A glance at the three-and-a-half decade history of video game movie adaptations and arcade-inspired films reveals a landscape littered with disappointment. Most game films range somewhere between merely meh and obnoxiously odious. The most recent misfire, Pixels, garnered a 4.5 rating from IGN. But sprinkled amidst the masses of mediocrity and canyons of crap are a few films that are positively enjoyable. Next time you’re looking for an entertaining movie, check out these seven recommended diversions totally worth your time.
Wreck-It Ralph tells the story of a video game villain fed up with being taken for granted. Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) escapes from his game cabinet and wanders the network connecting his local arcade on a quest to earn some respect. The inside jokes on game culture Ralph encounters on his odyssey are uniformly amusing to the core gamer audience, but the movie shines brightest when it focuses on themes of friendship, jealousy, and the inevitability of change. Top-tier voice talent, a rib-tickling script, and a legitimately-surprising plot twist help make Ralph the best all-ages video game movie.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) parses his lonely, unemployed, Canadian life through the filter of early-nineties pop culture. Scott’s in love with the mysterious Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but to win her heart he’ll have to defeat her seven evil exes. Their courtship plays out like an insane real-world retelling of River City Ransom. The video game ambiance drips from every corner of the script, with nods to Zelda, Clash at Demonhead, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, DDR, Crash and the Boys, and a host of other vintage games. A classic coming-of-age romance featuring a smart script, superb directing, and great performances by the entire cast, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is an unqualified gem.

For forty years, the United States lived under the shadow of imminent nuclear war with the Soviet Union. WarGames taps into the paranoia of mutual assured destruction, fusing the threat of annihilation with the emerging computer-age fear of artificial intelligence and the removal of human beings from decision-making. Despite the Reagan-era anachronisms (eight-inch floppies, pay phone hacking) and some storytelling silliness (a quick-witted Matthew Broderick effortlessly escapes from NORAD after almost starting World War III), WarGames has genuinely prophetic undertones. It predicts the automation of the systems governing people’s lives and the potential marginalization such a surrender of power implies, themes that grow more relevant by the day. It’s a genuinely entertaining thriller with a clever, memorable ending sequence built around the highest-stakes video game ever played.