Ranked: Best and Worst Movies Based on Videogames

Boll's games (and other terrible movies)

ImageThe genre lives on in Afterlife

Since the early 1990s, Hollywood has been adapting videogames for the big screen, and, on paper at least, the two forms of media seem like a match made in heaven. A movie should just have to follow the story and characters already set up in the game, taking some liberties here and there for the sake of story or budget. But, as with many games based on movies, film adaptations of videogames have had mixed results and are often disastrous.

Casting Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft or having super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer behind Prince of Persia isn't enough to make a videogame adaptation work. For real success, you need a game that can actually translate to the big screen. Even if a game has a straightforward story, the player interaction is often what determines how much fun and how much enjoyment comes out of the game. A film doesn't offer the same kind of immersive experience as a videogame and has to stand on its own, while needing to appeal to both hardcore gamers and people who don't know a PlayStation from an Xbox. Apparently, doing so is quite a challenge: the number of great film versions of videogames is too small to count, and the average Metascore for all such films in Metacritic's database is a lowly 30.

Over the past ten years, two filmmakers have made waves adapting videogames to the big screen, one for being successful and the other for being one of the worst filmmakers of all time. Starting in 2003 with House of the Dead and continuing with the upcoming BloodRayne 3: The Third Reich, Uwe Boll is well on his way to becoming the director who makes Ed Wood look like Orson Welles. Almost exclusively making films based on games, Boll has been nominated for 3 Razzie Awards and won the Razzie for Worst Career Achievement.

On the other side of the coin we have Paul W.S. Anderson, who's had a more successful run with the Resident Evil films. Anderson served as producer and writer on each of the films in the series, the latest of which is Resident Evil: Afterlife, which opens this Friday in 3D. While critically dismissed and not exactly precise adaptations of the Resident Evil games, Anderson's adaptations have found commercial success by giving the audience a lot of action, adventure, and Milla Jovovich.

How do films from these two directors compare to the other titles in the genre? Below we look at the single "best" videogame adaptation, and ten of the worst.

The Best-Reviewed Movie Based on a Videogame

Mortal Kombat (1995) Add to Netflix Queue

"It is, in essence, the video game transferred part and parcel to the screen, and very well at that."

--Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle

Gross: $70 million
Critic Review Distribution:
Great bar 1
Good bar 4
Mixed bar 7
Bad 0
Awful 0
Critics: 58 Users: 8.8

Based on: Mortal Kombat (1992) and Mortal Kombat II (1993)

Before creating the successful (although critically dismissed) Resident Evil series on the big screen, Paul W.S. Anderson made the uncluttered and effective Mortal Kombat. Keeping with the game's story of a group of martial arts experts tasked with fighting in an intergalactic tournament to save the Earthrealm, Anderson delivers a fast moving and entertaining adaptation that's never boring, no small feat considering the movie is really just one fight scene after another. A success with fans and (to a lesser extent) critics, the film was followed by a sequel (which we'll get to in a moment) as well as a cartoon show and, more recently, Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, a short film with Michael Jai White and Jeri Ryan.

The 10 Worst-Reviewed Movies Based on Videogames

1. Alone in the Dark (2005) Add to Netflix Queue

"So mind-blowingly horrible that it teeters on the edge of cinematic immortality."

--Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle

Gross: $5 million
Critic Review Distribution:
Great 0
Good 0
Mixed bar 1
Bad bar 10
Awful bar 14
Critics: 9 Users: 1.7

Based on: Alone in the Dark series (1992-)

Christian Slater and Tara Reid find a new way to hit rock bottom in Alone in the Dark, another videogame adaptation from anti-director Uwe Boll. Despised by gamers for not staying true to the series (in part due to publisher Eden Games completely rewriting the game Alone in the Dark 5 -- which was supposed to be released along with the movie -- after the film was released), the film has the distinction of being the worst videogame adaptation of all time, and -- even more impressive -- possibly the worst Uwe Boll film ... so far.

2. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997) Add to Netflix Queue

"This tedious hodgepodge of martial-arts mayhem, bogus mysticism and computer-generated special effects doesn't even pretend to have a plot."

--Maitland McDonagh, TV Guide

Gross: $36 million
Critic Review Distribution:
Great 0
Good 0
Mixed bar 2
Bad bar 4
Awful bar 6
Critics: 11 Users: 3.2

Based on: Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)

After the commercial and critical success of the first Mortal Kombat, a sequel was inevitable; only this time the filmmakers bloated the movie with too many characters and cut down on the first film's already very thin plotline. With only one of the original actors returning for the sequel, Mortal Kombat Annihilation alienated non-gamer fans of the first film while giving gamers nothing that they couldn't already get out of staying home and playing Mortal Kombat 3.

(tie) 3. House of the Dead (2003) Add to Netflix Queue

"Here’s a would-be horror film that contains not one ounce of professional pride in its making, not one shred of technical competence. This is one of the worst films of recent times."

--David Grove, Film Threat

Gross: $10 million
Critic Review Distribution:
Great 0
Good 0
Mixed bar 2
Bad bar 10
Awful bar 3
Critics: 15 Users: 1.6

Based on: The House of the Dead series (1996-)

Rather than focus on the game's story of two AMS agents trying to investigate the strange goings on at the Curien Mansion, Uwe Boll's version of House of the Dead tells the compelling story of a bunch of kids that want to have a rave party. Sadly, the party takes place on an island that's filled with the undead, and hilarity ensues. With only idiotic references to the game (clips from the first three games appearing during the opening credits and, inexplicably, during certain action sequences) House of the Dead doesn't seemed to be aimed at fans of the game, fans of the undead, or fans of movies.

(tie) 3. In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2008) Add to Netflix Queue

"It's completely undone by its terrible screenplay, inept direction, oppressive musical score and muddy visual palette."

--Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

Gross: $5 million
Critic Review Distribution:
Great 0
Good 0
Mixed bar 1
Bad bar 7
Awful bar 3
Critics: 15 Users: 8.1

Based on: Dungeon Siege series (2002-)

How Uwe Boll managed to get Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Leelee Sobieski, and Burt Reynolds to star in In The Name of the King is as much a mystery as how he got a $60 million budget. Statham plays Farmer, who must save his wife, child and all of the kingdom of Ehb from an evil wizard (Liotta) trying to overthrow the king (Reynolds). Ultimately more of a rip-off of the Lord of the Rings trilogy than an adaptation of the Dungeon Siege games on which it is theoretically based, In the Name of the King was a box office bomb, keeping Boll's track record firmly intact.

5. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009) Add to Netflix Queue

"Idiot plotting and dialogue are what you'd expect from a genre that typically rewards narrative development with a skip function. But the rote fight scenes are a disappointment."

--Jim Ridley, LA Weekly

Gross: $9 million
Critic Review Distribution:
Great 0
Good 0
Mixed bar 2
Bad bar 6
Awful bar 3
Critics: 17 Users: 2.8

Based on: Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (1991)

Switching from a police officer in the video game to a concert pianist in the movie, Chun-Li is still trying to defeat the evil crime lord Bilson. But casting Kristin Kruek as Chun-Li and changing the character from Chinese to Chinese- American are just two of many missteps in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Tepid fight sequences, a generic plot and Chris Klein all help to make this adaptation less fun and enjoyable than the earlier 1994 film adaptation featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia and Kylie Minogue.

6. Super Mario Bros. (1993) Add to Netflix Queue

"There's nothing original about 'Mario,' and the absence of tension or an interesting narrative makes it tedious in the extreme."

--Lawrence Cohn, Variety

Gross: $21 million
Critics: n/a Users: n/a

Based on: Super Mario Bros. (1985)

With Bob Hoskins, Dennis Hopper and Roland Joffe (The Killing Fields) involved, it's easy to think that the Super Mario Bros. movie would at least be interesting; instead it's a mess. Taking a darker approach to the videogame, the film was rejected by audiences who expected a more family-oriented version of the characters. Critics, fans and even a few of the film's actors slammed the film, with Hoskins stating, "The worst thing I ever did? Super Mario Brothers."

7. BloodRayne (2006) Add to Netflix Queue

"With minimal flare and maximal gore, Boll simply delivers the turgid drama and incompetently staged action sequences that have made him the unstoppable Big Boss of the gaming community. "

--Scott Tobias, A.V. Club

Gross: $2 million
Critic Review Distribution:
Great 0
Good 0
Mixed bar 2
Bad bar 9
Awful bar 2
Critics: 18 Users: 8.1

Based on: BloodRayne (2002)

Keeping the videogame's title, main character, and little else, BloodRayne once again shows that Uwe Boll will not be tied down to a game's story, setting, or time period when he sets out to make an adaptation. Panned by critics, fans and Laura Bailey (the voice of Rayne in the games), BloodRayne had a brief theatrical run and was nominated for six Razzie awards but, tragically, was shut out.

8. Wing Commander (1999) Add to Netflix Queue

"Unfortunately, when we finally see the fearsome Kilrathi, they look more likely to cough up hairballs on your Aunt Patrice's carpet than to waste the whole planet. "

--Andrew O'Hehir, Salon

Gross: $12 million
Critic Review Distribution:
Great 0
Good bar 1
Mixed bar 1
Bad bar 16
Awful bar 3
Critics: 21 Users: 4.5

Based on: Wing Commander series (1990-2007)

Freddie Prinze Jr. and Matthew Lillard have to save the galaxy in Wing Commander a dismal, predictable space opera. Directed by Chris Roberts, who created the original game series, the film is surprisingly unfaithful to the videogames, with changes to the characters and the physical appearance of the aliens and even different designs for the ships. Roberts never directed another film, and Wing Commander didn't come close to making back its $30 million budget.

9. Postal (2008) Add to Netflix Queue

"Boll's rampant narcissistic showmanship creates such a bizarre, garish spectacle that it is almost tempting to give him credit for being something of a misunderstood artist after all. Almost, but not quite."

--Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times

Gross: n/a
Critic Review Distribution:
Great 0
Good 0
Mixed bar 4
Bad bar 4
Awful bar 3
Critics: 22 Users: 6.7

Based on: Postal 2 (2003)

Based on the controversial first-person shooter about the Postal Dude just trying to get through the day, Uwe Boll's big-screen comedy version (starring Dave Foley and Verne Troyer!) goes both political and meta. Throwing in George W. Bush, Osama Bin Laden, offensive jokes about 9/11, and even a scene featuring himself delivering the line "I hate videogames," Boll actually received the best director award for Postal at the Hoboken International Film Festival ... as well as another Razzie nomination for Worst Director.

10. Silent Hill (2006) Add to Netflix Queue

"Though Silent Hill's shoddy dialogue and incoherent story constantly irritate, several sights and scenes possess a certain surreal grandeur ... Sadly, that's not enough to compensate for Silent Hill's utter lack of tension, intrigue, character development or satisfactory explanations for what the hell's happening on the screen."

--Jason Anderson, The Globe and Mail

Gross: $47 million
Critic Review Distribution:
Great 0
Good bar 1
Mixed bar 9
Bad bar 7
Awful bar 3
Critics: 30 Users: 8.2

Based on: Silent Hill series (1999-)

Keeping the themes and concepts of the videogame, writer Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction) tells the story of a mother trying to find her daughter in the haunted town of Silent Hill. Director Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) does a solid job of creating an eerie atmosphere, but he can't make heads or tails of Avary's script. Silent Hill was a respectable hit despite poor critical reviews, and a sequel remains in development.

What do you think?

Have you enjoyed any videogame adaptations in the past? And which are deserving of their lousy reviews? Let us know in the discussion section below.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (126)

  • saransh  

    silent hill is one of the best movie based on game..........the game sucks monkey balls......thank god the movie is much better........and WTF bout incoherent story????.........its perfectly crafted !!!

    good article but silent hill in the list spoilt the whole article

  • leon101  

    To me, there is no best video game to movie adaption. But Mortal Kombat was enjoyable, Silent Hill surprised me with how faithful it was (yes it changed characters and the like, but other wise stayed true. Even had Sybil in it) and the Resident Evil films seem to get better and better.

  • Lord Aiducan  

    Entertaining list. I've never seen Silent Hill, House of The Dead, Alone in The Dark, or Bloodrayne, but I might be inclined to do so now just for laughs.

  • phillip  

    silent hill is probably the best vg to movie adaptation. plus you completely forgot about doom. which is, in fact, the worst movie ever

  • Chris G  

    Mortal Kombat and Final Fantasy The Spirits Within are the only two even minorly redeamable video game to movie translations I have seen. The Resident Evil movies, horrible. Mario Brothers, horrible. Tomb Raider, well not too bad but really quite forgetable. I caught a few minutes of than Chung Li movie on TV and that was despressingly bad. I haven't seen most of these thankfully.

  • fung1986  

    This article says Resident Evil was a success. I will agree but only with the first film since it is not a direct adaption of the video game, just a plot line of how the virus broke out. The sequels however completely ruins what could have been a great quadrilogy if only they have left out characters from the game. As a huge fan of the game, the moment they included characters from the game into the film, it needs to follow the game storyline; some changes can be tolerated but what they did in the film was ridiculous. Nemesis, a ruthless B.O.W. who's only mission was to destroy all members S.T.A.R.S., saves the day at the end? WTF was that about? Clair Redfield's entire purpose in the game storyline was to search for her brother, but she ends up leading a group of survivors to Alaska? Last but not least, the newest one that's coming out, The Afterlife...All of the B.O.W.'s shown in the trailer were not created until after the Umbrella Corporation fell. Need I say anymore...

  • James  

    Mortal Kombat is still and will always be the best video-game adaption ever, with suckage disaters like Prince of Persia and Resident Evil: Afterlife, also Tekken and The King of Fighters on the horizon, I don't think there will be another movie like it. Mortal Kombat still kicks ass!!.

  • Jack S  

    I thought the first Tomb Raider movie was decent.

  • uneac  

    there are some exceptions regarding movies adapted from video-games,and in my opinion most of them are blockbusters or huge hits, take mortal kombat,for example,i loved the movie and still think its one the best video game-turned movies of all times,but the formula for video games differs a lot from movies in terms of entertainment perspective. see, movies are meant be passives while games are actives,YOU control the outcome of the situation with multiple endings and oportunities,but wen it comes to movies we all know that,and they have scripts based on commercial success formulas,so the directors and producers will demand some of those features in the movie,that's probably why we see those disparities between video-games stories and the movies. I was so pissed when i waited 6 months to watch the tekken movie to find out they made a jin who would be considered a teen **** compared to the REAL Jin Kazama,the people's choice?God,Jin is being HUNTED down by the people in the real tekken future,plus many other irrational discreapancies,but that's what we always see so it has be, in my perception, the difference in success formulas,AND most of the people disapointed at the video-game based movies are GAMERS,for the movie-goers its just another action/science-fiction/thriller/horror movie.

  • maxwell97  

    I think the problem is that traditional filmmaking types don't understand video games, in an artistic sense. They think in terms of plot, character, conflict and so on, and of course these are important, but they need to understand the interactive element to really "get" the game they're using for inspiration. For example, in the case of Super Mario Bros., the writers and director probably looked at the "story" of a plumber fighting mushrooms to save a kidnapped princess, saw nothing there (hard to blame them), and improvised with a bizarre plotline of their own. They failed to see that the game isn't really about the plumber or mushrooms, it's about the joy of exploration in a friendly, but often dangerous, fantasy world. If they had captured THAT aspect of SMB in the movie, it would have been an all-time classic. The influence of interactivity on the artistic experience doesn't show up on paper; the filmmakers have to understand and love the game itself to do it justice on the big screen.

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