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35 Best Movies About Video Games

Everyone knows about the video game curse, that movies pulled from the medium are doomed to mediocrity. Arguably the hex has been broken recently by the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog and Detective Pikachu, and definitely on TV with The Last of Us. (And that’s not even to say that, for lovers of weirdo cinema and re-appraisers of 1993’s Super Mario Bros., the curse never existed to begin with.)

But for movies about video games, things have been on another level. In 1982, after Space Invaders and Asteroids set up the arcade scene in the late ’70s and Ms. Pac Man set the world on fire in 1981, Disney released TRON, their state-of-the-art adventure about a game designer sucked into his own arcade game. WarGames, The Last Starfighter, and Cloak and Dagger continued the positive trend of the decade.

By the time of the NES and console revolution, actual real games started becoming the focal plot point, like the infamous Super Mario Bros. 3 competition in 1989’s The Wizard. Eventually, we came to have films like 2021’s 8-Bit Christmas, which looked back at this era with comedic nostalgic affection.

The intersection of movie special effects and game world immersion is plainly evident, and filmmakers have explored that arena with Free Guy, the Jumanji reboots, Ready Player One, Gamer, Wreck-It Ralph, and even Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase.

The crowd-pleasing 2007 documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters was big in refreshing arcades in people’s mind, along with the arcade bars popping up in metropolitan areas all over the country. Recently, we’ve been given a peek into wild, behind-the-scenes dramatizations of game development, like Tetris and Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game. (Arguments about whether or not that belongs on a video game movie list will not be taken into consideration at this time.)

Finally, we also included some fringe elements, like 1983’s Nightmares (a horror anthology featuring a creepy arcade segment), and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, probably the only movie that actually feels like a game, centered on a dude who see his universe through a prism of pixels. To sort this list of movies based on video games, we feature Certified Fresh films first. Alex Vo

#1
Adjusted Score: 100582%
Critics Consensus: The King of Kong is funny and compelling with more than a few poignant insights into human behavior. Director Seth Gordon presents the dueling King Kong players in all their obsessive complexity and with perfectly al dente observations.
Synopsis: Named "Video Game Player of the Century" in 1999, Billy Mitchell sets a record score in "Donkey Kong" that many... [More]
Directed By: Seth Gordon

#2

WarGames (1983)
94%

#2
Adjusted Score: 98458%
Critics Consensus: Part delightfully tense techno-thriller, part refreshingly unpatronizing teen drama, WarGames is one of the more inventive -- and genuinely suspenseful -- Cold War movies of the 1980s.
Synopsis: High school student David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) unwittingly hacks into a military supercomputer while searching for new video games. After... [More]
Directed By: John Badham

#3
Adjusted Score: 103171%
Critics Consensus: Ralph Breaks the Internet levels up on its predecessor with a funny, heartwarming sequel that expands its colorful universe while focusing on core characters and relationships.
Synopsis: Video game bad guy Ralph and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz must risk it all by traveling to the World... [More]
Directed By: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore

#4

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
87%

#4
Adjusted Score: 95954%
Critics Consensus: Equally entertaining for both kids and parents old enough to catch the references, Wreck-It Ralph is a clever, colorful adventure built on familiar themes and joyful nostalgia.
Synopsis: Arcade-game character Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) is tired of always being the "bad guy" and losing to his "good... [More]
Directed By: Rich Moore

#5
Adjusted Score: 93246%
Critics Consensus: Its script may not be as dazzling as its eye-popping visuals, but Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is fast, funny, and inventive.
Synopsis: As bass guitarist for a garage-rock band, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) has never had trouble getting a girlfriend; usually, the... [More]
Directed By: Edgar Wright

#6

Free Guy (2021)
80%

#6
Adjusted Score: 95067%
Critics Consensus: Combining a clever concept, sweet, self-aware humor, and a charming cast, Free Guy is frivolous fun.
Synopsis: In "Free Guy," a bank teller who discovers he is actually a background player in an open-world video game, decides... [More]
Directed By: Shawn Levy

#7

Tetris (2023)
81%

#7
Adjusted Score: 91435%
Critics Consensus: While it's nowhere near as addictive or fast-paced as the game, Tetris offers a fun, fizzy account of the story behind an 8-bit classic.
Synopsis: "Tetris" tells the unbelievable story of how one of the world's most popular video games found its way to avid... [More]
Directed By: Jon S. Baird

#8
Adjusted Score: 88820%
Critics Consensus: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle uses a charming cast and a humorous twist to offer an undemanding yet solidly entertaining update on its source material.
Synopsis: Movie... [More]
Directed By: Jake Kasdan

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 84169%
Critics Consensus: While The Last Starfighter is clearly derivative of other sci-fi franchises, its boundary-pushing visual effects and lovably plucky tone make for an appealing adventure.
Synopsis: After finally achieving the high score on Starfighter, his favorite arcade game, everyday teenager Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) meets the... [More]
Directed By: Nick Castle

#10

Ready Player One (2018)
72%

#10
Adjusted Score: 96956%
Critics Consensus: Ready Player One is a sweetly nostalgic thrill ride that neatly encapsulates Spielberg's strengths while adding another solidly engrossing adventure to his filmography.
Synopsis: In 2045, the planet is on the brink of chaos and collapse, but people find salvation in the OASIS, an... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#11

Tron (1982)
73%

#11
Adjusted Score: 80054%
Critics Consensus: Though perhaps not as strong dramatically as it is technologically, TRON is an original and visually stunning piece of science fiction that represents a landmark work in the history of computer animation.
Synopsis: When talented computer engineer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) finds out that Ed Dillinger (David Warner), an executive at his company,... [More]
Directed By: Steven Lisberger

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 94367%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Indie game developers create games and release them to the world.... [More]

#13
Adjusted Score: 95113%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An unsettled writer with a fantastic mustache, ROGER SHARPE (Mike Faist), finds solace and confidence in one thing he has... [More]

#14

8-Bit Christmas (2021)
84%

#14
Adjusted Score: 84677%
Critics Consensus: For viewers seeking an undemanding and sweetly nostalgic ode to yuletide seasons past, 8-Bit Christmas boots up without a glitch.
Synopsis: A humorous and heartfelt look back at the adventures of childhood. Set in suburban Chicago in the late 1980s, the... [More]
Directed By: Michael Dowse

#15

Avalon (2001)
83%

#15
Adjusted Score: 20688%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In the future a female warrior (Małgorzata Foremniak) enters a virtual-reality game where there is only one way to win.... [More]
Directed By: Mamoru Oshii

#16

eXistenZ (1999)
75%

#16
Adjusted Score: 78412%
Critics Consensus: Gooey, slimy, grotesque fun.
Synopsis: Video game designer Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has created a virtual reality game called eXistenZ. After a crazed fan... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 84811%
Critics Consensus: Like many classic games, Jumanji: The Next Level retains core components of what came before while adding enough fresh bits to keep things playable.
Synopsis: When Spencer goes back into the fantastical world of Jumanji, pals Martha, Fridge and Bethany re-enter the game to bring... [More]
Directed By: Jake Kasdan

#18

Nerve (2016)
67%

#18
Adjusted Score: 73375%
Critics Consensus: Nerve's fast pace and charming leads help overcome a number of fundamental flaws, adding up to a teen-friendly thriller with enough energy to occasionally offset its muddled execution.
Synopsis: Industrious high school senior Vee Delmonico (Emma Roberts) is tired of living life on the sidelines. Pressured by her friends,... [More]

#19

Cloak and Dagger (1984)
67%

#19
Adjusted Score: 67236%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: With his mother dead and his father, Hal Osborne (Dabney Coleman), busy working, 11-year-old Davey (Henry Thomas) spends his time... [More]
Directed By: Richard Franklin

#20
Adjusted Score: 12463%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Transported into a video game, the gang must survive different levels of difficulty to solve a mystery.... [More]
Directed By: Jim Stenstrum

#21

Second Skin (2008)
60%

#21
Adjusted Score: 13507%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Director Juan Carlos Pineiro-Escoriaza investigates the realm of computer role-playing games, focusing on die-hard players who have had their lives... [More]
Starring:

#22

Tron: Legacy (2010)
51%

#22
Adjusted Score: 61169%
Critics Consensus: Tron Legacy boasts dazzling visuals, but its human characters and story get lost amidst its state-of-the-art production design.
Synopsis: Sam (Garrett Hedlund), the son of famous video-game developer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), has been haunted for a long time... [More]
Directed By: Joseph Kosinski

#23

The FP (2011)
50%

#23
Adjusted Score: 50059%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In a small California town, rival gangs battle for control of their turf via Beat-Beat Revolution videogame dance contests.... [More]
Directed By: Brandon Trost, Jason Trost

#24

Hero Mode (2021)
46%

#24
Adjusted Score: 32350%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A teenage coding prodigy has 30 days to create the world's greatest video game and save his family's business.... [More]
Directed By: A.J. Tesler

#25
#25
Adjusted Score: 49537%
Critics Consensus: The movie will be found wanting if one is not taken in by the 3-D visuals.
Synopsis: Pint-sized kid spy Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) faces his biggest challenge yet when he confronts the Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone), a... [More]
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez

#26

Gamer (2009)
29%

#26
Adjusted Score: 31654%
Critics Consensus: With all of the hyperkinetic action and none of the flair of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor's earlier work, Gamer has little replay value.
Synopsis: Each week Kable (Gerard Butler), a death-row inmate, battles his fellow prisoners in a violent online game called "Slayers," his... [More]

#27

Choose or Die (2022)
33%

#27
Adjusted Score: 34694%
Critics Consensus: Flickers of frightening promise are muffled by an excessively franchise-focused story in Choose or Die, with frustratingly forgettable results.
Synopsis: After firing up a lost 80s survival horror game, a young coder unleashes a hidden curse that tears reality apart,... [More]
Directed By: Toby Meakins

#28

Nightmares (1983)
29%

#28
Adjusted Score: 23573%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Four tales: chain smoker (Cristina Raines) meets killer; video-game fan (Emilio Estevez) gets carried away; Satan's car tests faith; rat... [More]
Directed By: Joseph Sargent

#29

The Wizard (1989)
27%

#29
Adjusted Score: 28236%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After his little brother, Jimmy (Luke Edwards), is put in a mental institution, Corey (Fred Savage) breaks him out and... [More]
Directed By: Todd Holland

#30

Serenity (2019)
21%

#30
Adjusted Score: 31258%
Critics Consensus: A high-concept mystery with a twist, Serenity isn't what it appears to be at first -- unfortunately, it's also not anywhere near as clever or entertaining as it thinks.
Synopsis: Baker Dill is a fishing boat captain who leads tours off of the tranquil enclave of Plymouth Island. His peaceful... [More]
Directed By: Steven Knight

#31

Devour (2005)
20%

#31
Adjusted Score: 4215%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Friends become increasingly addicted to a video game that has an evil agenda.... [More]
Directed By: David Winkler

#32

Pixels (2015)
18%

#32
Adjusted Score: 27767%
Critics Consensus: Much like the worst arcade games from the era that inspired it, Pixels has little replay value and is hardly worth a quarter.
Synopsis: When aliens intercept video feeds of classic arcade games and misinterpret them as a declaration of war, they attack Earth,... [More]
Directed By: Chris Columbus

#33
#33
Adjusted Score: 15721%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Through interviews with developers, publishers and consumers, filmmaker Jeremy Snead examines video game history and culture and how the games... [More]
Starring: Sean Astin
Directed By: Jeremy Snead

#34

Grandma's Boy (2006)
15%

#34
Adjusted Score: 16794%
Critics Consensus: A gross-out comedy that's more gross than comedic, Grandma's Boy is lazy and unrewarding.
Synopsis: When he and his roommate can't pay their rent, video game creator Alex (Allen Covert) finds himself homeless and moves... [More]
Directed By: Nicholaus Goossen

#35

Stay Alive (2006)
10%

#35
Adjusted Score: 11702%
Critics Consensus: A by-the-numbers teen horror flick, Stay Alive fails to exploit its premise for any real scares.
Synopsis: Teenagers decide to pass idle time by playing an online game that has a horror theme. But the action taking... [More]
Directed By: William Brent Bell