Popular in recent years are true-life thrillers that combine action and drama. If you’re looking for something like Zero Dark Thirty, you have many choices.
Finding Osama Bin Laden, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, was a huge success. The suspenseful story based on one of the most recent moments in history was a firm favorite during the 2010 awards season.
These ten films like Zero Dark Thirty will keep you riveted for the duration of the film’s runtime, so check them out if you’re looking for something similar.
1. 12 Strong (2018)
To bring this story to life, director David O. Russell has made a movie based on the book Horse Stories, which follows a Special Operations unit sent to Afghanistan shortly after September 11th and their experiences once there.
It is Chris Hemsworth who leads a strong cast in this style over substance action retelling, and it works despite the fact that it does not place too much emphasis on the behind-the-scenes political intrigue.
The film isn’t as polished as Zero Dark Thirty, but it shares a lot of themes with that film as a gripping look at a crucial moment in recent American history.
2. The Kingdom (2007)
The Kingdom is one of only two films on this list that isn’t based on a true story but instead weaves a fictional narrative. Peter Berg is known for his grounded and realistic action thrillers.
Jamie Foxx stars alongside a mix of well-known actors, up-and-comers, and seasoned pros in this action-packed thriller that never forgets the human stakes involved in such volatile political times.
There is plenty of punch in The Kingdom’s breezy 109 minutes for those who like movies like Zero Dark Thirty but prefer more pyrotechnics and a looser interpretation of the facts.
3. Green Zone (2010)
In this street-level look at the 2003 Iraq invasion, Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon reunite for a film that makes great use of the filmmaker’s preferred techniques despite the lack of big set pieces.
Not to say there isn’t excitement, but all the major beats are firmly rooted in the story being told and provide a complete context for them.
It’s possible that the story would have come across as a bit dry if it had been directed by someone other than Greengrass and Damon.
4. Syriana (2005)
As an alternative to Zero Dark Thirty-style action flicks, Syriana is well worth your time if you’re looking for something different.
George Clooney took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor after giving one of the best performances of his career as a single character in a complex story that never loses sight of its overall goal.
Syriana is ambitious, complex, and ultimately rewarding because it eschews action in favor of action-packed intelligence.
5. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)
Style and impeccably crafted destruction don’t often sell movies like Zero Dark Thirty to audiences, but 13 Hours sacrifices subtlety for spectacle and largely succeeds there as well.
Even though Michael Bay was never going to make a somberly realistic film, his cast of macho men do a commendable job as the story follows an army unit that is under siege and facing seemingly insurmountable odds.
Michael Bay’s decision to direct a war film after the success of Transformers was met with some controversy, but 13 Hours delivers everything you’d expect from a Michael Bay war film, for better or worse.
6. Body of Lies (2008)
Body of Lies is based on David Ignatius’ novel of the same name, and it’s the second and final entry on this list that’s completely made up.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe star as the lead characters in Ridley Scott’s reimagined version of the standard government thriller.
When two A-list actors are delivering top-notch performances, it often elevates the film’s overall quality, as was the case with Body of Lies, a dependable hit.
7. Argo (2012)
Argo is based on the true story of the CIA infiltrating Iran under the guise of a sci-fi movie to rescue six American diplomats who were being held captive.
It’s hard to believe that Ben Affleck is both the lead actor and the director of Argo, but he does a fantastic job in both roles, and there’s not a single word wasted thanks to the script and tight editing.
Anyone interested in films like Zero Dark Thirty, which won Best Picture at the Oscars, must see this big awards season favorite.
8. Black Hawk Down (2001)
Black Hawk Down is a gut-wrenching portrayal of the ill-fated 1993 U.S. military raid in Mogadishu.
Ridley Scott leads one of the most impressive ensemble casts ever assembled in one place, and the movie never lets up once the mission goes awry.
ZDF can be bogged down in exposition, but Black Hawk Down is an adrenaline rush that delivers a masterclass in meticulously engineered and relentless action.
9. Lone Survivor (2013)
In order to accurately recreate the wince-inducing struggle the Navy SEAL team faced in the story, Lone Survivor took a harrowing look at a counterinsurgency mission gone wrong.
There’s no turning your gaze away from the screen once the bullets start flying. The four central performances add an extra layer of authenticity by making every frame full of suspense, fear, and the ricochet of bullets.
Lone Survivor is a difficult film to watch, but the film’s second act is a brutal depiction of a battle for survival.
10. The Hurt Locker (2008)
If you’d like to see more films like Zero Dark Thirty, you should start with The Hurt Locker, which was Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s first collaboration.
Forced into armed combat has both psychological and adrenaline effects, and different personalities react differently to the stress of war, as shown in the film.
In addition to winning Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards, The Hurt Locker should be required viewing for anyone interested in war films of any kind.