Let’s be honest, straight off the bat – all video game movies are a little bit bad. Well, most are a lot bad. Choosing my best five is like picking my five favourite dog turds out in an especially turd-laden park, or the five best ways to be punched in the face. But there are some that, for whatever reasons, stick in my mind, and so I present my top five video game movies ever.
⚠ SPOILER WARNING… but these films are pretty rubbish anyway so who really cares? ⚠
#5: Resident Evil
It was a toss up between this and Pokémon: The First Movie for fifth place, with the latter missing out due to a mediocre story, short running time and a fatal underuse of Psyduck. As such it is Paul WS Anderson’s liberal adaptation of the Capcom horror classic which takes the number five spot.
This is a fun film, with a strong cast featuring the likes of Michelle Rodriguez, James Purefoy and Milla Jovovich. There is plenty of suspense and slow build tension, an area familiar to Anderson after his work on the excellent Event Horizon. There is certainly something of the game here in the film – maybe it’s that they share the same level of CGI quality.
While the setup starts in a similar fashion to the game (waking up in a large house that contains zombies) the focus very quickly shifts to the underground Umbrella Corporation laboratory of a thousand nonsenses. Remember that bit in the game where people are turned into cubes by a weird, potentially sentient laser beam? Me neither… But it did make for a fun few minutes of nail-biting action, so who cares?
Basically, this film is good and well worth a watch whether you’re a fan of the game or not.
#4: Street Fighter
This film is here for one reason and one reason alone: Raúl Juliá. In (sadly) his final performance, he gives us a wild-eyed, scenery-chewing megalomaniac in M. Bison, a rogue general bent on world domination, or something. It’s not really important. Juliá seems fully aware that the script is bad, the costume is cartoonish, and the story is pretty much awol. His response? Have all the fun. All of it. In the film’s defense, though, the starting point is a game based solely around punching people into the floor.
While there are many characters in Capcom’s fighting franchise, the original Street Fighter really puts Ryu and Ken at the forefront. This film actually takes more of its cues from Street Fighter II, and while Ken and Ryu are important players in the film, centre stage is taken by Guile – the most Belgian-sounding American ever, played by Jean-Claude van Damme. He’s here to stop Bison the only way he knows how: hard to understand dialogue and roundhouse kicks. And he hasn’t come alone! He’s also brought Kylie Minogue and Simon Callow as a character not from the games, so I just pretend he’s playing himself – it makes it more interesting.
Writer/director Stephen E de Souza delivers a film where enjoyment can be found for fans of the game and fans of campy one-liners alike. And, once again, you should watch it just for the late, great Raúl Juliá.
1993’s Doom (made by id Software) is one of my favourite ever games, and is generally considered to be one of the most important and influential games of all time. 2005’s Doom (directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak) is not one of my favourite ever films, nor is it generally considered to be one of the most important or influential films of all time. Let’s be realistic, it’s not even the most important or influential film from the week it came out. But I think it’s alright. It’s a solid piece of action sci-fi fiff-faff.
The film is a loose adaptation of the game, replacing the invading forces of Hell itself with a ridiculous genetic virus that turns you evil somehow. We also lose the solo marine, Doomguy, in favour of a whole team of Marines including Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as the uncompromising Sergeant, and Karl Urban as someone who speaks on a gruff voice and shoots things. The cast also includes the very talented Rosamund Pike as a leading scientist of some kind. These are three talented and charismatic leads, and they do their best to lend conviction to a daft story.
This isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch, and I can definitely understand why some people might have this on their worst game movies list – but for me this is a pretty competent film, where you can turn off your brain and just enjoy the ride. Plus, towards the end of the film is a ten minute section shot in first person intended to emulate the game, which is certainly interesting.
#2: Mortal Kombat
This is the list’s second entry for Paul WS Anderson, and the second fighting game – however this one at least bases its story around fighting, centering on a tournament staged by the sorcerer Shang Tsung (played by the always excellent Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). As plots go it’s got more holes than a colander.
The tournament is fought by competitors from Earth and an evil dimension called Out World, and only when Tsung has overseen ten consecutive tournament wins can Out World invade and enslave Earth… for some reason. So, naturally, Tsung actively helps to recruit Earth’s champions (because, sure, why not) and he picks three very skilled warriors, who will ultimately defeat him. I mean, why didn’t he just pick… a bin man, a nun and a small dog? He’d have beaten then easily! Those he actually recruits then come under guidance of the (inexplicably French) Japanese Thunder God, Raiden (Christopher Lambert) who does absolutely nothing of any consequence. I could write an article longer than the film’s script about all the problems with the film’s script, but I think the best thing would be just for you to watch it. And I mean that.
This film is funny (not always intentionally but still) and engaging, helmed by a competent director working with an enthusiastic cast. Fans of the game may question the marginalization of the franchise’s arguably most popular characters, Scorpion and Sub-Zero, but being fair Scorpion only really exists in the original game because it was easy and cheap to palette swap. In my opinion there’s plenty enough here to justify this lofty position on my list, and if anyone has any questions may I please direct you to the undeniably brilliant film theme tune, still played in club nights around the world today.
Honourable Mention – Wreck-It Ralph
Before the number one spot, I’d like to just chuck out one more recommendation. This film didn’t qualify for the list because it isn’t strictly an adaptation of any one game, but it’s getting an honourable mention due to the huge list of cameos from the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog, M. Bison, Cupert and and more.
Wreck-It Ralph is a clever film with great characters (brought to life by a talented vocal cast), a tight story and plenty of hilarity. It represents a real return to form for Disney’s own animation department, and is a film I would recommend to all – doubly so to anyone who has played video games over the last 30 years.
#1: Silent Hill
And here it is, the best video game film ever – Christophe Gans’ adaptation of Konami’s Silent Hill games. The film borrows elements from the first four games, and mixes them in with a healthy dose of Sheffield’s finest, Sean Bean.
Rose (Radha Mitchell) and Christopher (Bean) da Silva have become very concerned with their daughter, who is sleep walking and calling out the name of the town Silent Hill in her sleep. So Rose essentially kidnaps her daughter and travels to Silent Hill, where she promptly crashes her car. She wakes up some time later without her child, and surrounded by fog – and every now and then a siren goes off and everything goes really weird. She then has to survive the horrifying monsters that haunt the town, while uncovering the dark past of the town. And as this is going on we occasionally cut to Sean Bean who is Beaning about in a subplot that has absolutely no impact on the main story at all.
There is a reason that Bean’s subplot feels utterly disconnected – in the original script his character didn’t exist, but a studio memo came down saying they wanted a male presence in the nearly all female film, so Christopher was created. On the one hand: it’s a shame that the producers didn’t feel comfortable with an all-female ensemble, but on the other hand: I do love me a bit of Bean. Still, irrelevant subplots aside, this is a well put together film.
The cinematography is excellent, especially with the use of a blank, oppressing fog to mirror and enhance Rose’s isolation and confusion. And the sound of the siren, heralding the descent into the mad, surreal and dark world, will haunt you after watching this film. It is scary, unsettling even, and Gans doesn’t hold back on the gore. We’re even treated to old Silent Hill favourites such as the undead nurses, and Pyramid Head himself. There’s enough here to please fans of the games, and also to draw in new fans. I’m not saying the film is perfect, far from it, but it is good – and by video game film standards, that is impressive.