Ryan Reynolds' "Guy" isn't the first game-breaking Chosen One.
we're excited for Ryan Reynolds' Grand Theft Auto-inspired NPC movie Free Guy (watch the trailer here), which features a bank teller in Free City (which is actually an open-world video game filled with no-holds-barred violence), decides to break out of his everyday punching bag rut and stop a robbery. This self-aware act causes him to think he can stop all the crime, committed by players, in his war-torn town.
Obviously, this isn't the first film to involve a clueless citizen of a mysterious municipality learning the truth about their reality while also discovering they have secret powers that can override the system. In fact, the premise goes back almost four decades, to Disney's Tron. So let's digitize ourselves into "The Grid" and look at the best video game/virtual world movies to date!
Best Virtual Reality Adventure Movies
Back when computers and video games were still in their infancy, 1982's Tron posited that a human being could be disassembled by a laser and reanimated inside a computer system, where, in a virtual setting, all the programs were represented in humanoid form. Jeff Bridges' programmer-slash-arcade owner Kevin Flynn gets sucked inside "The Grid" and uses his abilities as a "User" to save his old company's files from an evil Master Control Program.
2010's Tron Legacy continued the tale, decades later, using some snazzy 3D, stunning visuals, and a kick-ass score by Daft Punk. Nothing about Tron makes much sense, even from a virtual reality standpoint, but it's a hell of a lot of fun.
Wreck-It Ralph/Ralph Breaks the Internet
2012's Wreck-It Ralph featured a lovable arcade game villain, voiced by John C. Reilly, who, like Ryan Reynolds' Guy, longs to free himself from the role he was designed to play. Tired of being stuck in a cycle of bad guy buffoonery, Ralph leaves his game in search of a medal and throws the entire video game realm into chaos.
The LEGO Movie
While not exactly a virtual world, The LEGO Movie's land of make-believe still counts as a functioning realm with a know-nothing hero, in this case Chris Pratt's Emmet, who finds themselves caught up in a giant adventure where they're the unlikely key -- in this case, Emmet's everyman dolt being "The Special." The one who can stop the Kragle. Emmet is ripped from his lonely (but awesome?) routine and discovers his innate ability to be a Master Builder, saving the day.
The Matrix Trilogy
Probably the most famous instance of a hero discovering the truth about their faux reality and then rising up as a near-unstoppable force, committed to toppling the entire system, was Keanu Reeves' Tom Anderson (hacker name: Neo) and his ascension to "The One" -- as in the one foretold to save humanity from robot overlord oppression. You see, Anderson, along with almost every other human being, was now just a motionless form in an energy pod providing A.I. beings with juice while their minds existed in a virtual world. And with Matrix 4 officially on the way, it looks like Neo's quest to thwart evil A.I.s isn't over just yet!
Ready Player One
Stephen Spielberg's Ready Player One was an absolute avalanche of '80s and '90s pop culture references, as citizens in a dystopian future escaped their miserable lives by syncing into a global online open-world realm called the OASIS. It's here that an orphan embarks on an adventure to save society by competing in a scavenger hunt designed to give someone complete control of the game. Tye Sheridan's Wade -- aka Parzival -- didn't have any special "Chosen One" game powers, per se, unless you count his decency and narrative advantage of being an underdog with a kind heart.
Alex Proyas' underrated sci-fi noir mystery, Dark City, starred Rufus Sewell as a man who starts to realize things are dreadfully askew in his dreary always-midnight city - eventually learning that he's part of a grand experiment run by alien scientists ominously called "The Strangers." Everyone in town has their memories reconfigured and rebooted each night so they awaken to a new life in the morning as the galactic ghouls try to figure out how the human mind, and emotions, truly work.
his David Cronenberg virtual reality adventure had the misfortune of opening the same year as The Matrix, but it was still able to hold its own as a (way) lower-budgeted story about a virtual game designer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) getting trapped inside her own creation, targeted by assassins. The movie also was able to stand apart from The Matrix in a very ooey-gooey Cronenberg way as the game, eXistenZ, was bio-tech that used umbilical cord-style tentacle connectors that inserted into players' spines.
The Cell, Tarsem Singh's nightmare-filled head trip from 2000, presented us with a type of proto-Inception. Jennifer Lopez played a psychologist who enters her patients' minds in order to discover the source of their trauma. Things get nuts when she's tasked with entering the brain of a comatose serial killer, who's kidnapped a woman, in order to go toe-to-toe with his emotional scars and agony and discover her location. To do so, she's forced to make herself more powerful than the killer's own personal pain and vanquish it as a full-on dream warrior.
Obviously, Christopher Nolan's Inception plays by different rules (and there are so many rules!) than most of these other films since it's about mind invaders traversing someone else's psyche while they sleep, but Leonardo DiCaprio's Dom and his team do find themselves trapped inside the head of a tech conglomerate heir, unable to leave after things go sideways, while trying to plant an idea in his brain. From there, the only way out is through.