10 Best Martial Arts Movies Based On Video Games

Summary

  • Martial arts movies based on fighting video games offer captivating battles, unique characters, and larger-than-life worlds.
  • Recent video game movie adaptations like Mortal Kombat have improved in quality, balancing campy charm with explosive action.
  • Movies like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat (1995) have their own cheesy appeal with impressive fight scenes and iconic characters.



As far as martial arts movies go, those that adapt video game franchises with a focus on hand-to-hand fighting can produce some satisfying results. Fighting game franchises like Street Fighter, Tekken, and Mortal Kombat beg to be adapted into action movie blockbusters, with their focus on eclectic casts of unique characters, bizarre, larger-than-life worlds, and punchy battles laden with unique martial arts moves. Just as the best of these types of video games have taken heavy inspiration from classic martial arts movies, the film industry has taken note of one-on-one fighters as source material.

It wasn’t until recently that the reputation of video game movies has improved, with films like The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Sonic sending the popularity of movies based on video games into new heights. In the realm of fighting games, the ceiling is still relatively low, with the bar for quality in live-action martial arts movies with video game origins still struggling to clear a 50% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Even so, the campy charm, explosive action, and loving callbacks to the source material still make many of these films worth watching.



10 Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist

2014

One of the most faithful fighting game movie adaptations ever put to screen, Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist wears its love for the legacy arcade franchise on its sleeve. The lovingly-recreated signature moves of protagonists Ryu and Ken, wearing game-accurate cosplay-like costumes, are a sight to behold, with impressive special effects considering the film’s meager budget. Originally released as a web-series on YouTube, this early story of Ryu and Ken’s formative years in training works well as a brisk feature film in its own right, even if it is fan-made.


9 Mortal Kombat

2021

Mortal Kombat (2021)

In this 2021 adaptation of the classic video game franchise, Mortal Kombat follows MMA fighter Cole Young, who finds himself targeted by Outworld’s Emperor Shang Tsung, who has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero, an otherworldly Cryomancer, to hunt him down. Learning of his heritage, he finds himself joining the likes of special forces members Sonya Blade, Jackson “Jax” Briggs, and others as they discover they may be Earth’s last line of defense from a hellish invasion from another realm.

The highest-budgeted film based on a fighting game ever made, 2021’s Mortal Kombat upped the ante on the bloodiest spectacle possible for big-budget martial arts movies to indulge in. Correcting the mistake of the 1995 movie’s PG-13 rating, the R-rated film paid tribute to the game’s gory combat with some creatively visceral deaths. With a cast composed of real-life martial artists like Lewis Tan and a commitment to portraying even the more obscure characters in the Mortal Kombat mythos, it’s no wonder that a Mortal Kombat 2 has already been confirmed.


8 Street Fighter

1994

Even if it does make some radical departure from the game it’s based on, 1994’s Street Fighter is impossible not to grin at as its colorful and campy world of quirky martial artists unfolds. Featuring deliciously hammy performances, including Paul Julia’s iconic villain, M. Bison, Street Figher leaves no bit of scenery unchewed as the nonsensical plot and hilarious line delivery strings together a slew of impressive fight scenes. The film is also notable for poaching the talents of 90s icon, Jean-Claude Van Damme, as Guile, despite being the basis for staple Mortal Kombat character Johnny Cage.


7 Mortal Kombat

1995

mortal kombat

Mortal Kombat (1995)

1995’s Mortal Kombat is the first attempt to translate the famous MK video game franchise to the big screen. It features Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, and Johnny Cage receiving help from Lord Raiden in order to defeat Shang Tsung and stop Outworld from defeating Earthrealm one final time. After a controversial sequel, the 2021 reboot started its story from scratch.

Cast
Robin Shou , Christopher Lambert

As impressive as the updated special effects and blood-splattering violence as 2021’s film of the same name are, there’s an unmistakable charm to the 90s’ Mortal Kombat movie. The film enraptures the viewer into an almost fever-like trance with its impressive otherworldly sets, genuinely eye-popping practical effects, and the infectious fun of performances from actors like Robin Shou and Linden Ashby. With an iconic droning techno theme that has almost become more popular than the games themselves, 1995’s Mortal Kombat evokes the greatness of cheesy martial arts masterpieces like The 36th Chamber of Shaolin.


6 Tekken: Blood Vengeance

2011

Lin Xiaoyu in Tekken Blood Vengeance

The last of the “Big 3” fighting game franchises after Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, the Tekken franchise was done dirty with a terrible live-action movie in 2009. Luckily, Tekken: Blood Vengeance gets it right, working closely with series creator Katsuhiro Harada to ensure the incredible 3D animation was faithful to that of the original fighter to add a Z-axis to the action. Starring unconventional buddy cop heroines Ling Xiaoyu and Alisa Bosconovitch, the film offers a unique perspective on the Tekken franchise while still keeping the spirit of the series alive with stunning animated battles and a soap-opera storyline.


5 DOA: Dead Or Alive

2006

Holly Valance in a black bikini in DOA: Dead or Alive

A lesser known fighting game, Dead or Alive‘s scantily-clad fighters are legendary in their own right, and the 2006 live-action adaptation translates the core of the franchise beautifully. With picture perfect casting for characters like Tina and Kasumi that make them feel like they leaped right out of the Playstation, the film’s low-brow appeal may not qualify for prestige cinema, but it undeniably succeeds at what it sets out to do. A gumbo of Charlie’s Angels and Enter The Dragon, DOA: Dead or Alive is a sexy, entertaining exhibition of brainless fun punctuated with some impressive fight choreography and wirework.


4 Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge

2020

Few feature films function better as a love-letter to their source material than Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge. More vicious than even the 2021 Mortal Kombat movie, Scorpion’s Revenge gets just as depraved as the game series, as the titular undead ninja carves a bloody path through the realms of the franchise. From the stunning animation to the sleek, unique art style dripping with heavy shadows and bold, jagged shapes, there’s little this animated film can’t do, just short of introducing Scooby Doo’s Shaggy to the Mortal Kombat universe.

3 Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle

1993

Fatal Fury 2_ The New Battle


Though not as much of a household name as Street Fighter, the Fatal Fury franchise was an iconic enough series in its own right to spawn a modest trilogy of animated films, with Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle being the best. The striking 90s anime art style takes a more tender look at lovable protagonist Terry Bogard, depicting his internal conflict rife with self-doubt and alcoholism after a humiliating loss to a new foe. But make no mistake, the gut-wrenching fight scenes of the painstakingly-animated film makes every blow land with a visceral satisfaction, and Terry’s turmoil is supplemented with a healthy dose of Power Geysers and Buster Wolves.

2 Double Dragon

1994

Double Dragon Movie


Not spawned from a one-on-one fighter like most video game martial arts movies, 1994’s Double Dragon came to audiences courtesy of the cooperative side-scrolling beat-em-up of the same name. Set in the near-future apocalyptic city of New Angeles, martial arts prodigy brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee have to contest with dangerous gangs intent on stealing their master’s magical medallion. Even if the story is just as corny as the synopsis makes it sound, Double Dragon‘s creative use of special effects, entertaining sibling dynamics and over-the-top camerawork make it worth a watch.

1 Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie

1994

Street Fighter II The Animated Movie pic


Right from the get-go, the beautifully animated prequel proves it isn’t here to mess around, with Ryu tearing a fresh bloody scar into Sagat’s chest within the space of the first scene. Street Fighter II: The AnimatedMovie was so good it actually inspired the games, with Cammy getting a referential move in the latest game. With an unrelenting commitment to giving at least a cameo to nearly every Street Fighter character and one of the greatest animated martial arts fights of all time with Chun-Li vs. Vega, this animated masterpiece isn’t a video game adaptation to sleep on.

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