It’s well established that movies based on video games are terrible — I’m looking at you, Tara Reid. But what about movies about video games? Here are the top ten movies about video games that don’t epically fail:
Video games: If they’re not ruining your attention span, they’re starting World War III. WarGames stars Ferris Bueller as a computer hacker smart enough to break into a defense department nuclear weapons control system, but dumb enough to think it’s a video game. When he starts playing, nuclear hilarity (almost) ensues.
From the maniacs you brought us the documentaries Crank and Crank 2, Gamer takes place in a not-too-distant future where jittery teen gamers use nanobots or something to control death row prisoners in real, live multiplayer frag-fests. It’s like Halo, but with more pleasant people. Featuring Gerard Butler as a (of course) wrongly accused prisoners and Dexter’s Michael C. Hall as a singing, dancing, psychopathic game designer, Gamer is a non-stop blend of action and absurdity.
Who wouldn’t want to enter their favorite video game and play for real… throwing electric frisbees… and… racing light cycles? Okay, so the game itself is kinda lame, but Tron is the grand-daddy of “guy enters a video game” movies, starring Jeff Bridges as a computer programmer who gets sucked into his own invention and must fight his way out. Before he, I don’t know, dies or runs out of quarters or something.
7) The Wizard
Don’t pretend you’ve never seen it. The Wizard ostensibly stars Fred “Wonder Years” Savage and two other kids, and follows them on a cross-country journey to a video game championship. But the real star is, of course, the Nintendo Power Glove. Don’t pretend you don’t know what that is.
Academy Award winners galore in this story of a virtual criminal (Russell Crowe) who escapes his training-the-police computer simulation program and runs amock in the real world. The only person who can stop this literal cyber-criminal? Super-cop Denzel Washington, who has been wrongly imprisoned on death row. Oh, people wrongly imprisoned on death row — without them, would we even have a video game industry?
The world’s greatest game designer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is pursued by mysterious assassins, so she puts a “game pod” in her assistant’s body, and together they enter a virtual world called “eXistenZ,” but it’s hard to tell what’s happening in the virtual world and what’s happening in the real world and… you know what? It’s a David Cronenberg movie. It’s weird, it’s complicated and it’s actually pretty cool.
4) Stay Alive
It’s like a cross between Final Destination and The Ring. So it’s terrible. But it’s still entertaining. Stay Alive is about a group of teens who end up with a video game called Stay Alive. Once they start playing the game, and dying in the game, they then go on to die in real life… in similar ways! Dah dah dahhh! The moral of this movie is don’t play video games if you’re no good at them.
3) The Last Starfighter
Lance Guest (also known as the “guy from The Last Starfighter”) stars as some teen who plays an arcade game called “Starfighter” a lot and is really, really good at it. Then one day, an old man shows up at the arcade and compliments our hero’s video game prowess. This movie was made in the days before Chris Hansen. Anyway, it turns out the old man is actually an alien, and the game is a testing device the aliens use to find people who would be really good space pilots. Inter-stellar Star Wars rip-off ensues.
2) The Matrix
What is The Matrix if not a big video game? There’s even a tutorial level. Ninja swords, bullet time, car chases, Carrie-Anne Moss — it’s possible that The Matrix is the greatest video game ever. Admit it, you’d probably be one of the first to volunteer for one of those head port things.
1) The King of Kong
Donkey Kong, the classic arcade game, becomes much, much more than a game in this legitimately fascinating documentary about two guys who compete for the world’s Kong record. Not since The Prestige has a rivalry been this entertaining. Featuring uber-d-bag Billy Mitchell and affable science teacher Steve Wiebe, The King of Kong is a story decades in the making, and presents a riveting glimpse into a bizarre sub-culture based around a game most gamers have long forgotten.