There’s a lot of stigma attached to video game movies, although fans hope for the success of more recent films Sonic the Hedgehog 2 might help change this. The general feeling is that video game adaptations struggle to live up to the source material, often leaving fans disappointed. Adaptations aside, however, there is an entirely different genre of video game films – those about playing games.
These types of movies actually have an extended history. They go back to the 80’s before the first mainstream video game was even released in the 90’s. These movies about playing games contain some popular cult classics. Fans voted on Ranker for their top ten on which of them is the best.
Note: Leaderboards are live and continue to collect votes, so some leaderboards may have changed after this release.
10 Player (2009)
player has a somewhat unique premise. The idea is that there is a video game that uses nanites to control real people. During the game Hunter, Logan Lerman’s character actually controls Gerard Butler’s character in a real deathmatch. The film finished fourth in its opening weekend, but did not receive a great response from critics.
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Many critics criticized the film for lacking flair, and it was also criticized for taking too much out of it The Matrix. It’s considered a low point for director Mark Neveldine, which is surprising considering he also directed the second wrong way driver. At least player‘s unique concept was enough to outperform the full-length commercial The Wizard for the top ten of the ranking.
9 Grandma’s Boy (2006)
grandma’s boy is a stoner comedy about a playtester who gets kicked out of his apartment and has to move in with his grandmother. It was being handled by Happy Madison Productions, founded by Adam Sandler, so the critics didn’t like it. However, audience response was much more positive and it even won a few Stony Awards.
Allen Covert plays the title tester, Doris Roberts plays his grandmother and Linda Cardellini plays his lover Samantha. Video game testing takes up much of the film’s runtime, including a scene of a monkey playing games. Developer Terminal Reality provided assets for the film’s gameplay, but the game in question was never released.
8th Tron (1982)
When it comes to cult classics, none have the same appeal as the ’80s sci-fi epic Tron. In this film, Jeff Bridges was drawn into a game of his own design. The storyline was criticized for being slow, but the graphics were something else, combining backlit animation with CGI for a distinctive look.
The film was originally going to be animated before Disney picked it up and made it live-action. The film received nominations for Best Costume Design and Best Sound, but oddly not for Visual Effects. The film was only a modest success but would be used in many other Disney properties such as Kingdom Hearts before finally getting a sequel in 2010.
7 Tron: Legacy (2010)
Tron: Legacy saw the return of actors and production staff from the original. With a Daft Punk soundtrack and an animated series and video game to go with it, it was an attempt by Disney to reinvigorate and market the brand. Unfortunately, the sequel received mixed reviews.
The film had strayed from the video game theme of the first in favor of a story about emerging AI. Certain character motivations were also completely changed and Tron himself was barely introduced. The film was still financially successful, but it wasn’t the big break Disney had hoped for. A third of the franchise has been in development hell ever since (per gizmodo).
6 The Last Starfighter (1984)
The Last Starfighter is pretty much inseparable from early gaming. Many games of this era were flight simulators and the film’s plot took advantage of this as Lance Guest is recruited as a pilot in a space war due to his gaming skills. The film also stars Robert Preston in his final theatrical role.
Next to Tronthis film was also one of the first to use CGI. As heritage, it also received many enhanced media such as video games and a musical theater version. It’s still fondly looked back on and there have been attempts to bring it back. The Last Starfighter is in good company among the most underrated action movies of the 80’s.
5 Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
Welcome to the jungle may be one of many jungle action movies starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but it’s actually one of The Rock’s best movies. The original jumanji Board game has evolved into a video game that has moved with the times. The main characters are drawn in and transformed into the game’s avatar characters.
The original jumanji was a Robin Williams classic, so audiences were understandably reluctant to revive it. While some thought it lost the complexity of the original, it serves its purpose as a very funny adventure comedy. All the actors play well together and successfully impersonate their teenage counterparts. The film also fits into many video game tropes, much like the board game original.
4 War Games (1983)
In the early days of gaming, many films used video game environments to critique warfare. In the 1983 movie war games, Matthew Broderick unknowingly accesses a United States supercomputer to play what he believes to be a game. Unfortunately, it turns out that he is simulating and executing plans for a nuclear war against the Soviet Union
The film correctly predicts many unsettling things about the future, such as video games used by the military and drones. Perhaps most disturbing is how hacking and cybercrime are being portrayed as important weapons in global conflicts as they are today. The film is considered highly influential and was released straight to DVD in 2008.
3 Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)
The sequel to Jumanji: Welcome to the jungle increases the number of game references. It is set two years after the events of the first with the same children. Two older men, played by Danny DeVito and Danny Glover, also join, leading to new Avatar characters including one played by Awkwafina.
The discovery of a magical pool of water that allows players to switch avatars causes further complications. This results in one of the avatars being a horse in a hilarious twist. It also leads to discussions about class systems and statistics in video games. The film ends with a happy morale about what to love, who to love with, and a teaser for a possible fourth film.
2 Wreck It Ralph (2012)
Unlike other films of this type Destroy it Ralph takes place in a video game world, even more literal than one would expect. Litwak’s Arcade contains a central hub where all game characters live. They interact with each other at night, but going to other games during the day is forbidden.
Of course, the main character Ralph does just that and gets stuck in many different genres. It’s a big part of why the film works, mixing its morality with video game references and cameos. The other big reason it works is how likeable the characters in it are Destroy it Ralph are.
1 Ready Player One (2018)
Mid to late 2010s Ready player one was a phenomenon. The film and the book that inspired it were a tremendous crossover, but also a story about the spirit of humanity. In the future, everyone is addicted to OASIS, a massive VR world where they can be anyone. The rights to it belong to anyone who finds out the developer’s secret, so the protagonists run from the evil corporations to find it.
Due to the nature of the OASIS, the avatars are often familiar characters that have been repurposed into avatars in-game. This led to a stunning cameo appearance by the Iron Giant under references to The glow. It’s the film’s meta-narrative that makes it such a great piece about gaming. The film is about people who wear their favorite games on their sleeves and band together to keep what brings them together from becoming too corporate.
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