The 12 Best Live-Action Video Game Movies of All Time, From ‘Mortal Kombat’ to ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’

[Editor’s note: this list was originally published in October 2023. It has been updated to coincide with the release of “Fallout” on Amazon Prime Video.]

Every year, gamers ask themselves: Is this the year video game movies finally gain some respect? And the answer in the year 2024 might, actually, be yes.

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No, none of the three video game adaptations that came out this year have been outright critical successes. Quite the opposite, actually: critics saw “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” as unremarkable and mediocre, “Gran Turismo” as a glorified advertisement, and “Five Nights as Freddy’s” as a complete borefest. But the movies all performed respectably at the box office, with “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” becoming the second-highest grossing film of the year, and “Five Nights at Freddy’s” smashing expectations to become one of the year’s biggest horror movies. These successes all affirm that, for better or worse, video game movies are hot right now. And with a new “Sonic the Hedgehog” film and “Borderlands” coming out this year, there’s a chance that the financial momentum of video game movies will stay strong in 2024.

Since the first video game movie ever was made, the reception to them has, universally, been negative. The original “Super Mario Bros.” film from the early ’90s was a bizarre, barely-connected-to-the-games action flick that has its charms but is frankly a complete mess. Movies that followed — cheesy bomb “Double Dragon,” the convoluted “Resident Evil” series, the infamously whitewashed “Prince of Persia” movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal — were received with similar scorn. We don’t even want to mention Uwe Ball and that dreadful “Alone in the Dark” movie.

The medium has had more (recent) success on the small screen, with HBO’s ultra (some might say overly) faithful adaptation of Sony’s “The Last of Us” scoring a raft of Emmy nominations. And this April, “Fallout” on Amazon Prime will premiere to relatively strong reviews. Still, the translation from gameplay to non-interactive narrative has always been difficult for directors to figure out, making for a series of awkward adaptations that are very often fans only, and sometimes not even that.

But not every video game movie has absolutely no redeeming qualities. Some (okay, maybe 3 max) can be recommended as legitimately good. And even the older bad ones have a cheesy B-movie charm that’s hard to deny, and are often much more likable than the more synthetic and shiny blockbuster adaptations that we get now. Gaming, in general, is a medium filled with cheesy, campy, over-the-top stories. Sometimes, when a video game movie captures that tone, it just works.

IndieWire decided to comb through the not-so-proud history of video game films to find ourselves the diamonds that stand out in the rough. We limited ourselves to live-action video game films (with our apologies to the “Pokémon” franchise and Ash Ketchum), although movies with CGI animated characters like “Sonic the Hedgehog” make the cut. Films about video games but not based on games also don’t count, so don’t expect to see “Pixels” or the documentary “Console Wars” on here.

Read on for IndieWire’s list of the 12 best Video Game movies ever made. Press any button to start.

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