What's The Greatest Video Game Movie Of All Time? - Today's Debate

Are we yet to see it, or has it been there all along?

Warcraft Flying
Universal Pictures

With the release of Warcraft - and all the impetus being put on it as this 'game-changer' of a movie simply because of the pedigree of its source material - you have to ask yourself:

What is the greatest video game movie of all time?

Because the 'video game movie curse' is still something people mention: "Will we ever get a truly brilliant video game movie?", "Can it actually be done?" and to that end, are video games that befit cinematic transition (your Metal Gears, your Final Fantasys etc.) already made up of various filmic conventions tied with game mechanics and interaction, that to focus on just one part would ruin the overall appeal?

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Perhaps, but from what's been released so far, at least there are a good handful that can talked about in-depth, somewhat broaching the idea that maybe, just maybe, there's alreadya truly great video game movie out there.

So, between myself (Scott Tailford, Games Editor, hello!), a handful of WhatCulture's other editors (and one intern) we're going to hash it out...

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Alex Leadbeater's Choice - Angry Birds

Angry Birds Movie
Columbia Pictures

Its kinda depressing that Angry Birds is the best anything, but here we are. Its plot is absolute garbage, little more than a lazy attempt to contrive the simple game mechanic for the finale (I always assumed the "Angry" of the title was in reference to the birds being perturbed by pigs nabbing their eggs, not some genuine temper issues), but there's a sardonic undercurrent that makes everything a little more palatable.

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Jason Sudeikis Red is on-point, moping through the film dismissing the ridiculous parts and passing comment on the stupidity before you can, an awareness that's very much welcome. I also didn't really mind all the bird puns; better that than Minions jabbering.

Of course, that I chose Angry Birds says more about the quality of all the other video game movies than it does the film itself. We're talking a genre where so the majority of films miss that in crossing from one medium to another, things need to be changed.

That's what really helps Angry Birds - it doesn't have a deep story of complex mechanics to f*ck up, and slots nicely into the kids film mould. Surprisingly passable.

Still, I've got my fingers crossed I can say something different in six months.

Read more from Alex here.

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Scott Tailford's Choice - Silent Hill

Silent Hill movie 2006
TriStar Pictures

A perfect candidate for any 'fan vs. critic' debate, the divisive Silent Hill tasks Sean Bean and Radha Mitchell to find out why their child keeps uttering the titular words, thereby bringing them to the iconic town, but mostly it's an excuse to let the audience wander its streets for the first time, too.

Camerawork is exemplary, with director Christophe Gans using some huge, sweeping shots to literally glide through the fog and 'find' Mitchell's character, as though you too were actually 'controlling' her and disappearing off into the background. Many more shots replicate the horror games of old, utilising them to give a particularly stark mood and a cold tone, framing the town's sign in the foreground whilst having other characters explore behind, for example.

silent hill 2006 nurses
TriStar Pictures

Monster designs look spot-on too, the demonic zombie-nurses somehow moving even more creepily than in-game. It's these little touches where you can tell somebody literally had to sit and study the original animations and your character's interactions with them, that gives Silent Hill's production an edge in intent and quality I can't say I've seen in any other adaptation so far.

As for the finale and its more overblown horror set-piece finish, literally thousands of games end in such a way, sending the player off after ramping everything up accordingly. This distinction is key, because for too long we're thinking about 'great video game movies' under the same ruleset as what would be a 'truly great film', whereas when gaming as a medium dictates certain staples or tropes are more acceptable, they have to be factored in.

Just look at the way the original game ended, if you require any further proof.

Read more from Scott here.

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Adam Clery's Choice - Pokmon: The First Movie

Pokemon the first movie
Toho

Pokemon: The First Movie is the greatest video game movie of all time. I no stop trying to think of counter-points to that, because there are none. Im sorry youve had to read any of the other entries in this article. My sincere apologies on behalf of my colleagues, all of whom are very well intentioned in their inaccuracies here, for wasting literal minutes of your time.

Pokemon: The First Movie is the greatest video game movie of all time, and the reasons for this are both numerous and water-tight. Firstly, look at film and gaming, the reason so few crossovers between the two ever really work, and this includes films that get cobbled together into games as much as games that get hastily rewritten for the big screen, is that its nigh-impossible to translate the former's essence between two mediums. The world-building, the experience of playing, the minutia of the mechanics; all are built to be proactively played, not passively watched.

However, Pokemon: The First Movie is the greatest video game movie of all time because it did do that. It bundled together all of the wonder and mystery and excitement and downright daftness of Pokemon as a game, and tied it to a ridiculous story.

The tension in the battles and the bonds with the Pokemon themselves were presented about as well as they could have been on screen. With the antagonist of the piece being the one monster from the game that genuinely inspired a bit of fear and uncertainty in the minds of the games millions of players.

Is it a good movie? F*ck no, its absolutely hopeless. The story doesnt really make any sense, the dialogue is near painful at times, and the final act is some of the most first-year-drama-student guff youll ever see in your life. But these are all hallmarks of a franchise reaching for that 16-and-under demographic; if theyre a deal breaker to you, then youve only yourself to blame for thinking otherwise.

So yeah, dreadful, but movies and video game movies are two entirely separate things. And with that in mind, Pokemon: The First Movie is the greatest video game movie of all time.

Read more from Adam here.

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Ewan Paterson's Choice - Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat
New Line Cinema

MORRRTTAALLLL KOMMBBAAATTT.

What else could possibly be crowned the king of the videogame adaptation? Obviously the competition isn't that steep, and the film itself represents the pinnacle of unabashed '90s cheese, but it's just so completely harmless; a testament to the irreverent nature of the Mortal Kombat franchise that still manages to endear to this day.

Plus, y'know, there's the matter of the absolutely phenomenal soundtrack. If you hear the film's keynote anthem and somehow don't manage to leap out of your chair, rip the spine out of your nearest colleague and shout 'MORTAL KOMBAT' before the chorus even begins, then I'm sorry, something must be wrong.

Indeed, there's a reason why Paul Anderson's adaptation of the Mortal Kombat mythos is so fondly remembered. It may not offer a genre-defining take on the martial-arts genre, but Mortal Kombat was never anything more than a fun, gore-filled distraction that let gamers unleash their competitive edge, and even then it was synonymous with the '90s corniest cultural experiments. Regardless, you'd be hard-pressed to find a video game movie more culturally significant than 1995's Mortal Kombat.

It's got that killer soundtrack, a great aesthetic, and exemplifies the 'leave your brain at the door' cinema that just can't seem to make a comeback these days. There's just no question about it, Mortal Kombat is the video game movie of all time. Well, maybe until Assassin's Creed comes out this year.

But let's just forget about that for now, yeah?

Read more from Ewan here.

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Simon Gallagher's Choice - Ace Attorney

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney
Toho

How do you choose the best of a genre that is mostly without redemption?

Theres a habit with video game movies to simply redefine the rules of classification: traditional atrocities like Street Fighter or Super Mario Bros somehow qualify as great because theyre no more than exercises in kitsch lunacy.

When you strip away the imposters, youre left with slim pickings: Silent Hill is passable, Mortal Kombat is okay, Tomb Raider isnt entirely awful But there are only two movies in the genre that achieve greatness in both key definitions (great movie AND great video game adaptation). The first is the first Pokemon movie, and the second - and the superior of the two - is Takashi Miikes Ace Attorney.

Made by a legitimate lunatic and genre genius, the film understands the spirit of the source and never seeks to redefine or dilute it. As such, it has integrity, but it is also entertaining and accessible and it never patronises or treats the source or its fans with disdain. As adaptations go, its pretty much the poster boy for purity and the gold standard for how directors should approach remaking games.

Read more from Simon here.

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Who wins? Let us know in the comments who you support, and which film gets your vote as the best video game movie so far!

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Gaming Editor
Gaming Editor

Gaming Editor at WhatCulture. Wields shovels, rests at bonfires, fights evil clones, brews decoctions. Will have your lunch on Rocket League.