Looking back over the past 40 years, we have seen the advent of video games and, as time has rolled on, they have only gained in popularity. Video games provide a uniquely interactive entertainment experience for players, and as a concurrent commercial entity to the movie industry, it only makes sense that many games have been made based on movies.
There are some movies out there that you watch that make you want to just jump in on the action. And sometimes they’re not even particularly good films, and yet something about them hints at something better — potential untapped, an ambitious narrative or worldview that wasn’t given full reach.
That’s the thing about video games: you can build incredible, impossible worlds, and develop environments, characters, physics, and relationships on your terms, at your speed. We thought it worthwhile to run through some of the best examples of this predicament. So with that, sit back, relax, dust off that game design textbook you bought back in college, and enjoy Screen Rant’s list of 15 Movies That Would’ve Been Better As Video Games…
15 Crank (2006)
Crank would have made a perfect video game experience. The movie even felt like a game. Chev Chelios (Jason Statham), a low-level hitman, gets in trouble with his bosses after he decides he wants to leave the crime game to lead a normal life. Instead of killing him outright, the sadistic baddies fit him with a heart monitor built to explode when his adrenaline drops too low. Think of it as Speed on steroids.
Chelios runs all over LA, getting into fights, ingesting various dangerous substances, crashing through stores, and generally doing whatever he can to keep his adrenaline pumping while he seeks revenge.
This would be the perfect game. Take Crackdown, Saints Row, or the comparatively sedate GTA5, make the main character a maniac on a revenge course, and imbue him with Statham-esque strength and martial arts abilities. The protagonist would have to run, find energy, and frantically chain together tricks like a Tony Hawk game, just to keep the adrenaline bar aglow.
14 Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2008)
Take one of the worst movies ever made, and magically turn it into an awesome video game. Wouldn’t that be nice? With Birdemic: Shock and Terror, one wouldn’t have to do much to reverse how laughably bad it is. The movie is a thinly veiled copy of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, with an updated story wherein climate change is somehow causing birds to go crazy and attack people. It doesn’t make any sense, and the acting is atrocious.
It’s such a clearly bad movie that it’s been made fun of by Rifftrax and has gained a huge cult following. A game that has better writing, special effects, and acting (it’s possible) would work exceedingly well in the survival horror genre alongside stablemates like Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, and The Last of Us.
13 Elysium (2013)
One of the biggest and smartest movies on this list, Elysium still would’ve been better as a game. Director Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi action flick is set in the year 2154. Earth has become all but unlivable; the privileged live aboard a sprawling space station, enjoying long, serene lives, while the less fortunate have been relegated to planetary life, which amounts to an open-air prison. Matt Damon stars as Max, a Los Angeleno who gets radiation poisoning and has only 5 days to live. His goal in that time is to get from Earth to Elysium, where there is a cure.
It’s the perfect premise for a video game. An RPG with FPS elements, along the lines of Half Life. The neat device in the game could be in trying to escape Earth, working with others, dealing with officials, and making hard choices.
12 Hancock (2008)
Who wouldn’t want to play an antisocial, grumpy dude with superhero powers who’s voiced by Will Smith? How awesome would that be? About 8 years before Deadpool pulled it off, Hancock tried and failed to be a movie about a lovable anti-hero. It ended up being an uneven mess.
Will Smith stars as Hancock, a drunken superhero who stops baddies only when he feels like it. The movie starts off well enough, but the tone sharply changes about halfway through when it delves full-force into romantic comedy territory.
If this were to be a game in the vein of one of the venerable Batman: Arkham titles, the fun would come simply -- bounding around the city taking on smaller missions. The character wouldn’t need to have a choose-your-own-path story — he could just stubbornly go through the world in his idiosyncratic way and it would be great.
11 Santa with Muscles (1996)
Two movies, of many, hit the theaters in time for the 1996 holiday season. Both were family comedies, and both starred hulking, musclebound dudes — one a former Mr. Universe and a huge action star, and the other the most famous wrestler in the world. Both movies were panned by critics, but while one went on to become a blockbuster, the other flopped miserably. Those movies were Jingle All the Way and Santa with Muscles, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hulk Hogan, respectively. And despite what the critics say, we love Jingle All the Way.
Santa With Muscles, not so much. The movie is about a nutritional supplement tycoon, Blake Thorn (Hogan), who bumps his head and believes he’s Santa Claus. While in his amnesia-induced fantasy, Thorn fights an evil scientist (Ed Begley, Jr.) who’s bent on demolishing an orphanage to steal magical crystals underneath it.
The movie is widely considered to be one of the worst ever made. It’s poorly written, indifferently directed, and Hogan is about a believable an actor as a shoe. But this storyline sounds like something straight out of the old-school Atari set. Starting the game off bumping one’s head and “becoming” Santa, the player must stop the scientist and his henchmen from destroying the kids’ home and obtaining the powerful crystals. Sounds like an oddly fun time!
10 Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow had a great premise, cool title, and an all-star cast, so what was wrong with it? Or rather, how would it have been better as a game? Well, Sky Captain was quite an ambitious project. The idea was developed by Kerry Conran, who spent four years making the trailer for the film, and was able to get it to a Hollywood producer, who loved it. Together they wrote the script, and the movie was produced using over 100 artists who helped draw the backgrounds for the cyberpunk sci-fi action flick. What came out of all that was one of the most gorgeous movies ever, though critics slammed it for having one-dimensional characters and a lightweight plot.
It’s perfect video game material though. In a world not unlike that of the equally gorgeous Bioshock: Infinite, Skycaptain (Jude Law) must fight off giant robots that come down to attack Earth. With the help of his ex, journalist Polly Perkins (Gwenyth Paltrow), Sky Captain travels the world to find Dr. Totenkopf (Lawrence Olivier), the scientist who is likely behind the bots. It would be a perfect Bioshock-like game -- an FPS from the perspective of Sky Captain, wherein the main mode of transport is prop plane.
9 47 Ronin (2013)
2013’s 47 Ronin had, on paper, all it needed to be a heckuva good time: A $170 million budget, a star-studded cast, and a simpatico story. Based on true events in 18th century feudal Japan, a provincial lord schemes to have another disgraced, in efforts of setting in motion the latter’s suicide. After the plan succeeds, the deceased lord’s samurai warriors become ronin — soldiers without a master. After years living in disarray, they band back together to take revenge on their master’s saboteur.
47 Ronin ended up being a very bland film, with uninspired characters, paint-by-numbers direction, and all the spice of a stale piece of bread. If the story could instead be packaged as a game, it would be interesting to live the life of a samurai in an open-world egalitarian environment, ala Skyrim, wherein one must complete tasks and travel to meet up with other samurai to defeat the boss.
8 9 (2009)
As a movie, 9 exists in a sort of limbo. Critics couldn’t make heads or tails out of it, though they summarily agreed that while it is visually stunning, it lacks on sufficient emotional pull, which is surprising considering the plotline it lays out.
The film is an animated venture in the style of a Pixar flick, directed by Shane Acker and produced by Tim Burton, about a post-apocalyptic world wherein machines become sentient and wipe out all of humanity. Before being taken out by the AI, a scientist imbues 9 rag dolls with his soul, each doll getting a different part of his personality. Afterwards, the dolls awaken and find each other, and must determine how to survive, fight the machines, and thrive as a cogent society.
Despite the movie foundering in mediocrity, it’s a cracker jack idea and would work splendidly as a game, in which the player takes on the roles of each doll and helps build civilization again.
7 Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)
It started as a faux movie trailer, created by Canadian director Jason Eisener for submission to a contest held by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, and after winning Hobo with a Shotgun blossomed into a very real, very dark, $3 million film. Eisener directed Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) as a bum whose moral compass moves him to become a vigilante. In Hope Town, everything and everyone works for “The Drake,” who, along with his two sons, keeps the borough in a constant state of malfeasance and dread. The hobo gets his hands on a shotgun and starts exacting street justice on the hellish world around him.
Despite Hauer looking and acting the part, the movie didn’t quite work. It lacked enough plot to stay afloat. It worked wonderfully as a movie trailer, and probably would’ve been great as a short film, but at feature-length it feels altogether too long. As a game though, it’d be excellent. In a contained world, the player-as-Hobo could build either a good or bad reputation, choosing to help form a resistance or go it alone, and use found objects in the urban environment to take on The Drake and his minions.
6 The Matrix Sequels (2003)
The Matrix came along in 1999 and changed the whole moviemaking game. Critics loved it, and it would go on to adorn many top-10 lists (insert shameless, cutely self-referential plug here). Keanu Reeves starred as Neo, a slacker computer engineer who one day discovers that the world around him isn’t real but rather a virtual reality created by artificial intelligence in order to exercise control over all human life. With the help of Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) Neo plots to destroy the false reality.
The movie changed filmmaking forever, introducing groundbreaking special effects like the now-ubiquitous “bullet-time” sequences wherein characters dodge projectiles in slow motion. The movie earned over $450 million at the box office, so naturally, there needed to be sequels. But The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions (both 2003) paled in comparison to their eldest sibling. Whereas the first movie was a tightly knit, perfectly self-contained story of the rise of Neo’s character, the latter two films tried to stretch the material too far. The special effects had to be better, the cast had to be larger, everything increased, but to the detriment of the films’ souls.
What clearly should have been done instead was leave the first film alone, as it was a masterpiece. Then the studios could have capitalized on the success by throwing a lot of resources into making one very solid game, which would continue Neo’s crusade while giving fans some much-needed interaction into the amazing world of The Matrix.
5 Dredd (2012)
The character of Judge Dredd was first realized in a 1977 issue of 2000 AD comics by British writer John Wagner and Spanish artist Carlos Ezquerra. The judge was the personification of the police state and authority taken to extremes: A hulking police officer, half-man half-robot, bestowed with all powers of the law — judge, jury, and executioner — and thus ironically a lawless character. The comic showed Judge Dredd patrolling the streets of Mega City One, a huge urban dystopia of the future, overcrowded and overrun with vicious gangs. With the regular police having been outmatched and run out of town long ago, the government employs virtually indomitable Judges to dole out street justice to the rabble.
Hollywood has tried twice — and failed both times — to sell a live-action version of the rugged character on-screen: Sylvester Stallone in 1995’s schlock-tastic Judge Dredd, and then Karl Urban 17 years later in Dredd. In this later version, the plot reads like a great side-scroller: Dredd and a trainee judge must clear story after story of a skyscraper that’s controlled by evil slumlord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey).
The bones are already there for a great game: It has a full back story, and a capable protagonist who also happens to be a blank slate for players to embellish with their own perspectives.
4 Final Justice (1985)
Written, produced, and directed by schlock-auteur Greyon Clark, Final Justice is the tale of sheriff’s deputy Thomas Jefferson Geronimo III (Joe Don Baker) who is tasked with delivering a dangerous criminal to Italy to face charges. But the perp has different ideas, escaping Geronimo’s grasp in Malta and forcing a showdown between the two sides of the law. Joe Don Baker is impossible not to like as the hearty, affable deputy, but it’s despite the fact that the movie around him is so cheesy. So much so that Mystery Science Theater 3000 made a classic episode dedicated to it.
Final Justice would have been a better video game than a movie. Try selling a flick with a sheriff named Thomas Jefferson Geronimo and see how far you get. On the other hand, put that unorthodox figure in the middle of an RPG, where you’re tasked with carting a con across borders and taking down baddies old-timey-like, ala Red Dead Redemption, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
3 The Transporter (2002)
Jason Statham has made a career out of playing the coolest, toughest characters around, so it makes sense that two of his movies would show up on this list. Movies starring Statham are ripe for the video game treatment; they feature lots of action, incredible stunts, and a human Swiss Army Knife for a main character.
Perhaps no film has better shown off Statham’s astonishing repertoire, nor further cemented his stardom, than 2002’s The Transporter. In it, he stars as onetime-Special Forces Frank Martin, a driver-for-hire who will transport anything anywhere, no questions asked. He has a set of rules he never breaks, which include complete confidentiality and utter punctuality. Martin’s clientele is already an unsavory set, but one day he’s tasked with carrying a young woman for a human trafficker, and he’s almost killed by the employer for his efforts. Martin seeks revenge on his would-be assassins, taking down their smuggling ring in the process.
The movie features heart-stopping driving stunts, as well as gunplay and lightning-fast fights. It would be a great game, one that uses all of the tools and modernity of a GTA5 and bakes them into scenic coastal France and an old-school, DRIV3R-like gaming experience.
2 The Purge (2013)
The premise is simple: One March evening every year, America becomes a battleground. In every town and city, law enforcement takes the night off, and families walk the streets with their weapon of choice and go after their neighbors. They’re allowed to assault, steal, kill — whatever they want, from 7 pm to 7 am one night only. It’s a ghoulish form of catharsis, cooked up by the totalitarian government to both distract the bored populace and exercise a bit of population control. There are one or two rules in place though, namely that no heavy weaponry can be used. James (Ethan Hawke) and Mary Sandin (Lena Headey) are part of the more rational sect of the population who opt to stay in for the night; in their case it’s a cozy, heavily-fortified 4-bedroom house. The movie has the protagonists fending off intruders and using the home's hidden compartments and weapons to defend themselves.
The Purge is not a terrible movie, but it would be a fantastic video game. Imagine an open-world game where one creates a character, and must prepare for and then navigate the turmoil during a purge. The rule of no heavy weaponry would lend some challenge to the proceedings, and players would be able to make moral decisions, like if they want to interact more offensively or defensively in their little slice of suburbia.
1 Waterworld (1995)
Waterworld is not as bad a movie as you’ve heard. It’s not great, but it’s no worse than any other big ‘90s feature. What gave the movie such negative buzz when it arrived in 1995 — and has remained with it ever since — is that despite being the most expensive movie ever made up until that point, what ended up on-screen was just okay.
Kevin Costner stars as the Mariner, a rogue seaman who travels the ocean as a dirt trader. It’s the year 2500, about 500 years after climate change has melted the polar ice sheet and sebsequently raised the sea level to over 25,000 feet. Dirt is now a precious commodity as it can be used for plants. After saving a woman and girl from the grips of The Deacon (Dennis Hopper), The Mariner learns that the girl has been tattooed on her back with a map for Dryland, an oasis in a world of water. The Deacon soon comes around again for the girl and the precious map, and the Mariner must work to stop him and save the two.
There was an eponymous video game that accompanied the movie’s release, made for MS-DOS, Game Boy and Super Nintendo among other systems. It was considered to be an absolutely terrible game. But now, with the tech that games can employ today, it would be a fantastic Xbox One or PS4 title. As the Mariner, the player would have an open-world that's virtually all ocean, with miniscule atolls here and there. A sort of blend of Fallout and Minecraft, the character would take their trimaran around the world looking to trade dirt and pick up missions. To boot, the Mariner has gills, so a lot of gametime would be used diving to the ocean floor to get more dirt and perhaps happen upon some ancient goodies.
Can you think of any other movies that would have made great video games? What do you think of our picks? Let us know in the comments.