Prince of Persia was originally launched in 1989 for the Apple II, and it remains one of the most beloved games of all time. There had never quite been a platformer quite like it: you play a nameless hero who begins at the bottom of the Sultan’s dungeons, and fights your way to the top to defeat Jaffar (yeah, that Jaffar) and save the Sultan’s daughter. The graphics were simple but evocative so you had to fight your way through puzzles, traps, animated skeletons, Jaffar’s guards, and most importantly: a map that went up, down, left, right, and could go in all of those directions for seemingly endless screens. It was easy to get lost, a struggle to figure out, and conveyed such a sense of adventure.
As more games were made, they continued to develop the maze-like running and jumping off the first one into a high octane, parkour inspired fantasy adventure. It was the later games the movie was based on, eschewing the traditional “nameless hero” of the installments for a character named Dastan (played by Jake Gyllenhaal in an uncomfortably white-washed cast), an orphan adopted by the king of the Persian Empire. He is sent to attack a city and there discovers a dagger that holds the power of the Sands of Time, giving mortals the ability to turn back time. The king dies, Dastan is accused, and he goes on the run with a princess. Together the two people protect the dagger from the king’s true assassins, meanwhile trying to reveal their identities.
In spite of being the highest-grossing video game movie so far, Prince of Persia was poorly reviewed. It holds a 36% score on Rotten Tomatoes. A sequel was originally planned but never came to fruition. Favorite review quote: “It wanders through the desert, looking for an exciting hook but never finding one.” The original game, so slow-moving and with such a simple story, is incredibly evocative: for all of the CGI-aided stunts, the movie adaptation is boring and its story obvious.
It grossed $335,154,643, the only film on the list to break the 300 million mark.