The 17 Best Death Game Movies: You Either Win or You Die

The death game movies genre continues to grow more popular. Here are several thrilling death game movies worth watching!
The 17 Best Death Game Movies: You Either Win or You Die

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Sports and mysteries can bring all kinds of excitement to a movie with their adrenaline-pumping scenes, but death games take the intensity up one more notch as players vie for their lives.

What's a death game movie? You can expect it to involve some sort of premise that turn characters into players who are trying to survive—either against each other or against the game master.

Sometimes, a death game movie is an actual game with a cash prize at the end. Other times, players are forced to do unsavory things in order to win freedom or their heart's true desire. Players can be captive prisoners, abducted everymen, or even volunteers.

No matter what, a death game thrillingly puts characters' lives on the line. Here are my picks for the best death game movies worth watching!

17. Death Bell (2008)

Directed by Yoon Hong-seung

Starring Lee Beom-soo, Kim Bum, Nam Gyu-ri

Horror, Thriller (1h 28m)

5.5 on IMDbN/A on RT

Death Bell is a story of revenge and guilt, with characters confined on campus with no exit. Students and teachers are given tricky questions to answer, with one dying if unanswered within a given time.

With the game still on and the clock ticking, the characters try everything to solve the questions and survive the attacks of the killer—along with the ghostly figure of a dead student who's apparently tied to all the strange and unfortunate happenings.

Unlike most death game movies, Death Bell tackles themes of revenge, hatred, and injustice... which is revealed by the end.

16. The Belko Experiment (2016)

Directed by Greg McLean

Starring John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona

Horror, Thriller (1h 29m)

6.1 on IMDb54% on RT

The Belko Experiment is a one-of-a-kind battle royale movie. It features a typical office building, a typical office staff, and the typical mood of an office worker.

But just then, the doors close and the windows slam shut, leaving no escape for any of the office workers, maintenance staff, or other employees—who are now participants of the experiment.

They have to kill to survive... or be killed by either their own co-workers or the organizers. Is there any escape for this experiment?

15. Battle Royale (2000)

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku

Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Tarō Yamamoto

Action, Adventure, Drama (1h 54m)

7.6 on IMDb88% on RT

Whereas The Belko Experiment features an office space, Battle Royale features students who are brought to a deserted island and pitted against each other in a survival game.

What's "amusing" here is that the killings are actually approved by law—and the parents of participating students are notified, which is just too cruel.

This movie inspired modern battle royale video games, with characters who kill each other while seeking and obtaining loot, hiding and avoiding the danger zones, and aiming to be the last one standing.

14. Gantz: O (2016)

Directed by Yasushi Kawamura and Keiichi Sato

Starring Daisuke Ono, Mao Ichimichi, Tomohiro Kaku

Animation, Action, Drama (1h 35m)

7.1 on IMDbN/A on RT

Gantz: O is a CGI anime movie that features monster hunters. The rule of the game is simple: accumulate points by killing monsters.

The players are said to be dead who were resurrected to play the game of Gantz, the huge black orb that orders and rewards the players of the game.

When someone scores 100 points, they can choose between acquiring a new weapon, reviving a fallen teammate (and continuing the game), or returning to life (with their memories being wiped).

13. Escape Room (2019)

Directed by Adam Robitel

Starring Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis

Action, Adventure, Horror (1h 39m)

6.4 on IMDb50% on RT

Upon solving a mysterious puzzle block, a group of selected individuals are given a chance to play a game that will change their lives.

Escape Room, as the name suggests, features a location with no possible way to exit—except by solving the current puzzle in order to move to the next level. Sounds easy, right?

But each puzzle presents real dangers that put their lives at stake, and they need to survive each one to move through the levels before they're burned alive or frozen to death.

12. The Hunger Games (2012)

Directed by Gary Ross

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi (2h 22m)

7.2 on IMDb84% on RT

The Hunger Games features a near-future dystopian society where resources are limited and young ones from different communities are forced to participate in a survival game to win food, supplies, and riches to take back to their communities.

This life-or-death game was apparently instated by the government as a punishment for the country's rebellion against the Capitol (an area reserved for rich and technologically advanced citizens).

For this year's Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is the participant from District 12 (voluntarily taking the place of her sister) alongside Peeta Mellark. She competes against the other districts' participants, who are all ready to kill for the prize.

11. Would You Rather (2012)

Directed by David Guy Levy

Starring Brittany Snow, June Squibb, Jeffrey Combs

Horror, Thriller (1h 33m)

5.7 on IMDb59% on RT

Would You Rather features a survival-type game where players must do what the host asks to pass to the next level. The tasks start as simply as eating meat (even if you're a vegetarian) for $10,000.

As the game progresses and the tasks become more inhumane, the players decide that maybe it's better to escape than play. But with no way out, they need to finish the game and survive—which will win them a huge amount of money that can change their lives.

10. As the Gods Will (2014)

Directed by Takashi Miike

Starring Nijirō Murakami, Shōta Sometani, Ryunosuke Kamiki

Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi (1h 57m)

6.4 on IMDb57% on RT

As the Gods Will is based on a manga series of the same name, featuring a mysterious death game with supernatural elements. The game masters are supernatural beings who can kill in an instant with just a stare (if you don't follow the rules).

The game starts by involving a whole classroom along with a Daruma Doll, which kills anyone who it sees moving. New games are introduced as players are killed. This movie features common games that are easy and fun but given twists that turn them deadly.

9. Saw (2004)

Directed by James Wan

Starring Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover

Horror, Mystery, Thriller (1h 43m)

7.6 on IMDb50% on RT

The Saw franchise is one of the best to feature sadistic "games" that not only cost the player's life but also the lives of others who are close to them. The player must solve the mastermind's puzzles before time runs out, which will trigger their death.

Notable "death games" in the Saw series include the Horsepower Trap, the Death Mask, the Reverse Bear Trap, the Silence Circle, and many others that have made the franchise famous for its bloody and stomach-churning dilemmas.

8. Truth or Dare (2018)

Directed by Jeff Wadlow

Starring Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane

Horror, Thriller (1h 40m)

5.2 on IMDb15% on RT

Who would have thought that playing Truth or Dare could be dangerous? Blumhouse's Truth or Dare gives the game a supernatural twist involving an entity that plays a game with humans—one that's too harsh and deadly for most to handle.

The supernatural version of Truth or Dare forces the player to either speak the truth, perform the dare, or die. As they attempt to track down the force behind the game and put an end to it, emotions come to a peak as players are forced to reveal hidden truths.

Unlike games that grant prize money or other material rewards, this game offers nothing. Also, when a player takes their turn, a creepy and sinister smile comes out and asks "Truth or dare?" Eek.

7. Mortal Kombat (2021)

Directed by Simon McQuoid

Starring Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson

Action, Adventure, Fantasy (1h 50m)

6.1 on IMDb54% on RT

Mortal Kombat is a movie that features an extraordinary tournament between the Earthrealm against the Outworld. It's based on the video game series of the same name, so expect a fight like no other (but it's not as bloody as the game's fatalities and brutalities).

Qualified players are brought to a mysterious tournament, where they're tasked with fighting each other for a monetary grand prize along with the granting of one wish.

6. Death Race (2008)

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

Starring Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Tyrese Gibson

Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller (1h 45m)

6.4 on IMDb42% on RT

Jason Statham's Death Race is one of the best movies for car chases featuring modified cars ready for combat.

The story revolves around a man who's accused of killing his own wife and placed in a maximum-security prison. While there, he's offered a chance at freedom—by posing as a car racer in the prison's Death Race.

As the story progresses, the mysteries of his wife's death come to light and it's up to him to escape the prison to start a new life.

5. Circle (2015)

Directed by Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione

Starring Michael Nardelli, Carter Jenkins, Julie Benz

Drama, Horror, Mystery (1h 27m)

6.0 on IMDb57% on RT

In an intense battle royale of decision-making, who would you vote to be eliminated (die)? Circle uniquely pits people's desires, will, greed, and personal preferences against each other without knives, guns, or violence. That's what makes the movie interesting.

In Circle, 50 people wake up in a dark room, standing in circular formation with everyone facing the center. The rule is simple: whoever receives the highest number of votes, dies. Voting happens every two minutes, and votes can be based on anything and everything.

Between kids, pregnant women, elderly folks, and all other kinds of reasons, tensions come to a boil as players are eliminated one after another. Every player has their own story and reason to live, adding to the overall drama and stakes.

4. Choose or Die (2022)

Directed by Toby Meakins

Starring Iola Evans, Asa Butterfield, Robert Englund

Drama, Horror, Thriller (1h 24m)

4.8 on IMDb32% on RT

For many geeks, retro games are still pretty cool and fun to revisit. But what if there was a retro game that was so advanced that it could influence reality and turn everyone into NPCs?

That's the premise of Choose or Die, which features a game called "CURS>R" that offers a prize of $100,000 to whomever beats the game. The rules of this text-based interactive fiction game are so simple that anyone—even beginners—can follow through.

But in "CURS>R," the stakes are extremely high and the given options are usually gruesome. Depending on the player's choice, nearby people may be hurt or even killed. And if the player refuses to engage? They die.

Choose or Die follows the story of Kayla, who jumps into playing the game for the prize money, but soon finds herself in an inescapable situation and fighting for her life.

3. Ready or Not (2019)

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Starring Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O'Brien

Action, Comedy, Horror (1h 35m)

6.8 on IMDb88% on RT

In Ready or Not, Grace's dream wedding turns into a nightmare when she agrees to play a game of hide-and-seek with her in-laws. After all, this is supposedly a Le Domas family tradition!

However, this isn't your typical hide-and-seek game. Unbeknownst to Grace, she's the prey and the night will be full of danger. Meanwhile, her in-laws—who are the so-called "seekers"—have no reservations over hunting her down and spilling blood.

2. Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021)

Directed by Adam Robitel

Starring Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll

Action, Adventure, Horror (1h 28m)

5.7 on IMDb51% on RT

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is the direct sequel to the aforementioned Escape Room and a continuation of the story of the preceding game's survivors Zoey Davis and Ben Miller.

In an effort to stop the game masters, the puzzle makers, and their violence-savvy clients, they track down the Minos Corporation's base of operations—and get themselves stuck in another lethal death game.

The puzzles are even harder, more excruciating, and more terrifying this time around. Then again, they also have other survivors from previous death games here to help them.

1. Cube (1997)

Directed by Vincenzo Natali

Starring Nicole de Boer, Maurice Dean Wint, David Hewlett

Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi (1h 30m)

7.1 on IMDb64% on RT

Most people think of the aforementioned Battle Royale as the film that pioneered the death game genre back in 2000, but one could argue that Cube was the real pioneer for doing it first three years earlier.

Cube starts with a group of characters waking up in a sterile room and having no recollection of where they are, why they're here, or how they ended up in this strange room.

As they explore, they realize they're stuck in a labyrinth of cube-shaped rooms that are decked out in all kinds of hazards—from flamethrowers to chemical poisons to flesh-cutting lasers—that they must survive.

But no matter how hard they try, finding an exit from this maze is going to be near impossible because the rooms are constantly shifting and rearranging to form a new labyrinth.

Cube is a cult classic death game movie full of mysteries, thrills, and creative deaths. If you're a fan of this genre, check this one out! (If you don't like watching older flicks, you can try the Japanese remake from 2021, but it doesn't hold a candle to the original.)