Movies based on video games, especially the live-action versions, are a tough code to crack even after 30 years of trying to do them; staying faithful to the source material while trying to provide a good movie-going experience is no simple task. Most video game movies are critical and commercial failures.
Even still, there are several video game movies that turned out pretty good, or were at least bad in the most charming way so as to become iconic in their own right. Maybe it’s childhood nostalgia or maybe it’s something akin to people’s fascination with The Room, but some video game movies just do the trick.
Check out our list for some of the best and most iconic video game movies.
1 Super Mario Bros.
With a star-studded cast of Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper, Super Mario Bros. had a fighting chance to be a good movie. Unfortunately, the combination of live-action and hilarious special effects, alongside an incoherent story, led to it being a box office bomb and critically panned.
While the main cast has described the experience of making the movie as a nightmare, the film has developed a cult following in recent years and held the title as the only live-action Nintendo-based movie until Pokemon: Detective Pikachu in 2019.
2. Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat was released in 1995 and remains one of the highest grossing video game movie ever released in the United States, bringing in over $120 million at the box office. Reviews for the movie were mixed, with praise going towards the atmosphere and visuals while critics pointed out the awful dialogue and acting.
Still, Mortal Kombat was popular enough for a sequel, television spin-offs, and there’s even a reboot of the movie coming in 2021. The music for the movie was incredibly popular as well, with the soundtrack album going platinum.
3. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
A critically-panned movie that was carried to box office success by a great performance in Angelina Jolie, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider took the classic PlayStation game and somehow made it into a smash hit despite the overwhelming criticism of the movie’s plot and action sequences.
While the sequel Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life was both a critical and commercial failure and doomed any hope of a longterm Tomb Raider franchise, Jolie’s performance of Lara Croft is definitely one of the best when it comes to roles in video game movies.
4. Street Fighter
Before there was Mortal Kombat, there was Street Fighter; released in 1994, the film was criticized for the portrayal of certain characters and how it wasn’t very faithful to the source material. But with Jean-Claude Van Damme in the lead role, the movie still managed to gross close to $100 million at the box office.
Despite the critical failure, the performance of Raúl Juliá as M.Bison was widely praised and he even a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Saturn Awards. Juliá passed away near the end of 1994, and it was revealed that he specifically chose to star in Street Fighter as one of his last roles so that he could appear in a movie his children would enjoy.
5. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was one of the most ambitious projects ever made; with a budget around $137 million and a cast featuring Ming-na Wen, Alec Baldwin, Donald Sutherland, James Wood and Steve Buscemi among many others, the movie certainly went all out.
The computer-animation and realism of the characters were widely praised and viewed as groundbreaking, and even film critics such as Roger Ebert were supportive of the film’s technical innovations. But the story was dull and convoluted, and the skepticism of if the movie would even succeed was a recipe for disaster, and so Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within only ended up grossing around $85 million. Square Pictures, the studio behind the movie, was effectively shut down after failing to recoup the costs of the film.
Video game movies have had a rough history, but recent outings such as Pokemon: Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog show that there is still potential for these movies to do well at the box office and be enjoyable in their own right. A true masterpiece may still be a ways off, but in the coming years, video game movies may just make their mark as truly great films rather than just nostalgia pieces and fan service.