Top Ten Movies Based On Games
Who's saying what
It seems that’s the entire point of making a movie out of a game – telling the audience that, despite having the same title and set-up and rules and characters as a popular game, this particular movie “ain’t no game”. Even though – and stick with me here - the audience’s fondness for the actual game is presumably the main reason why you licensed the game for movie-making in the first-place, you still will be unable to resist the urge to tell the audience that your movie “ain’t no game”. “You like the game this movie is based on? Well guess what – this ain’t no game.” And then, if you’re any of the following movies, you go on to lose all your money at the box office. Guess people really do like games.
Super Mario Brothers
Watching this first-ever big-screen movie based on a video game, only one thought comes to mind: STOP IT YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. These days everyone knows you only make movies out of videogames that are already horror movies (see: the Resident Evil movies, Silent Hill) or action movies (Max Payne, Prince of Persia, Hitman, Tomb Raider), but back in the early 90s they just figured plumbers and Snap’s “I Got The Power” equalled boffo box office. “Dennis Hopper as a lizard, yeah, that could be a thing”. “People paying money to see Bob Hoskins in a red jumpsuit, that could totally happen”. “Dudes in suits with tiny dinosaur heads, who wouldn’t drop everything to check that shit out”. “And maybe we could put in some jokes and some decent action and a story that makes sense?” “Hey, this ain’t no game”.
On the one hand, this isn’t a movie where people are trapped in a nightmarish real-life version of the card game poker where… how would that even work? I’m guessing it’d basically be Game of Thrones with all the kings and queens teaming up with some dude named Jack and Batman’s dog Ace the Bat-Hound to defeat a sinister organisation known as “The Hand”. Anyway, this isn’t that. But it is a movie that’s so much about poker it actually single-handedly sparked a revival of the game, which is great news for the guys commentating on that World Poker Tour television show who keep cracking jokes like “He’s happier than Jude Law at a nanny convention”.
Wait, Twilight was a boardgame? Okay, maybe the movie came first but it’s still getting a mention here because there’s no better way to pass the time between now and your eventual (un)death than by playing a board game where the objective is to marry a vampire and have his flesh-eating baby (warning: not actual objective). And it’ll go great with your Twilight pencil, Twilight doona cover, Twilight jigsaw puzzle, Twilight door poster, Twilight iPhone case, Twilight bumper sticker, Twilight hoodie, Twilight fridge magnet, “funny” Twilight throw pillow, Twilight licence plate frame, Twilight wall clock, Twilight coffee mug, Twilight tote bag, Twilight drink bottle, Twilight vampire necklace heart charm, Twilight earrings, Twilight mousepad, Twilight flip-flops, Twilight dog T-shirt, Twilight charm bracelet, Twilight keychain, Twilight baseball cap, Twilight “fire heart” tile coaster, Twilight apron, Twilight teddy bear and “Once you go pack you never go back” Twilight Team Jacob mug which I’m sure has nothing to do with group sex whatsoever. That’d be the Twilight “I Can Haz Vampyr Boyfriend” large pet bowl.
Dungeons & Dragons
Featuring a dungeon, a dragon and Tom “I was The Doctor once and I totally kicked arse at it” Baker as an elf, this should have been the best movie ever made. But it was based on a game so no, it wasn’t. Maybe it was because the game itself is just a collection of clapped-out fantasy clichés that only become fun in the hands of a semi-competent (meaning stoned) Dungeon Master. Or maybe it was because it features magic dust, a talking skeleton, hiding out in sewers and a bad guy with tentacles inside his head. No, wait, all those things are also awesome. Must’ve just been the acting and writing and directing and editing and special effects and soundtrack and some more acting and whatever it was Jeremy Irons was doing on-screen then.
Mazes & Monsters
What happens when a bunch of misfits and losers get together to play a role-playing game? How about failed relationships, multiple suicide attempts, phychotic breaks and eventually being trapped in a fantasy world that’s real only to you? Yep, it’s not just another night at my house when I was sixteen: when former A-grade student Tom Hanks is sucked back into the evil world of role-playing he soon discovers “this ain’t no game”. Also, he goes insane in a cave because role-playing games are the work of the Devil. Fun fact: this film made that The Twin Towers from Lord of the Rings = The World Trade Centre Towers link roughly 20 years before everyone else, and yet it’s still stupid.
Hey, how come this (relatively) obscure role-playing game gets a biggish-budget movie with Ron Perlman, Thomas Jane, and John Malkovich while other classics of the dice-rolling field like Gangbusters, Champions, GURPS and Kobolds Ate My Baby get no love? Oh wait, Mutant Chronicles got a movie with Ron Perlman, Thomas Jane and John Malkovich. Carry on.
Sure, everyone remembers Jumanji, the board game that lets animals and Robin Williams into your house to wreck havoc and riff uncontrollably and whatever it was Robin Williams was doing. But what about the sequel Zathura, where a board game somehow throws a loveable middle American family’s home into out space where the two kids die horribly from decompression within minutes of opening the front door? Yes, people will try and tell you the movie kept going for over an hour after they went into space but believe me the “arrrgh there’s no air we’re dying [head pop]” version is a lot more entertaining. Especially as the babysitter is Kristen Stewart so when she explodes Total Recall-style she takes the whole Twilight movie franchise with her and it’s replaced with a trilogy based on Kobolds Ate My Baby.
Doom was pretty much the first movie to actually use the video game to movie formula that works: base your movie on a video game that is so basic and straightforward (aliens attack, you fight them) even Hollywood can’t screw it up. Then they screwed it up. That is, apart from one five minute sequence where they forgot to add all the lame subplots and boring character crap and actually based their movie on the actual game Doom by having a completely insane first-person shooter sequence complete with alien monsters, zombies, corpses being eaten by rats, bigger alien monsters with chainsaws, and Karl Urban shooting his own reflection because he’s just that badass. Apart from that I think The Rock turns into a monster, but they somehow make that boring because “it’s not a game anymore” or something.
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light
Initially Yu-Gi-Oh! was simply a television show based on a manga series about the fictional “Dual Monsters” trading card game that involved battling monsters, but it proved so successful Konami actually created the game (monsters not included), made a fortune from it, and eventually got around to making this movie based on the card game. Strangely, while the movie revolves entirely around giant freaky monsters fighting with a side serve of shouting, the game largely involves swapping cards and tricking kids into buying massive amounts of sealed card packs to try and get rare ones. Guess it loses something in translation.
The big one. Prior to Battleship (and Adam Sandler’s upcoming boardgame feature Candyland, which presumably will non-metaphorically tear open the fabric of reality and throw Earth down into the deepest bowels of Hell where Sandler’s already started shooting the sequel to Grown-Ups), this was the only movie based on a board game to actually be filmed. Problem is, the game the movie Clue was based on is generally known as “Cluedo” here, thus destroying what little marketing value basing a murder mystery on a board game might have had. It also came with three different endings with a different character revealed to be the killer in each one, which tends to suggest the actual mystery part of the film’s murder mystery was crap. Fortunately that didn’t matter as it was meant to be a comedy; unfortunately it was directed by Jonathan Lynn, who’d go on to direct such thigh-slappers as Nuns on the Run, Sgt Bilko and The Whole Nine Yards. Yeah, you’re damn right it’s not just a game anymore.
Join the conversation below