Let's just be blunt: There are no great video game movies. We all have one or two that are guilty favorites, and we'll justify them in a company of fellow nerds ("Look, the story was horrible, but the casting was good, and if they'd done this and this, it would actually be awesome"), but none of them are good movies, by the classical and critical definition of the word.
We live in hope that someday, this most cinematic of mediums will actually translate to cinema (There's a heavy burden on your shoulders, "Wreck-It Ralph"!) and we'll have a Top 5 list that's full of movies that are acclaimed, successful and appealing to a wide audience. Better still, they will be clearly distinguished from those on the bottom. But for now, we've dredged through the genre to find five that are pretty watchable, and highlighted them against the ones we shouldn't ever, ever speak about.
So, here are the Top 5/Bottom 5 of video game movies. And let us pray that "Uncharted," "Assassin's Creed" and "Mass Effect" never, ever end up on a future Bottom 5. We don't think we can take it any longer.
5. "Silent Hill" (2006)
Like all game adaptations, "Silent Hill" frustrated fans by playing fast and loose with the game's storyline, characters, and monsters. However, it is visually stunning, and did manage to capture the clammy, blood-soaked aesthetic of the series. Even critics (while bemoaning its poor dialogue and muddled storyline) found it an impressive bit of world-building. As the years have wore on, it has won a begrudging affection from gamers and horror fans, and a proud place in pop culture as being one of the only films Sean Bean doesn't die in.
4. “Resident Evil” (2002)
10 years later, it’s hard to remember that “Resident Evil” was actually based on a video game. It’s taken on a life of its own, spawning its own mythology and cast of characters, abandoning and rewriting both elements when another installment is needed. Arguably, it’s done what no other video game adaptation has done, and won a fan base of people who have never touched a console. As schlocky mutant-virus-zombie flicks go, “Resident Evil” isn’t the worst you’ll see, and is given a touch of class by Jason Isaac’s posh narration, and James Purefoy’s slimy survivalist.
3. "Mortal Kombat" (1995)
It’s an extremely close call between “Mortal Kombat” and 1994’s gloriously corntastic “Street Fighter,” but “Kombat” gets the prize because it’s simply a better movie, and despite the lack of Jean-Claude Van Damme, has better fight sequences. It also deserves props for boldly owning its mystical mythology. (If this movie had been made in 2005 instead of 1995, you can bet all the Elder Gods stuff would be reworked into a shadow government conspiracy.) It’s one of the rare video game adaptations that pleased the fans, though they’re still hankering to see a hard-R spine rip-out. And who isn't?
2. "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" (2010)
"Prince of Persia" has been so thoroughly scrubbed from pop culture consciousness that one does a double take realizing it was a 2010 release, and that the year or so preceding it were a Jake Gyllenhaal beefcake festival. (He was the Ryan Gosling of 2008.) The movie was forgettable, and absolutely nothing like the games upon which it was based, but it wasn't terrible. There's undoubtedly an alternate universe where "Pirates of the Caribbean" bombed, and "Prince of Persia" is a profitable four-going-on-five film franchise.
1. "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life" (2003)
“Tomb Raider” was a no-brainer of an adaptation (Make it like Indiana Jones! But starring a lady!), and yet managed to go ten kinds of wrong thanks to a director who steadfastly refused to put tomb raiding in a film about an archeologist. Now, the sequel still gets a lot wrong, because the plot is silly, and it turns Lady Croft into more of a James Bond than a gun-toting scholar. But it did make Lara into a far more capable and cool heroine, willing to make out with her sidekick (a pre-fame Gerard Butler) if it gets him out of her way. Her steely resolve, deadly sense of fun, and casual globe-trotting suggests someone involved actually played the game a bit, and realized they could use these traits to make an engaging movie.
5. "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li" (2009)
"Chun-Li" inspired a weird bit of Internet devotion upon its release (mainly because it was terrible, and people wanted to laugh at Chris Klein) but don't be fooled by that sort of thing. It's a bad movie that not only bears no resemblance to the game (Why does everyone use guns? Aren't they supposed to be martial artists?), but anything else you would recognize as a movie.
4. "Double Dragon" (1994)
Oh, the '90s were an exciting time to be a gamer! They were making all of our favorites into movies! We were a legitimate source of material! And then ... the movies actually came out. One of these was "Double Dragon" and it was terrible. Neither Scott Wolf or Mark Dacascos look capable of throwing a punch – which is presumably why the Lee brothers are reworked into cowardly goofballs – and not even short blond hair makes Alyssa Milano edgy. The only reason it's not ranked lower is because it was the '90s, and allowances must be made for a decade is full small budget cheesiness.
3. "Wing Commander" (1999)
You can almost – almost – forgive those mid-'90s efforts for being bad. But by 1999, we had decent CGI, splashy budgets, the Internet (where an increasingly vocal fandom were making it clear how invested they were in these properties), and a hunger for space opera. But what we got was "Wing Commander," a movie that cared so little about its own existence that it sidelined the game's popular villains, the Kilrathi, because making cat people was too hard.
2. "Doom" (2005)
"Doom" fans demanded little from a big screen adaptation. They wanted big guns, carnage, the spawn of Hell pouring over the surfaces of Mars. First-person sequences would be interesting, but understandably difficult to sustain, so we could let that go. But like so many video game movies before it, "Doom" couldn't deliver that much. It plays out as a dumber "Resident Evil," and can't even deliver the same amount of splatter. We're living in a cinematic age where noisy, plotless, big-budget carnage makes a tidy profit, and it still made a mess -- and box office bomb -- of "Doom."
1. "Super Mario Bros." (1993)
It's tough to make a movie about plumbers sucked into a land of mushrooms, princesses, and lizards. But how they turned a charming, whimsical world into an incomprehensible and nasty fever dream that stars a lot of really talented people. (Even Yoshi, one of the most adorable game characters ever, is imagined as the stuff of nightmares. He looks like he should have been killing people in "Jurassic Park.") Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper both called it the worst thing they've ever done, and given some of the stinkers on their resumes, that's saying a lot.
Everything Uwe Boll has made, ever.
Uwe Boll has carved out a special layer of hell for himself due to his wretched video game adaptations. He's made nine so far, quickly outstripping the space we can sanely give to the Bottom 5, and leaving no room for other heinous game movies. Can you really give "Wing Commander" a pass because "Bloodrayne" exists? No. Doesn't "Super Mario Bros," a beloved, still-living title rendered into an unwatchable movie, deserve more discussion as a failure than "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale"? Yes, it does. Few even wanted a "Dungeon Siege" movie the way they longed for "Street Fighter" or "Doom."
One also has to consider the general, non-gaming audiences in this kind of list. When the mainstream moviegoer thinks of disappointing video game movies, they think of "Tomb Raider" or "Max Payne." They recognize those as game titles, even if they've only wrung their hands about the violence of "Mortal Kombat." It's unlikely ordinary moviegoers ever knew "Postal" or "Bloodrayne" had a gaming origin, or considered "Dungeon Siege" as anything but a wretched rip-off of "Lord of the Rings." (To this day, there are people tricked into watching it because they discover Statham has a swashbuckling fantasy movie on his resume. We should keep those people in our thoughts and prayers.)
But you can't let Boll slide completely. Nor can one cheat by filling all five entries with his movies. Instead, we're considering him the zero of the list. There's no value to zero. It's a void. And that's where every one of his game movies (if you can call them movies) belong, don't you think?