So, a while back, I did my list of best movies for gamers interested in playing Call of Cthulhu. At the time, I’d planned to do a few more similar lists, but never got around to it. So, now I am. This week we’ll look at great roleplaying party movies. By this, I mean movies with ensemble type casts of interesting characters that function in much the way a typical party of player characters might. I already mentioned The Thing, Lifeforce, Alien, and Night of the Living Dead in that previous post, so I won’t list them again. And, this time around, I’m not aiming at any one genre. More at the way characters interact with each other and the world.
I’m not going to pick a few obvious ones, particularly if they’ve already had a tie-in game before (like The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or yes, Species) though they may be very good examples. And some will almost certainly make it onto later lists about various subjects.
10. Predator: Depending on the game, it’s not uncommon for a party to be made up of folks who have some preexisting reason for being together. In the case of Predator, our band of mercenaries, led by the manly Arnold have been serving together for some time, called in when things get real. Each member has his own personality and distinct style. But, they’re willing and able to work as a unit.
9. Pitch Black: Another common way for parties to come together is for unforeseen and outside circumstances to thrust them together. This is the case with the folks in Pitch Black, who must learn to work as a team when their ship crashes on a hostile world. In this case, people with little in common, and at times goals directly opposed to the others, still find some common ground to get through various obstacles.
8. The Magnificent Seven: And another way parties often come together is with goal that must be accomplished, as is the case with the seven cowboys who must gather to protect a village from evil marauding bandits. Each is drawn in for a different reason, and each may be looking to get something different out of the job. But, the central goal still connects the party, and creates a unit bond.
7. Dodgeball: Genres may change, but the player character party is still an important dynamic. I mention Dodgeball because you never know what the sort of story it might be, or who all the characters might be, but learning to accomplish tasks together will still be important. And a group of individuals working as a unit can overcome even the evils of White Goodman.
6. Them!: In various games, diverse characters often meet to fight something big. Giant atomic mutated ants are big enough to bring together a country cop, a fed, a scientist and his daughter. With the help of various allies they manage to accomplish great things. Each member brings together elements of his or her own expertise, offering advice, skill and fortitude, making the whole stronger than the sum of its parts.
5. The Warriors: Another established group, the Warriors are all members of a gang stuck in the most hostile of territories. Once again, each must bring his own specific skills to help the whole crew get home, while some must battle personal demons and temptations. Without the skill, daring, and strength of each member, the Warriors will never make it home.
4. The Big Red One: The film chronicles the adventures and horrors of a military unit during the Second World War. Brought together by chance during war, forged into a unit by shared perils, these boys must all pitch in to stay alive.
3. The Fugitive (and US Marshals): Tommy Lee Jones heads a band of US Marshals as they track down various fugitives from justice. The team has a great rapport and manages to function as a unit while still having plenty of inter-party personality conflict. The banter between the team members is snappy in that friendly ribbing kind of way people develop when they work closely.
2. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension: Like a comic book come to life, a band of weirdoes, centered around a surgeon/physicist/samurai/musician take on whatever threats they might find. With auxiliary members and allies around the world, unusual resources, and a willingness to face the strange, they have all the classic elements of a good gaming party.
1. Sneakers: This has been my go-to example of a great roleplaying movie for some time. A cast of eccentrics have formed a crack team that operates on the edge of the law. Like the best player parties, they’re proactive and diverse, and once again their banter reminds me of the best of my past games. Also, each member of the team has distinct strengths and weaknesses. Often, the most fun or interesting player character parties reflect this. It’s not unusual for the best part of a character (in terms of playing that character) to be his or her weakness.