Wish List: 14 Directors and the Video Games They Should Adapt

Rotten Tomatoes' dream team of video game adaptations.

by | June 3, 2009 | Comments

It’s been almost 20 years of middling movies, but that hasn’t stopped video game adaptations from attracting big names. Peter Jackson (Halo). Gore Verbinski (Bioshock). Michael Bay (Prince of Persia). As the E3 expo bombards us this week with new games, new technologies, and new dimensions (highlighting the diminishing differences between gaming and cinema), we’re presenting a list of 14 iconic directors and the games they’d be adept at pulling out of your TV and plastering onto the big screen.


A film by John McTiernan


The game: Awesome weapons, rockin’ soundtrack, brutal difficulty. Konami Code mandatory. If you weren’t saving the princess, you were probably addicted to Contra.

Why McTiernan? John McTiernan. The man behind Die Hard and Predator. Also the man behind bars for conspiring with Anthony Pellicano. McTiernan needs a comeback project bad. Enter Contra. It’s about bad guys getting wasted and big explosions in the jungle, inside laboratories, up waterfalls, and at the dark heart of an alien lair. Exactly the red-blooded, destroy-all-monsters freak show McTiernan (and cinema!) needs these days.

Earthworm Jim

A film by Tim Burton


The game: A radioactive spacesuit transforms an ordinary earthworm named Jim into a walking, talking, marginally intelligent superhero.

Why Burton? This game’s got action, a strong set of characters, immature humor (what’s not to love about a final boss called Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt?), and fantastically twisted art design. All it needs now is a guy like Burton to pull it all together and make it palatable for the Hot Topic demographic. One question, though: should it be live-action or animated?

The Oregon Trail

A film by Terrence Malick


The game: An educational odyssey of covered wagons, rifle hunting, disease, and long, horrifying winters. Option to cannibalize friends would’ve made this game easier.

Why Malick? Only one man can depict this game’s sparseness. (After all, most of The Oregon Trail is spent sitting, reading updates why you shouldn’t turn it off.) Only Malick will deliver the meditative stares into the western plains, symbolic shots while buying a wagon axle, the pathetic desperation of frantically hunting squirrel, and the dysentery. Oh, God, all the dysentery.

Little Big Planet

A film by Michel Gondry


The game: Diminutive sackpeople run, jump, and solve puzzles. Stages are made out of cardboard, toys, and other assorted household items.

Why Gondry? A major part of Little Big Planet is its deep, mind-blowing content creation mode, resulting in machinimas like a puppet theater version ofDuck Hunt, a marriage proposal disguised as a level, and recreations of Matthew Barney’s movies. So let’s see: Michel Gondry adapting a game about sackpeople who inhabit a world made out of disparate items. Too obvious? What about if Gondry made a feature-length movie/game using only the Little Big Planet content creator? Maybe that’ll quiet the games-aren’t-art troglodytes for a while. (Apologies to Ebert.)

The Sims

A film by Robert Altman


The game: Humans visit and interact with each other, while looking for jobs, buying things for their house, and making babies.

Why Altman? The late master would’ve had no problem mining the comedy and drama from Will Wright’s game of manners. House parties! Rooms tackily dressed in leopard prints by teenage girls! People putzing around, doing chores! All filtered through Altman‘s trademark wandering camera and overlapping dialogue! It’d be a swirling microcosm of boring human behavior that only Altman could make fascinating.

Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?

A film by David Fincher


The game: The ACME Detective Agency deciphers clues and hints to discover the whereabouts of master thief Carmen Sandiego and her henchmen.

Why Fincher?
Fincher‘s eye for minutiae and detail (a foundation of the Carmen Sandiego games), proven proficiency at creating period locations, and his calculated, clean directorial style make him a perfect fit for the series. Sure, it’ll be like Zodiac. But with time travel.

Katamari Damacy

A film by Tim and Eric


The game: The King of All Cosmos commands his son to roll up every object and living thing on Earth using sticky multicolored balls.

Why Tim and Eric? Look at the picture of Katamari Damacy. Now look at the picture of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!! creators Tim Heidecker and Eric Warheim. How are this game and these nutjobs not a match made in chemically-induced heaven? Both make frequent use of rainbows, both execute ideas with deadpan creepiness, and both fuse their WTF sensibilities with bursts of surprising earnestness. Tim and Eric can create insanity with no money. Imagine what’ll happen if they get their hands on a few million bucks and a franchise about the cheerful psychedelic destruction of the world.


A film by Terry Gilliam


The game: Knights on various flying birds lance each other over pits of rising lava for survival and sweet scores.

Why Gilliam? Sure, there’s no real plot to speak of but Gilliam has never been particularly strong at emotionally investing viewers into storylines. His strength lies in premise and visuals, and what’s more visually appealing than watching dudes wearing visors, jousting atop ostriches, buzzards, storks, and even the occasional pterodactyl?

Dance Dance Revolution

A film by Baz Luhrmann


The game: Loud music, lots of arrows, and a dance pad.

Why Luhrmann? So Dance Dance Revolution is fairly lame. You’re synchronized jumping, you’re spreading your legs, you’re making a public spectacle of yourself to house music. It’ll take
Baz Luhrmann, he of resolutely flamboyant vision, to take the game’s frantic movement and cascade of color and noise, whilst adding a dramatic back story (probably something like
West Side Story
meets Step Up), to turn Dance Dance Revolution into a kitsch pop masterpiece.


A film by Larry Clark


The game: A week in the life of a paperboy hurling news and contending with occupational hazards like runaway trucks, killer bees, and the Grim Reaper.

Why Clark? Paperboy took gaming out of the realms of fantasy and science fiction, and dropped it onto the streets of suburbia (albeit a bizarro version where delivery became life and death). Meanwhile, LarryClark inhabits the insides of homes that subscribe to these papers; showing the teenage bohemian squalor and debauchery that go on behind porch doors. Combine the two and we’ll get a film that espouses a world view operating on extremes: sex and drugs on the inside, werewolves and breakdancers on the outside.


A film by Bong Joon-ho


The game: Three humans who have mutated into a giant monkey, lizard, and rat proceed to destroy every major city (and each other), coast to coast.

Why Bong? At first, we nominated Cloverfield‘s Matt Reeves for the job, but, you know what? Rampage needs to be funny and Joon-ho Bong needs to make his big budget debut. Bong demonstrated in 2007’s The Host he can combine violent creature feature with deadpan comedy. Now, let’s see if he can prove himself with something multiplied 50 times in size. And with three of them. Hell, throw in a major plotline about trying to save the humans still trapped deep inside these cranky freaks and we’re talking best kaiju movie ever.

Madden NFL ’94

A film by John Madden


Yeah, John Madden‘s the guy who did Shakespeare inLove. Yeah, we know this joke is awesome. We’re going to leave this as is and continue on.

Animal Crossing

A film by Spike Jonze


The game: It’s like The Sims: Twee Town. Animals and cute monsters explore, talk, fish, catch bugs, and buy a lot of crap they’ll never use from a raccoon named Tom Nook.

Why Jonze? Maybe this is just based on our ardent desire for Where theWild Things Are to be the greatest movie ever made. And to see Spike Jonze to follow that up with more tenderhearted epics about giant freaky talking animals. Now while Jonze is a fabulist like his peers, he’s also more willing than Gondry, Jared Hess, and Wes Anderson to add to his projects some darkness,
and a little real-world grounding. If anyone wants to see the logic of a Nintendo game translated for a wide movie audience, it’s gonna need to be Spiked.

Operation Wolf

A film by Sylvester Stallone


The game: Take hold of the positional gun and blast through endless bad guy waves, via uninterrupted panoramic pans of jungles, villages, and insurgent camps. It’s like Bela Tarr meets Michael Bay!

Why Stallone? With Rambo under his belt and TheExpendables currently filming, Stallone‘s going to need one more to finish his trilogy revival of insanely aggressive 1980s machismo. I propose Operation Wolf. Something that requires no plot, no backstory, just reel-to-reel chaos and carnage. “There MUST be a way to cram more violence into 90 minutes,” Bill Watterson once wrote. Stallone’s the only filmmaker these days willing to take that bet.

Are you listening, Hollywood? Perfect Tomatometers are practically guaranteed for any of these projects! Readers, which directors and video games would you would you pair together?