Top 5 Movies About Playing Video Games

Top 5 Movies About Playing Video Games

Updated on September 02, 2023 15:17 PM by Lillian Pari

Top 5 Movies About Playing Video Games

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When it comes to movies based on video games meeting expectations can be a challenge. Trying to capture the essence of an established franchise is no feat. However there are films that excel by focusing on the experience of playing video games showcasing their captivating narratives and stunning elements that contribute to their widespread appeal. 

During the rise of the NES and the console revolution actual real games took stage. One notable example was the Super Mario Bros. 3 competition featured in the movie The Wizard in 1989. Over time we've seen films, like 8 Bit Christmas in 2021 that fondly look back at this era with nostalgia.

Movies About Video Games

Top 5 Movies About Playing Video Games

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The convergence of movie effects and immersive gaming experiences is clearly evident. Filmmakers have explored this realm with movies such as Free Guy  the Jumanji reboots, Ready Player One  Gamer, Wreck It Ralph  and even Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase.

However when it comes to movies about video games things have reached a level. In 1982 following the arcade scene established by games like Space Invaders and Asteroids in the late '70s as Ms. Pac Man's explosive popularity in 1981 Disney released TRON. An adventure film that showcased cutting edge technology and revolved around a game designer who gets trapped inside his own arcade game. The positive trend continued with movies like WarGames, The Last Starfighter and Cloak and Dagger, throughout that decade.

When people mention movies and video games, in the breath there's often a concern. All game based movies and movie based games have struggled to earn a reputation.. What about films centered around the world of gaming itself?

These are types of films that typically don't rely on existing game franchises. Instead they explore the concept of gaming. Create stories around it. The obvious examples are movies set within game worlds. However there's more beyond that; films also delve into characters making games. Leveraging their gaming experiences to solve challenges. The following compilation showcases a range of films in this genre.

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'Tron' (1982)

Top 5 Movies About Playing Video Games

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Directed By: Steven Lisberger

The original "Tron" is a movie from the 1980s that continues to leave its mark on forms of entertainment. This film follows the journey of a video game developer who finds himself trapped in a world within software after becoming suspicious of his company stealing his ideas. To escape he must participate in games, including a light cycle race. "Tron" stands out as one of the pioneers in utilizing CGI and backlit animation to create its glowing neon. Although some critics argue that the plot unfolds slowly the visual effects were groundbreaking for its time. According to Variety, John Lasseter, an animator at Disney/Pixar once acknowledged that "Toy Story" wouldn't exist without the influence of "Tron."

Tron recounts the story of a game developer who embarks on a quest to gather evidence of intellectual property theft by his company. Along the way he finds himself transported into a world where he becomes trapped. In this realm he is compelled to compete in games, including the famous light cycle challenge. Our protagonist not only faces the task of surviving these dangerous trials but also must devise an escape plan, from this alternate reality.

This film holds a place in culture as a cult classic and has been referenced extensively across various forms of media ranging from GTA Online, to Family Guy. It stands as one of the pioneering movies that revolve around the theme of gaming.

'War Games (1983)

Top 5 Movies About Playing Video Games

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Directed By: John Badham

What if the consequences of the games we played were life? "War Games" explores this idea in another film, from the days of gaming. The protagonist, played by Matthew Broderick portrays a teenager who unknowingly hacks into an U.S. Military supercomputer under the impression that he is playing a video game. Unfortunately his actions trigger an AI powered war simulator that could potentially ignite World War III. This thought provoking film even prompted former President Ronald Reagan to meet with representatives to discuss its plausibility as reported by Collider. With its narrative and prescient themes about grappling with the control of emerging AI technology and effectively responding to security threats "War Games" was truly ahead of its time.

There are video games set against war backdrops; however the situation takes on a serious tone for one gamer in "WarGames." Unbeknownst to him a teenager inadvertently gains access to an United States Military supercomputer while attempting to enter into an engaging virtual world.

Believing he is merely participating in a game little does he know that his actions are feeding data about Soviet military activities directly to NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command). Naturally tensions escalate rapidly as these actions have implications that could potentially lead to World War 3. As events unfold our young protagonist must spring into action in an attempt to prevent catastrophe.

It's a captivating science fiction thriller that received nominations at the Academy Awards.

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'Wreck-It Ralph' (2012)

Top 5 Movies About Playing Video Games

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Directed By: Rich Moore

Disney/Pixar's "Wreck It Ralph" transports us to a video game world set in an old school arcade. Our main character, Ralph plays the role of a villain in a popular arcade game. Yearns to be a hero once the game is turned off for the day. However he faces rejection, from characters within his game prompting him to embark on a heartwarming journey of self discovery. Along the way we encounter appearances from beloved retro game icons like Pac Man and Sonic adding a layer of humor to this delightful movie. According to Screen Rant "Wreck It Ralph" captures the amount of heartfelt moments and ranks among Disney's finest original animated films in recent memory.

In the world of Wreck It Ralph, our titular protagonist assumes the role of an antagonist in Fix It Felix Jr., a popular arcade game.. When night falls and the arcade empties out his true nature shines through as he is not as malevolent as he seems during gameplay. Despite this transformation some characters continue to look down upon him while showering adoration upon Felix Jr., the hero.

Driven by a desire for recognition as a hero himself Ralph encounters another individual—a girl—who also grapples with challenges, within her arcade gaming life.

They join forces for a thrilling quest to discover their role in the world of arcade games. Throughout their journey they encounter nods, to video games and humorous jokes. Moreover the movie also touches on emotions making it one of Disney's animated creations, in recent times.

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 'Ready Player One' (2018)

Top 5 Movies About Playing Video Games

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Directed By: Steven Spielberg

In Spielberg's science fiction adventure, Ready Player One the future is not far away. The story is based on Ernest Cline's 2011 novel. Takes place in a world where people spend more time in a virtual reality called the OASIS than in the real world.

As Earth's population competes for Halliday's Easter egg it is Wade Watts—a remarkably intelligent individual—who emerges as the leader in solving Hallidays treasure hunt.

This movie may not be the choice, for children. It raises interesting ideas about the widespread influence of virtual experiences in our modern society. While some argue that the book provides commentary, Spielberg's visually impressive adaptation successfully challenges the blurred boundaries between enjoying a virtual adventure and using games as an escape from reality. At the beginning we are shown an unsettling portrayal of people of all ages living their lives in a digital world that doesn't actually exist. Real life problems are often seen as inconveniences or something to completely avoid. I won't spoil the ending. It leaves you pondering how much time spent immersed in these constructed universes is healthy and when it becomes harmful. When do the consequences of our gaming habits start affecting our lives? Ready Player One primarily aims to be a sci fi adventure. If you're not interested, in potentially controversial content you can choose to skip it. However if you do watch it take a moment to reflect on its questions.

'Free Guy' (2021)

Top 5 Movies About Playing Video Games

(Top 5 Movies About Playing Video Games/Image Credits: Prime Video: Free Guy)

Directed By: Shawn Levy

"Free Guy" is a tribute to the heroes of the gaming world – those characters (NPCs) who often go unnoticed. Ryan Reynolds takes on the role of Guy, an NPC bank teller in a cutting edge multiplayer online (MMO) game. The story follows his journey after he crosses paths with a player and discovers his place within the game. As his newfound consciousness emerges he captivates players everywhere with his charm and enthusiasm. According to Wendy Ide of The Guardian "Free Guy" is not another gaming movie filled with pop culture references and cameos; it also shares similarities with iconic films like "The Lego Movie" and "The Matrix." What makes this film truly appealing is its sweetness and infectious enthusiasm that simply cannot be resisted.

While gaming has its share of NPCs they often remain overlooked or forgotten. It's not every day that an entire movie is dedicated to them. However "Free Guy" breaks the mold by centering its story around a NPC who serves as a bank teller, in an advanced MMO.

As the film unfolds our protagonist begins to awaken to his consciousness and realizes that he exists within a game world. This newfound awareness can be attributed in part to his encounters with a player.

The player mentioned believes that the game developer may have used her source code and the non playable character (NPC) plans to assist her in gathering proof. This movie is quite amusing and endearing as it playfully mocks tropes commonly found in video games.

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