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Movies vs. videogames: Which did it better?

4:00 PM on 11.07.2012 // Chad Concelmo

A battle for the ages

The relationship between movies and videogames is quite the interesting one.

Although they are separate entities, both movies and videogames have profoundly influenced each other over the years. Outside of the obvious adaptations of movies into videogames (and vice versa), or series like Uncharted that revel in their love of classic cinematic experiences, there have been many more connections between the two pieces of popular entertainment.

Take specific scenes, for example. There are many near-identical scenes and sequences that are featured in both videogames and movies. While the focus of these scenes may be the same, the mechanics and aesthetics of how each scene is presented are sometimes very different.

In these scenarios, which handles the scenes in question better? Movies or videogames? I decided to take a handful of these similar scenes -- each featured in both a movie and a videogame -- and put them to the test. Let the battle begin!


Believe it or not, there are two scenes in a movie and a videogame that feature main characters climbing into refrigerators right before they are shot into the air over a very long distance. Seriously.

The more famous of these dual scenes is in the fourth Indiana Jones movie (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). In this scene, Indiana Jones is trapped in an abandoned nuclear test city right before an atomic bomb is about to be detonated.

To escape, he climbs in a refrigerator to protect himself from the deadly blast. When the bomb explodes, Indy and the refrigerator are blown to safety.

This scene has become legendary, mostly because people think it is when the Indiana Jones movies officially jumped the shark. (Or, in this case, "nuked the fridge.") Many fans use this scene as an example of why they didn't like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Strangely enough, a similar refrigerator scene is also found in classic role-playing game Mother 3 (released a couple years earlier).

As they are leaving Snowcap Mountain, main character Lucas and friends hop into a refrigerator at the top of the highest peak, ride it down the side of the mountain, and launch themselves into the air like a ski jumper before safely landing in the middle of a graveyard.

The winner: Mother 3.

While I am one of the few people that doesn't hate the refrigerator scene in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I still have to give the nod to Mother 3 on this one.

First off, it's Mother 3, so it wins by default alone for being one of the greatest videogames ever made. But looking past that, the refrigerator sequence is just so awesome ... and weird ... and random! WHY IS THAT REFRIGERATOR EVEN UP THERE?!

I love you, Mother 3.

Movies: 0
Videogames: 1


Critically-acclaimed 1995 film Apollo 13 and original PlayStation masterpiece Final Fantasy VII both feature epic rocket launches as major story points.

In Apollo 13, this is an obvious inclusion, as the movie would never be able to happen if the astronauts featured in this harrowing true story did not journey to space in the first place. I mean, how else are they going to get there? Catapult? (Okay, that needs to happen in a Director's Cut.)

The movie scene truly is a master class in great editing, awesome special effects, and stellar direction (under the detailed eye of Ron Howard). As the scene plays out, you really feel like you are there watching it happen. You can almost feel the heat from the fire as the rocket launches into space.

The rocket launch in Final Fantasy VII is surprisingly similar in the way it is shot -- the camera angles and editing share much in common. The main difference is, as the rocket launch of Apollo 13 supports its main story, the rocket in Final Fantasy VII is part of a smaller story that doesn’t have as much to do with the main narrative.

The winner: Apollo 13.

As much as I love the unexpected space sequence in Final Fantasy VII, the rocket launch feels dated all these years later. The graphics are a little past their prime, and the actual launch doesn’t feel very intense.

The rocket launch in Apollo 13, on the other hand, still holds up after all these years. It is exhilarating, exciting, and expertly put together. While there are many other classic scenes in Final Fantasy VII that overshadow the rocket launch, the launch is the centerpiece of Apollo 13. And rightfully so!

Movies: 1
Videogames: 1


One of my favorite boss battles of all time is with The End in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. It is an epic sniper battle, set in a lush jungle, that can potentially last for hours, depending on how you choose to play.

When I saw the Oscar-winning 2009 film The Hurt Locker, I was equally blown away by one of the movie's featured set pieces: a sniper standoff that bares many similarities to the one in Metal Gear Solid 3.

But which one is better?

On the one hand, you have this scene from The Hurt Locker -- an emotionally gripping sequence that is unnerving in its intensity.

On the other hand, you have the boss battle with The End. Both share one main thing in common: they involve people stalking each other with deadly and precise sniper rifles.

In both clips, the high-energy action is replaced with eerily quiet and focused standoffs, resulting in only one side making it out alive. Crazy stuff!

For comparison, here is the sniper battle in Metal Gear Solid 3.

The winner: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.

The sniper scene in The Hurt Locker is great (really great!), but it had some tough competition. Nothing -- and I mean nothing -- can beat the sniper battle with The End in Metal Gear Solid 3. Having full control of what is happening makes everything that much more effective.

It is one of my favorite sequences in entertainment history.

Movies: 1
Videogames: 2


There have been a lot of train crashes in both movies and videogames over the years. But two in particular are extremely memorable, both in their magnitude and in their execution.

One is in the 1993 chase film The Fugitive, and involves Harrison Ford's character Richard Kimble as he tries to escape from the bus that is taking him to prison. After being (spoiler: falsely) accused of murdering his wife, Kimble is placed on a bus to transport him to jail.

Needless to say, things go wrong. The bus rolls off the edge of a cliff, lands on its side on a train track, and a train just so happens to be approaching ... and fast.

Will Richard Kimble make it off the bus in time?

Take a look!

Intense, right?

Just as intense is another classic train crash. This one occurs in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for the PlayStation 3.

Main character Nathan Drake, shot by an enemy and trapped in the passenger car of a fast moving train, shoots a group of explosive barrels as a last resort. The explosion causes the giant train to derail, sending Nathan and the crumbling cars rolling down the side of a snowy mountain

The winner: The Fugitive.

This one is really close. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is one of best produced videogames ever made, and each set piece in the game -- including the train crash -- is remarkable. Had this been about the entire train scene, Uncharted 2 would most definitely win. The entire sequence -- from riding and shooting on the back of the train, to climbing it as it hangs over a cliff -- is exhilarating.

But this is about the train crash specifically, and, for that, The Fugitive is a little bit better. When I saw The Fugitive in the theater when it was first released, I almost jumped out of my seat as the train was headed towards the crashed bus. I was screaming for Harrison Ford to just “JUMP!” and get out of the way of the oncoming train. It was ridiculously suspenseful.

Watching the movie again all these years later, the train crash sequence still gives me that same nail-biting feeling of exhilaration.

Movies: 2
Videogames: 2


Trying to portray flashbacks in a movie or videogame is tough. You can usually go the easy route and just cut to a new scene with the typical "Ten years ago" subtitle on the bottom of the screen, but what if the story presents more of a challenge than that?

This is the case with both Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Final Fantasy VII.

Both stories call for multiple flashback scenes, but ask for much more than a simple cut and subtitle combo.

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince -- in both the book and movie it was based on -- Harry and his wizard mentor Dumbledore must travel through a pensieve together, a magical device used to visit old memories. Because of this, the filmmakers had to seamlessly transition from the real world to the memories of the past by way of the pensieve.

They do so brilliantly.

Similarly with Final Fantasy VII, when Cloud is trying to regain consciousness after submerging himself in the Lifestream, his ally Tifa must journey into his mind and find a way to bring him back.

Instead of just showing a traditional flashback (as the game does earlier in locations like Nibelheim), this sequence has Tifa exploring different parts of Cloud's life, doing whatever she can to help him find out who he really is.

Just like the pensieve scenes in Half-Blood Prince, the characters in Final Fantasy VII physically journey in and out of memories in creative and visually striking ways.

The winner: Final Fantasy VII.

While I still don't think I have seen flashbacks handled with more style than in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, having control of Tifa as she wanders the memories in Cloud's mind in Final Fantasy VII is a much more powerful experience.

Also, I really love Tifa.

Movies: 2
Videogames: 3


I have never been in a sandstorm (fingers crossed!), but there is nothing more terrifying than a giant wall of death sand approaching from miles away. I mean, has there even been a sandstorm that isn't hundreds of feet tall and looks exactly like the Nothing in The NeverEnding Story? YOU SAW WHAT THE NOTHING DID TO POOR FANTASIA, RIGHT?!

Anyway, sorry. I am just as surprised by my sudden, crippling fear of sandstorms as you.

While scary (SEE ABOVE!), there have been two sandstorms featured in movies and videogames that are pretty darn impressive.

First up is last year's Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, in a scene that finds Tom Cruise chasing an enemy through a whirling, violent sandstorm in Dubai.

It's pretty rad.

We also have another sequence set in a sandstorm, this one during the “Return to Sender” mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. After arriving at an enemy compound, playable character Yuri is engulfed by a giant sandstorm. Once the sandstorm fully hits, the rest of the level must be played with almost zero visibility.

The Winner: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

You look great Modern Warfare 3, and your lovely set pieces will always be appreciated. But you had no chance against the awesome Ghost Protocol. I seriously love every second of that movie. One of the best action films of the last few years. No contest. Brad Bird 4 life!

Movies: 3
Videogames: 3


Here we have two scenes that are similar in description, but could not be more different in execution. They both involve two men riding under moving missiles.

In one corner you have James Cameron's amazing True Lies.

At the end of the over-the-top, action-filled film, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s main character Harry Tasker fights with bad guy Salim Abu Aziz on a hovering Harrier jet.

At one point, Aziz is knocked off and his backpack gets caught on one of the Harrier’s missile.

And then this happens:

In one of the best/worst movie lines in history, Schwarzenegger puts his thumb on the missile-firing trigger and says the phrase “You’re fired” before shooting the missile into an enemy helicopter.

It is beyond amazing.

In the other corner is Super Nintendo classic Contra III: The Alien Wars.

During the boss battle of Stage 4, players are tasked with fighting a giant flying fortress, all the while hanging on the bottom of a series of missiles being shot from a friendly helicopter.

The entire boss fight is completely unique ... and completely out of control. It really is one of the best boss battle ever featured in a videogame. I know I am always overdramatic about things like this, but this boss fight is seriously good.

See for yourself!

The winner: Contra III: The Alien Wars.

This one should have been an easy choice, as Contra III is one of my favorite action games ever. But the missile scene in True Lies grows on me every time I see it. It is so unapologetically ridiculous that I can't help but love it. I mean, Arnold Schwarzenegger says "You're fired" before firing a missile with an enemy attached to it.

If that isn't amazing, I don't know what is.

But Contra III is the better scene in the end. Fighting the boss while leaping from one moving missile to another is creative, fun, and surprisingly easy to control!

Movies: 3
Videogames: 4



What do you think? Do you think that the right picks won? Are there any choices that you think should have gone the other way?

What other similar scenes exist between both movies and videogames? And which ones do you like better?

Sound off in the comments!

Chad Concelmo,
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