Take any popular and addictively playable game franchise and, chances are, there’s a nearly unwatchable film adaptation. Movie studios regularly mine comic books for their built in audiences, merchandise tie-ins, and action-friendly storylines. They’ve routinely turned to games for the same opportunity. There’s just one problem. Many of them are terrible. Uniformly terrible.
Players, critics, and audiences are all routinely disappointed by video game movies. With the latest addition to the genre, “Warcraft,” in theaters this weekend, we’ve looked through the worst of the worst video game adaptations.
Was your favorite game dragged to the big screen for an unwelcome adaptation? Check out our list and see.
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10. “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” (2001)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%
Lara Croft is a gaming icon. A wealthy heiress fulfilling her daredevil dreams of exploring the world, both the game and film are generalized as starring a “female Indiana Jones.” Really nothing in the movies work against that except for the gratuitous shots of Angelina Jolie breathless and gasping directly into the camera. The games were updated with a more feminist, humanizing perspective for Lara and a rebooted adaptation, presumably with the same perspective, was announced starring Oscar winner Alicia Vikander.
From USA Today’s review: “This film, directed by Simon West (Con Air), is like watching a novice (like me) fumble about while playing a video game. There are quick bursts of frantic activity followed by long, enervating lulls. The digital effects sometimes impress, such as the massive stone monkeys that come to life and a spinning gizmo made of huge rotating spheres. But the look of the movie is unduly muddy.”
9. “Doom” (2005)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%
The “Doom” series, just recently revitalized with its latest entry, is one of the most well-known horror-shooters and stars marines taking on hordes of violent, brain-dead monsters. The movie, starring The Rock, is such a monster. The explicit gore and violence tries to trick audiences into forgetting there isn’t any discernible storyline. But neither fans of the games nor uninitiated movie audiences cared. The film tanked and, thankfully, The Rock’s career escaped unscathed.
From the Orlando Sentinel review: “The movie based on that best-selling body-count game is ugly, stupefyingly stupid and gross. It has a back story ripped off from a half-dozen sci-fi movies, a Z-list cast that exists only so we can see them impaled, decapitated and worse. It has zombies beheaded by bullets, gratuitous autopsies and the Rock. And that last bit is the saddest note of all.”
8. “Super Mario Bros.” (1993)
Rotten Tomatoes: 15%
Probably the most popular gaming characters of all time, the “Mario” games revolutionized the medium and gave Nintendo its esteemed position as the major innovators of the gaming world. The movie, however, was blasted as everything the games are not: generic, predictable, visually disappointing, and boring.
From the Philly.com review: “So much like a theme-park ride that you wonder where the security bar is, Super Mario Bros. is a movie whose idea of a peak experience is to be on a derailed train as it falls off a trestle. Scenery rushes by, noise blares, characters pop up wearing new costumes that they couldn’t possibly have had time to change into as they eluded their adversaries.”
7. “Street Fighter” (1994)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 12%
“Street Fighter” is a legendary fighting game series with a highly enviable pedigree. Nearly 30 years after its original release, the game is a tournament mainstay and considered among the very “top tier” of fighting games. The movie adaptation starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as Guile is considered an unfortunate “we don’t really talk about that” misstep in its past.
From Variety’s review: “Electronic videogames, with their built-in audiences, present an alluring challenge for filmmakers, though they are obviously not easy to translate into exciting feature-length presentations. In fact, “Street Fighter” suffers from the same problems that impaired “Super Mario Bros.”: It is noisy, overblown and effects-laden and lacks sustained action or engaging characters. Like the 1993 picture, “Street Fighter” is too disjointed and far less captivating than the videogame that inspired it.”
[TIED] 5. “Hitman: Agent 47” (2015)
20th Century Fox
Rotten Tomatoes: 8%
The “Hitman” series is an action franchise where players are almost always given the same goal (assassinate a target) but with dozens of ways to do it: steal a guard’s uniform and sneak into their mansion, pretend to be a waiter and poison their champagne, make pleasant conversation and overhear a lethal food allergy. Or you can storm in guns blazing and kill everyone in sight. The movie, starring well regarded English actor, Rupert Friend, is visually appealing and sleek but never bothers with a plot and doesn’t deliver on the reason people love the franchise: the macabre thrill of cat-and-mouse and choosing how to kill someone.
From the New York Times: “No amount of killer good looks can save a project with only an echo chamber of destruction where a story ought to be. A grab bag of random notions lifted primarily from the “Terminator” and “Matrix” universes, “Hitman” is a sexless, virtually bloodless chain of preposterous battles rendered in a two-dimensional gloss.”
[TIED] 5. “Double Dragon” (1994)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 8%
The “Double Dragon” arcade games were a series of two-player side-scrolling action games. You could either play with skill and patience, memorizing enemy attack patterns and honing your reflexes, or you could “button mash,” gracefully slamming attack buttons and hoping to finish teh level. Looks like the film adaptation chose the latter, throwing overwrought, boring and unexplained action scenes at the audience. Alyssa Milano shows up as well, as the damsel in distress.
Taken from the New York Times: “The director James Yukich, who comes from the world of music video, has given the film a jumpy nonstop energy that overrides the script’s incongruities and the amateurish performances by the two leading actors. Every once in a while, the film pointedly reminds the viewer of its source by momentarily turning into a video game. If “Double Dragon” doesn’t look or feel as if it were set in Los Angeles, despite its use of scale-model Hollywood landmarks, that’s because it wasn’t filmed there. It was made in Cleveland.”
4. “Silent Hill: Revelation” (2012)
Open Road Films
Rotten Tomatoes score: 5%
“Game of Thrones” actor Kit Harington co-starred in this adaptation of the third “Silent Hill” game. The “Silent Hill” horror games are brooding, atmospheric, and as psychologically probing as they are scary. But the film adaptations rely on boring, predictable jump scares and spend way too much time trying to decipher the games’ cryptic mythology. Acclaimed actors Carrie-Anne Moss, Sean Bean, and Malcolm McDowell all puzzlingly find themselves trapped in the murky, boring film, but critics and audiences both thought it was beyond saving.
From Entertainment Weekly’s review: “As it stands, there’s plenty of exposition, but not much explanation. The dialogue is clunkier than Pyramid Head’s enormous polygonal noggin, and the frights don’t ever get more complex than the fake-out snake-in-a-peanut-canister variety. (In one scene, pop-tarts explode out of a toaster like a car backfiring.) Bean and Malcolm McDowell slum it enjoyably in their brief roles, although they spend most of their scenes in chains, which makes it seem as if they were forced into the movie against their will.”
3. “BloodRayne” (2006)
Boll KG Productions/YouTube
Rotten Tomatoes score: 4%
The “BloodRayne” series follows Rayne, a half-human, half-vampire assassin who kills vampire nazis in World War II. The games were known for their bloody action, and Rayne usually wore some implausible black-leather dominatrix style getup. As the design of female characters became a more and more contentious part of the video game conversation, Rayne’s character design quickly became outdated. There’s nothing even resembling a similar stance on depictions of sex or violence in the movie and critics trashed it for the over-the-top objectification of Rayne, not to mention the nonsense plot.
From the Variety review: “Gamers, girl watchers and gore hounds are the target auds for “BloodRayne,” yet another vidgame filmization by the frightfully prolific Uwe Boll (“House of the Dead,” “Alone in the Dark”). But it’s doubtful that even the least discriminating genre fans will storm into megaplexes before this anemic action-fantasy fast-forwards to homevid.”
2. “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” (1997)
New Line Cinema
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 3%
“Mortal Kombat” is a fighting game series that debuted in 1992 to immediate controversy. Few games at the time were that bloody and video games were still largely considered a toy. As the graphics improved over the years, the game’s explicit violence made it a large part of the “do video games cause violence?” conversation of the late ’90s and early ’00s. The series remains popular, however, and fans regularly cosplay as the characters and upload elaborate fan films. The movie adaptations have become a running joke among fans and the games themselves occasionally toss in well hidden references to the films.
From the Entertainment Weekly review: “There are lots of special effects — in fact, there are way too many of them. The clawed monsters, liquid fireballs, and gelatinous purploid skies ooze by in a visually synthetic sludge. Fragmented and monotonous, without a semblance of the gymnastic cleverness that at least made the first Mortal Kombat film into watchable trash, Mortal Kombat Annihilation is as debased as movies come.”
1. “Alone in the Dark” (2005)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 1%
Unlike most action-horror fare, the “Alone in the Dark” entries were slower paced, puzzle and plot heavy games that focused on solving paranormal mysteries. The only thing the film keeps from this template is its protagonist Edward Carnby. Heavy handed, exceedingly violent, and barely coherent, the movie adaptation of “Alone in the Dark” is the worst video game movie. Christian Slater, experiencing a career revival with “Mr. Robot,” gets a nod from critics for trying to do what he can, but overall they agree: this is the worst video game to movie adaptation of all time.
From the Variety review: “…helmer Uwe Boll should put down his joystick — quickly, before anyone else gets hurt. Derivative bloodbath jettisons the games’ atmospheric suspense and Lovecraftian sense of the macabre in favor of slasher movie mayhem, wit-free dialogue and endlessly protracted and gory shootouts. Fans of the source material probably won’t be switching platforms to catch this bizarre Lions Gate pickup, and non-fans definitely won’t.”