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The Highest-Grossing Video Game Movies Of All-Time

Video game movies get a bad rap. Given that this genre includes movies like Assassin's Creed and Alone in the Dark, that negative reputation is partially understandable. Also fueling this perception is the fact that video game movies have frequently struggled to become box office juggernauts on par with film adaptations of comic books and young-adult novels. Whereas those subgenres have delivered hits like The Avengers and The Hunger Games, respectively, the video game movie genre has never produced an entry that has grossed over $150 million domestically. 

Though video game movies haven't been a regular source of lucrative box office, that doesn't mean the genre is devoid of successful entries. Among the ten highest-grossing video game movies, one finds a number of box office bombs that have contributed to video game movies being widely dismissed. However, one also finds a number of films that, based on their budgets and release dates, actually proved to be quite successful. Though not a reliably lucrative domain, the highest-grossing video game movies prove this genre is capable of cranking out a hit.

Resident Evil: Afterlife took its franchise to new box office heights

There was once was a bygone time when adding digital 3D was enough of a novelty to give your movie a major boost at the box office. This time frame was directly in the wake of the gargantuan hit AvatarComing out nine months after that James Cameron blockbuster, films like Clash of the Titans, The Last Airbender, and the fourth Resident Evil movie, Resident Evil: Afterlife, opened at just the right time to take advantage of the public's renewed love for 3D films. In the case of Resident Evil: Afterlife, it debuted to $26 million, scoring the biggest opening weekend ever for a Resident Evil movie. Eventually grossing $60.1 million domestically, Afterlife was front-loaded yet still became the highest-grossing entry in the series, exceeding Resident Evil: Apocalypse for that honor.

Though Resident Evil: Afterlife gave the Resident Evil movies a new lease on life, 3D wasn't enough to inject the franchise with long-term longevity. Afterlife's sequel, Resident Evil: Retribution, made about a third less than its predecessor domestically. By the time Resident Evil: The Final Chapter rolled around in January 2017, the franchise was drumming up domestic grosses that were less than half of what Afterlife took in. Still, in the moment, Resident Evil: Afterlife proved to be a box office hit, one that reaffirmed post-Avatar audiences' love affair with digital 3D. It also scored a big enough gross to make it one of the biggest video game movies of all time ten years after its release.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life came up short

While Lara Croft has been able to sustain her popularity across multiple video game sequels, the same cannot be said for her movie counterpart. Coming out two years after the first Lara Croft movie, the sequel Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life underperformed considerably. In the summer of 2003, it opened to $21.7 million and ended up grossing just $65.6 million, roughly half of what the first Lara Croft movie amassed in its domestic run. 

Per Entertainment Weekly, Paramount Pictures' excuse for The Cradle of Life's box office woes was the tepid response from fans to the recent video game Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness. Also hurting the film was competition from fellow July 2003 blockbusters like Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Perhaps most responsible of all, though, is the fact that, although plenty of people went to see it, audiences weren't all that impressed by the original Lara Croft movie. Garnering a B CinemaScore in its initial release, moviegoers just weren't excited enough about that film to want a sequel like The Cradle of Life

This disappointing box office cut the original Lara Croft film franchise short. The franchise would eventually get a reboot with the recent Tomb Raider, which actually came in below the domestic gross of The Cradle of Life.

Mortal Kombat delivered a box office fatality

Many video game movies, such as Rampage and Sonic the Hedgehog, have arrived years after their source material debuted in an attempt in an attempt to mine nostalgia from moviegoers. In the case of Mortal Kombat, though, a movie was commissioned to strike while the iron was hot. Debuting in 1995, Mortal Kombat arrived just three years after the video game series of the same name began. Though video game movies have cultivated a reputation for being automatic box office bombs, Mortal Kombat, one of the earliest entries in the genre, proved to be a smash hit.

On opening weekend, Mortal Kombat took in $23.2 million, a sum that, per Forbes, gave it the second-biggest August opening weekend of all time at the time. Mortal Kombat continued to rule the box office in its second and third weekends. Its strong weekend-to-weekend holds led to it grossing $70.1 million on just a $20 million budget. That made it the 22nd-biggest movie of 1995 domestically and also puts it above a large share of video game movies even in 2020. Making a Mortal Kombat movie while the passion for the games was its peak was a smart move, while releasing it during the quiet month of August allowed it to function as a go-to choice for moviegoers craving an action movie. Clearly, the original Mortal Kombat's box office run was a "flawless victory!"

Pokemon: The First Movie was the very best, like no one ever was, at the box office

While Pokemon started out as a video game series, the franchise hit a whole new level of popularity in North America with the Pokemon anime. While it utilized the titular creatures of the Pokemon games, the show took on a life of its own entirely detached from its source material. Nowhere was the popularity of this anime more evident than with the box office of Pokemon: The First Movie. Taking the characters from the anime to the big screen for the first time, Pokemon: The First Movie once again showed how the Pokemon brand could thrive in any medium.

After a record-breaking $10.1 million opening day, Pokemon: The First Movie opened to $31 million over its first three-day weekend. The production did turn out to be front-loaded, mostly due to the film appealing just to fans of the Pokemon shows as well as competition from fellow November 1999 family feature Toy Story 2. However, these factors weren't much of an issue for Pokemon: The First Movie, which was already plenty profitable after its first week of domestic release. Eventually grossing $85.1 million domestically, Pokemon: The First Movie became a box office success that lived up to the avalanche of hype surrounding the Pokemon anime. Pokemon started out as a series of Game Boy titles, but Pokemon: The First Movie cemented the fact that this franchise had gone well beyond just being a collection of video games.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time failed to be the next Pirates of the Caribbean

In 2003, Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney teamed up to turn a theme park ride into a blockbuster with the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Despite intense pre-release skepticism, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl spawned a massive franchise. Seven years later, Bruckheimer and Disney attempted to make lightning strike twice by turning another uncertain piece of source material into a blockbuster. This time around, they would be adapting a video game franchise, Prince of Persia, into a VFX-laden blockbuster entitled Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The whole production was made to adhere to the style of those Pirates movies to a tee, but a sharp contrast between Pirates and Prince of Persia emerged in their respective box office grosses.

Grossing only $90.7 million, Prince of Persia fell short of matching the Pirates movies it was intended to emulate. In fact, Prince of Persia's entire domestic gross was below the opening weekend of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. But even forgetting the Pirates films, Prince of Persia came up short financially compared to summer blockbusters in general. Although, at the time of its release, Prince of Persia did come in above all but one entry in the video game movie genre, making just $90.7 million on a $200 million budget nullified that achievement. Despite adhering so closely to Pirates, Bruckheimer and Disney couldn't make a box office juggernaut out of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

Rampage smashed its way to a $101 million gross

In 2005, Dwayne Johnson made his first foray into video game movies with Doom. The results were critically reviled and bombed at the box office. When he returned to video game movies over a decade later with the blockbuster Rampage, the results turned out far better financially. Debuting in April 2018, Rampage managed to become only the second live-action video game movie in history to clear $100 million domestically with a final gross of $101 million

This successful run came despite the fact that Rampage faced a number of obstacles. For one thing, its source material was a 1986 arcade game that doesn't have a massive amount of notoriety in modern culture. Luckily for Rampage, it had a number of factors working in its favor. For one thing, it had the star power of its leading man, Dwayne Johnson. To boot, its marketing overcame the relative obscurity of its source material by making sure trailers and commercials didn't just lean on the brand value of its title. Instead, it emphasized disaster movie spectacle and monster fights that attracted moviegoers of all stripes rather than just fans of the original Rampage game. The fact that Rampage was marketed to resemble box office smash San Andreas, a prior collaboration between Johnson and Rampage director Brad Peyton, didn't hurt. Thanks to these factors, Rampage managed to become a box office hit, a sharp departure from how Johnson's last foray into video game movies, Doom, fared financially. 

The Angry Birds Movie flew high at the box office

By 2016, the Angry Birds franchise had gone to so many different places. Space. The Rio movies. There was even a spin-off game about those dastardly pigs. A feature-length animated movie in the form of The Angry Birds Movie was the next logical step for the brand. With a star-studded voice cast and a massive promotional campaign, The Angry Birds Movie adhered closely to the factors that had defined so many of the biggest modern animated kids' movies. The result was something that saw the movie version of Angry Birds soaring financially.

Grossing $107.5 million on a $73 million budget, The Angry Birds Movie's box office run was profitable, though far from perfect. For example, it wasn't as big as the most lucrative animated films, coming in below the domestic hauls of both of the Rio movies, for example. It also proved more front-loaded than many other animated movies, as seen by it having two consecutive weekend-to-weekend drops of more than 73 percent only a month into its run. However, The Angry Birds Movie did manage to score its share of notable achievements. These included becoming the 11th-biggest movie in the summer of 2016 and becoming only the second video game movie in history to crack $100 million domestically. With those kind of feats, it's apparent why The Angry Birds Movie's box office performance was anything but "fowl."

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider dug up a hefty $131.1 million box office haul

After headlining numerous hit games, Lara Croft first made her way onto the big screen in 2001 with a splash thanks to the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. The film's release kicked off with a massive $48.1 million opening weekend, the ninth-best opening weekend of 2001. These box office results were due to the perfect marriage of movie star and source material. Angelina Jolie was red-hot at the turn of the century, and Tomb Raider gave Jolie a chance to inhabit the action star persona audiences love to see her in the most. Lara Croft, meanwhile, was a famous enough character in her video game exploits to be recognizable to non-gamers even before she leaped to the movies. Putting those two together, along with a marketing campaign that evoked beloved movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, made for a smash hit, one that delivered a $131.1 million domestic gross. 

That gross ensured that Lara Croft: Tomb Raider soared above all other video game movies released up to that point. Previously, video game movies had largely been relegated to B-movie status with only minimal chance for broader popularity. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider's box office cemented the idea that video game movies could be as lucrative as any other genre. Staying as the highest-grossing video game movie of all time for nearly two decades, the popularity that made Lara Croft a video game icon fueled the box office success of her inaugural feature film.

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu sleuthed its way to box office victory

Two decades after Pokemon: The First Movie, the Pokemon franchise drummed up significant box office once again with the franchise's first live-action film, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu. This time around, young Pokemon trainer Ash Ketchum was ditched for a film adaptation of a 2016 video game that concerned a sleuthing Pikachu with a deerstalker hat. Though not as gargantuan of a hit as the wild success of its first trailer would suggest, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu still hit new heights for what video game movies could accomplish at the domestic box office.

Opening three weeks into the record-breaking run of Avengers: Engdame, Detective Pikachu opened to $53 million before finishing up its domestic run with $144.1 million. At the time, this made it the biggest video game movie in history, finally dethroning Lara Croft: Tomb Raider from 18 years prior for that honor. You don't need to be a master investigator like Detective Pikachu to figure out why this movie accomplished that feat. A massive marketing campaign, the presence of Deadpool leading man Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Detective Pikachu, and the enduring popularity of Pokemon all lured audiences to the movie theaters. Of course, Detective Pikachu's box office run does come with the caveat that its grosses were eventually described as "a mild disappointment" by Forbes due to the film's hefty $155 million budget. Still, all things considered, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu managed to catch considerably larger-than-average box office grosses for a video game movie.

Sonic the Hedgehog ran to the front of the video movie pack

With the release of its first trailer, it appeared that Sonic the Hedgehog was dead in the water. The entire trailer, especially the design of the titular protagonist, inspired dismissive memes rather than anticipation. All people could talk about were Sonic's creepy teeth, not how excited they were for his first movie. However, months later, things changed dramatically for the film. Armed with a radical redesign of Sonic that made the sure character looked identical to his video game counterpart, Sonic the Hedgehog managed to surpass expectations with a massive $70 million four-day opening weekend. 

It was the kind of debut one would normally see for a superhero blockbuster from Marvel Studios, not a video game movie based on a Sega character. Forbes attributed this opening to, among other factors, the fact that Sonic opened against little in the way of family movie competition as well as all the conversation generated by the character design controversy. It's also worth noting that Sonic is still an enormously popular character. That fact can get lost with how often Sonic is the butt of jokes on the internet, but nearly 30 years after his first appearance, Sonic is still a widely recognizable figure all over the world. That's the kind of enduringly popular figure who can outrun the negative buzz of a trailer with ease and then go on to gross $146.1 million domestically, headlining the biggest video game movie of all time in the process.