Before Uwe Boll began churning out video game movies twice a week, movies and video games rarely intersected. What was always most interesting to me though was how little the directors obviously knew about video games in the first place when they decided to put them in the film. Case in point is the John Cusack vehicle, Grosse Pointe Blank. In that movie, Doom 2 makes an appearance…as an arcade game. Ah, yes, I do remember fondly typing in that God Mode code on the keyboard in the arcade and…wait a minute…arcade cabinets don’t have keyboards on them. Doom 2 was never an arcade game! And so on, and so forth.
So below are my top five favorite moments of video games featured in movies. Number one is my absolute favorite, mostly because I actually believed it was true at the time.
5. Karate Champ in Blood Sport
Karate Champ was a horrible game. It was horrible back in 1984, and it’s an atrocity today, but in the Van Damme foot fest, Blood Sport, some serious male bonding went on when the muscles from Brussles and some other dude with a beard united by playing it. “Aren’t you a little old for video games?” Van Damme asks his opponent. Hmm, good question, Van Damme, but I think I have a better one. Aren’t you a little too foreign to be playing all-American Guile in the Street Fighter movie?
4. Afterburner II in Terminator 2
Whoa, is that Budnick from Salute Your Shorts I see standing next to John Connor while he’s playing Afterburner 2? I think it is! Even cooler than the ensuing shot where John gets chased by the Terminator, though, is Budnick’s red mullet that sticks out so prominently in the film. The nineties were a deciding decade for Zubaz pants and arcade cabinets that moved while you played them, but the most important time capsule keepsake of them all is the bizarre red mullet that so many “rebels” had back then (Just check out Wheeler from Captain Planet if you don’t believe me). And Budnick, so bad he just can’t help it, hanging out with his friend, John Connor, adds the perfect amount of cheese standing next to a game that gets all its thrills from the fact that it’s in a plastic plane that moves. As the long deceased poet, Wesley Willis, would have said, “Get out the hair clippers, jerk.”
3. Super Mario Bros. 3 in The Wizard
Okay, so maybe The Wizard was more a commentary on autism and Nintendo merchadising than anything else but that still doesn’t make that final, pivotal moment in the film when the idiot savant finds the hidden whistle by ducking on the white rectangle any less amazing. Never have I felt more connected with a film than when I tried the trick at home myself and found out that it actually worked. Now that’s what I call good marketing.
2. Double Dragon in…Double Dragon
In the "whoa, meta category" is seeing the arcade cabinet for Double Dragon in the actual movie of Double Dragon. The scene occurs when that guy who ruined the X-Files, Robert Patrick, is fighting Billy Lee, and he slams him up against the arcade cabinet of the game. Okay, accuracy might not be the true aim of the film, but am I really supposed to believe that a movie that takes place in the future is still going to be having old-school games like DD in them? Come on, where’s the cheesy virtual reality footage of people with headsets on fighting from the mind’s eye? Also…a little Battletoads love would have been nice, especially with their eventual team-up in the real not too distant future inBattletoads and Double Dragon. That game was the shit.
1. Game Gear in Rumble in the Bronx
Rumble in the Bronx was Jackie Chan’s first breakout film here in the US for many reasons. It had suspense, it had romance, and it even had magic, as revealed in the scene where Jackie’s friend, Danny, is playing a Game Gear and there’s sound coming out of it, but there’s NO GAME in it. I’m not really sure if this was meant to market Game Gear as the tool of the devil, or just a prop to show that Jackie’s friend was wasting time, but I’ll never forget seeing that one shot of the kid playing Game Gear, in all its beeping and booping glory, and there was nothing even in it to make that noise in the first place. Leave it to Hollywood to mess up something as easy as putting a game in the gameslot.
What pains me MOST to admit, though, is that I actually believed that Game Gears could play games without having cartridges in them. The Master System could play Hang-On without having a game in there, so why not the Game Gear? I mean, the number 1 and 2 buttons were the same, so why not this feature? Alas, it was not true, and upon unwrapping it as a present on Christmas day, it didn’t take me long to realize that I had been conned by Rumble in the Bronx. Dammit, Jackie! Ay ya!