Most Iconic Gaming Movies Image

Most Iconic Gaming Movies

By Film Threat Staff | May 2, 2024

In case you hadn’t noticed, the gaming industry has come a very long way from its once humble, and niche, beginnings. Today, gaming is a cultural phenomenon with a reach that spans not just the tech sectors, but all the realms of entertainment from movies to TV shows and even music.

From gamification entering the worlds of fashion and more, to TV adaptations of beloved video game franchises, there’s no shortage of entertainment that pays homage to the world of small-screen adventures. However, there’s a real synergy between gaming and the movies, even if some big screen versions of games don’t quite hit the mark. In this article, we’ll take a look at those movies that have gotten gaming right, whether as a direct adaptation of gaming IP or a film inspired by games and gaming culture.

Rounders (1998)

Let’s start with an entry that brings all the intensity of poker to the big screen: Rounders. Released in 1998 and directed by John Dahl, this movie follows the story of Mike McDerbott, played by Matt Damon, a law student and skilled poker player who finds himself drawn to the world of high-stakes poker gaming.

The plot revolves around Mike’s journey as he tries to balance his passion for the game with the pressure of law school and a blossoming romance with Gretchen Mol’s Jo. After an unfortunate loss to mobster Teddy KGB (John Malkovich) and the troubled Lester ‘Worm’ Murphy (Ed Norton) re-enters his life, Mike has to face a whole new set of challenges.

Sure, poker movies aren’t for everyone but Rounders has universal appeal. For instance, the star power of a fresh-faced Matt Damon inspired a new generation to learn how to play poker — helped in no small part by the rise in popularity of online poker gaming. And, while the movie didn’t exactly smash the box office, it’s since gained a pretty devoted cult following.

Clue (1985)

Next up, we’ll be jumping in our time machines to travel all the way back to 1985 for Jonathan Lynn’s Clue. It is, in our humble opinion, the best movie based on a board game of all time and it’s also quite the cult comedy classic. As hinted at by the name, the film takes the premise of the popular board game (named Cluedo in the UK and Europe), and spins it into a hilarious murder mystery with an all-star cast including the legendary Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn and Christopher Lloyd.

All the game’s original suspects appear in the film and we’re also introduced to some new characters in the form of Curry’s butler Wadsworth and Mr Boddy (Lee Ving). Interestingly, when the movie first hit theaters it was released with three different endings, with audiences not knowing which ending they were going to get. This was a direct homage to the multiple endings possible in the original board game.

Mortal Kombat (1995)

No list of iconic gaming movies would be complete without mentioning the first and best Mortal Kombat adaptation…imaginatively titled Mortal Kombat!  Released in 1995 and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, this 90s staple truly brought the popular fighting game franchise to life.

Although it’s often dismissed by cinema purists and film critics, Mortal Kombat was a commercial success, grossing over over $122 million worldwide against a budget of $18 million. It may not have the world’s most complicated plot or even much in the way of character development, but what it does bring to the screen is a faithful take on the gaming IP that delivers the martial arts action gamers crave and their most beloved characters. And, once listened to, who could forget that earworm of an official song?

Jumanji (1995)

Closing out our list is a film that transports audiences into the heart of a wild adventure: Jumanji. Ok, so it’s not exactly a movie based on a real life game, but it is very much a gaming — and gamer’s — movie. As an all-ages film, Jumanji has a simple but solid plot that anyone who’s ever played a game (board, video or otherwise) can relate to. Add to that breakout appearances by Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce, as well as that unforgettable portrayal of Alan Parrish by Robin Williams, and you have all the makings of a veritable classic.

Fun fact: you may not believe it now, but at the time, the special effects used in Jumanji — which blended CGI with practical effects — were groundbreaking to say the least.

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