vulture lists

All 43 Video-Game Movies, Ranked

Some of them are even pretty good.

Photo-Illustration: Vulture/Photos by Universal Pictures, Capcom, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros, Midway, Buena Vista Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing and Core Design
Photo-Illustration: Vulture/Photos by Universal Pictures, Capcom, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros, Midway, Buena Vista Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing and Core Design
Photo-Illustration: Vulture/Photos by Universal Pictures, Capcom, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros, Midway, Buena Vista Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing and Core Design

This article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated to include recent releases, including this month’s Sonic 2.

Something has happened in video-game adaptations over the past few years. In the three decades since the release of the first game-to-screen movie, 1993’s Super Mario Bros., there have been precious few good entries in the genre (in a critical sense). But things started to change with the arrival of Sega and Paramount’s lovable live-action Sonic the Hedgehog in 2020. It eked out a positive critical consensus and even reintroduced the singular physical comedy stylings of Jim Carrey after a long Serious Film hiatus. Alicia Vikander’s Tomb Raider has garnered a respectable chorus of supporters in the years since its release, and 2021’s Werewolves Within turned out to be a straight up gem. Promising growth is happening in the game movie space, and for that we should rejoice!

But while the paradigm might be shifting ever so slightly, B-movie status is historically the ceiling on these kinds of products. It’s useless to judge video-game movies the way we judge other movies, so Vulture has decided to weigh them exclusively against their peers. Street Fighter is always going to suffer in comparison to, say, Die Hard, but if you consider it in the context of similar fare, things start to look a little more impressive. And, hey, that’s something!

So, here’s every video-game movie ranked according to its place in the video-game movie canon, starting with the most absolutely unwatchable and descending down to rare work of honest to god quality. But briefly, an explanation: Entries had to be live action, meaning no Angry Birds, and while BloodRayne is on this list, BloodRayne: Deliverance and BloodRayne: The Third Reich had little to do with the source material, so they were left out of the rankings. Our regrets to any staunch defenders of those two titles.

43. Postal (2007)

Here it is, a movie that should make you think Warcraft is high art. Postal opens on two terrorists in the cockpit of a plane, fighting about how many virgins greet martyrs when they enter heaven. The argument ends with them deciding to fly to the Bahamas instead, but then the passengers of their hijacked plane revolt and force it to crash into the World Trade Center. Everything hovers around that level of bad and offensive for the rest of the movie, making this an easy call for definitively worst video-game adaptation ever. Uwe Boll, you make it so hard to love you.

42. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

The titular prince, Dastan, was played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Additionally, Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina played characters named Nizam and Sheik Amar, respectively. Casting these three men as Persians automatically starts Sands of Time well behind the pack, and not even the ridiculousness of watching Gyllenhaal try to save the world with a dagger that alters time can help the movie make up for lost ground.

41. Assassin’s Creed (2016)

Ah, 2016. The year that video-game movies tried to do way too much in a genre that just shouldn’t be relied upon to provide a Good Movie. How do you waste the talents of Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard this thoroughly? Not to mention Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, and Michael K. Williams. Director Justin Kurzel made strange magic with Cotillard and Fassbender in last year’s Macbeth, and they should have just left it at that.

40. Alone in the Dark (2005)

This is the fifth of six movies on our list directed by Uwe Boll (more to come!), and he really outdid himself with the casting for Alone in the Dark. It’s got Christian Slater ten years before his Mr. Robot resurgence and Tara Reid as an anthropologist and assistant museum curator. Boll, who’s at least good at injecting levity into his movies, struggled to find the humor in this rough outing.

39. Need for Speed (2014)

Despite the fact that the cast of the Aaron Paul–fronted Need for Speed includes Imogen Poots, Rami Malek, Dominic Cooper, and even Michael Keaton in an admirably amped up turn as an omniscient, eccentric rich guy who just wants to see people street race exotic cars, it manages to be way too boring. At more than two hours long, Speed becomes an unnecessary endurance test, with a lot of time wasted not showing the best people in it. Really, any movie exceeding 100 minutes in this genre is just plain rude. “Need for speed”: It’s not just a title, it’s also a worthwhile video-game-movie runtime guide.

38. Warcraft (2016)

Poor Warcraft. It tried so hard and wanted so badly to make us happy, but despite all the time and all that money and the best efforts of director Duncan Jones, the final product was a whole lot of “meh” with great visual effects. Here’s the thing: You just can’t hang a massive wanna-be blockbuster on the star power of Paula Patton and Ben Foster. That’s not fair, but it’s the truth. Preacher cast members Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga are here, too, and despite being arguably the biggest stars in the movie, they’re not even in the lead roles. Where the story is concerned, you empathize most with the Orcs, but all the ones you actually care about just die, and the movie has about three fake endings before the real one, which isn’t satisfying at all. Ultimately, Warcraft fell into one of the biggest traps of video-game movies: It expended far too many resources on a project that didn’t need to exist in the first place. No one needed to make an ultra-immersive World of Warcraft cinema experience, because it already exists online but better, which is why it ends up so low on this list. But hey, at least they seemed to like it overseas.

37. Dead Trigger (2017)

Dead Trigger isn’t a nosedive, but it is exactly what you’d expect from a low-budget direct-to-video video-game job. It’s nothing to be reviled, but the way to climb the charts on this list is to distinguish yourself with something audacious in lieu of quality. Despite having Dolph Lundgren on board (who is still looking great), this zombie movie about a suicide-squad group of soldiers trying to rescue a possible cure from deep inside a postapocalyptic containment zone just … exists. But it didn’t waste an A-list cast or squander phenomenal amounts of money or commit to being totally offensive, so it’s not quite a cellar dweller here!

36. Wing Commander (1999)

The poster for Wing Commander tells you everything you need to know: The logline promises “At the edge of our universe, all hell is about to break loose,” and the marquee names above the title card are Matthew Lillard, Saffron Burrows, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Tcheky Karyo. That’s some 1999 prime time, right there.

35. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)

Annihilation just has too much going on, and in a movie about awesome-looking fights, no one wants to wonder where the narrative thread went. The sequel retains Robin Shou as the great Liu Kang, which is a good, but it loses Christopher Lambert, who just brought that extra-special something to the role of Rayden. (No offense to his successor, James Remar). The ever-intense Brian Thompson brings his usual 150 percent to the role of Shao-Kahn, but the cavalcade of forgettable new game characters like Jade, Sindel, and Reptile is too much of a burden. Annihilation isn’t even remarkably bad. It’s just unremarkable.

34. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)

The character Chun-Li appears in the original Street Fighter, and hey, if they’re going to give a solo movie to any one side character, it’s great they chose a woman! Neal McDonough makes a great villain as a man who transfers the last of his conscience into his infant daughter, and Michael Clarke Duncan brings all his baritone to a few scenes as the henchman Balrog, but seeing Robin Shou in a supporting role feels like slumming after you’ve watched him lead the greatest video-game movie of all time, Mortal Kombat. The real reason to turn out for Legend of Chun-Li is Chris Klein. The Chris that once ruled Hollywood plays his role of cocksure, kind-of-gross Interpol agent Charlie Nash to the hilt, making you feel a little like he’s thinking, “If this is the last role I’m going to play, then damn it they will remember me!” That kind of resolve in a 15-years-later sequel to a cheesy video-game movie is truly admirable.

33. Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

Afterlife is like Resident Evil: The Raid, where everyone is trying to get out of a tower filling up with bad guys. It gives us the return of Ali Larter, who steals the movie’s marquee fight scene, but that’s not quite enough to lift it past Least Enjoyable Resident Evil Movie status. Worst of all, there isn’t any Michelle Rodriguez. Pass!

32. Hitman (2007)

Hitman’s biggest weakness should be its greatest strength: Timothy Olyphant stars in this lukewarm effort that has him checking his charm at the door in the service of playing a stone-cold assassin. As a result, he pretty much disappears despite being in the lead role. The fight sequences are cool enough and Olga Kurylenko is fierce as a woman escaping sexual imprisonment, but it mostly just feels flat. Olyphant’s gliding, distinct walk that served him so well as U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens just looks kind of awkward here, and it makes a silly genre work a little too hard to be serious.

31. Uncharted (2022)

Uncomplicated, expensive adventure-game blockbusters like Uncharted have their place; these movies usually star huge talent (in this case, Mark Wahlberg and Tom Holland), and that holds back any sort of uniqueness in favor of broad palatability. Unfortunately, the movie does little to exceed those low expectations. Holland is a cutie. Wahlberg is laying his whole sarcastic swagger deal on very thick. But if there was a lot more Tati Gabrielle killing guys and Antonio Banderas oozing charm, it would probably be more interesting! Instead it’s just a down-the-middle video-game live-action work up.

30. Silent Hill: Revelation (2012)

For some reason a bunch of people who make decisions at a movie studio decided that Revelation was a necessary sequel six years after the original Silent Hill movie came out. But hey, at least they committed. Cast members Sean Bean and Radha Mitchell actually reprised their roles from the first one, and they were joined by Carrie-Anne Moss, Malcolm McDowell, and even Kit Harington, early in his Game of Thrones days. Revelation has a few bright spots, particularly the scene with the Bubble Head nurses demonstrating some beautifully grotesque choreography, and the VFX are vastly improved, but it will appeal mostly to people who’ve thought, “I definitely need to see Pyramid Head in a boss versus boss battle decapitating something with a chef’s knife the size of a car.”

29. Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)

Agent 47 has the distinction of being better than Hitman (which we’ll get to), but not much else beyond that. Rupert Friend is a definite improvement over Timothy Olyphant in the lead role (as much as that pains us deeply to say), and the action sequences are glossier, but you don’t really remember much about it after it’s over except for Zachary Quinto as the smirking, genetically enhanced villain.

28. Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Retribution has more Michelle Rodriguez than Afterlife (see below), so Retribution is higher on this list. What’s more, it has Rodriguez as both a final boss and a Prius-driving hippie who tells Alice she can’t shoot assault weapons because she marched for gun control. It must be seen to be believed.

27. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)

Once again, it’s Angelina Jolie to the rescue. Cradle of Life did what all frivolous sequels do: It took the premise of the first movie and just added more. More stunts! More action! More exotic locations! Fortunately for this not-quite-a-franchise, it still had Jolie, who became an action star in the middle of her career and looked like she was genuinely having fun playing Lara Croft. Gerard Butler is also in tow as Lara’s handsome side piece, but Tomb Raider is about little more than hearing Jolie speak with a British accent and watching her shoot hand canons. A solid middle-of-the-pack option.

26. Monster Hunter (2020)

There’s no actor working harder in service of video-game movies than Milla Jovovich. She put out Resident Evil movies for more than a decade, and for that we love her. Unfortunately, though, Monster Hunter only matches the equivalent of her mid-tier Res work. It’s a good enough time. The titular monsters are big. The weapons are cool. Jovovich is doing her bad-bitch thing, and it’s great to see Tony Jaa in something, but he doesn’t get enough cool stuff to do. We’re talking about one of the most talented action stars of the 21st century making a rare high-profile appearance, and yet we’re left wanting. Ron Perlman is also here, but mostly not, and there’s just no reason to squander such outstanding resources in a movie built to maximize them for sheer fun. It’s not offensive, but this is a missed opportunity.

25. Mortal Kombat (2021)

This one kind of hurts. While new Mortal Kombat had plenty of flash and some extremely cool flourishes in combat — the blood knife! exploding ice arms! fire dragon! — it could have and should have been so much more. It’s fine, but high-gloss fight cinema has come so far since the original Kombat in 1995 that there’s no reason MK ’21 shouldn’t have been a blistering knuckle breaker. This movie had Joe Taslim as Sub Zero, Lewis Tan on hand to beat people’s asses, and freaking Hiroyuki Sanada as Scorpion. The scenes where they’re fighting each other can be fantastic at points, but those high highs only underscore how much the rest of the movie leaves to be desired. Mortal Kombat is a decent outing, but these days we don’t have to accept less from our balls-to-the-wall action movies. Hire Timo Tjahjanto to direct and get serious, or don’t even try.

24. House of the Dead (2007)

Uwe Boll strikes again! Make no mistake about it: House of the Dead is a terrible movie, but it gets a nod for fully embracing its video-game roots. There’s an arming-up montage in which every regular person stranded on a cursed island filled with undead is suddenly a tactical weapons expert, and that leads into a berserker sequence featuring actual game footage cut into the movie. It’s revealing about the cast, too, that Jürgen Prochnow is the most recognizable actor onscreen.

23. DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)

DOA gets a lot of points for being such a good-natured video-game movie. It’s got a lot of Bloodsport in it, with fighters assembling in a secret competition to win fame and fortune, plus it gets a boost from a vengeance subplot. But unlike that movie or Mortal Kombat, hardly anyone dies. Most video-game adaptations feel like they are in competition for biggest body count, but DOA is more like an occasionally slapstick martial-arts action-comedy that’s only intentionally funny some of the time and endearingly bad the rest of the time. The acting ranges from flat to complete caricature, but it’s the kind of movie that casts Devon Aoki as a badass martial artist taking on Eric Roberts as a villain mastermind. In other words, it’s a good time.

22. Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

This is the Resident Evil in which Alice wears those silly pants missing a section between her knee and thigh on a single leg, which still makes more sense than franchise newcomer Jill Valentine showing up to the zombie-fighting party in a tube top. Apocalypse is the second Resident Evil movie, and it improves upon the first by letting Alice do more fighting. Where it falls behind the first is in its lack of Michelle Rodriguez. If Rodriguez was in your action-movie franchise one time, she should continue to be in it every time (the Fast films know this), and since these Resident Evil movies become indistinguishable at a certain point, M.Rod will serve as the primary ranking criteria.

21. Rampage (2018)

Rampage falls short on two fronts related to the Rock: It’s not his best video-game adaptation (that honor stays with Doom), and it’s not the best video-game movie of 2018 (Alicia’s pull-ups stay undefeated, regardless of its higher aggregate critical rating!). It is, however, worthy of landing in the upper-third of this list, which isn’t nothing! There’s a giant alligator, a giant wolf, and a giant albino gorilla, a giant Dwayne Johnson making jokes about how giant he is, a giant Joe Manganiello, and, perhaps best of all, a regular-sized Jeffrey Dean Morgan, whose innate swagger could lay them all to waste if packed into the tip of a warhead. As Vulture’s Emily Yoshida said, “This is in fact way more SyFy than Sci-Fi, one shark short of a Sharknado,” but until we get the Annihilation of video-game movies, going full SyFy is the endearing distraction these adaptations provide — as long as they don’t take themselves too seriously, which Rampage definitely does not. It’s not quite interesting enough to crack the top ten, but still fun enough to avoid the hall of video-game shame.

20. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

Congratulations, Resident Evil. You did it! Fourteen years after beginning to adapt the story of Project Alice, Milla Jovovich finally saw her epic franchise through to the end, and that deserves a special commendation after six chapters and more than a billion dollars in global box office — on a cumulative budget of under $300 million! Final Chapter suffers from sameness after so many Resident movies already behind it, but it’s all about that ultimate payoff. There’s the final final confrontation between Alice and the diabolical Dr. Isaacs. There’s Ali Larter going the distance. There’s the true origin of Alice. There’s the Red Queen going double agent for our heroes, and there’s finally an answer to the T-Virus. There’s even annihilation of the cryogenically frozen elites. Way to bring it on home, Team Evil.

19. Max Payne (2008)

There were two movies that came out in 2008 that tried to capitalize on the ultraslick, black-and-white comic-book-panel aesthetic that worked so well for the big-screen adaptation of Sin City, and they were Max Payne and The Spirit. Where Spirit tried to sell its stylized adventure on the back of Gabriel Macht, though, Max Payne had Mark Wahlberg, and that gives it a leg up in the frivolous action-movie genre. Wahlberg is a New York City cop whose family is killed by assassins, and he partners with a killer played by Mila Kunis, who is avenging the death of her sister (hello again, Olga Kurylenko!). Naturally, they have to take down the mob, an evil corporation, and eliminate police corruption to win the day. At one point Wahlberg even pumps himself full of a new street drug to prevent himself from dying of hypothermia, which sets him on a video-game-style superhuman berserker rampage — all in stunning black and white!

18. BloodRayne (2006)

Guess what? It’s Uwe Boll again, and he’s got a cast of genre legends in tow for BloodRayne. Kristanna Loken, Michael Madsen, Ben Kingsley, Billy Zane, and most importantly, Michelle Rodriguez star in this humans versus vampires historical romp. Everything about BloodRayne is over the top. The acting, the costumes, M.Rod’s occasional British accent — it’s the exact level of prestige and resources that should be devoted to a movie based on a hack-and-slash video game about killing vampires. This is unmissable absurdity.

17. Silent Hill (2006)

Silent Hill was actually pretty scary! Since it was 2006 and this movie wasn’t working with a crazy budget, the special effects could be fairly tragic at times, but the presentation of some of the game’s most gruesome characters still managed to be truly horrifying. Colin the Janitor crawling down a hallway with his black tongue wagging at a cowering woman, and the true image of hell incarnate, Pyramid Head, literally ripping the skin suit off of live bodies should shake you to your core. If you are intentionally watching a movie based on a Silent Hill video game, this movie should be exactly what is required to appease you.

16. Double Dragon (1994)

This is one of those early-era gems from a time when studios put enough money behind video-game movies to make them look kind of cool (in a kitschy way), without going overboard and turning them into spectacles like they do now (side-eyeing you again, Assassin’s Creed and Warcraft). Critically speaking, almost every movie on this list is terrible, which means that to be the best of the worst you need to entertain the audience. Double Dragon opens with a sequence featuring George Hamilton and Vanna White as news anchors working with Andy Dick as a meteorologist. There’s a self-awareness to making such B-list talent the face of a tacky news broadcast in a dystopic vision of the future that feels endearing. If you can’t be a good movie, at least be tongue-in-cheek about your circumstances and let the characters have a good time. Besides, Robert Patrick plays the bad guy, and who was a better bad guy in the early ‘90s than Robert Patrick? This movie is so corny it’s almost impossible to stay mad at.

15. Resident Evil (2002)

Paul W.S. Anderson’s first entry into the longest-running video-game film franchise is understated by comparison to its four sequels. Alice only discovers she’s a weaponized fighting machine about halfway through the movie, which means we spend a lot of time with her just being afraid while her companions try to shoot their way out of the evil Umbrella Corporation’s underground bio-testing facility, the Hive. What it lacks in martial-arts Milla, though, it makes up for in Michelle Rodriguez (the true queen of the genre) sneering her way through scenes while she shoots a big gun. The first Resident Evil brings a little more story than the rest of the franchise, which stick closer to the boss-to-boss format found in gameplay. It’s almost a thinking man’s video-game movie!

14. In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007)

The year 2007 was saturated with video-game movies, and none more expansive than A Dungeon Siege Tale, which is what happens when Uwe Boll gets the budget of his dreams. Jason Statham plays Farmer, a man who must save his kidnapped wife and avenge the death of his son at the hands of a race of animal warriors called Krugs. What’s not to love? It’s also got one of those video-game movie dream casts: LeeLee Sobieski, John Rhys-Davies, Claire Forlani, Kristanna Loken, Matthew Lillard, Ray Liotta, and even Burt Reynolds. It’s one of those movies you watch and just go, “How?!” the entire time, and for that, it is a lot of fun.

13. Tomb Raider (2018)

If there was a video-game-movie Oscars, the rebooted Tomb Raider starring Alicia Vikander would be a Best Picture contender. It’s aggregate critical rating is just over 50 percent — a real feat for the genre — and its heroine has a recent Oscar to her name. On top of that, the movie doesn’t waste resources. Tomb Raider 2018 looks kind of expensive because it is kind of expensive, giving you the computer-generated gravity-defying leaps and video-game-style gauntlet scenes you want out of an adaptation, without feeling like the studio just wanted to set some money on fire (see: Warcraft; Assassin’s Creed). The relationship at the movie’s core between Lara Croft and her father also feels genuinely sweet. The reason Raider 2.0 isn’t higher on this list is the slight tonal inconsistencies. The “better” movies here had clear identities, but Tomb Raider’s attempts at wry humor conflict with the clear desire to make a grittier Lara Croft than Angelina Jolie’s version, which was pure pulp made entertaining by that actress’s abundant charisma. Vikander rarely gets to play cheeky, but she’s capably clever onscreen when given the chance, and by the end of the movie, it feels like she could really settle into the character if she got a chance at a sequel.

12. Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

Of the six existing Resident Evil movies, Extinction is perhaps the most recognizable, thanks to that scene where Project Alice (Milla Jovovich) turns a sky filled with zombie crows into a gargantuan, swirling halo of fire. The post-apocalyptic environment looks good on Jovovich, and watching Alice exercise her heightened telekinetic abilities is a nice switch from just seeing a whole lot of guns. (Though, fear not, Extinction isn’t lacking for any guns.) It’s also not lacking for Ali Larter, who leads a survivors convoy through the barren waste that is America after the T-virus ripped through the world. One thing about the Resident Evil movies is that they don’t want for women kicking ass. Sure, Jovovich wakes up naked at the start of literally every movie, but Paul W.S. Anderson never sexualizes his female characters, and they never have to be rescued by more capable men.

11. Far Cry (2008)

This placement might be controversial, but Far Cry is really the best of what Uwe Boll has to offer in the video-game genre. Far Cry is hilariously low-budget — like any self-respecting Boll project — but it doesn’t seem to be taking any of it seriously. Til Schweiger plays a sardonic whale-tourism boat captain (and former elite military operative, obviously) who gets roped into taking down a clandestine organization that’s building the perfect super-soldier through genetic experiments. It’s no coincidence that Boll’s best video-game movie is also the one with the most Udo Kier, playing a mad scientist who whisper-hisses all his lines. Far Cry is funny, and intentionally so, which makes it a rare entry in this genre that truly embraces the absurdity of the task at hand, and then gleefully pushes it a little farther. It’s so unwatchable it becomes watchable again.

10. Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (2022)

Let’s be clear: Sonic 2 is not a big downgrade from the 2020 movie. It’s just not an improvement upon it. This sequel is cute, entertaining, and really charming, thanks to the very kid-friendly emphasis on the importance of chosen family and the power of friendship. (Yes, we cried!) It’s also got a nice little message in there about how it’s cool to be weird. Ben Schwartz is still a charmer as Sonic. Idris Elba is a welcome addition as Knuckles, and it’s great to hear the longtime voice of Tails fill his little shoes for the movie, too. And yes, Jim Carrey is once again giving it his all! So we’re tucking this sequel into the upper echelons of the list, but not quite setting it alongside its predecessor.

9. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)

The first Tomb Raider may not have been great, but it is one of the select few times a big-budget video-game movie has actually worked. (Or at least mostly worked!) Director Simon West has also brought to life such staples as Con Air, The General’s Daughter, and The Expendables 2, and this movie is about as good as all those. Where Tomb Raider succeeds, though, is in the performances of Angelina Jolie and Daniel Craig before they were old enough to be self-conscious about making a video-game movie. It’s rare for a female lead in one of these movies to be memorable, but Jolie managed to be entirely compelling — dripping with all that sultry Jolie charm — despite being saddled with those comically large video-game-style breasts.

8. Doom (2005)

Doom is one of those glorious video-game movies that wears its origins right on its tactical sleeve, transitioning at one point into full fist-person-shooter mode. It’s also got space marines who think they are investigating suspicious events at a boring old research facility on Mars, but who end up having to fight hordes of genetically enhanced people monsters (a staple video-game villain). The biggest thing Doom has going for it, though, is its two male leads: the Rock and Karl Urban. Urban can’t help but exude get-it-done charisma and the Rock is, well, the goddamn Rock, making a rare turn as an amped-up supervillain. Also take note of Rosamund Pike as one of the space scientists. It’s so fun when bad movies happen to good actors.

7. Street Fighter (1994)

The silly, campy Street Fighter didn’t try to be any more than it was, which was a movie based on a game where you just fought people, and it features a final battle between Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia in his final theatrical film role. It also had era-appropriate stars like Kylie Minogue and Damian Chapa. Video-game movies go wrong when they try to do too much, and Street Fighter did just enough as a peak JCVD martial-arts movie.

6. Detective Pikachu (2019)

There’s something that just works about Detective Pikachu. Maybe it’s the strangely perfect fit of Ryan Reynolds as a tiny sleuth Pikachu. Maybe it’s the sweet earnestness of Justice Smith as his partner. Whatever the answer, the silly alchemy of this mystery-solving adventure makes it a charming romp that mostly manages to shirk the cynicism of a massive IP cash grab. It’s easy for video-game blockbusters to tank, because they so often end up feeling hollow and bloated, but the totally enjoyable cast — which even includes King Ken Watanabe — makes the case for live-action Pokémon in our lives.

5. Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

It turns out that Sonic the Hedgehog is a movie that’s just the right amount of a lot of good things. It’s got the right amount of topical humor, the right amount of silliness, the right amount of heart, the right amount of over-the-top Jim Carrey, and the right amount of James Marsden, by which we mean James Marsden is in almost every scene. The fun police tried pouring water on this one after the debacle of the first trailer, which featured Sonic looking like a small human boy who’d been cursed by a witch, but this iconic Sega property turned out to be a delightful little adventure for the whole family. It looks great (thanks to that revised CGI), is funnier than it needs to be, has a joyful cast that embraces the absurdity of it all, and turned out to be a pretty moving little tale of friendship and chosen family. As far as cashing in on preexisting IP goes, Sonic makes a “Sure, we can keep doing this!” case for game-to-screen money grabs — and that’s pretty okay!

4. Super Mario Bros. (1993)

The original video-game movie, featuring arguably the most recognizable video-game characters ever, Super Mario Bros., benefits from being just so unabashedly weird. If Terry Gilliam had directed a video-game movie, this would be it. The score is by Alan Silvestri and the movie stars Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Fisher Stevens, and Fiona Shaw, with Samantha Mathis as Princess Daisy. It’s less a film than it is big-screen video-game performance art.

3. Mortal Kombat (1995)

It might not be the first video-game movie, but Mortal Kombat is the apex of the fight tournament form, because the premise is almost impossible to screw up if you just go all in: A bunch of fighters convene in an otherworldly location and battle for the fate of the world. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. If you grew up either kicking ass or just button mashing your way through Kombat on Super Nintendo, seeing Scorpion and Sub-Zero come to life onscreen was thrilling, and it turns out that Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa was born to say “Flawless victory.” Besides, our nostalgia receptors still fire when we see that utterly preposterous but admirably practical live-action Goro!

2. Resident Evil: Welcome To Racoon City (2021)

With all due respect to the yeoman’s work that Jovovich and Paul W.S. Anderson did for the Resident Evil adaptations over the years, Welcome to Raccoon City is actually the best Res movie to date. Where the earlier franchise take was sci-fi action, Racoon City captured the combination of action and horror we’d been missing. The casting was also rock solid, with low-key-kickass genre heroine Kaya Scodelario succeeding Queen Mila and Robbie Amell co-anchoring the movie as her estranged brother. The zombies look great. The sense of danger pulses through the whole movie. The showdown scenes are fun as hell — especially the ones in the dark hallways of the mansion — and as always, Neal McDonough is there to seethe with menace as the top-tier mad scientist baddie. Bonus points, too, for excellent use of Donal Logue as the hapless chief of police.

This movie looks better and rocks harder than it ever needed to, and excuse us for getting excited, but Raccoon City feels like the five-bagger-with-a-large-soda ideal of how to do cheap video-game thrills right. This is mid-budget game-adaptation excellence, the sweet spot between good-enough game movies of yore and the legit action spectacles that have become mainstream art in the present. It’s an elite-level B-movie, which is what a lot more of these movies would do well to embrace and revel in, because we know how dreary things can get *cough cough, Assassin’s Creed* when big money is wasted on movies that are just supposed to look cool and be fun, man. If we end up with six previous franchise installments of Res Evil and only one of these in the reboot attempt, that will be a goddamn shame. This is the platonic ideal of game-to-screen escapism. Don’t let the haters (or the critics!) tell you otherwise.

1. Werewolves Within (2021)

They did it! They made a really good little video-game movie! Werewolves Within is the rarest thing of all: a game-to-film treatment that you could recommend to basically anyone without saying “Well, if you’re a fan of the source material …” It just feels like a fun little genre comedy that would premiere at SXSW and everyone would get a kick out of. It’s got a great critical score and an impressive ensemble cast all doing their jobs just right. Michaela Watkins, Harvey Guillen, Milana Vayntrub, and Cheyenne Jackson are here and delivering, but the whole gang is tied together by the excellent Sam Richardson. He plays a park ranger new to this tiny rural town who is overwhelmed by the threat of werewolf attacks during his very first day on the job. It finally happened, you guys — a straight-up-good video-game adaptation that you can freely tell people to watch without qualifiers.

All 43 Video-Game Movies, Ranked