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Updated on September 11, 2015

The video game medium is frequently said to owe a lot to cinema, given how so many games attempt to evoke the style of a classic Hollywood movie: after all, is Uncharted really anything more than a modern Indiana Jones? However, as gaming has become a more socially acceptable and respected endeavour over the last decade, filmmakers have started taking it more seriously too, and as a result, some of Hollywood’s biggest movies appear to have drawn inspiration from classic games.

Once upon a time, the term “video game-esque” was used to refer to movies in only a strictly negative sense, but that simply isn’t true anymore. These 12 movies are either stylistically or thematically indebted to a famous video game, whether the creators themselves care to admit it or not. And no, the likes of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Act Of Valor won’t be appearing here, because they’re just too obviously homages to classic beat ’em ups and the Call Of Duty franchise respectively. The movies on this list are a little more subtle about it, such that you probably didn’t notice that they shared DNA with said video game.

As video games continue to get more cinematic and immersive, expect hallmarks of the medium to become only more common in movies. Here are 12 movies you didn’t know ripped off video games…

12. Crank = Grand Theft Auto

The Video Game: Rockstar’s mega-successful action series has pretty much cornered the market on urban mayhem, placing the player in the shoes of a criminal who commits mass murder and steals whatever he wants. Above all else, these games thrive on the insane potential for how much chaos the player can cause.

The Movie: The Jason Statham-starring Crank movies are pretty much just an unofficial adaptation of GTA. The two movies are frequently referential to the video game medium, and each film pretty much just consists of Chev Chelios (Statham) killing people, driving around, getting laid and “recharging”, which is these movies’ equivalent of picking up a new life.

11. The Raid = Die Hard Trilogy

The Video Game: 1996’s Die Hard Trilogy was split into three parts, with one game mode being set aside for each of the three movies. The most memorable was Die Hard’s third-person shooter section, in which the player fights their way up the Nakatomi Plaza building, killing terrorists and rescuing hostages along the way.

The Movie: Gareth Evans’ masterful action flick has only the most scant of narratives, making way for a ton of action as 20 cops raid an apartment block full of drug dealers. The team has to fight their way up to the top, where the big bad, the “final boss” of sorts, is waiting for them.

10. The Book Of Eli = Fallout 3

The Video Game: Bethesda’s masterful post-apocalyptic RPG pits the player, deemed one of mankind’s last vestiges of hope, against the various unsavoury characters stalking a brutal wasteland. Of course, you’re armed to the teeth, which certainly helps…

The Movie: Denzel Washington plays the titular character, a similarly lone wanderer with a Special Set of Skills, who also has a profound task to attend to for the sake of humanity. From a stylistic perspective, it’s difficult to separate out how similarly bleak the movie looks to the iconic video game.

9. The Matrix = The Entire MMORPG Genre

The Video Game: This one refers to an entire genre of video games: the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG). An MMO has players connecting to a server with an avatar and username, where they’re able to perform awesome, super-cool feats like flying, slaying monsters and so on that just aren’t possible in real life.

The Movie: The Matrix is all about a man, Thomas Anderson, who finds out he’s been living inside the titular computerised simulation, and his real body is then “unplugged” in order that he might consciously exist outside of The Matrix.

8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier = Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty

The Video Game: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty begins with a widely-praised sequence set aboard a tanker, in which the player controls Solid Snake for 90 minutes or so. The rest of the game pits the player as feminine soldier Raiden, who faces off against a mysterious cyborg who then changes their allegiance (Olga), and has to deal with a shadowy organisation attempting to control the world’s affairs (The Patriots).

The Movie: Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens with a set-piece set on a tanker and there’s a shady cyborg-like antagonist in The Winter Solder who then changes his allegiance and helps Cap. Also, Cap has to deal with a company covertly trying to direct the future of the world (Hydra, hiding within plain sight). Hell, there’s even a brilliant close-quarters combat fight scene, which has been big part of the later MGS games.

7. Children Of Men = Half-Life 2

The Video Game: 2004’s Half-Life 2 is set in a dystopian alternate Earth, where the world is run by a nefarious army known as the Combine. The cities are ruled with an iron fist, though there is a small resistance underbelly which, of course, protagonist Gordon Freeman becomes a part of.

The Movie: Alfonso Cuaron’s masterful 2006 sci-fi film feels like a spiritual adaptation of Half-Life 2 in many ways. The movie is set in a distant future in which rampant infertility has left society close to ruin, with the UK being commanded by an extremely oppressive government.

6. Speed Racer = Mario Kart

The Video Game: The Mario Kart franchise has long been one of Nintendo’s mainstay series, and with good reason. Who can resist picking a beloved character like Mario, Luigi or Toad, finding a hilarious vehicle for them to cruise in, and then racing around a track while collecting absurd power-ups with which to destroy your opponents?

The Movie: Though The Wachowskis’ 2008 action flick Speed Racer is of course based primarily on the 1960s animated series, it’s hard not to look at the style of the piece and see inspiration from Mario Kart. For one, the visual palette resembles a Mario Kart game perfectly: the bright colours, the absurd physics, outlandish characters, varied locales and crazy power-ups.

5. Clash Of The Titans (2010) = God Of War

The Video Game: The classic PlayStation franchise revolves around Spartan warrior Kratos, as he faces off against the Gods in his quest for vengeance. Ultra-violent action, complete with countless figures from Greek mythology, follow.

The Movie: Clash Of The Titans is adapted from the previous 1981 movie, incorporating Greek myths in a similar way as Perseus (Sam Worthington) faces off against the Gods. What makes this feel like a God Of War rip-off isn’t so much the material (because God Of War owes much to the original Clash movie), but the manner and style in which it’s delivered: the visuals veer away from the high-camp of the original movie, tending much closer to the violent grit of the aforementioned video games.

4. John Wick = Max Payne

The Video Game: Remedy Entertainment’s iconic shoot ’em up franchise was the first major game to adopt the “bullet time” mechanic from The Matrix movies and transform it into something revolutionary. The game pitted players as a New York City Detective looking to avenge the murder of his wife and child, leading to a huge pile of dead bodies and some of the most satisfying (slow-mo) combat ever seen in a video game. Classic.

The Movie: It’s apt that the movie to most closely evoke the thrilling tone of Max Payne to date isn’t the terrible Mark Wahlberg-starring official adaptation, but last year’s cult hit John Wick, which appropriately enough starred Neo himself, Keanu Reeves. As the similarly haunted title character, he suffers the murder of his pet dog, and goes on a rampage across the city, destroying nightclubs full of gangsters with a gorgeous visual style that allowed audiences to really savour all the action.

3. Pandorum = Dead Space

The Video Game: Dead Space revolves around the protagonist, Isaac Clarke, who must fight his way through a spaceship infested with grotesque monsters all while an enigmatic backstory slowly comes into play.

The Movie: Similarly, Pandorum is a psychological horror set aboard a spaceship filled with monsters out to kill the protagonist and a few supporting characters. There’s a mystery cutting throughout the entire movie (specifically, what caused these mutated beasts to be created), and it also has a significant psychological component, just as Dead Space did.

2. Edge Of Tomorrow = Halo

The Video Game: Bungie’s masterful sci-fi series revolves around super-soldier Master Chief John-117 as he and other human soldiers wage war against an alien collective known as the Covenant. Military fetishism and insane, large-scale battles follow.

The Movie: Edge of Tomorrow is a sci-fi movie in which humanity is again being attacked by an alien force, and though it introduces a significant fantastical element, the core look of the movie, with its beefy weaponry and vehicles, as well as the epic, wide-open gunfights, very much evokes the spirit of the Halo games. Plus, the whole idea of Tom Cruise’s protagonist William Cage dying and being able to start again continuously is nothing if not a blatant nod to gaming as a whole.

1. Sucker Punch = Pretty Much Every Action Video Game Ever Made

The Video Game: Well, think of pretty much any action-based video game you’ve ever played, and that’s pretty much what Sucker Punch owes its existence to.

The Movie: The film follows a young woman, Babydoll (Emily Browning), as she is institutionalised and enters a fantasy world as a means of escape. Cue about 100 minutes of visual references to everything that a 13-year-old boy wants to see in their games: attractive young women in sailor outfits with guns, giant murderous robots, hulking Samurai enemies, dragons, and even some freaking swordfights. It’s as though Zack Snyder took all the typical fanboy elements and put them in a blender.


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