The 13 Greatest Video Game Movies That Almost Were Films

The 13 Greatest Video Game Movies That Almost Were

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Aside from romantic comedies starring more than 90 characters at a time, video game movies are pretty much the worst genre in film. It's not that games make way for bad movies, it's just that Hollywood hasn't figured out what to do with a video game plot yet. Resident Evil came close, but that hardly excuses things like Bloodrayne and even Super Mario Bros., as far as the genre goes. But more than the films that have been made, there are those that sound like they actually might be really damn good... but never end up happening. Directors back out, and nobody wants to stick with them, but they could have been insanely awesome. So here are the greatest video game movies that almost were and someday may be, but are currently dead in the water.

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  1. 1
    The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and District 9 solidified two directors as that we, as an internet, video game nerd community, would never doubt. Once Peter Jackson or the extremely talented guy he rightfully took under his wing, Neil Blomkamp, are announced to be working on any project, one loud, wet, projectile nerdgasm can be felt throughout the entire planet. It's sticky, but most people don't mind it.

    So, when it was announced that not only would Peter Jackson be producing a movie of what was the largest, best-selling video game franchise in the world (at the time), and that Neil Blomkamp, director of upcoming movie District 9 (at the time), which even in trailers and even just the short itself, looked amazing, were going to be working on the Halo movie together, and that WETA would be doing the effects, it seemed perfect. Neil Blomkamp would have directed. It could have looked SO MUCH like this trailer.

    If this were the trailer for the real film, I would be okay with everything but the CGI

    Like Starship Troopers meets Saving Private Ryan meets Aliens. Awesome.

    I mean, there's a huge political/religious backstory to the franchise itself. It's spawned some really successful book series, as well as an expanded universe that starts to delve into Star Wars level depth. This would be the video game movie to change video game movies. This could, along with one or two other choices on this list, be the Video Game Movie genre's Dark Knight.

    A movie that wins something other than effects nominations at The Oscars and shows people that not only can you do a great video game movie, but you can do an amazing one that really just transfers perfectly into the sci-fi genre. Treated correctly, this movie could be like the best parts of J.J Abrams's Star Trek mixed with the explicit war scenes from District 9.

    So What Happened?
    In 2009, as E3 was coming up, it was announced that the project really just fell through, mysteriously, just as some great anticipated projects often due. Be it creative differences or scheduling, or what have you, this was by far the greatest potential video game movie that was never made, but almost was.

    Even the plotline feels solid.

    IMDB Plotline: After fleeing from the destroyed planet Reach the last surviving human ship, The Pillar of Autumn, finds an ancient ringworld, Halo, in unknown space. A navy captain, his surviving marines, the ships A.I and the last Spartan-II must fight The Covenant, a collective group of alien races determined on humanity's extinction, for control of the ringworld. However, The Covenant may not be the worst enemy on Halo.

    "That Halo project is no longer happening" Peter Jackson said, while everyone else tried to ignore the fact that New Zealand reminded everyone too much of Flight of the Conchords in 2009, "it... collapsed when the movie didn't end up happening..." which is a lot like saying that "it just didn't happen."

    Then we got the cheap-stripclub-tease of Guillermo Del Toro being on board with the project, or at least expressing interest in it until that fell through completely. Because when Peter Jackson doesn't want to do something, Guillermo Del Toro gets the next spot in line in the rumor mill until it doesn't happen after a year of hype, then reality happens (The Hobbit, anyone? The fact that we're actually getting Jackson after all seems like a miracle).

    And as of right now, the movie is currently in talks to have a script by Alex Garland (Sunshine, 28 Days Later, is good friends with Danny Boyle) with some help from Game of Thrones writer D.B Weiss. So yes, this can still be pretty damn epic, it'll just be a little more of a crapshoot for any excited geeks.

    Given the amazing live-action trailers we've gotten for the games, this movie could be absolutely amazing. If they were filmed at all in the style of the game trailers, this would be one of the greatest movies of all time.

    Hell, at this point, I'd even settle for the Bollywood version:

  2. 2

    Steven Spielberg's Monkey Island

    We, as an audience, got robbed with this one.

    The movie adaptation for what is arguably the game that taught people that video games could be funny was to be made by the same people that made the Star Wars prequels, George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic. Can you imagine what the visual effects team of those movies could have done with a good idea?

    Oh, and on top of that, the movie basically would have been what the first two Pirates of the Caribbean movies were. Literally. Same writer and everything. Let me explain...

    So What Happened?
    The voice of Guybrush Threepwood (Dominic Armato) himself once said this (according to the Monkey Island wiki) "Best I heard is that there WAS a script in development, but no longer. There was a department somewhere in the greater Lucas empire that was tasked with developing screenplays for some of the more animated film friendly LEC properties, but the department was scrapped in the big reorganization about... what... a year ago? Of course, this is old info and the project could very well have been resurrected by now, but the rumors that there was an MI movie in development aren't entirely untrue."

    And yes, there was a script in development at some point, with who at the helm but Steven Spielberg himself. Spielberg (a self-professed Monkey Island fan) was going to produce the film, and a few days after Steve Purcell (creator of the Monkey Island series) leaked some pirate drawings that people were convinced were either concept art for a new game or a movie, Spielberg approached Ted Elliott, screenwriter, to help out with the Monkey Island script

    After the movie became dead in the water, though, Elliott (a writer for Disney movies such as Treasure Planet) ended up writing (years later, by the way) the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. And, as fans have pointed out, a pirate comedy of epic proportions starring a bumbling yet heroic protagonist taking place on islands and on ships sounded oddly familiar. Ghost pirates? This is all too familiar. New guy trying to be a pirate falling in love with a girl who's better at stuff than he is?... Hmmm...

    Everything about Curse of the Black Pearl was so much like Monkey Island, that using Monkey Island voice overs and footage from the first Pirates movie, fans were able to produce what it would have looked like had money gone into Monkey Island instead of pirates. It's really already funnier this way.

    So, the first two Pirates of the Caribbean movies could have been two, epic, funnier and slightly more charming (although it's pretty hard to top Johnny Depp) Monkey Island movies. It could have steered video game movies in the right direction, but instead, we get 4 Pirates movies, and no Monkey Island.
  3. 3

    George Romero's Resident Evil

    When you think of zombies, you really think of one man (and if you don't, and you think of another man, then this is the actual man you should think of when zombies are mentioned): George A. Romero, the father of zombie movies as we know them today. He wrote/directed the original Night of the Living Dead. He's responsible, then, for all the other "Dead" movies you can think of, pretty much: Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead and the more unfortunate, subsequent additions to that series. His most terrifying effort? O.J Simpson: Juice On The Loose! (a straight-to-TV documentary).

    Anyway, the Resident Evil game franchise changed the face of video games as we know it, showing us that games could actually be a terrifyingly real experience. The moment you see that first zombie in Resident Evil (if you grew up with the beginning of the franchise) was one of the most important moments in any gamer's life. No longer would we put up with floating ghost henchmen that look like our mom's Halloween decorations as "horror". We could live horror movies now.

    And (before they got all genetic-monstery) The Resident Evil games were almost exclusively influenced by the George Romero zombies. They were slow, they'd always want to eat you, they were most vicious in large groups, and they would even seem dead at first only to come back later if you didn't shoot them enough times.

    So, it was a match made in heaven: the father of zombie movies was actually set to direct the movie based off of the first realistic and most well-received zombie game of all time.


    Romero even wrote a script that you can read here, as he was also set to direct the film.

    So What Happened?
    The script was eventually rejected and was later changed to fit a more male-teen audience. Romero dropped out of caring about the franchise altogether, cause he's George Romero, he has other things to do (like make film, after ever-declining-in-quality film).

    But, when the highly anticipated Resident Evil 2 game was going to come out, Romero was then hired to create a trailer for that game which, hey, it's something. Romero knows that players of the game were basically his fans enjoying another medium, so why not do it for the fans?

    He ended up directing a 2-part trailer.

    HEY, for 1998, these trailers were AMAZING (for game trailers)

    But this trailer never saw the light of day in the United States because of some contractual complications from the guy in the video playing Leon Kennedy (Brad Renfro. Yes, "I had an awkward shower experience with Bryan Singer during the filming of Apt Pupil" Brad Renfro -- or so goes the tale).

    Basically, the Resident Evil franchise did everything in their power to make sure that the one person who inspired their entire livelihood never got to dip his finger into what they'd created. Either intentionally or inadvertently, that's just how it ended up happening.

    BONUS: Mini-Documentary on the Making of the Trailer
  4. 4

    Goonies II: The Fratellis' Last Stand

    If you grew up in the late 80s/early 90s one of the most crowning achievements in your childhood's film experience as a movie called The Goonies. It features a group of kids who always cause trouble and get into adventures, but end up falling in over their heads when they happen upon the fabled treasure map that belonged to a pirate called One-Eyed Willie. The kids are a classic assortment of 80s child actors, and the game, for what it was, actually wasn't all that bad. In the movie, The Goonies run into other people searching for the same treasure, an Italian mob family named The Fratellis. Blah blah blah, The Goonies Triumph. It ruled.

    In this game sequel, the remaining Fratellis kidnap all The Goonies except for Mikey (our main character in the series, played by Sean Astin, or as you might know him, Samwise Gambee from the Lord of the Rings movies). Mikey has to rescue all six of his friends, as well as a new character that wasn't in the film: an imprisoned mermaid named Annie.

    The game switches between a platformer and a first-person game, depending on what level you're on, which was a fairly adventurous way to style a game off of a movie that never existed.

    Here's a pretty good fan trailer made for this movie, featuring older versions of each of The Goonies

    So What Happened?
    Even after the mild popularity of the game (hey, at least it didn't tank), no film was ever developed. Even though the game really doesn't have that bad of a plot (it includes the main character, still a kid, using everything from Molotov cocktails and super-jumping shoes, to bombs. A child. That could've been a pretty badass kids' movie.

    Most recently, it's been speculated that there might be a revival movie sometime in the quasi-near f*ture which features The Goonies 20 years later, getting together to "solve a new mystery", according to movie web.
  5. 5
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    When Gears of War creators Epic Games set out to make a movie about their acclaimed shooter series, they wanted to do much more than make a movie about a bunch of huge burly dudes in an alien apocalypse who have nobody to turn to but each other. They wanted it to be, well, epic.

    Len "I Can't Believe He's Actually Married to Kate Beckinsale" Wiseman (director of the Underworld movies) had an epic vision of the Locust attack that decimates humanity, with Marcus Fenix (your main burly man in this grey-toned game series featuring guns that double as chainsaws, because bayonettes are for pussies) as the lead character. We would undoubtedly meet our supporting characters throughout the first film, but Len Wiseman wanted to make this thing as big as the games if not bigger. This was to be a trilogy, and it really could have been pretty awesome, because it looks like he was going to stay faithful to the game's not-that-bad storyline.

    No word on whether Wiseman planned on making every action scene take place behind a wall while the characters periodically shoot aliens, then quickly going back into hiding, then shooting again until the aliens are dead.

    So What Happened?
    Basically, nobody has any faith in video game movies (yet). Until a Dark Knight or an Iron Man (or hell, even a Spider-Man at this point) comes along for video game movies, studios will continue to be doubtful about whether or not a $100 Million + budget is a smart move for a video game flick.

    Len Wiseman's script (much like Peter Jackson's Halo script) was going to need at least that much. Also, Wiseman didn't want to make a PG-13 Gears movie, he wanted an (according to him) "inevitable" R rating.

    On top of that, the pseudo-homoerotic bromance that develops throughout the games was something studios weren't willing to focus on.

    This could've been the next Titanic... with ALIENS

    So, Len Wiseman pulled out and the property is currently dead in the water until someone comes on and really helms it. And even if this happens, they're going to cut budget to severely less than $100 Million.

    But hey, who's to say that he was even the right guy for the job? I mean, even with that much money who's to say that the guy that did Underworld had the chops? For all we know it could end up in the much more capable hands of a fresher director looking to make his District 9.
  6. 6


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    Interplay & Bethesda Softworks's Fallout franchise had an idea for a Fallout movie in the late 90s after the 1997 film. They actually rushed it into development in 1998 and even chose a writer for the movie in Brent V. Friedman (you can download his treatment for the movie which is, thankfully, as far as it got here. PDF WARNING).

    Fallout is a brilliant role-playing game that includes some great imagery, much like Bioshock in some ways, in that it uses a retro-feel to give you an alternate-reality that seems somewhat feasible. The basic premise of Fallout, as you can imagine, involves nuclear war. After petroleum and fossil fuel levels reach a critical state of depletion in the world, everyone nukes each other, which leaves places like the U.S. in exactly what everyone was scared would happen during the Cold War.

    This could be an awesome, terrifying and hilarious romp through what could have been filled with action, mystery and a creepy feeling that something's just not right about the world and everything that happened prior. Is the world that existed before hand even something worth trying to recover?

    Even the story lends itself to a small "District 9" feel (which is apparently the benchmark anyone uses for a lower-budget movie that isn't a straightfoward action flick).

    So What Happened?
    Well, first of all, they hired the writer of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. I don't care how young you were when you saw it, that movie is ass. The first Mortal Kombat, on the other hand, was fun if you were as young as I was, but even at a young age, when I saw Annihilation I knew it was crap.

    So yeah, they hired a writer who can't write past the B.S. radar of a 4th grader.

    Aside from that Interplay closed down their barely existent "Film Division" in the late 90s, which kind of put an end to any hope of the movie being made at all.

    Most recently, in 2009, Bethesda began going through the process of getting the trademarks for movies for their own games. So hey, who knows, maybe we'll see a Fallout movie, or better yet, a Fallout series along the lines of what they did with The Walking Dead.
  7. 7

    Shadow of the Colossus

    Alright, so this is a video game adaptation that could have been good through the grace of some kind, randomly-nice and completely insane God.

    Shadow of the Colossus, for the uninitiated, is one of the most beautiful, haunting and artful video games of all time. Often used in discussions about whether or not video games should be considered "art", this game, in its entirety is gorgeous. It is lonely, it is epic and it is a 1 Player experience unlike almost any other in games. It takes you everywhere emotionally, and deserves a star treatment.

    Especially after the success of Thor (both financially and critically), a Shadow of the Colossus movie would be great in the hands of a director that knows the main character, has a structural and well-definied vision and has the competency to pull it off.

    We'd also need a dedicated, organic writer that knows how to adapt concepts into characters that feel reel, and we'd also need someone who has experience in mostly film, not so much adaptation.

    So What Happened?
    Enter Sony Pictures, and their choice of writer, Justin Marks. In case you don't know this slightly under-experienced writer penned the epic failure of a film (box office and critical) that everyone wishes didn't exist: Street Fighter The Legend of Chun-Li.

    Here are some clips of Justin Marks's writing one of the most interesting and enigmatic characters in game history: Charlie from Street Fighter (in the hands of the ever-a-douchebag-actor, Chris Klein):

    Everything Chris Klein Says in "The Legend of Chun Li" from Jeff Rubin on Vimeo.

    Yeah... so... this movie, according to Sony, will be in 3D. And if it happens, this writer will be in control. This really could have been the one to prove that video games deserve "real" movies. But if this movie continues on the track it's on, sometime around 2013, we can all expect to lose one more solid argument as to why video games should be taken seriously as a medium.
  8. 8

    Sam Raimi's World of Warcraft

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    I don't know about you, but I treat Spider-Man 3 like I would a huge mistake my wife made. It hurt a lot, but really, the rest of our relationship has been so great, and the circumstances surrounding the mistake were so out of his hands, that I still trust him. Drag Me To hell is easily one of the greatest times I've ever had in a theatre.

    So, who better than an actual WoW fan to direct the WoW movie? The talented visionary of 2 solid Spider-Man films and the Evil Dead franchise? hell yeah.

    Sam Raimi is said to be directing a movie adaptation of the most popular MMORPG of all time (or at least the one that's claimed the most lives/marriages).

    It would have an approximate $100 Million budget and would be quite an epic movie indeed.

    So What Happened?
    This is still, to a certain degree, up in the air. Blizzard Games has been making deals with Legendary pictures since 2006, and Sam Raimi has been outspokenly excited about the project, as of 2009 Mashable reports.

    In January of 2010, Raimi was rumored to be directing the WoW movie after he finished Spider-Man 4, but we all know how that ended. So, naturally, he should be focusing on WoW, right? Well, no, he's directing that Wizard of Oz movie that keeps changing lead actors. Then in mid 2010 he was quoted in an interview talking about the movie, so at this opint, it's really anyone's guess.

    With Raimi on board theoretically, but budgets, studios and distribution yet to be decided, this could be one of those things that goes into development purgatory for years.
  9. 9

    God of War

    In 2009 it was announced that X-Men movie franchise ruiner and all-around internet fall guy Bret Ratner would be making a God of War movie.

    This is like hearing that George Lucas was going to reboot the Star Trek franchise.

    Having never proven competency in anything other than cheesey buddy comedies, nobody wanted to see Brett Ratner, a guy that couldn't even execute an X-Men movie that had an arguably potentially great story (Joss Whedon did a great job with it in the comics), direct one of the most violent, hardcore and amazingly well-done games in history.

    A God of War movie could be treated like Thor, or hell, even like 300 in the hands of someone who knew what they were doing. As long as they understand Kratos, the movie would be fantastic.

    So What Happened?
    Well, Brett Ratner, first of all. But after that, not much. Over a year after Ratner's involvement was announced, in 2010, almost everyone who was confirming the film a year before completely either jumped ship or acted they were asked to name a one-night-stand's eye color.

    The game director said "we actually don't have any creative control over it at all" and said he didn't know what was happening with the project. Sony's director of Product Development said "I don't believe anything other than a script has transpired at this stage... if we hear something, then we'll know... but at this point... we've heard nothing."

    So it looks like this one, thankfully, has been shelved and hey who knows, maybe Brett Ratner's so busy that they'll hand it to someone who can handle it, which would be awesome.

    But almost, guys... almost. This one is less of a "why didn't this happen" and more of a "dear Lord what a close call".

    Until then, we have this amazing fan-made trailer of what God of War would be like in the context of a Wes Anderson-esque indie dramedy:

  10. 10

    John Woo's Metroid

    In 2004, John "I Directed Awesome Action Movies Then Came to Hollywood to Direct Face/Off, Broken Arrow and Mission: Impossible 2" Woo bought the rights to make a Metroid movie. Say what you will about the man, he's never really tried anything along the lines of what would be a Metroid movie.

    So What Happened?
    The rumormill went nuts. It got to the point where there was even some NYC Comic-Con hype, as well as a popular poster (seen below) that was supposedly going to be the announcement of the film.

    Since then there hasn't been a major John Woo release (Red Cliff doesn't count) and he really hasn't been pushing the project forward.

    Maybe he did with the movie what I used to do to rare Ninja Turtles toys when I was little. I would go to the toys section and hide the best ones behind a bunch of Barbies so that when my mom and I came back the next day, it'd still be there for me, where nobody else would know about it.

    Maybe he's doing what most people do with good ideas for domains.

    I sincerely think that John Woo has parked the Metroid movie. Maybe he's that big a fan that he doesn't want to see anyone tarnish Samus, or maybe he really did mean to make something of it.

    Either way, the project hasn't been heard of since the dead hype and John Woo's just really not making "big" movies anymore.
  11. 11
    In 2005, Crystal Sky Pictures finally got around to adapting Castlevania and then they went ahead and doomed themselves by attaching Paul W.S. Anderson (director of the first Mortal Kombat, Alien vs. Predator and the first Resident Evil movie, so you know, he's pretty complete miss or near hit).

    Dimension films then tookover and wanted to do the North American distribution for the film. It was going to have a budget of $50 million originally, but then it went through a re-write to include the Dracula origin story intermixed with the story of the Belmonts.

    Paul Anderson also wanted to go ahead and, notably, let the original composer of the games score the movie. And it is one of the most iconic themes in games, so why not let the same guy adapt his own work into film scoring?

    Here's an orchestra playing it:

    He was actually really excited about the whole thing, but the studios took so long to get the whole thing together that he needed to move on. Sylvain White (director of Stomp the Yard, The Losers) took over the helm after that.

    So What Happened?

    Anderson, as recently as 2007, was going to finish the script rewrites with white, to make it more "anime" and "period" like. As in, a period piece. Sorry, didn't mean to cause any confusion since we're talking a vampire movie here. And I apologize for ruining your lunch/weekend.

    Moving on, the story would involve Dracula and Simon Belmont together. But then the writer's strike happened.

    After a while, and most recently, it turns out that James Wan (director of Saw, Dead Silence) is taking over the project and it is almost under way. It will most likely be in 3D, but is still finding the right financing.

    Out of almost all the movies, this is one that will most likely be (hopefully) watchable... in that it will actually most likely come out at some point in the next few years.
  12. 12
    Ranker Video v
    Easily one of the most cinematic games of all time would make what would undoubtedly be video game's Iron Man/Dark Knight... when it was going to be directed by Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy director, The Ring, Rango -- this guy can do anything).

    Ever since the release of the first game, Gore Verbinski was helming/spearheading the project. Everything looked like it would work out perfectly (creatively)... because the R rating is inherent. Little Sisters and injections and the whole thing."

    So What Happened?
    "I just wanted to really, really make it a movie where, four days later, you’re still shivering and going, ‘Jesus Christ!,’" but that's not what movie studios wanted for Gore Verbinski's vision of the film. They wouldn't really stand for the "Hard R" rating that Verbinski wanted (which would have absolutely ruled) and wanted to make the film PG-13. Nobody wanted to invest in a movie that would be aimed at adults, based on a video game.

    So, after a few years of trying, Gore Verbinski jumped ship. "I wasn't really interested in pursuing a PG-13 version"

    Now, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (director of 28 Weeks Later, not to be confused with the inspiring Sandra Bullock drama juggernaut 28 Weeks) is going to be helming the neutered, PG-13 version of Bioshock. Sure, it'll still happen, and hey, it'll probably be actually kind of good.

    But it's not going to be Gore Verbinski good.
  13. 13

    Grand Theft Auto Movie... Starring Eminem

    For years, Grand Theft Auto was one of the most coveted video game properties in Hollywood. The controversial, occasionally cinematic, ultra-violent, high-selling game was something that people wanted to take advantage of.

    So, right about prior to the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, about six popular Hollywood studios were all in line to pick up a movie based on the game starring none other than Eminem.

    So What Happened?
    Rockstar has a reputation for not wanting to do movie deals, especially for GTA. So it came as a huge surprise to the gaming community that they would even entertain the idea. Variety reported this phenomenon only to have Rockstar write them with this message:

    Rockstar was not involved in this project in any shape or form nor is it something that we're currently interested in. There was no GTA movie in the works as far as Rockstar is concerned. Some movie producers were trying to put something together to entice us to make a movie, as studios and production teams frequently have done in the past. This proposal was no more interesting than the numerous others we receive. We never entertained proceeding with the project.

    So, yeah, it doesn't look like this will make it back out into the light of day at any point and, if this is any indication, it will definitely not be starring Eminem.
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