The 6 Best Video Game Movies to Celebrate National Video Game Day

In celebration of Video Game Day, here are the best video game movies of all time. 

July 8 marks an important date for pop culture: National Video Game Day! Not only have video games delighted gamers on consoles, PC, and in arcades for decades now, but they have also crossed the great divide and lit up the silver screen. Sure, in years gone by, video game adaptations were guaranteed to be bleach for the eyes, but a lot has changed since the glory days of Uwe Boll’s disasterpieces. In fact, they’re pretty… pretty good, to quote one Larry David.

So, with all the formalities out of the way, relax that athlete’s thumb for a few hours and indulge in six perfect movies for fans to enjoy on Video Game Day.

Mortal Kombat (1995)

New Line Cinema

In 1995, director Paul W.S. Anderson proved why he’s the best Paul Anderson in film by bringing the fighting video game Mortal Kombat to the big screen. First off, who can ever forget the heart-pumping techno-syndrome theme song that fires up this random tournament between the heroes of Earthrealm and the forces of Outworld? It is cinema’s flawless equivalent of “Stairway to Heaven.” Apart from that, the martial arts choreography roundhouse kicks the audience into a frenzy, as fights between Liu Kang and Reptile and Johnny Cage and Scorpion feel ripped straight out of the game. Plus, Christopher Lambert as Lord Rayden is god-tier casting that should never work but does, as he delivers generation-defining one-liners, such as: “The essence of Mortal Kombat is not about death, but life. Mortal men and women defending your own world.” Watch Mortal Kombat on Amazon Video.

Doom (2005)

Universal Pictures

What is the video game Doom about, anyway? It’s difficult to describe, since it’s all about a character known as Doomguy roaming around in space and blasting the stuffing out of ugly alien monsters. Andrzej Bartkowiak’s 2005 Doom adaptation might not be Shakespeare, but it turns out to be a neat Aliens ripoff where Karl Urban’s Reaper takes center stage and finds himself on a crash course with Dwayne Johnson’s Sarge. There’s no real plot here – which is canonical if fans think about it – but who cares since this is the most fun anyone can have without having to use their brain. More importantly, watching Reaper’s first-person action scene that’s the pitch-perfect homage to the video game series is worth the rental price alone. It’s fraggin’ awesome! Watch Doom on Amazon Video.

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

Paramount Pictures

Jeff Fowler’s Sonic the Hedgehog didn’t have the smoothest starts. When fans saw the live-action version of Sonic, they freaked out and raced to social media to complain about their ruined childhood and nightmare fuel. Fortunately, the filmmakers listened to the public’s opinion and reworked the character design to look more like his video game counterpart. The decision worked in the 2020 film’s favor as it only added extra appeal to the family friendly nature of this fast-paced action-adventure. It’s impossible to not be sucked into the charm of this story as Sonic teams up with James Marsden’s Tom Wachowski to battle Jim Carrey’s sensational Dr. Robotnik. Sure, the film might have Sonic’s name in the title, but make no mistake about it: Carrey’s dastardly depiction of the classic Eggman steals the show in every scene. Watch Sonic the Hedgehog on Paramount+.

Tomb Raider (2018)

Warner Bros.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider films. They’re fun flicks that do no disservice to the source material. However, 2018’s Tomb Raider, directed by Roar Uthaug and starring Alicia Vikander as the iconic Lara Croft, hits differently. It doesn’t feel like a gender-swapped Indiana Jones movie, as it contains richer performances and a compelling story to make it stand out in all the right ways. Of course, there’s also the action, adventure, mystery, and a stellar performance from Walton Goggins as the villainous Mathias Vogel. Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman summarized it so eloquently in a review, writing: “The movie is full of vine-swinging, bow-and-arrow-shooting, ancient-spirit-meeting action, but most of it is staged on a convincing human scale, one that’s been expertly tailored to its star’s understated directness.” Spot-on assessment. Watch Tomb Raider on Amazon Video.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)

Universal Pictures

In 1993, a live-action Super Mario Bros. hit theaters and served as a reminder of why this franchise should probably stay animated instead. Thirty years later, Mario and Luigi returned to the big screen – in an animated format, thankfully – and proceeded to annihilate the box office, making $1.362 billion as per Box Office Mojo. Mamma mia! The colorful movie captures the wackiness of the source material as Chris Pratt’s Mario and Charlie Day’s Luigi find themselves in a different dimension and participants in the conflict between Anya Taylor-Joy’s Princess Peach and Jack Black’s Bowser. Not only does this endearing film capture the magic of the Mushroom Kingdom and the Super Mario lore, but it also features the heart-tingling song “Peaches,” as performed by Bowser. Try to get that ballad out of your head – it’s impossible. Watch The Super Mario Bros. Movie on Netflix.

Street Fighter (1994)

Universal Pictures

In 1994, Hollywood peaked as it put the king of splits, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and a cartoonishly brilliant Raul Julia in a live-action adaptation of the fighting game Street Fighter. The Muscles from Brussels plays American soldier Colonel William Guile (just go with it) who enlists a team featuring the world’s best fighters to take down the sinister dictator General M. Bison (Julia). The plot falls to pieces within the first act and Street Fighter degenerates into an all-out action affair that’s all brawn and no brains, but nobody watches this expecting an A24 film, do they? What it does offer, though, is a plethora of hard-hitting fights, courtesy of the likes of Van Damme, and Julia having the time of his life in what would be his final role before passing away in 1994. In fact, Julia deserves all the plaudits for his delivery of the unforgettable line: “For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday.” Watch Street Fighter on Netflix.

About the author

Sergio Pereira

Sergio is an entertainment journalist who has written about movies, television, video games, and comic books for over a decade and a half. Outside of journalism, he is an award-winning copywriter, screenwriter, and novelist. He holds a degree in media studies and psychology.