Best Video Game to Movie and TV Adaptations, Ranked
Some creative endeavors are more challenging than others. For the last 30 years, trying to adapt popular video games into live-action movies and TV shows has proven to be almost an impossible task for Hollywood.
With the success of HBO's hit show "The Last of Us" and the new "Super Mario Bros." movie setting box-office records in 2023, the tide may have changed for good. Video game movies and TV shows are in huge demand now, with almost two dozen video games set to be adapted in production for both film and television.
While the past hasn't been all bad when it comes to video game adaptations, the hits have been few and far between — even if they've picked up steam in recent years. These are the best video game to movie and TV adaptations of all time.
Release date: April 8, 2022
Budget: $120 million
Box office: $401.7 million
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle
Bottom line: People seemed to really dislike "Uncharted" when it finally hit movie theaters in 2022. Much of that criticism was because the movie did not follow the gameplay very closely.
"Uncharted" gets by on pure charm alone with Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg as the two leads and also had the smarts to put an experienced, big-name director behind the camera with "Zombieland" director Ruben Fleisher.
If we could offer one light criticism of "Uncharted," it's that studios — both movie and video game — should try and strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. The original video game was released in 2007, and we don't get a live-action version until 2022? Do these people not like money?
Release date: Nov. 21, 2007
Budget: $24 million
Box office: $101.3 million
Director: Xavier Gens
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko
Bottom line: We are just now coming into the era where Timothy Olyphant is being fully appreciated as an actor. He's as beloved and well-respected as anyone in the game right now, but his talent was often too easily dismissed early in his career.
By any metric, "Hitman" was a massive success when it was released. It more than tripled its budget in box-office returns but was crucified by fans of the game online and in the press.
There was one holdout, however. Legendary film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars thanks in large part to Olyphant's performance. "'Hitman' stands right on the threshold between video games and art," Ebert wrote. "On the wrong side of the threshold, but still, give it credit."
13. Silent Hill
Release date: April 21, 2006
Budget: $50 million
Box office: $100.6 million
Director: Christophe Gans
Starring: Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Lauri Holden, Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates
Bottom line: "Silent Hill" translated into a pure horror film on the screen, and while there are a few movies on this list that landed Academy Award-winning actors, few have been able to have that kind of talent behind the scenes. "Silent Hill" was co-written by Roger Avary, who won an Oscar for co-writing "Pulp Fiction" with Quentin Tarantino.
"Silent Hill" was a bigger hit than it got credit for at the time and a much better movie as well. It grossed $100.6 million at the box office against a $50 million budget and made another $25 million in rentals and sales in the first month after it came out on DVD.
It would have been interesting to see what the original directing and screenwriting team of Christophe Gans ("Brotherhood of the Wolf) and Avary could have done with a sequel. Avary was arrested for vehicular homicide shortly after the first draft was turned in.
12. Tomb Raider (2018)
Release date: March 16, 2018
Budget: $106 million
Box office: $274.7 million
Director: Roar Uthag
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas
Bottom line: We don't get a lot of Academy Award-winning actors and actresses taking on adaptations of video-game movies when they're in their prime, but it's happened twice with one franchise — the original "Tomb Raider" film in 2001 with Angelina Jole and again in 2018 with the reboot starring Alicia Vikander.
It's confusing why Vikander hasn't become an even bigger star than she is, but "Tomb Raider" seems like its intent was to put her into a higher stratosphere. The thing about reboots is you need them to exceed the box office of the previous version. Not match it 15 years later like Vikander's version did.
The "Tomb Raider" reboot is just as good as the two originals but could have been helped with a big-name director and not Roar Uthag. You wouldn't put a star without any cache in the lead, so why do it behind the camera? After MGM lost the rights to this franchise a few years ago, any talk of a sequel was dead in the water.
Release date: April 13, 2018
Budget: $140 million
Box office: $428 million
Director: Brad Peyton
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomi Harris, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Bottom line: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was the star of a video game adaptation in one of his first lead roles with "Doom" in 2005, but that movie is terrible. So it's not making the list.
Johnson had much more success with "Rampage" in 2018 as he turned one of the very best games from the original NES into a big-budget movie. It speaks to the amount of swag Johnson brings to the screen that he can anchor a film with the main plot being a giant, genetically mutated Gorilla trying to stop giant, genetically mutated wolves and crocodiles from destroying Chicago.
This isn't Shakespeare, but you cannot beat when a movie star and a director find a groove and knock out several films in a row together like Johnson and Brad Peyton have done. This was their third team-up following "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" and "San Andreas" — three films which made a combined $1.2 billion at the box office.
10. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
Release date: May 28, 2010
Budget: $200 million
Box office: $336.4 million
Director: Mike Newell
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina
Bottom line: If you're looking for the movie that changed Jake Gyllenhaal's career trajectory, this is the one. His distaste for the criticism of his casting and the fallout from the movie's release made him gunshy about big-budget movies for the next decade.
"Prince of Persia" was meant to be a franchise but ended up being more of a headache because of the bad PR from accusations of "whitewashing" the cast, which is a pretty fair criticism.
If the movie succeeds as pure entertainment, it's in large part thanks to director Mike Newell, who plays with the concept of time travel in some pretty inventive ways. Newell's career arc is truly something to behold. He had his first box-office hit with "Four Weddings and a Funeral" in 1994, leapt over to the gangster film genre with "Donnie Brasco" in 1999 and directed "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" in 2005, which grossed $896.8 million at the box office.
9. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
Release date: June 15, 2001
Budget: $115 million
Box office: $274.7 million
Director: Simon West
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight, Iain Glen, Noah Taylor, Daniel Craig
Bottom line: Part of making lists like this is balancing how you felt when you first saw a movie against how it holds up over time. While "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" starring Angelina Jolie hasn't aged particularly well over the last 20 years, its impact when it came out was undeniable.
If you're giving this movie a rewatch, prepare to be shocked in the first few minutes when you see a young-ish Daniel Craig playing one of the villains in his pre-James Bond days. But it's Jolie who stole the show as the film's titular character and set her up as an action star for the better part of the next decade.
This was the third straight hit for director Simon West following "Con Air" and "The General's Daughter," but for some reason, he didn't direct another feature until 2006 with the remake of "When A Stranger Calls." Weird.
8. Resident Evil (2002)
Release date: March 15, 2002
Budget: $33 million
Box office: $103 million
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, Martin Crewes, Colin Salmon
Bottom line: The first of six "Resident Evil" movies that would be released over the next 14 years, we don't get the franchise that has grossed over $1.2 billion at the box office without the first movie being a hit.
How'd they do it? A lot has to do with director Paul W.S. Anderson, who already had a video game hit with "Mortal Kombat" in 1995 and also with casting two young action stars with Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez in the leads.
If you're ever making a list of the most underrated directors of all time, please make sure to include Anderson, who is in the career top 20 for worldwide box office for both directors ($1.6 billion) and screenwriters ($1.3 billion).
7. Mortal Kombat (1995)
Release date: Aug. 18, 1995
Budget: $20 million
Box office: $122.2 million
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson (as Paul Anderson)
Starring: Linden Ashby, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Robin Shou, Bridgette Wilson, Talisa Sota, Christopher Lambert
Bottom line: If you were playing video games in the early 1990s, you were playing "Mortal Kombat" — an ultra-violent fighting game that has made almost $10 billion off of its original game and its sequels through 2023.
"Mortal Kombat" drew fans to cinemas with almost a hive-mind type of curiosity to see if there was any possible way the game's "kills" could be translated to the big screen, including shattering an opponent's body into 1,000 parts after freezing them and ripping out your opponent's spinal cord after punching through their chest.
Director Paul W.S. Andersen was just 29 years old when he got his first shot at directing a big-budget movie with "Mortal Kombat" in 1995. It no doubt led him to being put in charge of the "Resident Evil" film franchise for almost two decades.
He made his bones with "Mortal Kombat" and benefited from what's a pretty stellar video game movie cast in retrospect. Don't get us started on the sequels.
6. Werewolves Within
Release date: June 25, 2021
Budget: $6.5 million
Box office: $1 million
Director: Josh Ruben
Starring: Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, George Basil, Sarah Burns, Michael Chernus, Catherine Curtin, Michaela Watkins, Cheyenne Jackson, Wayne Duvall, Harvey Guillen
Bottom line: This adaptation is unique on this list for a lot of reasons, the first being that it's the only adaptation of a virtual reality video game to make the list.
Another reason it's unique is because it's an independent movie from IFC Films that was made for just $6.5 million and grossed just $1 million, although it's probably at least broken even via streaming and rentals.
That stuff isn't what makes the movie good, however. What makes the movie good are its performances, led by Sam Richardson, and the work of director Josh Ruben, who also had another indie comedy horror hit with "Scare Me" in 2020.
5. Sonic the Hedgehog
Release date: Feb. 14, 2020
Budget: $90 million
Box office: $319.7 million
Director: Jeff Fowler
Starring: Ben Schwartz, James Marsden, Jim Carrey
Bottom line: "Sonic the Hedgehog" was to the Sega Genesis entertainment system what "Super Mario Bros." was to Nintendo — the game that made it a household name.
What's cool is that you can assume the people at Sega could have greenlit a live-action/CGI hybrid "Sonic" movie at almost any point since the game was released in 1991 but waited until the perfect moment to do so. Mainly, the point at which technology had advanced to the point where it would look good on screen.
One of the last movies to hit it big before the pandemic, "Sonic the Hedgehog" got a huge boost from a throwback performance from Jim Carrey as the villainous Dr. Robotnik. And modern movie fans got a small taste of what made him the biggest movie star in the world in the 1990s.
4. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Release date: Jan. 27, 2017
Budget: $40 million
Box office: $312.2 million
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Iain Glen, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Eion Macken, Ruby Rose
Bottom line: The sixth and final movie of the original "Resident Evil" film franchise ended up being the highest-grossing film of the entire franchise. At one point "Resident Evil" held the records for being the highest-grossing film series based on a video game, highest-grossing zombie film series and highest-grossing horror film series.
As underrated as director Paul W.S. Anderson probably is in his field, you can count lead actress Milla Jovovich as being just as underrated as an action star. Jovovich starred in all six films over 15 years, totaling approximately $1.2 billion in box-office receipts.
And guess what? None of the six films ever lost money.
3. Mortal Kombat (2021)
Release date: April 23, 2021
Budget: $55 million
Box office: $84.5 million
Director: Simon McQuoid
Starring: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Mehcad Brooks. Ludi Lin, Chin Han, Joe Taslim, Hiroyuki Sanada
Bottom line: The box-office numbers for the 2021 "Mortal Kombat" reboot don't do it justice, as it was released while the pandemic was still raging and was released simultaneously on HBO Max and whatever different ways movie theaters were allowing people in at that point. It set the record for most streaming views over its first two weeks for HBO Max and also became the most-pirated movie of 2021.
This movie paces like it should — as a big-budget action movie. And despite inventing a new character not in the video games to play the lead, the fight scenes and a pair of bad guys in Joe Taslim as Sub-Zero and Josh Lawson as Kano steal the show.
Here's hoping the powers that be give us the sequel that was teased in the movie's final scenes.
2. Pokemon: Detective Pikachu
Release date: Rob Letterman
Budget: $150 million
Box office: $433.2 million
Director: Rob Letterman
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathry Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy
Bottom line: Want to know how much the failure of the live-action "Super Mario Bros." movie in 1993 stung the people at Nintendo? There wasn't another live-action film released under the company's logo until "Detective Pikachu" in 2019, based on the Pokemon video game franchise.
The second-highest-grossing video game-to-film adaptation of all time, "Detective Pikachu," got a huge boost from up-and-coming young star Justice Smith in the lead role opposite Ryan Reynolds' voice work as Detective Pikachu.
Director Rob Letterman is as good as anyone you can find when it comes to films like this. He's also the guy behind hits like "Shark Tale" in 2004 and "Monsters vs. Aliens" in 2009.
1. The Last of Us
Premiere date: Jan. 15, 2023 (HBO)
Seasons: 1 (2023-present)
Creator: Craig Mazin, Neil Druckmann
Starring: Pedro Pascal, Belle Ramsey, Anna Torv, Gabriel Luna, Melanie Lynskey, Rutina Wesley, Graham Greene, Storm Reid
Bottom line: Here's a pretty simple concept you have to wonder why more producers, directors and talent involved with adapting video games never thought of — why not try and adapt the very best video games?
That's the case with "The Last of Us," which has been in the GOAT video game conversation since it was released in 2013, along with its sequels. And leave it to HBO to assemble the best talent for its adaptation, teaming up game creator Neil Druckmann with lauded showrunner Craig Mazin, who was behind HBO's award-winning limited series "Chernobyl," then added "Game of Thrones" alums Pedro Pascal and Belle Ramsey as the show's two leads.
That particular mix of talent ended up being magic. "The Last of Us" is the only TV show to make our list and had the second-largest premiere audience for HBO since 2010. It was renewed for a second season within two weeks of its premiere date.