The Greatest Video Game Movie Ever Made

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I've a long-standing argument that there's never really been a great video game movie. Just a few decent ones. That rule actually needs a little explaining. You see, I mean there's never really been a great video game adaptation.


While flicks like Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider and Silent Hill have their fans, none of them have had the impact and success that, say, Batman or Spider-Man have had for comic book adaptations.

But movies that are just about video games? There are some pretty good ones! And today, we're looking at my favourite.

In case you couldn't tell from the pic up there, it's The Last Starfighter.

Released in 1984, The Last Starfighter tells the tale of Alex, a young American dreamer - who lives in a trailer park, no less - whose only real escape from the drudgery of his life is to play a game at his local arcade. That game is called "Starfighter".

For something concocted back in the mid-80s, it was pretty good! It had wireframe 3D cutscenes, and gameplay itself was reminiscent of titles like (surprise) Star Wars and Elite.

That game, though, is not really a game. It's a recruitment tool. For an alien military force. When Alex makes the top of the game's leaderboard, a creepy old guy turns up and offers him a car ride. Only, the car isn't really a car. It's a spaceship. Which promptly takes Alex into space.


From there, Alex is replaced on Earth by a robot doppelgänger and he joins Admiral Ackbar's brother-in-law on a suicide mission, piloting the only ship - a small fighter at that - against an entire enemy armada.

It sounds batshit crazy, I know. Like something a nine year-old would write for a school English project after watching too much Battlestar Galactica. But when you actually sit down and watch it, it...has a surprising weight to it, as it takes itself so seriously that you can't help but be dragged along with it.


Of course, it helps that for 1984 it had some incredible special effects. It's been sadly overshadowed by other early pioneers in the field like Tron, but The Last Starfighter was not only one of the first movies to ever use computer-generated special effects, it was (I think, at least) the standard in the field for years to come.

What really makes The Last Starfighter worth remembering, though, is that it didn't have to base itself on an existing video game for it to be so enjoyable. It instead took the approach of capturing what it is people love about video games themselves: the escapism, the fantasy, the challenge.


This is a guy who plays games to escape, and what happens? He get so good at playing a video game he is chosen to save the galaxy from an evil oppressor. By flying a starfighter.

That's why, nearly 30 years on, when some of my favourite gameing franchises have come and gone on the silver screen, The Last Starfighter is still my favourite video game movie.


Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.


Luke Plunkett

Fun, if incredibly nerdy fact: I was once in an X-Wing vs Tie Fighter clan called "The Last Starfighters". Just because of their name.