With Alien and Blade Runner, director Ridley Scott is most closely associated with the sci-fi genre, but Scott is one of the most versatile filmmakers, having attempted everything from horror to fantasy to romantic comedy.
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The biographical war film Black Hawk Down, from 2001, may be his most underappreciated work. The film adaptation of Mark Bowden’s non-fiction book, starring Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, and Tom Sizemore, follows a group of American soldiers who come under heavy enemy fire while on a mission to Mogadishu, Somalia.
1. The Kingdom (2007)
It’s hard to deny that The Kingdom is an effective war thriller, featuring some of director Peter Berg’s most exhilarating pre-Wahlberg action sequences, despite the fact that its political message proved divisive among critics when it was released in 2007.
With an all-star cast, the story follows FBI efforts to track down the terrorist responsible for a string of deadly bombings on Saudi Arabian soil that killed US citizens, including Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper, as well as Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman.
2. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Unlike most of the films on this list, Hotel Rwanda tells the story from the point of view of the hotel’s owner Paul Rusesabagina, who is trying to house over 1200 refugees in the midst of the devastating Rwandan genocide. This approach is perhaps even more effective.
The film explores what it’s like to be caught behind enemy lines when those lines are drawn in your own backyard, shedding light on a 1994 incident that has largely been forgotten about. As a result, the film is full of tension.
3. Three Kings (1999)
Even though it was released at a time when tensions with the Middle East were high, Three Kings managed to avoid much controversy while serving as a much lighter and more fun kind of war movie.
After the Gulf War, this film portrays itself as a heist film about a group of American soldiers who attempt to steal a large amount of gold from close to their base. As a result of how well it handled comedy, action, and drama, Three Kings was a critical darling.
4. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
In comparison to Kathryn Bigelow’s previous war film The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty offers an interesting – if controversial – look at how the US government attempted to capture al-Qaeda leader Omar Khadr after the September 11 attacks in the wake of the United States.
Even though it was hailed as one of the best films of 2012 and was nominated for five Academy Awards, the film’s depiction of torture, particularly waterboarding, sparked controversy among critics.
5. Jarhead (2005)
In 2005, director Sam Mendes released his third feature film, Jarhead, building on the success of American Beauty and the brilliant crime thriller Road to Perdition. Soldier Anthony Swofford’s ‘Operation Desert Storm’ experiences are explored in the film.
Despite mixed reviews, Jarhead was lauded by many critics for its realistic depiction of the boredom and monotony of military service, with the main character facing his own inner demons rather than an overwhelming enemy force.
6. American Sniper (2014)
American Sniper follows the life of real-life Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and explores the negative consequences of military service, particularly in light of Kyle’s time in Iraq, which had a lasting impact on his personal and professional life.
Some critics praised the film for its anti-war message, while others slammed it for its portrayal of Chris Kyle and the Iraq War, calling it dishonest.
There is no doubt that American Sniper is an intense, powerful and exceptionally well-made experience (plastic baby included), and the film went on to gross an incredible $547.4 million at the box office for only $59 million in production costs!
7. Rescue Dawn (2006)
Rescue Dawn, directed by Werner Herzog, is based on the true story of Lt. Dieter Dengler, a US pilot who was shot down over Laos and captured by Pathet Lao villagers.
Despite being praised for its stunning cinematography, camera work, and Christian Bale’s captivating performance, the film failed to make a big impact at the box office, grossing only $7.2 million, making it the most overlooked film on this list by far.
8. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)
After years of loud, obnoxious, poorly received action films from director Michael Bay, audiences were pleasantly surprised by 2016’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. The film is based on the same-named book, which tells the story of the Benghazi terrorist attack in 2012.
But while Bay’s trademark action is still present, critics were pleasantly surprised by the film’s gritty and compelling depiction of the conflict, even if it was the director’s lowest-grossing effort to date in terms of box office revenue.
9. The Hurt Locker (2008)
The Hurt Locker was hailed by critics as one of the best war films of the 2000s, praising its sharp script, outstanding central performances, and palpable tension.
The film follows the exploits of a bomb disposal squad during the Iraq War, particularly the reckless new leader (Jeremy Renner).
Here, director Kathryn Bigelow shows her mastery of her craft by winning six Academy Awards including Best Director and Best Picture. The Hurt Locker beat out some of the year’s most popular films like Inglourious Basterds, Avatar, The Blind Side, Up & District 9 to win these awards.
10. Lone Survivor (2013)
Lone Survivor marks the beginning of a fruitful collaboration between director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg, and it tells the true story of a small S.E.A.L. team’s mission to kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah, which goes horribly wrong.
This action film, which stars Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Eric Bana, has become a cult classic thanks to its brutal storyline and nail-biting action sequences.