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Movies Like Free Guy That Video Game Fans Need To See

Ever wondered what would happen if a background character tried to become the hero? Well you're in luck as that's exactly the premise of "Free Guy." Starring Ryan Reynolds as the titular Guy, this unassuming non-player character (NPC) finds himself stepping off the sidelines and into the role of the unlikely hero in the open-world video game in which he lives.

As the real world and the virtual world begin to overlap, Guy forms a bond with Millie Rusk, also known as Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer), who's trying to find evidence within the game that proves it was stolen from her original concept by the enigmatic Antwan Hovachelik (Taika Waititi). Packed with plenty of nerdy references and incredible special effects sequences, "Free Guy" is a visual delight, offering a fresh spin on the video game genre as it unpacks what happens when an NPC becomes the MVP. And if you loved "Free Guy," here are some more films you need to check out.

Ready Player One

The clue is in the name for this one! Steven Spielberg took upon the mammoth task of bringing Ernest Cline's unashamedly nerdy novel to the big screen. And from start to finish, it's a smorgasbord of pop culture references from the world of literature, comics, anime, movies, and, of course, video games.

Set in a dystopian future, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) embarks on a quest to find the Easter eggs in a virtual reality simulation known as the OASIS. Not only is the film packed with references to games such as "Minecraft," "Street Fighter," "Mortal Kombat," and more, but the film's plot also closely mirrors that of a video game, featuring different levels and worlds to be discovered.

Like "Free Guy," the characters in "Ready Player One" interact with each other through their avatars, allowing them to be anyone they want to be. Both films give us unique glimpses into worlds very much inspired by video games, and much like the feeling of losing yourself in your favorite game, these movies are pure escapism.

Wreck-It Ralph

As well as cute critters and memorable songs, Disney is known for its incredible ability to bring fantasy worlds to life and making the impossible seem possible. And while it's not quite the fairytale worlds we're used to, in 2012, they dipped their toes into the expansive world of video games with "Wreck-It Ralph."

In the fictional retro arcade game "Fix-It Felix Jr.," we meet the so-called "bad guy," Ralph (John C. Reilly), who's grown tired of always wrecking things and wants to become the hero. Embarking on a quest to find a medal and in turn receive validation and recognition from those in his own game, Ralph finds himself in both a hyper-violent first-person shooter and a candy-coated racing game as he tries to become the hero.

In "Free Guy," the character of Guy is keen to break away from the confines of being a "non-player character" and become the hero, much like Ralph is in "Wreck-It Ralph." In fact, breaking against type and re-writing the code is a core theme of both of these films, so they have a lot more in common than you might think!


In "Free Guy," we frequently see the lines being blurred between fantasy and reality as the real-world crosses over with the virtual world. This is also an idea explored in 2009's "Gamer," set in a future society where those in the real world can control the actions of someone in a video game ... with some very real and dire consequences.

Gerard Butler stars as Kable, a death row prisoner who's on the cusp of doing the impossible — winning the 30 games needed to earn his freedom, something no one else has managed to do. However, with his actions being controlled by another, there's a sense of helplessness from Kable as his own life and future is determined by a 17-year-old gamer.

As video games become increasingly more immersive through the use of virtual reality technology, this seemingly exaggerated look at how the virtual and real worlds can overlap is perhaps closer than we might think. "Free Guy" certainly takes a more light-hearted look at this idea, so if you want a slightly darker version, "Gamer" could be for you.

Detective Pikachu

The "Pokemon" franchise has been a huge part of pop culture for decades now, from the wildly popular anime series and the games to the huge range of merchandise. Before it became a film, "Detective Pikachu" was in fact a spinoff series of adventure games in the "Pokemon" universe, which saw our titular hero (now able to talk!) solving mysteries alongside the player.

With the release of the film adaptation in 2019, "Detective Pikachu" was able to tap into the nostalgia that "Pokemon" instantly generates, as well as bringing Pokemon into the "real world," something audiences were already receptive to given how well "Pokemon GO" was received. Perhaps its masterstroke, however, was in the casting of Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Pikachu. It's hard to imagine who could provide a believable voice to a character we'd previously only heard the words "pika pika" from. But much like he does with the character of Guy, Reynolds brings humor and warmth to Pikachu in the way that only he could.

Hardcore Henry

Despite being a box office bomb, "Hardcore Henry" certainly brings something new to the table in terms of video game-style movies. Shot entirely from the POV of the main character, the film delivers a nauseatingly realistic experience to watching movies that's quite unlike anything else you might see.

Other films have utilized POV shots to great effect, but "Hardcore Henry" took that idea to the extreme, taking heavy inspiration from first-person shooter games such as "Bulletstorm," "Breakdown," and "Mirror's Edge." Recreating the feeling of playing a video game was also something that "Free Guy" cinematographer George Richmond took into consideration, and the film used POV shots to great effect, particularly in the moments where the character of Guy put the glasses on that allowed him to see the gaming elements of his world.

"Hardcore Henry" may not have been a critical success, but it's certainly a unique experiment and one that comes the closest to recreating the feeling of a first-person shooter game for the big screen. A warning to those who might suffer with motion sickness however, it's quite a lot to adjust to!

The Matrix

Despite being released more than 20 years ago, there's still something so fresh and exciting about "The Matrix" and its exploration of a parallel virtual reality. Frequently imitated but rarely bettered, "The Matrix" combines mind-blowing special effects and surprisingly deep thematic undertones into an unforgettable package.

While the similarities between "Free Guy" and "The Matrix" might not seem obvious immediately, when you look at them both a little deeper, there's more common ground than you would think. Crucially, both films feature protagonists who begin their respective films with little to no knowledge of the fact that everything they know to be true about their lives is actually an illusion. However, they deviate in their deconstruction of this idea, with "Free Guy" choosing the comedic route, while "The Matrix" opts for a much darker and brooding exploration.

There's further common ground between the central characters. Much like Guy, who breaks away from the shackles of being a non-player character to become the hero, Neo also embarks on a personal journey, going from hacker to "The One" as he learns to thrive in his new reality. In that case, "Free Guy" can definitely be added to the ever increasing list of films that were inspired by "The Matrix."


It's the question we've all asked ourselves at some point: What if aliens invaded the Earth in the form of our favorite video games? Okay, maybe we haven't all been asking that question, but at least one person did, as this is the distinctive concept explored in "Pixels."

Due to this singularly unique threat, the heroes called upon to defeat the aliens aren't soldiers or superheroes, but rather, they're gamer geeks in the form of Adam Sandler, Peter Dinklage, and Josh Gad, all experts and champions in their particular games. This idea of real-world gamers being the heroes is something we see in "Free Guy" as well, with Millie/Molotov Girl being the unlikely nerd to take down the evil corporation that stole her game.

While the film itself may be a little uneven, there's an undeniable joy in seeing familiar classic arcade game characters such as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Centipede re-imagined as big-screen villains in this way. There's also plenty of fun to be had with the souped-up 8-bit style animation as the real and virtual worlds collide.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

The original "Jumanji" received a major upgrade with this 2017 sequel, which sees four teenagers trapped in a video game filled with stampeding animals and increasingly dangerous environments. In a similar vein to "Free Guy" and "Ready Player One," the characters navigate through the game under the guise of their avatars, something which is played to great comedic effect. They must also draw upon their real-world skills and experiences, as well as the unique in-game attributes they're assigned in order to defeat "Jumanji" and escape back home.

"Free Guy" takes the concept of non-player characters and explores what happens when one of them decides to become the hero, and similarly, "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" also features some memorable NPCs. Rhys Darby as Nigel Billingsley is a particular highlight as the guide within the game who unfortunately has a very limited vocabulary and is therefore not much help to our heroes whatsoever. And both films really play with video game tropes and to a hilarious effect. It's clear that they both understand the types of games that they're referencing, which adds an extra layer of fun for the gamers out there.

The LEGO Movie

More than just the stackable bricks, the LEGO brand has subsequently branched off to cover theme parks, TV series, video games, movies and more. With the arrival of "The LEGO Movie" in 2014, we were introduced to the completely ordinary Emmet (Chris Pratt), a construction worker content with a life of structure, banality and blending into the background.

If this is starting to sound a lot like Guy in "Free Guy," that's not where the similarities end. Much like Guy, Emmet's world is turned upside down with the arrival of a dark and mysterious stranger, Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), who's able to show him there is more to life than he realized, and he can be the master-builder of his own destiny.

We all love the story of the plucky underdog, and they don't come much pluckier than Emmet! The beauty of "The LEGO Movie" is its self-awareness and zany sense of humor, something that culminates in a surprising note with its conclusion, introducing us to those controlling the figures in the real world. Both "Free Guy" and "The LEGO Movie" are gloriously meta and packed with references and small details that will keep you coming back for more.

They Live

Released in 1988, John Carpenter's "They Live" is a biting satire that never goes out of date, no matter what decade you're in. The film focuses on an average, working-class guy called Nada (Roddy Piper) who's suddenly awakened to a truth he's previously been blind to when he finds a pair of sunglasses. After putting on the shades, he can suddenly see that all the wealthy people are in fact ruthless aliens, controlling the lives of those less fortunate than them.

You might've spotted the similarity already, but sunglasses are an important component of "Free Guy" as well, as they unlock the virtual world that Guy finds himself in, causing him to wake up and realize that he's actually inside a game. "They Live" unpacks the idea of hidden truths and conspiracies in a lot more detail, but the idea of the little guys usurping the mega rich and powerful is something that both films feature, so we'd be willing to bet the sunglasses are a deliberate reference to the Carpenter classic.