Of all the topics that could make a compelling movie genre, who would’ve expected gaming to be right up there? For decades, Hollywood has had quite the fascination with bringing all things gaming to the big screen, whether in the form of big-budget game adaptations or more low-key documentaries that take us behind the green felt in disciplines like poker.
It may surprise you to learn that there are numerous gaming-themed movies out there, some of which have been more successful than others. In fact, the current trend for video game adaptations began a few decades ago, with the widely panned Mortal Kombat (1995) and Dungeons & Dragons (2000) being some especially notorious examples.
Still, others have fared better with critics and audiences alike, particularly those that have amped up the more dramatic aspects of certain games.
If you’re looking to liven up your next games night with a screening of some gaming-themed classics, read on to discover four of the greatest of all time, in our opinion at least!
The early to mid-2000s saw film studios churning out a number of video game flops, but with Silent Hill, Christophe Gans finally got it right. Not only does this 2006 gem do a decent job of movie-fying the first game in the Silent Hill franchise, thanks to its accomplished cast (Sean Bean, Alice Krige and Radha Mitchell), it’s also genuinely compelling viewing.
This game deserves its place on our list for its chills and thrills. It may not be as gory as some of its horror peers from the noughties, but it does do an excellent job of dropping some genuinely chilling moments. Take the introduction of Pyramid Head, for example; perhaps the only time a video game character has been more terrifying in a movie adaptation.
Ok, ok, Rainman isn’t exactly a gaming movie per se, but there’s no denying that casino gaming plays a big role throughout the film. Not to mention that one game in particular advances the story in a major way.
This 1988 classic starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman has gone down in history for being one of the best dramas of all time. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t enjoyed the film after watching it. While we all have our own favourite parts, undoubtedly, it’s the playing blackjack in a Las Vegas casino scene that sticks in most people’s memories.
Although we won’t give away any spoilers, let’s just say that Hoffman’s character, Raymond Babbit, displays a prodigious talent for the game. The entire casino sequence is very well-crafted and features enough gaming content to keep diehard fans happy. One of the most iconic scenes takes place with the protagonist playing blackjack, one of the most popular casino titles historically and one that has evolved to the point where today there are several variants available that make it even more of a crowd favourite.
Mortal Kombat (2021)
Back in 1995, the first movie adaptation of Mortal Kombat gave us that excellent theme song. And that was about it. Thankfully, the 2021 adaptation does a much better job of bringing the high-octane MK universe to life and successfully updates the iconic theme to sound even more kick-ass.
If you’re ready for some adrenaline-pumping fight scenes and to watch fan favourite characters like Sub Zero and Scorpion in action, Mortal Kombat 2021 is the movie for you. Just don’t walk into this one expecting a nuanced storyline; the fun is in the unabashed campness of it all.
High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story
Now, if you’re ready to be engrossed in the real-life story of a three-time World Series of Poker champion, sit back and enjoy High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story.
Poker fans among you will remember that the mid-2000s saw quite the boom in the discipline, largely thanks to the success of amateur player Chris Moneymaker at the 2003 WSOP Main Event. In what was unfortunately just a stroke of bad timing, High Roller was released a few months before Moneymaker’s heroic win, meaning that it was just a little too early to ride the wave of the poker boom.
It may have been made on a low budget by an unknown director (A.W.Vidmer), but this is an incredibly well-crafted biopic. Charting the life of poker pro Stu Ungar, it takes you on a rollercoaster journey of the highs and lows of professional gaming.