8 Movies That Kind of Feel Like Video Games – Collider

Ordinarily, the feeling of playing a video game is entirely different from that of watching a movie. Games usually take multiple sittings to get through, commonly taking numerous hours—even dozens or hundreds, sometimes—to complete, compared to the couple of hours viewers spend finishing a movie. Games will often be nearly non-stop action, whereas even action movies usually take a break to deliver exposition between the more exciting scenes. And of course, the most significant difference is that games are interactive, while the act of watching a movie is a passive experience that the viewer has no control over.

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But the two mediums do cross over sometimes. Some video games have been adapted into movies, of course, and movies video games that have been adapted into movies, of course, and movies do sometimes get game adaptations (less frequently nowadays, though). Then some movies feel a little like video games, be it because of their pacing, tone, style, emphasis on action, or a combination of all those elements. Certain films embody aspects of video games without being adapted from any actual games themselves. This isn’t meant to suggest that they should be adapted into video games, of course; more that they each reflect at least one core gaming-related element.


‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ (2010)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a 2010 film adapted from a comic book series, and it received a game adaptation the year of its release. It’s not hard to see why, given the film’s clear love for game-related logic and aesthetics, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World takes plenty of inspiration from comic books and video games.

There’s also the structure of the film itself feeling like that of a video game, given the plot is about Scott Pilgrim defeating seven exes of a girl he’s in love with. Each one feels like something of a boss battle, commonly found in video games, and there’s a progression to how difficult and intense each subsequent battle is like it would be in a standard video game. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is perhaps the most a movie has felt like a video game without actually being directly based on a video game.

‘1917’ (2019)

It should be clear that 1917 shouldn’t be made into a video game. It probably wouldn’t make a very good one—unless gamers were desperate for an incredibly difficult war game about survival rather than combat—and it’s too sad to make any action-packed, “fun” game out of. Again, there are more serious games that emphasize surviving enemies rather than fighting them, but it tends to work better for the horror genre.

Still, the way 1917 is presented makes it feel somewhat like a slow-paced survival game at times. In presenting its story of two young soldiers in WW1 sent across No Man’s Land on a dangerous mission, it’s made to look like events are happening in real time and in one take. This part feels somewhat like a video game, as many games in third-person are presented in the same way. As players control a character on screen, things tend to play out in “real-time” (at least until a new level starts or a loading screen happens), and the camera will follow the player’s character much like the camera followed the two lead characters in 1917.

‘Bullet Train’ (2022)

Bullet Train is an action-comedy about several assassins with seemingly different missions which all find themselves on the same high-speed train going from Tokyo to Kyoto, Japan. Things go off the rails when they start learning of each other’s existence and how their goals may ultimately be connected.

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The light-hearted tone and frequent action give Bullet Train the feeling of a game, perhaps more often than not. It’s loud and dumb fun, and while it’s certainly not accurate to say all games are also loud, dumb, mindless fun, some certainly are, presenting the kind of thrills and no-nonsense entertainment that Bullet Train aims to deliver.

‘Snowpiercer’ (2013)

One of the best revolutionary films about a completely fictional revolution, Snowpiercer deals with an uprising on board a train in the future. It takes place after the planet has essentially died out and forced the last members of the human race onto a constantly moving train, where the rich live in the front carriages, and the poor are forced to live in squalor towards the back.

In their revolt, the people from the back of the train move towards the front, carriage by carriage. Each new section of the train they encounter has something different or surprising in it, and in this way, it feels like stumbling onto new levels, one by one, while progressing through a traditional video game. That, plus all the action and the constant forward momentum, gives Snowpiercer the feeling of a video game at times, albeit a very dark one.

‘The Raid’ (2011)

The Raid does wonders with its small budget and confined location. It involves a group of police officers who become trapped inside an apartment complex overrun by a crime lord. He tells all occupants living there that he’ll reward them if they can take out any police officers in the building for good.

In introducing this deadly battle for survival early on, The Raid becomes as action-packed as any hand-to-hand fighting game could hope to be and features “levels” thanks to the protagonist needing to clear multiple floors to get out alive. The only difference is that viewers aren’t able to execute any of the incredible martial arts moves themselves and will have to settle for simply viewing them instead.

‘Run Lola Run’ (1998)

Run Lola Run is a film about going forward and doing so quickly, which shouldn’t be surprising, considering its title. We see the titular character attempt to get from one point to another in an incredibly small amount of time three different times. Each instance plays out slightly differently, based on small differences in her choices.

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So beyond the fast pace of the story and the fast pace of its protagonist, the act of playing out the same scenario multiple times feels like a video game. Essentially, Lola fails the first and second attempts, whereas she achieves her goal in the third. Any gamer could relate to the feeling of needing to attempt a difficult portion of a game multiple times to finally beat it, which is essentially what Lola herself experiences in this film.

‘Edge of Tomorrow’ (2014)

The tagline for Edge of Tomorrow (or even the alternate title in some territories) was “Live, Die, Repeat.” This is indeed what Tom Cruise’s character does throughout the film, as he’s stuck in a Groundhog Day-type time loop where every time he dies during a battle against alien forces, he wakes up and can try it again.

This is a similar experience players will go through when playing a difficult game or an average game on its hardest difficulty setting. You get used to seeing your player dying in a video game, only to learn how to prevent that from happening in a future attempt. Watching Edge of Tomorrow is to see Cruise do the same thing; only now, it’s in a movie.

‘Hardcore Henry’ (2015)

Hardcore Henry has a plot so simple it’s been a standard video game-type plot since the artform’s early days. In Hardcore Henry, Henry has to undertake a mission to save his love interest from the clutches of a powerful supervillain, which should sound familiar to any fan of a certain video game starring a pair of Italian plumbers/brothers…

But beyond that, Hardcore Henry also plays out entirely in first-person; i.e., the camera is “attached” to the protagonist. This perspective will be instantly recognizable to anyone who’s played a first-person shooter. Add to all that the crazy powers, explosions, and non-stop action, and Hardcore Henry does end up feeling like watching someone playing a (spectacular and extreme) video game.

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