It's hard to say which tends to be worse -- video games based on movies, or movies based on video games. Both have their own distinct flaws. Video games based on movies rarely manage to capture whatever people liked about their source material, because they don't have the big stars or nuanced storytelling. An additional problem is that, more often than not, they are rush jobs, developed and made quickly in order to be released at the same time as the film. That doesn't always make for the most enthralling gameplay.
Movies based on video games have a different set of issues. Even though many of today's most popular games are designed to look and feel cinematic, the formats remain relatively incompatible. Games utilize plot as a means of taking the player from one interactive section to the next. Movies, on the other hand, need to have constant plot advancement to keep people hooked. Consequently, films based on games are generally working from material that isn't developed in a manner that would sustain a two-hour cinematic experience.
Perhaps not surprisingly, there has never been a movie based on a video game that has gotten a "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. They're all "rotten." Many of them score only in the single digits on the Tomatometer. What follows are the eighteen highest-rated on the site. The low scores of these "best" movies will illustrate just how poorly such films are received. There are also two instances where the movie earned that rare 0%, meaning that not a single critic liked them.
Here are the 18 Best Video Game Movies, According to Rotten Tomatoes (And 2 Stuck With 0%).
20 Best: Max Payne (16%)
Max Payne is based on the third-person shooter about a cop who turns vigilante and goes after the thugs who wiped out his family. The game has obvious film noir influences, as well as some from the tough and gritty detective novels that were penned by writers like Mickey Spillane.
Mark Wahlberg stars in the movie adaptation, which was directed by John Moore.
Common criticisms of Max Payne were that, in trying to expand upon some of the game's story points, the plot became too muddled, and that the tame PG-13 rating was at odds with the graphic tone of the game, making Max's revenge mission feel watered down. All this led to a 16% score, which still makes it the 18th best video game move ever made.
19 Best: Street Fighter (18%)
First released in 1987, Street Fighter was an arcade game in which different characters pummeled each other until one collapsed. That's literally all there was to it. This meant that the movie Street Fighter, which came out in 1994, had to invent a lot of story elements, as well as find ways to develop the characters beyond their visual appearances and unique fighting styles.
Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Colonel Guile, a military commander who leads the charge to defeat a dictator named Bison, portrayed by the late Raul Julia. Critics liked Julia's campy performance, but felt the story was too thin. If the 18% score sounds pathetic, consider that a 2009 franchise reboot, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, earned just 6%.
18 Best: Resident Evil: Apocalypse (20%)
The good news for the Resident Evil franchise is that all six installments are among the most highly-rated video game movies on Rotten Tomatoes. The bad news is that they all still have lousy scores. Of them, the second, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, comes in lowest with 20%.
A recurring point made in reviews was that trying to capture the appeal of the game onscreen didn't work.
The plot was described as lightweight, and the gory action sequences were deemed overlong and tiresome in their frequency. While many critics felt Milla Jovovich's charisma was a plus, they also complained that RE: Apocalypse was clearly designed to appeal to fans of the game, rather than general audiences.
17 Best: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (20%)
If there's one really big surprise on this list, it's that Lara Croft: Tomb Raider only has a 20% Tomatometer score. Unlike many video game movies, it boasts an A-list star -- Angelina Jolie -- and was a box office hit, earning $131 million in North America and an additional $143 million worldwide. Presumably, audiences liked the film more than critics did.
No one took issue with Jolie's casting as Lara Croft.
She was celebrated across the board as being the perfect choice for the role. That said, just about everything else in the movie was faulted. Reviews called the story nonsensical and underdeveloped. Some commented that the action scenes felt cribbed from the Indiana Jones pictures, minus the nail-biting suspense.
16 Best: Resident Evil: Afterlife (23%)
Resident Evil: Afterlife is the fourth entry in the series, and was the first to utilize 3D. This one has Alice seeking out a "safe zone" near Los Angeles where survivors of the outbreak are supposedly getting refuge. All the while, an agent from the evil Umbrella Corporation is tracking her.
Most critics agreed on two things. First, the 3D effects in the movie were well done. Second, director Paul W.S. Anderson seemed a little too enamored with devising cool 3D shots, at the expense of coherent storytelling and characterization. Only 23% of reviewers liked RE: Afterlife, although, in fairness, the ones who did like it were very effusive in their praise of its slick style.
15 Best: Resident Evil: Extinction (23%)
Most of the Resident Evil pictures have something that distinguishes them from the others. RE: Extinction, the third chapter in the saga, is the one with all the sand. Alice and a group of fellow survivors traverse the desert in their ongoing attempt to find a way to eliminate the fatal virus unleashed by the Umbrella Corporation.
Setting the movie in the desert instead of inside high-tech laboratories was an attempt to make Extinction different from its predecessors. It wasn't enough. Even with the new locale, reviewers said the style of the action scenes and the basics of the plot were growing repetitive by this point. Like the next entry, Afterlife, it only mustered up a 23% approval rating.
14 Best: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (25%)
Although Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was a hit, audiences seemed to like it more than love it. Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life was intended to fix some of the things that didn't work the first time around. Critics favored it a tiny bit more. At 25%, its score is five points higher than its predecessor. The public wasn't so forgiving. The sequel only earned half what the first one did.
The critical consensus was that The Cradle of Life tried a little harder to balance action and storytelling.
However, the style and feel of the movie were already locked in, so there was a limit to how much course-correction was possible. Angelina Jolie once again earned cheers for her work.
13 Silent Hill (29%)
Silent Hill is one of the most popular and atmospheric survival-horror video games of all time. If playing it doesn't give you the willies, we don't know what will. The 2006 movie version tried very hard to replicate the game's dark, spooky feel. That should have been easy, since Konami's blockbuster was clearly influenced by horror movies from both Hollywood and Japan.
Only 29% of the critics who reviewed Silent Hill did so favorably. That's a pretty low number. What's interesting, though, is that many of those supporters absolutely raved about it. The movie was one of those cases where a minority of critics saw a near-masterpiece, while the majority saw something sleek but empty.
12 Resident Evil: Retribution (30%)
Resident Evil: Retribution marked the fifth big-screen adventure for Milla Jovovich's Alice. The overall story arc had grown more esoteric by this point. A number of critics were frustrated by that, so they chose not to bother seeing it.
Whereas all the other Resident Evil movies have at least 90 reviews posted to Rotten Tomatoes, Retribution only has 69.
It's safe to assume that the 30% approval rating -- which is slightly higher than three of the other chapters -- is the result of critics who had a more favorable view of the franchise. In other words, some of those who didn't like the series dropped out, leaving ones who were "friendly" to write a slightly larger percentage of the reviews.
11 Worst: Tekken (0%)
Tekken, based on Namco's best-selling fighting game, is one of two video game movies to earn the feared 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Not one single critic posting to the site gave it a positive review. The writing was on the wall for the film before they ever got a chance to lay eyes on it, though.
After screening at the American Film Market, where distributors can purchase the rights to independently-produced movies, Tekken was released in several overseas markets, where it was very poorly received. It was even panned by Katsuhiro Harada, the director of the original game. He called it "terrible." Because of these factors, the movie bypassed theaters in North America, going straight to video instead.
10 Best: DOA (33%)
Dead or Alive is the Tecmo video game series that combines the joys of fist-fighting and beach volleyball. One of the titles in the franchise, Xreme Beach Volleyball, was controversial for featuring its female characters in various states of undress. Someone in Hollywood thought all this sounded terrific. Consequently, DOA: Dead or Alive was thrust upon the world. Well, sort of. The movie, which has a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, sat on a studio shelf for almost two years before being unceremoniously dumped into 505 theaters in North America.
It grossed a humiliating $480,000 after three weeks of play.
Critics felt the action was clumsily-staged, and having the actresses constantly appear scantily-clad was gratuitous titillation.
9 Best: Mortal Kombat (34%)
Mortal Kombat is undeniably one of the most influential video games ever made. It had excellent fighting controls, memorable characters, and some spectacular ways for the brawlers to meet their fates. Fans went absolutely wild for it, and imitators came out of the woodwork.
The movie version didn't light the world on fire in the same way, earning a not-so-great 34% Tomatometer score. A few critics felt that it captured the loopy appeal of the game. Most griped about the cheap-looking special effects, bad acting, and toned-down PG-13 rating that seemed at odds with the fundamentally violent nature of the property. At least it scored better than its sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, which only has a 3% approval rating.
8 Best: Resident Evil (34%)
There was a lot of hype around Resident Evil when it was released in 2002. The game had a legion of fans, and the preview emphasized stylish visuals. Even with that anticipation, the movie struggled at the box office, failing to find its audience until the eventual DVD release.
Poor reviews probably hurt it theatrically.
Only 34% of critics had anything good to say. A few appreciated the attempts to be faithful to the game. Mostly, the reviews cited an overemphasis on violence and gore. In fact, Resident Evil was held up as an example of why video game movies don't really work. It may have had a surface resemblance to its source material, but that wasn't enough for a satisfactory movie-going experience.
7 Best: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (36%)
In the months before its release, industry buzz said Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was going to be the first really great video game movie. It boasted superstar Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role, and it was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the man who brought us Pirates of the Caribbean, Top Gun, and Beverly Hills Cop, among many others. Director Mike Newell, meanwhile, made Four Weddings and a Funeral and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. If anyone could make a successful video game movie, it was this team.
They couldn't. Prince of Persia only managed a 36% score. Although considered better than most films of its kind, it still suffered reviews that called it bland and forgettable.
6 Best: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (36%)
In most long-running franchises, the reviews grow increasingly worse by the time of the sixth installment. In the case of Resident Evil, the concluding entry, subtitled The Final Chapter, is the most highly rated.
Who could have seen that coming?
For the naysayers, the gripes were familiar -- the characters were one-dimensional, the plot didn't make a lot of sense, and the action scenes were chaotic and edited in such a choppy manner that it was frequently hard to tell what was going on. Some reviews pointed out that the movie ends with a set-up for another sequel-- not exactly the "last" chapter. The 36% of critics who liked it tended to be those who'd been on-board since the beginning.
5 Best: The Angry Birds Movie (44%)
The Angry Birds Movie is the first motion picture to be inspired by a cell phone game. Despite that seemingly unimpressive pedigree, this is actually one of the more highly-rated video game movies. The story revolves around several brightly colored birds who fling themselves at evil pigs to protect their homeland.
At 44%, reactions to The Angry Birds Movie were split almost right down the middle. A little more than half the critics posting their reviews to RT found it less pleasurable than playing the game itself. The rest deemed it to be a nicely-animated family-friendly film that offered up some decent laughs for kids. Audiences dug it to the tune of $352 million worldwide. A sequel arrives in 2019.
4 Best: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (45%)
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within has sort of become forgotten in the years since its release in 2001. At the time, it was a game-changer. This was the first movie to have computer-generated human characters that were almost photo-realistic.
The film looked like no other.
Of the critics linking their reviews, 45% appreciated the ground-breaking visuals and the attempt to tell an intelligent sci-fi tale. Veteran film critic Roger Ebert gave it three-and-a-half stars, dubbing it "a technical milestone." Some notable raves aside, the other 55% declared that Final Fantasy looked better than it played. More than a few reviews suggested that, although the picture was cool visually, it failed to generate any emotional interest.
3 Best: Tomb Raider (51%)
The overall consensus on the two Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider movies was that they failed to live up to the cinematic potential of video game character Lara Croft and her story. The 2018 reboot, with Alicia Vikander taking over the role, set out to provide a much more realistic big-screen experience. This new Tomb Raider did indeed score significantly higher than the previous ones, although it topped out at 51%.
Vikander was almost universally hailed as a fine choice to play Lara. The action scenes were similarly judged as being pretty good. Where critics split was on the story. Some felt the lead actress and the action compensated for a weak plot. Others felt the plot undermined the elements that worked.
2 Rampage (53%)
The most recent video game movie is also the highest-scoring of them all on Rotten Tomatoes. Rampage -- based on the old arcade game where a giant gorilla and a massive lizard destroy cities while outrunning the military -- has a Tomatometer score of 53%.
A little more than half of critics weighing in enjoyed this creature-filled adventure.
Star Dwayne Johnson was celebrated for his ever-present charisma, while the destruction sequences were said to be impressively staged. No one accused Rampage of being art, but many saw it as decent mindless entertainment. The rest of the critics felt that the movie didn't do anything with the idea of gigantic creatures obliterating buildings that hadn't been done before in other pictures.
1 BloodRayne 2: Deliverance (0%)
Uwe Boll's BloodRayne, based on the "hack and slash" video game of the same title, received a great deal of ridicule when it was released in 2006. It scored 4% on Rotten Tomatoes and made a dismal $2 million total at the domestic box office. Almost as if he wanted to see if he could make something even worse, Boll unleashed BloodRayne 2: Deliverance in 2007.
This sequel has the dreaded 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Major changes were afoot. Natassia Malthe replaced Kristanna Loken as the titular vampire, and the setting was changed from 18th century Romania to the Wild West. What stayed the same was the barrage of scathing reviews. Critics called BloodRayne 2 amateurish and incoherent. Worst of all, they said it lacked the unintentional comedy that at least made its predecessor borderline amusing.
Do you think any of these score are too high or too low? Give us your thoughts in the comments.