13 best video game movies of all time
These are the 13 best video game movies ever made; from Gran Turismo to Mortal Kombat, from Silent Hill to Street Fighter, and more.
The digital frontier has enjoyed a rampant, terrifying evolution; over the past two decades, we’ve seen better graphics, more immersive gameplay, and a dedication to cinematic values in games.
Yet, all that stuff doesn’t really matter in gaming. Fun and escapism are more important, and it’s been a continual stumbling block for the studios that try to adapt them into movies; if you take away the agency of the player, you need to make them care about what they’re seeing. Fortunately, it seems like we’ve entered a new age of prestige adaptations: The Last of Us is one of the most acclaimed shows of 2023, The Witcher is one of Netflix’s biggest shows, and there’s also the likes of Arcane, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, and Castlevania.
For the purpose of this list, we’re going to forget about the many flops and focus on the cream of the crop – so, to mark the release of Gran Turismo, these are best video game movies of all time.
Best video game movies of all time
Below, you’ll find our ranking of the 11 best video game movies and where to watch and stream them.
13. Tomb Raider
What’s it about: Lara Croft sets off on a perilous journey in search of father’s last-known location: a fabled tomb on a mythical island.
What we think: The rose-tinted nostalgia factor around Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider movies wasn’t strong enough to put us off Alicia Vikander’s debut, clearly modelled on the gritty, mud-and-blood appeal of the modern Survivor trilogy. It bogs itself down a bit, but this is a solid, often exhilarating outing for gaming’s great heroine.
Where to stream: On-demand
12. Mortal Kombat (1995)
What’s it about: Lord Rayden chooses three martial artists – Sonya Blade, Liu Kang, and Johnny Cage – to fight in Mortal Kombat, an interdimensional tournament where they most face off against Shang Tsung’s champions and save the Earth.
What we think: MORTAL KOMBAAAAAT!
Where to stream: Max and on-demand
11. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie
What’s it about: While M. Bison, the leader of terrorist organization Shadowlaw, kidnaps talented fighters to brainwash them and have them under him, Ryu travels across Asia to perfect his fighting skills. Bison wants Ryu, so he approaches his rival Ken, and it’ll be up to Interpol agent Chun-li and Guile to find Ryu and prevent Shadowlaw from taking over the world.
What we think: Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie isn’t just one of the most under-appreciated, under-seen video game movies, it’s also a gateway anime; this is one of the best-looking adaptations you can find, celebrating the game’s extraordinary, distinctive visuals while also delivering a terrific story. Hadouken!
10. Silent Hill
What’s it about: In a desperate resort to cure her daughter’s sleepwalking, Rose travels to Silent Hill. After getting into a car crash, she awakens surrounded by fog and its horrifying residents, and soon uncovers the truth of the town that occupies restless dreams.
What we think: This is one of the most underrated video game movies ever made. The eerie atmosphere is all-consuming, envisioned with sick, slick flair by director Christophe Gans; the CGI is pretty gnarly, and that ending – chills.
Where to stream: Sling and on-demand
9. Mortal Kombat (2021)
What’s it about: Cole Young, an MMA fighter with a mysterious dragon birthmark, brawls with destiny when he’s recruited to protect Earthrealm from Sub-Zero and the villains of Outworld, led by Shang-Tsung.
What we think: Mortal Kombat is a glorious love letter to the fans, equipped with gloopy, uppercutting flawless victories, fatalities and brutalities galore, and a likeable roster of iconic fighters – just make sure you give us the actual tournament in the sequel.
Where to stream: Hulu, Max, and on-demand
What’s it about: Tetris follows the true story of Henk Rogers, a video game salesman and designer who finds himself enchanted by the game and tries to secure the rights for Nintendo. This takes him to the Soviet Union, where he joins forces with inventor Alexey Pajitnov to bring the game to the masses.
What we think: Tetris is a propulsive, highly watchable piece of mass entertainment; it won’t change the world as much as its space-shifting bricks, but you’ll have a good time glued to your screen.
Where to stream: Apple TV
7. Detective Pikachu
What’s it about: Tim Goodman’s father, a police detective in Ryme City, is seemingly killed – but he thinks he’s still alive, so he teams up with his old partner to find him… who happens to be a wisecracking Pikachu only he can understand.
What we think: Detective Pikachu washes away the bad taste of Pokémon’s earlier movie outings with a hilarious, immersive, fan-service-loaded adventure.
Where to stream: Tubi and on-demand
6. The Super Mario Bros Movie
What’s it about: Mario and Luigi, two Brooklyn brothers and plumbers, are sucked into green pipes that take them to different worlds. Luigi finds himself held captive by Bowser, while Mario ends up in the Mushroom Kingdom, where he teams up with Princess Peach and Captain Todd to save the galaxy.
What we think: As a pure adaptation of the look, sound, and feel of the game, you can’t do much better than The Super Mario Bros Movie; there’s lots of finger-waggling nods to the multi-generational iconography of the franchise, and it may be too fast, but it’s fun.
Where to stream: Peacock and on-demand
5. Resident Evil (2002)
What’s it about: Alice teams up with Umbrella Corporation troops to contain the T-virus in the “hive”, a secret underground laboratory where the personnel have been killed and resurrected as flesh-eating monsters.
What we think: In 2002, Paul W.S. Anderson shook up the Resident Evil canon with a gruesome, laser-slicing, thrilling B-movie that’s one of the key texts of the genre; for all the cheese and of-its-time writing, this paved the way for every other post-millennium video game movie, for better or worse.
Where to stream: Prime Video and on-demand
4. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
What’s it about: After settling in Green Hills, Sonic is eager to prove he has what it takes to be a true hero. His test comes when Dr. Robotnik returns, this time with a new partner, Knuckles, in search for an emerald that has the power to destroy civilizations. Sonic teams up with his own sidekick, Tails, and together they embark on a globe-trotting journey to find the emerald before it falls into the wrong hands.
What we think: After emerging on the other side of fan backlash, the first Sonic movie was a pleasant surprise, and the sequel ups the ante in every way; the laughs are bigger, the action is more inventive, and it wholeheartedly – and cleverly – embraces the games. It gets extra points for its long-awaited post-credits scene, too.
Where to stream: Prime Video and on-demand
3. Gran Turismo
What’s it about: Based on the true story of an impossible dream, Gran Turismo follows Jann Mardenborough, a gamer whose incredible skills on the (virtual) track land him a spot in the GT Academy, where he competes for a spot in Team Nissan.
What we think: Superman made audiences believe he could fly; Gran Turismo will make you believe you can drive. This is a video game movie in the spirit of all the abysmal adaptations of yesteryear, but one that effectively communicates the immersion and fun of its source, and overcomes woeful writing with a rollicking, rousing big-screen experience.
Where to stream: Exclusively in cinemas
2. Werewolves Within
What’s it about: Finn Wheeler is the new forest ranger at Beaverfield, a town divided by plans to install a pipeline that’d cut through the wilderness. On a stormy night, a group of residents end up locked in the local inn… and amid grisly attacks, they begin to suspect someone, somewhere, is actually a werewolf.
What we think: While based on a fairly unknown title, Werewolves Within is a remarkable movie. It plays like a Shaun of the Dead-esque caper, carrying a charming wit not just in its dialogue, but in all of its direction. It’d be a perfect pairing with Knives Out or Glass Onion… or both.
Where to stream: Netflix and on-demand
1. Tron: Legacy
What’s it about: Sam, the son of vanished video game designer Kevin Flynn, enters “the grid”, a dangerous virtual world with disc wars, light cycle racing, a megalomaniac clone of his dad that wants to invade the real world.
What we think: Tron: Legacy is one of the most staggeringly underrated movies of the 2010s. While not strictly based on one video game (the original movie spawned the arcade tie-in, so it still counts), the creative investment here is dazzling; it’s a state-of-the-art spectacular with the best score of the 21st century, composed by the inimitable Daft Punk.
Where to stream: Disney+ and on-demand
Gran Turismo is in cinemas now. You can check out our other coverage below:
- Gran Turismo review
- Gran Turismo cast & characters
- Gran Turismo true story: How accurate is the movie?
- How to watch Gran Turismo – is it streaming?
You can also check out our hubs for upcoming video game adaptations below:
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