and definitely nothing that could be considered “classic” outside of an ironic cult film kind of way. But that’s okay. Future filmmakers can look at this list and realize, no matter what they do, if they make a movie based on a video game? They’ll at least do a hell of a lot better than Uwe fucking Boll.