Video games on the big screen

10 Video Game Movies: Exploring Game Development and the Big Screen

Video games aren’t just for gaming consoles. Here are some titles that got its own Hollywood treatment for the big screen.

Over the years, some games have been made into feature films for the big screen using state-of-the-art animation and other technology. While the cross-over makes sense for some, many still may leave the audience scratching their heads in confusion and asking if a movie version was even necessary in the first place. Super Mario Bros. live action, anyone?

But this is Hollywood, the land where producers will make what they want because they can! And sometimes, it works. Which ones are on your watch list?

Detective Pikachu

Detective Pikachu, released in 2019, enhanced the look of Pokemon through the use of CG animation. These impressive, lifelike character designs were very different from earlier Japanese 2D films based on Pokemon games and other video game franchises. School of Illustration alumni RJ Palmer had a hand in bringing Detective Pikachu’s Pokemon to the big screen as the illustrator who reimagined the characters of this beloved franchise.

RJ Palmer for Detective Pikachu
School of Illustration graduate RJ Palmer posted his personal works reimagining Pikachu online, which caught the eye of the film’s production team. He was then brought on board and his character design was used for the movie.

Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time came out in 2010 and became the highest grossing movie based on a video game at that time. The movie, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, was made after producer Jerry Bruckheimer bought the film rights to the 2003 video game of the same name. While it made a lot of money at the box office and was supposed to launch a film franchise, the movie had lukewarm critical and audience reviews.

Tomb Raider

The Tomb Raider franchise has had a few films made based on these video games. Angelina Jolie starred in the 2001 Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie and sequel. Alicia Vikander starred in the 2018 Tomb Raider reboot, which ended up making more money than the earlier films.

Silent Hill

The 2006 movie Silent Hill was based on the 1999 video game by Konami. It took director Christophe Gans five years to gain the film rights to the movie from the video game company. Silent Hill used a mix of Super 35 film and high-definition video, as well as CGI for some of the special effects.

Silent Hill Movie
Silent Hill movie (photo courtesy of Film Inquiry)

Assassin’s Creed

The Assassin’s Creed movie, which came out in 2016, takes place in the same video game universe, but the story for the film is an original one. The movie, starring Michael Fassbender, isn’t considered among the more successful video game films. A sequel to it had been planned, but ended up being cancelled.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within from 2001 was based on the Final Fantasy video game franchise. Unlike many video game movies, this one used computer animation instead of live action and received praise for its high-quality character animation. Square Pictures planned to use the main character, Aki, in other films and games, but this didn’t happen.

Resident Evil

The Resident Evil movie series, which was loosely based on the Resident Evil video game series, was released between 2002 and 2017 with six films overall. These films, starring Milla Jovovich, used some CGI for the zombie effects, although most of the zombie scenes were done using makeup.

Resident Evil
A side-by-side comparison of video game and movie characters for Resident Evil. (photo courtesy of Kotaku)

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog has appeared in animated films and TV series in the past that were based on Sega’s Sonic video games. The upcoming 2020 film Sonic the Hedgehog, is live action movie with a CGI Sonic who had to undergo changes to his character design after initial reactions to the trailer.

The Angry Birds Movie

The Angry Birds Movie, based on the popular mobile game,came out in 2016 following the success of a TV series called Angry Birds Toons. While the movie had mixed reviews from critics and audiences, it did well at the box office overall. A sequel to it came out in 2019.

Angry Birds Movie
The Angry Birds game had a pretty straightforward character adaptation through animation.


Warcraft, the 2016 movie based on the World of Warcraft MMORPG video games, took around ten years to finally be released. First announced in 2006, the movie didn’t start shooting until 2014. Warcraft had average reviews, but it replaced Prince of Persia as the highest grossing movie based on a video game.

If you’d like to work with new media, animation, or game development as a career, get in touch with our admissions representatives to request information. Academy of Art University also has various other art and design onsite and online programs that you can choose from, including fine arts, liberal arts, architecture and design, and entertainment arts. Apply now if you’re ready to be a part of our art school community.

Hero image courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival