With Resident Evil: The Final Chapter opening this weekend, now it’s the perfect time to look at the top 10 most successful video game adaptations worldwide.
Despite failing just about every time they tried to take a video games to the big screen, Hollywood has not yet given up on this endeavor, and I really hope that in time this persistence will pay off. Who knows, maybe one that we’ll look at video game adaptations the same way we now look at comic book ones.
So without further ado let’s take a look at the top 10 highest grossing video game adaptations of all time, worldwide, unadjusted for ticket price inflation.
10. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003) – $156.5 million
While not as successful as the first film, The Cradle of Life is generally considered superior in just about every way. On the other hand $156.5 million worldwide on a $95 million budget was nowhere near enough to convince the studio to make a 3rd Tomb Raider. With a series as popular as this one that couldn’t be the end. So of course there’s a reboot on the way and in it Alicia Vikander will take on the role of Lara Croft. Principal photography began on January 23rd and the film’s release date is March 16th 2018.
9. Pokemon: The First Movie (1999) – $163.6 million
Apparently since this film’s 1998 Japanese debut (1999 in the US) Toho has continued to produced and release a Pokemon movie every year. With the one coming out this summer they’re up to 20, yes, 20. They might not give them theatrical runs in the US, but Pokemon is still as popular as ever (case in point Pokemon GO last summer).
8. Need for Speed (2014) – $203.3 million
I enjoyed this one a lot more than I thought I would. I’m not going to say it was a good movie, but I feel like there was enough here to recommend to most fans of the EA video games that inspired it or Fast and Furious. There’s even a Razor Callahan reference somewhere in there. And because Need for Speed only cost $66 million, we might eventually see another one in theaters.
7. Assassin’s Creed (2016) – $204+ million
I actually thought this could be it, you know, a video game adaptation that actually worked as more than just fan service, a genuine good movie, maybe even a great one. Yeah, that didn’t happen and looking at the film’s box office I doubt they’ll get a second chance to get it right. While Assassin’s Creed is still making money, $200 million worldwide is not even close to enough, not when the entire thing cost $125 million. So bye bye any kind of sequels. Another one bites the dust.
6. Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) – $240.2 million
This all started in 2002, almost 15 years ago, and now $1 billion later Resident Evil is by far the most popular movie series based on a video game. Retribution is the 5th Resident Evil film and some might say the weakest one. I honestly don’t think I remember anything from Retribution. It probably doesn’t help that Sony had their biggest break yet between Retribution and The Last Chapter, 4 years and 4 months, while previously the longest they went without a Resident Evil was 3 years.
5. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) – $274.7 million
With $131.2 million the Angelina Jolie starring action-adventure is still the all-time top grossing video game adaptation in the US, no small feet considering it came out almost 16 years ago. No wonder Hollywood has not given up on Lara Croft. Worldwide Lara Croft: Tomb Raider lost the number 1 spot in 2010 to a “little” film called Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
4. Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) – $296.2 million
Afterlife is when the series really broke out internationally, which explains the big jump from $147.7 million worldwide for Resident Evil: Extinction to $296.2 million for this one. Of course from that point on it was all downhill, not that it really matters as The Final Chapter is supposed to be the final part and to get the series to $1 billion that film only needed about $85 million worldwide, which it already made. Say what you will about the quality, these movies sell tickets.
3. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) – $336.4 million
I’m pretty sure Prince of Persia is by far the most expensive movie on this list and because of that also one of the biggest box office bombs. Disney put a lot of coin behind The Sands of Time, more than $200 million, expecting it to become the next Pirates of the Caribbean. The sad part is this is really not a bad movie and you could almost see something great through the cracks.
2. The Angry Birds Movie (2016) – $349.8 million
I haven’t seen this one and I don’t intend to anytime soon, but from what I hear The Angry Birds Movie was better than it had any right to be. The sad part is last year The Angry Birds Movie was better received critically than the much more promising looking Assassin’s Creed or Warcraft. And because it made a lot of money and many people seemed to like it, Rovio is already working on a second one.
1. Warcraft (2016) – $433.7 million
I liked Warcraft and I also understand why many didn’t. Going into this with no prior knowledge of that world was like trying to start a show as dense as Game of Thrones mid-season. You can absolutely do it, but most of what’s happening on screen will go completely over your head. You could also argue they made Warcraft exclusively for fans of the games, and in that regard it’s probably the most successful of all the films in this top 10. Honestly Warcraft should have been a 10-part series instead of a 2-hour movie. But it did make a lot of money, mostly in China ($220.8 million), so a Warcraft 2 is not out of the question.
There’s some promising stuff for video game adaptations on the horizon, movies like Tomb Raider and Rampage in 2018 or Minecraft in 2019, and these three are just the ones with solid release dates. There’s also an Uncharted movie that seems to be getting closer to a production start date (Joe Carnahan finished his draft of the script earlier this month), a Sonic animation and other projects I’m probably forgetting. Basically there’s still hope and one of these days someone will get a video game adaptation right.