5 Most Realistic Video Game Scenes in Movies

What was it like being a guy before gaming? What did people do with their free time and how did they occupy their idle thoughts? It’s a tough question to answer. We may never unravel the mystery of a life before gaming — mostly because we’re too busy gaming.

The truth is that when video games became popular, they changed the backdrop of our culture. Suddenly it wasn’t cowboys on the screen or a newspaper in hand for the 20-something man: It was pixels and a controller, respectively. Gaming became a part of our culture decades ago, and in that time we’ve seen movies capture this new world with varying success. Here are the six most true-to-life movie scenes about video gaming — and one unrealistic one we love anyway.

1. The Last Starfighter: New high score!

After the success of Star Wars, there were a lot of rip-offs on the “farm-boy goes to space” trope. None were quite so deliberate or quite so original as The Last Starfighter. Alex has one joy in life: a spaceship battle game that, once he breaks the record score, catapults him into a giant world beyond, populated by aliens and the kind of piloting only he, the beater of a video game, can handle. Every kid dreamed of being the chosen one. Every kid played video games to escape. This movie capitalized on that. And while the rest of the film is an underrated gem, the best and most realistic scene is this one, where for a moment Alex’s world is just a little different — a little better.

2. Swingers: Making Gretzky’s head bleed

Swingers was always a movie about L.A., trying to make it big, and finding a balance between reality and a persona. Nothing quite drops the guard of two men like putting controllers in their hands. Swingers captured that volatility and the power dynamic perfectly in a scene that could have happened in any living room, in any city, between three guys of any age, in any generation since the first console went on sale. And for what it’s worth, we also get a look at early vintage Vince Vaughn typecasting.

3. The 40-Year-Old Virgin: 40s and Mortal Kombat

The 40-Year-Old Virgin was part of the career-making onslaught for a dozen stars. It was the first brief appearance of Jonah Hill, the first man-childing of Seth Rogen, and it managed to create an entire scene of two guys ripping on each other while button mashing — and make it hilarious. Truthfully this scene fits into any Paul Rudd or Seth Rogen film from the last decade.

4. Shaun of the Dead: “I’m sorry, Shaun….”


This movie made excellent use of a video game to progress a plot, and it was a great way to introduce a character. This was the first film where the video gaming slouch really replaced the channel-changing slouch: a cultural shift in screen addiction. Shaun could be a functioning game addict and Ed the down-and-out addict. Or maybe we’re reading too much into the whole gaming-console-as-center-of-home thing going on in bachelor pads across the world.

5. Arcade shooting in Back to the Future 2

Marty McFly is having a crazy, unbelievable day in the future. Everything is different and weird to him except the aging arcade game two youngsters manage to kickstart at the retro-themed diner. It’s in the few brief moments where Marty has that light gun in hand where he regains a bit of confidence. Sure, he’s jarred back to reality when the kids insult the classic, but that’s a part of life for anyone with fond memories of a game nobody plays anymore. Just ask the millions still enjoying older Final Fantasy titles, or the monster you became when someone fired up Mario Cart 64 two years ago. Oh, right, we don’t talk about that day.

Ghostbusters 2: Statue of Liberty controls?

You’re going to cry foul on this one: How could the scene — ghost-busting heroes pilot a slime-covered Statue of Liberty into Midtown with a NES controller — be realistic? In a series of new and weird occurrences, the Ghostbusters use what they have to fight for what’s right. It’s a bold plan, and too crazy to work, but let me ask you: If you were building controls for a giant statue, wouldn’t you want dual joysticks and shoulder buttons? The lesson here is simple: Trust what you know. The controller may have gotten a laugh in theaters, but if someone asked me to pilot a strange craft and handed me an XBox Elite rig, I’d be stunt piloting within the hour. Heck, even the military sees how easily they can be used.

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