THE TOP 10 MOVIE/TELEVISION THEMED PINBALL GAMES

They’re electric shrines to childhood, youth and rebellion glowing in the dark. Rock and roll going full-tilt across a playing field of bumpers and flippers, chasing the multi-ball, the highest score, the free game. Man versus machine. I had my share of Donkey Kong and Master Blaster, but nothing delivered the punch that pinball could.

pinball

For over 30 years pinball was banned, from the 1940s to the early 70s, from Los Angeles to New York. There were high profile Elliot Ness style raids and public displays of smashing the games with sledgehammers. Popular opinion at the time was that pinball was somehow controlled by the mob. Cigarettes were also considered healthy during this time so go figure. This created an air of sin around an innocent (though addictive) game. Something the bad boys did. You fired up a heater, flirted with the dame to your right, and worked a ball across a playfield. Despite the raids and prohibition, pinball never went away,  it just found darker corners. The game picked up in popularity in the 70s after the wise local officials decided this wasn’t the devil’s game they thought it was and lifted the ban, but it was a movie themed licensing deal that would bring the game more attention than it could ever imagined.

TOMMY

Wizard, based on the 1975 film rock opera TOMMY, was a massive hit. Though the game itself is a love it or leave it debate among aficionados, it inspired designers to come up with bigger ideas, bigger challenges, and bigger film properties, leading to some of the best pinball games ever made. With all that in mind it’s time to jump into our list. There are really no rules outside of personal preference though gameplay obviously plays a huge part into what makes a game work over another. Units sold or revenue generated was not a factor. So go jerk yourself, it’s time for…

Top 10 Pinball Machines

Based on a Movie/Television Series

 

10. WIZARD (1974)

MANUFACTURED BY BALLY

WIZARD FLYER

WIZARD FLYER BACK

WIZARD

Playfield

Like I said in the intro, most players have a love/hate relationship with this game. The film followed Tommy, a kid who unlocks his potential when he realizes “he sure plays a mean pinball” and the game does a good job of taking that concept and putting it down on a board. Not bad for a first at-bat. I have never been a huge fan of the playfield but I dig the colors of the game and the backglass which now has a retro cool. I can see where this game rock and rolled back in the day, but we’ve come a long way, Jack. However, it still gets a spot in the Top 10 for the historical impact it had.

FREE BALL: This game was such a hit that a sequel was produced called CAPTAIN FANTASTIC with Elton John on the backglass.

9. DEMOLITION MAN (1994)

MANUFACTURED BY WILLIAMS

DEMOLITION MAN

DEMOLITION MAN BACKGLASS

DEMOLITION MAN playing field

From a gaming perspective, this is like going 85mph with the top down. A hyperkenitc pace that is fun as hell. Artwork leaves a lot to be desired on the backglass but everything else is near flawless. The game has a claw feature in top left corner of the playfield that ads a little something extra to the experience.

8. LORD OF THE RINGS (2003)

MANUFACTURED BY STERN

LORD OF THE RINGS PROMO

LORD OF THE RINGS BACKGLASS

Lord Of The Rings Lower Playfield

LOTR_0004_Upper-Playfield

The playfield on this bad mother Frodo is one of my favorites, once the gameplay starts you get lost in the world this creates. Challenging at every turn thanks to the rule-set. Come to think of it, this may be the best pinball game I’ve played that was manufactured in this century.

7. THE SHADOW (1994)

MANUFACTURED BY MIDWAY

THE SHADOW FLYER

THE SHADOW FLYER BACK

THE SHADOW BACKGLASS

THE SHADOW PLAYFIELD

A really atmospheric and surprisingly bumper free playfield. An underrated film and an even more underrated game.

6. TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (1991)

MANUFACTURED BY WILLIAMS

TERMINATOR 2

TERMINATOR 2 BACKGLASS

termiantor upper playfield

Alright, Jack. This is my jam right here. I pumped quarters into this like a true pinball junkie. TERMINATOR 2 is what officially hooked me on the game/sport/addiction. This has a number of crowd pleasers across the playfield like moving targets, cannon shots, and some great voice work by Schwarzenegger. A quarter to blast back to the 90s? Done and done.

FREE BALL: This was the first game to feature a video mode.

5. CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1992)

MANUFACTURED BY MIDWAY

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON

CRETURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON

CREATURE LOWER PLAYFIELD

This is a ramp heavy badass with fantastic colors that bring the film to life within the game. When the Creature hologram flashes, you’re going to be hooked. When you get him again on the search mode, you’ll be a lifelong fan.

4. THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1992)

MANUFACTURED BY MIDWAY

THE ADAMS FAMILY FLYER

THE ADAMS FAMILY FLYER BACK

THE ADAMS FAMILY

playfield_large THE ADAMS FAMILY

This is the best selling pinball game of all-time. I think it has a lot to do with the toys that are found across the playfield, but make no mistake, this thing isn’t for the novice. This has a pretty complex rule set with one of the best multi-ball experiences you can find. You toss some great audio on top of that package and you got yourself a bestseller, brotha.

FREE BALL: A “Gold Edition” of this game was put back into production in 1994. Kind of a solid for a job well done, and also a nice way to milk some more quarters from my pocket. It worked.

3. TWILIGHT ZONE (1993)

MANUFACTURED BY MIDWAY

TWILIGHT ZONE FLYER

TWILIGHT ZONE

TWILIGHT ZONE PLAYFIELD

Now, here’s where I piss off the purists. I think most people would probably have this in the number 2 or even the number 1 slot. Why the slight? Two reasons:

1. It’s my list, Jack.
2. This game pisses me off as much as it please me so it just feels right to reward it with the three spot just to fucking spite it.

I can’t imagine being a developer and landing this property, goldmine! A blank check to be as crazy as you want. This game is packed with features and allows for just about every shot you can imagine set to some of the best sounds a wide body ever produced. A brilliant game, but tricky as hell.

2. MONSTER BASH (1998)

MANUFACTURED BY WILLIAMS

MONSTER BASH

MONSTER BASH BACKGLASS

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

upper playfield

You couldn’t have all the classic Universal monsters in this game and not have it own all kinds of ass. Incredible artwork by Kevin O’Connor (who also did the work on LORD OF THE RINGS and a ton of other titles), vintage sound effects and one of the best gaming layouts that have ever been put down. Some of the other titles on our list, while fun, can be incredibly difficult. I think the general accessibility of this title is what makes it work so well.

1. ELVIRA’S SCARED STIFF (1995)

MANUFACTURED BY MIDWAY

PROMO SCARED STIFF

SCARED STIFF

ELVIRA PROMO IMAGE

Backglass SCARED STIFF

Playfield SCARED STIFF

“Let’s see how Scared Stiff you can get.” Elvira

If there was ever a character custom made for pinball it’s the Mistress of the Dark. In SCARED STIFF she’s back to haunt you with hands down the breast… oh, I mean best… tie-in pinball machine ever created. Her first game, ELVIRA AND THE PARTY MONSTERS (1989) was no slouch in the sack, but this one is overloaded with her brand of busty humor and incredible gameplay that pays tribute to the films we dig watching with her.

The playfield is constantly surprising you with the things that go bump in the night and Elvira is riding shotgun with double entendres. Cassandra Peterson (aka Elvira) had a hand in creating the playfield and you can really feel her presence on this machine, she is a long time fan of the game and it shows. This is one of the more inventive titles I’ve played and despite never completing all 10 levels, I have never felt overly frustrated with the machine. It’s just too damn fun to get hot and bothered with. Monsters at every turn, rock and roll, and one of the hottest dames that ever scared to screen.

So there you go. That’s my Top 10. This was a tough one to get down to only 10 picks but these are the ones I go back to whenever I have the chance. What’s your Top 10 look like? Jump into fray and leave us your list.

 

FIGHT DIRTY,
G

@THEANGRYCHIBA

 

dailygri

dailygri

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5 Comments

  • Reply
    chris
    August 12, 2013

    come on, you did not even mention the Flash Gordon pinball machine it was in every arcade in the 80’s and 90’s….and a great more modern one is the south park pinball..awesome set up!!

  • Reply
    ANUB1S
    August 12, 2013

    I’ve spent many a quarter on both Addams Family and Terminator, but if I had a top 10 list, it would feature Star Trek: The Next Generation. Pulse-pounding multiball!

  • Reply
    dailygri
    August 12, 2013

    Chris, the FLASH GORDON game just missed the Top 10. I have fond memories of that game but those others are just a little better I think.

  • Reply
    dailygri
    August 12, 2013

    ST:TNG is fantastic. Good call!

  • Reply
    October 31, 2014

    Jurassic Park! “DINO DNA”

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