Video games have popped up in movies since they first made their start decades ago. They are a great visual representation of the times the film takes place and can offer some depth to a character or scene. For this list, we are looking only at movie moments where a video game is part of the scene and not the premise of the story so films such as Wreck-it Ralph, The Wizard, Grandma’s Boy, Tron, and Pixels are out, to name a few. The rules are that the game has to be played while on screen and be an integral part of the moment. Here are 16 classic movie moments while someone plays a video game.
Two slackers breakup with their girlfriends and head to the local mall to pass the time and reflect on life. One of them is Brodie Bruce (Jason Lee), frustrated with Rene Mosier (Shannen Doherty) and her desire to have breakfast of all things. He’d much rather finish his game of video hockey. But he’s got 12 goals in the second period already, so can you blame him?
The Game: Doom II The System: Arcade console (Fictional)
Martin Blank (John Cusack) is on his way to Grosse Point, Michigan to attend his ten-year high school class reunion, but first he has to make a quick stop. He’s got to kill someone. But wouldn’t you know it, he ends up facing a rival killer (Dany Aykroyd) in a convenience store where the clerk is busy on a console version of Doom II, wearing headphones that, only in the movies, blocks out every other sound but the loud music being played. Of note, Doom II was actually never available in arcade console form (unsubstantiated rumors persist of a brief cameo in a Seinfeld episode, though).
The Game: Galaga The System: Arcade Console (Midway North America, Namco Japan)
Smart but unmotivated high school student David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) accidentally hacks his way into the NORAD defense system and begins a computer simulation of globalthermonuclear war that turns deadly when the computer thinks it’s real. Before classes, David hangs out at the local arcade and maintains the high score on the classic Galaga console (look for Galaga to make more than one appearance on this list.) TRIVIA: Broderick actually spent 8 weeks preparing for this short scene just to give the scene some authenticity. Ah, the hazards of being an movie star.
In the second installment of the Terminator series, the machines send back a new T-1000 liquid metal robot to assassinate young John Connor (Edward Furlong) before he grows up to lead the resistance. He has some help in the form of the original T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who along with his mother fight to save the future. Before the T-1000 acquires his target, John goes to the Galleria Mall and plays a little Missile Command (foreshadowing anyone?) and After Burner.
When Nick Dunne’s (Ben Affleck) wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing and presumed murdered, a media circus surrounds him as evidence builds that suggests he is the killer, though there’s some dark secrets still to be discovered. Early in the film as the couple adjust to a change in lifestyle after moving to be near his ailing mother, Amy comes home to Nick sitting lazily on the sofa playing Battlefield 3, though any true FPS gamer saw right away that Affleck was clearly not and the brief footage they showed was a pre-rendered clip. Where’s the HUD? Shameful.
The Griswold’s, led by good-natured but eternally misguided Clark (Chevy Chase) head cross country to Wally World theme park in a family station wagon where getting there is the real adventure. Before the family departs, Clark decides to show the kids the travel route he’s mapped out on the family computer (an Apple II). Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron) have some fun by switching on the game console and hacking into Clark’s program. Sort of an odd homage to Pac-Man and Space Invaders.
Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) has gone 40 years without ever having sex and the boys at the electronics mega store where he works have made it their mission to help their friend find the right first girl. Along the way, David (Paul Rudd) and Cal (Seth Rogen) visit Andy and decide to have a hilarious volley of verbal shot-for-shots while comfortably sitting in high-tech gaming chairs and battling each other in Mortal Kombat. They are clearly not playing this game, which might be part of the joke, but it’s hilarious just the same.
The Game: Pong The System: Arcade console (Atari)
In contemporary Montana, two cattle thieves try to make ends meet by harassing a rich land owner and his vast herd of prized animals. During all of this, Jack (Jeff Bridges) meets Bud (Harry Dean Stanton), who works for the rich land owner but is now in a scheme with Jack, and at a country/Western bar sit at a game of Pong and discuss their plans. This scene is clever for what the game represents and the fact that we never actually see the actors, only their reflections. Oh, and Bridges would go on to star in Tron, one of the most iconic video game movies ever made.
The Game: StarFighter The System: Arcade Console (Rylan Star League recruitment tool)
Thinking he’s just playing a local arcade game at the trailer park where he lives, Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) finds he’s actually being tested to be a real star fighter in a war between worlds far from Earth. Alex plays Starfighter every day, and when he beats the high score, the whole park is there to watch. Now that’s a supportive community.
In this remake of the 1986 Demi Moore and Rob Lowe classic, Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant are two couples who come to terms with sex, romance, and the real world in this David Mamet update. Mid-way through the film, Bernie (Hart) and Danny (Ealy) are together talking about a relationship issue Danny is having trouble dealing with. As Bernie extolls his advice, he’s also embroiled in a hilarious online verbal tussle with a kid he is battling with in a video game.
In South Central Los Angeles, a group of boys grow up on lawless streets, struggling to find their place in the world. In a classic moment of misdirection, Monster (Baldwin C. Sykes) is shown in close-up aiming a pistol (which is blurred in the close foreground) and appears to be about to kill someone. Turns out it was only a duck from the NES light gun video game Duck Hunt. The gun he is using is actually the peripheral for the Japanese Famicon game called Wild Gunman, which had a different port (the scene was achieved by having a player off-screen using the proper Duck Hunt Zapper make the shot). Speaking of Wild Gunman . . .
The Game: Wild Gunman The System: Arcade Console (Nintendo)
Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) go to the future in the second installment of the popular series, this time to stop Marty’s son from getting into trouble and by doing so allowing Biff to travel back and alter history. While in the far off future of 2015, Marty goes to the diner and sees an old Arcade version of the light gun classic Western shooter, Wild Gunman. Trivia: That’s future Frodo, Elijah Wood as the little kid in the green hat.
The Game: Domination (Fictional) The System: 3D Arcade Console (Fictional)
Sean Connery returns twelve years after his last film as James Bond to once again battle SPECTRE and their theft of two nuclear warheads. During his investigation, Bond meets Maximilian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer), a SPECTRE agent, and at a charity gala, challenge each other to a 3D game of Domination, where the loser of each round receives an electric shock of increasing power. Guess who wins. This game actually looks kind of fun, minus the electrocution.
WALL-E is a robot who works on an abandoned Earth after the humans have long left the garbage-strewn surface. It’s job is to clean up the planet but falls in love with a sleek and shiny robot who is on a very specific mission, eventually following the robot into space. Capable of human emotions, WALL-E takes to the new robot quickly but one day when he shows it a plant, it scoops it up and appears to go into hibernation mode. WALL-E takes it on a date to try and wake it. At one point, they play a game of classic Pong in his derelict home, which contains a huge collection of human memorabilia. Why is this so touching?
A young work-class man in the UK is dealing with the relationships in his life. His girlfriend, his parents, his best friend and also the apocalyptic zombie outbreak spread all over the world. In the beginning of the film, Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) hang out at Shaun’s place enjoying a game of Deathmatch on the Streets level of Time Splitters 2 (a game that features zombies). Stayed tuned for the end of movie when gaming shows up again because who wouldn’t want a zombie gaming partner?
When Loki (Tom Hiddleston), a super-villain intent on enslaving the people of Earth brings an attacking army of alien invaders, the superheroes must learn to work together to defeat him. On the S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) Hellicarrier, the organization’s flagship, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) enters the bridge and while making a speech points to a station monitoring officer and notes that he’s actually playing Galaga rather than working. He thought they wouldn’t notice.
Did we miss any? What are some video game moments in movies you like?