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 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 puts characters’ lives on the line. Here are some of the best death game movies to watch!
13. Death Bell (2008)
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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.
12. The Belko Experiment (2016)
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 coworkers or the organizers. Is there any escape for this experiment?
11. Battle Royale (2000)
Whereas The Belko Experiments 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.
10. Gantz: O (2016)
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).
9. Escape Room (2019)
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.
8. The Hunger Games (2012)
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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.
7. Would You Rather (2012)
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.
6. As the Gods Will (2014)
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.
5. Saw (2004)
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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.
4. Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare (2018)
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.
3. Mortal Kombat (2021)
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.
2. Death Race (2008)
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.
1. Circle (2015)
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.