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Virtual Insanity: Plug In, Turn On, Drop Dead!
(A CineManiac's Introduction to Video Games and Virtual Worlds in Film)
By: Mickael
If popular opinion is to be believed; gamers are fat, ugly mole people with Mountain Dew in their veins and obscenities on their tongues. They're perpetual children who have all had carnal knowledge of your mother. These quasi-developed mongoloids crave nothing more than a great k/d ratio, the opportunity to prestige for the 20th time, and Doritos. The thing is, popular opinion is a terrible way to assess things. Popular opinion got George W. Bush elected. Twice. Popular opinion made Katy Perry the most followed person on Twitter. Popular opinion is the type of thing that can kill 6 million Jews. Popular opinion must be kept in check.
The reality is this: the age of the average gamer? 12? 15? Nah, it's 35 years old. 44% of them are female, so it's not the sausage-fest we've been led to believe either. In fact, there are twice as many women over the age of 18 playing games, then there are boys under that age. It is true, however, that they all live in their parent's basement and only stop gaming long enough to masturbate to My Little Pony. There's a grain of truth to everything, I suppose. Considering how poorly the media has portrayed gamers over the years, it should be no surprise that they've also failed miserably at catering to this huge and profitable demographic in other forms of entertainment.
Sure, there's been some great adaptations of popular video games that have come to the big screen. Angelina Jolie's turn as Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider films comes immediately to mind. Resident Evil has become a powerhouse franchise, and who can forget the overwhelming success of Super Mario Brothers? Well, I liked it, anyway. Next year, gamers everywhere will nitpick every shot selection and story decision from big budget productions of two immensely popular games: Warcraft and Assassin's Creed. Someday very soon, I'll detail all of these video game films, but for today I wanted to focus on something a little more esoteric: films that star the video games themselves as villains.
There are 3 popular versions of this story. The first is the childlike "wish fulfillment" version of The Wizard Of Oz, where the protagonist is sucked into a virtual world and must escape (Tron). Other video-game-as-villain scripts are simply the story of Frankenstein. An obsessive personality develops something which is misunderstood yet extremely powerful, and eventually loses control of their creation which then wreaks havoc on others (The Lawnmower Man). If you feel that this has been done to death or maybe you want to build a larger universe with your story, then you can take it to the arena of technophobia. Have your technology take over and force the characters to grapple with what amounts to a disaster film (WarGames).
We've discovered that statistically, you're probably an adult gamer. And if you're at this site, I imagine that you love movies as well. Let's see if combining video games with films is like getting peanut butter in your chocolate as I show you a wide array of raging RPGs, furious fighters, and petulant platformers! Will you survive the horror long enough to reach a save point? Was Joe Lieberman on to something when he played the blame game with his attempted ban on violent video games? Does the concession stand accept game tokens for those ridiculously long licorice ropes? To find out, you'll have to press start, step in to the sandbox and break the rules of Game Theory as you battle against the baddest bosses in these 43 films from a genre we call: Virtual Insanity!
PosterTitleYearDirectorMore InfoCountry

Tron
(aka Tron: The Electronic Gladiator, Tron: The Original Classic)

The grand-daddy of our digital downfall!
1982Steven Lisberger

USA

Joysticks
(aka Video Madness)

A broad 80's sex comedy about a video arcade!
1983Greydon Clark


USA

Nightmares

A four-segment horror anthology, featuring "The Bishop Of Battle" which stars Emilio Estevez as an arcade junkie who battles a video game that's become real!
1983Joseph SargentIMDb


Buy @ Amazon

USA

WarGames

Matthew Broderick triggers World War III, which I think we all knew would happen eventually.
1983John BadhamIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

Cloak & Dagger

An action/adventure film about a boy who would rather live in a video game than real life.
1984Richard FranklinIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

The Dungeonmaster
(aka Digital Knights, Ragewar)

It's technology vs. sorcery in the battle of "who can stay a virgin the longest?"
1984David Allen, Charles Band, John Buechler, Steve Ford, Peter Manoogian, Ted Nicolaou, & Rosemarie TurkoIMDb

Buy @ Amazon
USA

The Last Starfighter
(aka Starfight, Starfighter)

An arcade game ends up being a test to determine who has the skills necessary to battle an alien threat!
1984Nick CastleIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

Hollywood Zap
(aka Porky's 4)

Another 80's comedy, this time about 2 boys looking for one's father, a sexual video game competition... but what they find is themselves.
1986David CohenIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

Le Petit Amour
(aka Kung-Fu Master!)

Leave it to the French to be the first to make a video game movie that's really about talking too much and "making love".
1988Agnes VardaIMDb

Buy @ Amazon
France

The Wizard
(aka Videokid, Sweet Road, Joy Stick Heroes, Gameboy)

Fred Savage, Christian Slater, and the Power Glove star in this ridiculous Nintendo flick.
1989Todd Holland


USA

The Lawnmower Man
(aka Virtual Wars, Stephen King's The Lawnmower Man)

A must-see!
1992Brett Leonard


UK
USA
Japan

Arcade
(aka Cyber World)

A fun b-movie take on virtual reality!
1993Albert Pyun


USA

City Hunter
(aka Sing Si Lip Yan)

Okay, I'm cheating. But, Jackie Chan ends up fighting real life versions of Street Fighter 2 characters!
1993Jing Wong


Hong Kong
Japan

Surf Ninjas
(aka Surf Warriors, Surf Ninjas of the South China Sea)

Cheating again! This time, it's because one of these bratty little kids can control the real world with his Sega Game Gear, which is pretty rad.
1993Neal Israel


USA

Brainscan

Ed Furlong and Frank Langella explore a world where video game thrills become real world kills!
1994John FlynnIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
Canada
USA
UK

Evolver

A virtual reality gets ported... to rEaL LiFe!! Wow!!!1!!

If that made sense to you, kill yourself.
1995Mark Rosman


USA

Virtuosity

A virtual reality killer escapes into the real world... the creators of this film just throw the phrase "virtual reality killer" onto their unsuspecting audience like some kind of verbal Gallagher show.
1995
Brett Leonard


USA

The Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace
(aka The Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe's War)
1996Farhad Mann


USA

Nirvana

Christopher Lambert stars as the game designer that must fight his own creation!
1997Gabriele Salvatores


Italy
France

Bio-Zombie
(aka Sun Faa Sau Si, Sang Dut Sau Shut, Sheng Hua Shou Shi, Hong Kong Zombie)

Totally cheating again, but there are several scenes where the filmmaker emulates video game selection screens and FPS tropes!
1998Wilson Yip

Hong Kong

eXistenZ
(aka Crimes Of The Future)

This is not one of Cronenberg's masterpieces. I fell asleep 8 times on 8 occasions trying to watch this movie. It's... insufferable. But that's just me.
1999David CronenbergIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
Canada
UK

Avalon
(aka Gates To Avalon)
2001Mamoru Oshii

Japan
Poland

How To Make A Monster2001George Huang


USA

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
2003Robert Rodriguez


USA

Gamebox 1.0
2004David Hillenbrand, Scott Hillenbrand


USA

Hellraiser: Hellworld
(Hellraiser VIII, Hellraiser: Hellworld.com)

Starring Lance Henriksen, Henry Cavill, & Doug Bradley
2005Rick Bota


USA
Romania

Stay Alive
(aka Death Game)

Starring Frankie Muniz, Sophia Bush, Jimmi Simpson, Jon Foster, Adam Goldberg, & Milo Ventimiglia
2006William Brent Bell

USA

Ben X2007Nic BalthazarIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
Belgium
Netherlands

Press Start2007Ed Glaser


USA

WarGames: The Dead Code2008Stuart Gillard


USA

Assault Girls
(aka Asaruto Garuzu)
2009Mamoru Oshii

Japan

Gamer
(aka Citizen Game, Slayers, Game)

Starring Gerard Butler, Kyra Sedgwick, Logal Lerman, Alison Lohman, Terry Crews, Ludacris, & Michael C. Hall.
2009Mark Neveldine, Brian TaylorIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

Black Heaven
(aka L'autre Monde, The Other World)
2010Gilles Marchand

France
Belgium

RPG Metanoia2010Luis C. Suarez


Philippines

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Starring Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and more!
2010Edgar WrightIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA
UK
Canada
Japan

Tron: Legacy
(aka Tron 2)

Starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, and Daft Punk.
2010Joseph Kosinski

USA

Press Start 2 Continue2011Ed Glaser

USA

Ra.One
(aka G.One, Voltage, Random Access One)
2011Anubhav Sinha

USA
India

Wreck-It Ralph
(aka Sugar Rush)
2012Rich Moore

USA

Ashens and the Quest for the Gamechild2013Riyad BarmaniaIMDb


Buy @ Amazon
UK

Plato's Reality Machine2013Myles Sorensen

USA

Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie

Surprisingly, this exists.
2014Kevin Finn, James Rolfe
IMDb


Buy @ Amazon
USA

Pixels

Starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, and Dan Aykroyd.
2015Chris Columbus

USA
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