10 Movies Based on Toys, Ranked


Everyone was a kid once, and as much as adult filmgoers try to pretend otherwise, the toys they used to love and often still love to this day had a massive impact on the films and stories that inspire them now. Whether they spent their childhood building wild castles and spaceships from Lego bricks or playing dress up with Barbie dolls, everyone has a toy that means a great deal to them.

As a result, toy-to-film adaptations can be surprisingly potent pieces of cinema if they’re made for the right reasons. Barbie is the most recent toy line to get the theatrical film treatment, with Greta Gerwig’s Barbie breaking box office records and securing 8 Oscar nominations. However, many other iconic toys have made the coveted leap to the big screen. Of course, not all toy films are created equal, and for every Barbie, there’s a cynical cash grab that fails to justify its existence.

10 ‘Playmobil: The Movie’ (2019)

Director: Lino DiSalvo

Image via STX Entertainment

2019’s misguided one-off effort, Playmobil: The Movie, proves that some toys should stay on the shelf. The film, based on the German toy line of the same name, was widely panned by critics, sitting at an appalling 18% on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite valiant efforts from an impressive cast, including Anya Taylor-Joy and Daniel Radcliffe, there’s just not enough here to stand out in any meaningful way.

Critics blasted the film for its cringe-worthy sense of humor and weak storytelling, though some were positive towards the film’s sibling protagonists. Playmobil: The Movie was a box office bomb, making only $16.3 million on a budget of $75 million. The film’s failure ensured that the would-be Playmobil Franchise would not continue on the silver screen, its one entry destined to fade into obscurity.



Release Date
June 10, 2019


Watch on Starz

9 ‘Battleship’ (2012)

Director: Peter Berg

Cora Riakes standing next to a gun looking to the distance in Battleship
Image via Universal Pictures

Almost anyone would be forgiven for forgetting that a film adaptation of the popular Hasbro board game ever existed. The ill-conceived 2012 film Battleship failed to make an impact on critics and audiences alike. Reviews criticized the derivative nature of the script and its reliance on over-the-top sci-fi action. The acting was also criticized, even when the film featured a solid cast, including Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skårsgard, and Rihanna.

Alas, Battleship‘s ludicrous plot and formulaic approach to blockbuster filmmaking led to lackluster box-office numbers against a massive budget. Any franchise potential quickly sank to the bottom of the ocean. Today, Battleship stands as a curious film, a sort of guilty pleasure that can be enjoyed as long as the brain is turned off. It’s not among the best movies based on board games, but it’s at least entertaining—loudly so.



Release Date
April 11, 2012


Watch on Peacock

8 ‘Masters of the Universe’ (1987)

Director: Gary Goddard

He-man held captive in Masters of the Universe
Image via The Cannon Group Inc.

Mattel’s Masters of the Universe action figures have had a long and varied history on screen. The first TV series based on the toy line, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, was released in 1983 and remains one of the most beloved animated efforts from the decade. It spawned a film in 1985, The Secret of the Sword, that might not be as successful but remains a nostalgic piece of entertainment.

However, He-Man’s best-known cinematic effort might be 1987’s Masters of the Universe, starring Dolph Lundgren and He-Man and Frank Langella as Skeletor. Masters of the Universe was panned at the time, but it’s now considered a cult classic of sorts, with fans considering it in the same camp as Xanadu or Howard the Duck. It’s not a good movie, but no one can say it’s not entertaining!

Watch on Tubi

7 ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’ (2009-2021)

Director: Stephen Sommers

Snake Eyes, Scarlett, and Breaker in G.I. Joe The Rise of Cobra
Image via Paramount Pictures 

While G.I. Joe may be the original action figure line, the military-inspired toys have largely lost the battle for critical acclaim. The first G.I. Joe figure hit the shelves in 1964 but didn’t receive a TV show until 1983. Many direct-to-video movies spun off from that series until the first theatrical G.I. Joe film, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, came out in 2009 to average reviews but a surprisingly solid box office.

Since then, three live-action G.I. Joe films have been released, and all of them have received rotten scores on Rotten Tomatoes. The first film isn’t perfect, but The Rise of Cobra is enjoyable, a throwback to the safe and by-the-numbers blockbuster approach of the late ’90s. However, the sequel settled for doing the least, while the reboot, 2021’s Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, was dumped in a post-pandemic landscape and left to die. It’s unknown whether the series will continue, but perhaps it’s for the better.

Watch on Paramount+

6 ‘Transformers’ (2007)

Director: Michael Bay

Autobot leader Optimus Prime prepares for battle in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
Image via Paramount Pictures

Simultaneously the most financially successful toy franchise adapted to film and one of the lowest rated, Transformers follows the adventures of two warring factions of robots who can transform into different vehicles. The 1980s saw The Transformers: The Movie gain decent reviews and become a cult classic. Twenty-seven years later, the live-action era began with 2007’s Transformers, spawning a franchise that so far includes seven movies, each receiving varying reception from critics and audiences.

With the exception of the surprisingly good Bumblebee, nearly every Transformers movie has received terrible reviews. The blow has been softened by the massive box office returns, with two films grossing over $1 billion at the worldwide box office. Critics frequently complain about the franchise’s uninteresting characters, poor direction, and mechanical storytelling while appreciating its larger-than-life visual effects. Fans have also seemingly grown tired of the same formula, with the latest entry, Transformers: Rise of the Beast, becoming the lowest-earning at the box office.



Release Date
July 3, 2007


Rent on Amazon

5 ‘Kit Kittredge: An American Girl’ (2008)

Director: Patricia Rozema

Kitt Kittredge walking with her friends in in 'Kit Kittredge: An American Girl'
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Since 2004, the American Girl series has told the stories of girls throughout history, adapting many of the books accompanying Pleasant Company’s American Girl Dolls. While the franchise has enjoyed modest success in the television-film world, only 2008’s Kit Kittredge: An American Girl received a theatrical release.

Starring Academy Award-nominee Abigail Breslin, Kit Kittredge: An Americal Girl received enthusiastic reviews. Most praised Breslin’s work in the titular role while acknowledging the film’s ability to offer a satisfying story that should challenge younger viewers and entertain their parents. Several more films have followed, although this Breslin-starring vehicle is the best known by mainstream audiences.

Kit Kittredge An American Girl Poster

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl

Release Date
July 2, 2008


Rent on Amazon

4 ‘Trolls’ (2016)

Director: Mike Mitchell

Poppy and Branch in Branch's home in Trolls (2016)
Image via DreamWorks Animation

Trolls, the first theatrical adaptation of Thomas Dam’s popular Troll Dolls, arrived in 2016. It tells an original story about two of the colorful critters on a journey to save their friends. The musical aspect of the film greatly enhanced the sweet yet simple plot, while Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake‘s voice performances did much of the heavy lifting.

While many critics felt the plot was unmemorable, the positive and child-friendly Trolls found enough praise to push it to critical praise and commercial success—it even received an Oscar nomination! A sequel, Trolls World Tour, followed in 2020, earning similarly respectable reviews. The third film, Trolls Band Together, earned a more lukewarm reception from critics and audiences, perhaps hinting that the trolls’ time under the sun might be at an end.



Release Date
October 13, 2016


Watch on Netflix

3 ‘Clue’ (1985)

Director: Jonathan Lynn

The cast of Clue looking out an open door.
Image via Paramount Pictures

The now-legendary cult classic Clue took the fun of the eponymous board game and expertly translated it into film. Featuring a who’s who of brilliant comedic actors, including Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Eileen Brennan, and Madeline Kahn, Clue is a campy take on the popular game that remains as fresh today as it was in 1975.

Although not a commercial success, Clue received strong reviews praising its zany sense of humor but criticizing its mystery elements and the decision to screen the film in theaters with multiple endings. Time has been incredibly kind to this quaint film, and it now stands as one of the best cult classics and a brilliant piece of camp cinema from the ’80s that will undoubtedly keep getting better with age.



Release Date
December 13, 1985

94 minutes

Watch on Showtime

2 ‘Barbie’

Director: Greta Gerwig

Barbie, smiling in front of a hot pink slide in Barbieland
Image via Warner Bros.

While Greta Gerwig’s critically acclaimed Barbie marks the first time the toy line has appeared in theaters, the Barbie franchise has had a longer film history than one might expect. Thanks to the 42 direct-to-video Barbie movies that have been released since 2001, the world’s most famous doll has done surprisingly well for herself. Many of these films are very popular among fans, cementing Barbie’s enduring legacy as a cultural icon.

The doll’s jump to the big screen was a major triumph, thanks both to positive reactions from critics and a massive box office that surpassed the $1 billion mark. Gerwig’s acclaimed 2023 film effectively revolutionized Barbie, securing her place as a feminist icon and granting her some much-welcome depth. Barbie was the biggest film of 2023, earning 8 Oscar nominations and proving, once and for all, that toy-based movies can be every bit as artful as any other film adaptation.

Barbie Film Poster


Release Date
July 21, 2023

114 minutes

Watch on Max

1 ‘The Lego Movie’ (2014)

Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

The main characters of The Lego Movie together looking surprised
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

By far the most critically acclaimed toy-to-film venture, the Lego film series has been widely praised for its quirky comedy and impressive animation. The earliest feature-length film based on a Lego property was 2003’s Bionicle: Mask of Light. However, the charming construction-based toy line didn’t appear in theaters until 2014’s The Lego Movie, directed by Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

The Lego Movie is unadulterated joy. It’s clever, colorful, vibrant, and hilarious, a near-perfect animated movie that never sacrifices its humor despite offering a remarkably witty dose of depth. The film spawned a successful franchise, with most of its follow-ups receiving high reviews and box office success. However, the original Lego Movie remains a true breath of fresh air, an energetic and kinetic film that excels as a celebration of its parent IP and a worthy trip to the cinema.

The LEGO Movie poster

The Lego Movie

Release Date
February 7, 2014

100 minutes

Rent on Amazon

NEXT: The 10 Movies That Inspired ‘Barbie,’ According to Greta Gerwig


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *