Video games make terrible movies, so why are they still being made?

By: Julien Assouline | Documentation

Movies based on video games have never had much success. At least not critically. Yet, they keep being made. On March 16, 2018, the next iteration of the Tomb Raider franchise will be set to release, this time starring Alicia Vikander. This will be the third Tomb Raider movie, previously the series was starred by Angelina Jolie.

The movies are based off of the very popular Tomb Raider video games , which was initially released in 1996. While the videos games have been popular, the movies have been panned by critics receiving a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes for Lara Croft - Tomb Raider and 24% for Lara Croft Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life.

Nintendo is also reportedly making an animated Mario movie with Illumination Entertainment. This would be the second movie based on the Mario video games. The first movie entitled Super Mario Bros. was made in 1993. It was the first movie based on a video game. It too, however, got poor reviews from critics with a 15% on Rotten Tomatoes.

These movies aren’t just outliers though, on average, movies based off of video games have a rating of 18% on Rotten Tomatoes. Which begs the question: if video game adaptations make terrible movies, why are studios still making them?

Movies based on video games are bad, but profitable

Source: Wikipedia , Box Office Mojo

Movies were only included if it had an Rotten Tommatoes rating and box office mojo data

The answer is quite simple, money. Most video game adaptations are quite profitable, especially in recent years. Movies such as Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, The Angry Birds Movie, and Warcraft all made more than 250 million in profits, even Assassin’s Creed made more than 100 million in profit. So, even though these movies are getting bad reviews, it doesn’t seem to be affecting their box office numbers.

In total, only five video game adaptations didn’t make a profit, and none have lost money in the past 10 years. The last video game adaptation to lose money was Postal in 2007 which lost over 14 million.

Most of these movies make their money internationally, rather than domestically.

Movies based on video games perform better internationally

Source: Box Office Mojo

Only House of the Dead, BloodRayne, Pokémon: The First Movie, and Doom made more than 50% of their overall income domestically. The rest made more internationally. Of the four that made more domestically, only Pokémon: The First Movie made any significant income. Both BloodRayne and Doom lost money, and House of the Dead made just under 2 million, which was the lowest profit margin of any video game adaptation.

So, if these movies want to make money, it looks like they need to do it internationally or things could go wrong. This makes sense in many ways. Video games are hugely popular not just in the country in which they are made, but internationally as well. People play World of Warcraft all over the world, so maybe the bad reviews were able to scare off people in the US, but probably not in other parts of the world.

Excluding Tomb Raider and Mario, there are currently four other video game adaptations that are in production . These decisions, by studios to keep making movies based on video games isn’t foolish. Many of these movies such as Tomb Raider will probably be greatly profitable, and as long as that keeps happening, it doesn’t really matter how bad the movie reviews are.


The web scraping, cleaning, and analysis was all done in Python.

I used D3.js to create the charts. I used a mixture of HTML, and CSS to build the page layout.