Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL sniper known for his exceptional marksmanship, is the subject of 2014’s “American Sniper.” Clint Eastwood directed the war drama, which was his most financially successful project to date. Critics lauded the film as a well-written, beautifully shot, and emotionally charged work of art.
As a thriller, “American Sniper” is filled with action sequences in which Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is forced to assess the battlefield and make life-or-death decisions. One can see this nervousness in the trailer, which alternates between a tense scene set in Iraq and personal scenes from Kyle’s life. A masterful crescendo of anxiety is the result, and it’s up there with the best trailers of the last few years. Not shown in the trailer is the strange and shocking demise of Chris Kyle, which is handled with subtle pathos in the film.
If you enjoyed “American Sniper,” and you’re looking for more war films with a similar balance of suspense and drama, look no further. We’ve got some recommendations for you. There’s a mix of straight-up war films like “Lone Survivor” and “Black Hawk Down,” as well as character-driven dramas like “Brothers” and “Out of the Furnace.” The commonality among these 15 war films is that they should all be seen by “American Sniper” fans.
1. The Outpost
The most recent film on this list, “The Outpost,” is a gut-wrenching account of the Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan from the year 2020.
Combat Outpost Keating, the film’s setting, is an army base built at the bottom of a valley, surrounded by trees, boulders, and mountains rising to 12,000 feet in the air. It was “like fighting from the bottom of a paper cup,” according to First Lieutenant Brad Larson, who was stationed there.
Around 300 Taliban fighters attacked the camp on October 3rd, 2009, killing 8 American soldiers and wounding 22 more. Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha and Specialist Ty Carter, played by Scott Eastwood and Caleb Landry Jones, received Medals of Honor as a result of the battle, which takes up nearly an hour of the 123-minute running time of the film.
It also depicts the day-to-day happenings of the camp, particularly the power struggles that plagued Keating and saw numerous leaders during its turbulent existence. The acting is top-notch, with each actor managing to be both passionately real while also remaining supremely understated. If you’re looking for a film about the realities of soldiering made after September 11, then “The Outpost” is a must-see.
2. The Hurt Locker
An early and well-received film about Iraq’s long-running war, “The Hurt Locker,” was released in 2008. That war film was the first to be a box office success after September 11th when it swept the Academy Awards with six nominations in total.
Jeremy Renner plays William James, a rogue bomb squad sergeant in “The Hurt Locker,” who is sent to Baghdad. Bomb disposal comes naturally to James, who embraces the extreme danger of his job by marching directly towards IEDs while wearing nothing but a bomb suit. A mobile-operated bomb killed Staff Sergeant Matt Thompson (Guy Pearce), but James doesn’t seem bothered by it. In fact, he appears to be energised by it. Although for very different reasons, the death of Thompson invigorates the viewer. The tense scene in question is a classic example of director Kathryn Bigelow’s skill and sensibility, as tension and suspense fill the frame.
3. Saving Private Ryan
The war drama “Saving Private Ryan” from 1998 is highly recommended for fans of the genre. Some criticize it for being sentimental, while others, such as military historian Antony Beevor, accuse it of fulfilling “every war cliché imaginable. Few, on the other hand, disagree that “Saving Private Ryan” is a stunning technical achievement.
Steven Spielberg’s epic World War II film reimagined the look of the war movie, focusing on the chaos and brutality of battle in a harsh, handheld style. On Omaha Beach, this is especially true in the opening scene when the landing craft lower their ramps and dozens of troops die. Unrelenting MG42 fire decimates the crew, forcing some to jump into the water, where they perish due to the weight of their survival gear. No other film had ever depicted war’s heinous destruction of human life as vividly as “Saving Private Ryan” did before it.
The bleak, desaturated images of director Steven Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski have given us a new perspective on conflict. Saving Private Ryan’s style has been cited as an influence on everything from Dunkirk and Hacksaw Ridge to Gladiator and “all the high-action superhero films,” according to the Los Angeles Times in 2018. Any cinephile worth their salt should see a film as influential as this one about World War II.
When it came to creating high-impact battle scenes full of crunching bones and clunking machinery, director David Ayer adapted the “Saving Private Ryan” aesthetic to the Allied tank crews of World War II with “Fury.” In the end, it’s a triumph of audio and visual effects. Roman Vasyanov’s arresting cinematography is graded with a striking, full-bodied color palette, while the film’s extensive sound department captures the ricocheting artillery rounds in exquisite detail.
Like “Saving Private Ryan,” “Fury” also has its share of problems. Such as Brad Pitt’s ninja-like character, Don “Wardaddy” Collier, who is introduced by knocking an enemy off of his white stallion and stabbing him in the eyes when the film begins. The average soldier’s experience with violence is nothing like this. Furthermore, Pitt’s performance is overshadowed by his notoriety. Boyd “Bible” Swan is played by Shia LaBeouf, a bible-thumping Southerner, while Norman Ellison is portrayed by Logan Lerman as the stock coward portrayed by John C. Reilly. Both are overused to the point of being cliché.
“Fury” may have formulaic characters and a final act that feels more like a rote action movie than anything else, but it’s still a good war film with some intense combat sequences.
5. Das Boot
“Das Boot” by Wolfgang Petersen is not only a superb war film, it’s one of the all-time greats. The Battle of the Atlantic, which lasted from September 3, 1939, to May 8, 1945, is the subject of this 1981 film. The story of U-96, a German submarine that patrols the North Atlantic looking for Allied shipping, is told from the German perspective in “Das Boot,” as the title suggests.
A cramped, sweaty, and dangerous life is led by Captain Lehmann-Willenbrock (Jürgen Prochnow) for the men of U-96. Inflicting heavy losses on the Allies, the German U-boats suffered heavy losses of their own, with the loss of 28,000 sailors. The film’s ominous tagline reads, “During World War II, Hitler dispatched 40,000 men in German U-Boats. Fewer than ten thousand people showed up.”
Over the course of two and a half hours, this desperate battle for survival unfolds, complete with depth charge attacks from British destroyers that will make your heart race. You have to see it to believe it.
6. Lone Survivor
As a result of Marcus Luttrell, a Navy SEAL and the last survivor of his four-man team, “Lone Survivor” from 2013 is directly comparable to “American Sniper.” The men were ambushed by militants in a gorge while on a mission to find Taliban leader Ahmad Shah in Afghanistan. Small arms, RPGs, and mortar shells pounded the elite unit, forcing the soldiers to leap to their deaths from the cliff’s edge. To capture the excruciating agony of Luttrell and his fellow soldiers, director Peter Berg recreates the scene in thunderous detail. According to the evocative conclusion reached by The Irish Times, “It’s a terrible movie. This one, on the other hand, is a knockout.”
In addition to Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch, and Kitsch, the cast also includes Ben Foster, Eric Bana, and Dan Bilzerian, whose brief cameo appearance was the subject of a legal dispute. Everyone in the cast is at the pinnacle of their profession.
Jarhead, which came out in 2005, is a more subdued film than “American Sniper.” Sam Mendes’ film, which takes place during the 1991 Gulf War, explores aspects of war that are often overlooked, such as boredom and loneliness. The military machine has made these men capable of carrying out atrocities against other people. However, when they arrive at their duty station in the middle of nowhere, they discover that their lives have become meaningless. Even the worst wars in history have been described in this way, and it’s not just about the Gulf War. World War I was described as “months of boredom punctuated by moments of terror” in a 1915 New York Times article. However, this is an experience that is rarely depicted in films, let alone in such a vivid manner.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays our main character Anthony Swofford, who is joined by other soldiers such as Staff Sgt. Sykes (Jamie Foxx), Chris Kruger (Peter Sarsgaard). A screening of “Apocalypse Now,” particularly the iconic “Ride of the Valkyries” scene, was their most rousing moment, not a skirmish. As French philosopher Jean Baudrillard famously said, “the Gulf War did not take place”: the conflict was a media spectacle before anything else in his eyes, he saw. With the help of renowned cinematographer Roger Deakins, the film “Jarhead” effectively conveys this point of view. The images of the oil fields, in particular, are striking, recalling the melancholic work of Steve McCurry.
8. Black Hawk Down
“Black Hawk Down,” released in 2001, is another war film that borrows stylistically from the previous year’s “Saving Private Ryan.”. An 18-hour battle in 1993 between U.S. troops and Somali fighters and civilians is depicted in this film directed by Ridley Scott.
“BlackHawk Down” stars Josh Hartnett, but the film isn’t about Hartnett’s character, and it’s also not about politics. An urban battle played out in yards, not blocks, is described:144 agonizing minutes of gunfire, deaths, and explosions. As Variety put it, “strikingly realized” is a good description, but “none too pleasurable to sit through” is not. Many other critics agreed, praising the film’s intensity as the most important quality. “Black HawkDown” might be the movie for you if you want to see a gut-wrenching account of warfare.
9. The Beast
Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the subsequent Cold War that followed, Hollywood has paid little attention to this period of history. There is one notable exception in the form of Kevin Reynolds’ 1988 war drama “The Beast,” which is often overlooked in favor of his more famous works such as “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and “Waterworld.” In “The Beast,” a Russian tank crew battles the Mujahideen in the rugged Afghan countryside, based on William Mastrosimone’s stage play “Nanawatai.” The crew’s brutish commander, Daskal (George Dzundza), poses the greatest threat. As a result, there is a lot of bloodshed, similar to the movie “Platoon” from 1987.
Despite the fact that “The Beast” was an excellent war film, it was quickly forgotten due to its poor box office performance. Since then, the film has received positive reviews, but it is still a criminally underrated tale of war. Cinephiles of all stripes should seek out and appreciate “The Beast.”
Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, and Tobey Maguire starred in the 2009 film “Brothers,” which opened to mixed reviews and mediocre box office sales. In this melodrama, a wife and mother thinks her husband has died in Afghanistan, only for him to return after she starts dating his brother. According to film critic and former New York City mayor Ed Kocha in an article for The Atlantic, “Brothers” is not a first-rate film, but it informs us about the effects of war and is worth seeing while we wait for better ones to come along.
As far as I can tell, Koch was not aware of the superior Danish film from five years prior, on which the 2009 film “Brothers” is based. With Susanne Bier in charge of direction, “Brothers” from 2004 avoids the melodrama of its American counterpart and tells a very similar tale much better. “Brothers” is a character-driven war drama, as opposed to some of the others on this list, with relatively few scenes taking place in combat zones. The zone in question is Afghanistan, where Denmark has had a garrison stationed there since 2002.
11. The Deer Hunter
The Deer Hunter, a seminal work of New Hollywood cinema from 1978, is a portrait of men, community, and war. Three mill workers (Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and John Savage) are called up to serve in the Vietnam War, and the film follows their experiences. Their lives before, during, and after the conflict are examined in the three-hour film.
When the men are captured by Viet Cong revolutionaries and forced to play Russian roulette, their central trauma occurs. Critics have called it biased, while others have labeled the scene as completely false. The Los Angeles Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Peter Arnett, wrote this: “In the history of Russian roulette, not a single instance has ever been documented. The movie’s central metaphor is a blatant lie.”
Russian roulette is a metaphor for what the United States was doing with its young people when it sent them to fight in a foreign war when there was no justification for it, according to director Michael Cimino.” Roger Ebert agreed, calling it “the organizing symbol of the film: Anything you can believe about the game, about its deliberately random violence, about how it affects the sanity of men forced to play it, will apply to the war as a whole.” However you feel about the Russian roulette sequence, it is only a small part of a much larger film that features superb acting, stunning cinematography, and an acute sense of dramatic tension.
12. Out of the Furnace
“The Deer Hunter” has a big influence on this 2013 Rust Belt noir because of the Iraq War. There is a stellar cast in “Out of the Furnace,” with Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe and Forest Whitaker all appearing. Christian Bale and Casey Affleck star as brothers Russell (a mill worker) and Rodney (an Iraq war veteran). Rodney (William Dafoe) gets into debt after returning from service with a scuzzy but obliging loan shark named John (Jason Clarke). The way Rodney repays him is by participating in dangerous bare-knuckle boxing matches in abandoned factories and warehouses. When money gets tight, Rodney convinces John to send him to a big fight organized by the vile Harlan DeGroat, a criminal played with genuine malice and evil by Woody Harrelson.
In other words, “The Deer Hunter” DNA can be found throughout the film. Casey Affleck is Christopher Walken, Christian Bale is Robert De Niro, and bare knuckle boxing is equivalent to playing Russian roulette. However, when the performances are as strong as they are and the aesthetic is as compelling as this, it doesn’t matter if the film is cliched. ‘Out of the Furnace’ is a well-executed grimy dramatic exercise.
13. Hacksaw Ridge
Desmond Doss(Andrew Garfield), a conscientious objector who refused to carry a gun but saved 75 men during the Battle of Okinawa, is the subject of the 2016 film “Hacksaw Ridge.” “Braveheart,” “Apocalypto,” and “The Passion of the Christ” director Mel Gibson is well-known for focusing on the potential violence of an era rather than the actual facts. “Hacksaw Ridge,” which contains some of the most gory battle scenes since “Saving Private Ryan,” is a good example of this. As Doss dashes into the line of fire, saving life after life, critic Richard Brody wrote for The New Yorker, describing the “mutilations and agonies, sprays and spurts of blood and cascades of human meat.”
In spite of this, Gibson stays away from historical inaccuracies in this film, which is a trademark of his. Hacksaw Ridge is historically accurate in most respects, with the exception of one scene in which Doss is fatally shot by a sniper because Gibson didn’t want his audience to be surprised.
14. Born on the Fourth of July
Oliver Stone made a Vietnam trilogy with “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Platoon,” and “Heaven and Earth,” the first two of which were released in 1986 and 1993, respectively. It’s a war story about a young marine named Ron Kovic, who became paralyzed from the waist down after being shot in the back while serving in Vietnam. President John F. Kennedy’s immortal words: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” resonated deeply with Kovic, who grew up in a military family. However, Kovic’s disastrous Vietnam tour changed his outlook completely, making him a well-known anti-war activist in the United States. He once told Jane Fonda, “I may have lost my body, but I’ve gained my mind.”
In the role of Kovic, Tom Cruise excels as an idealistic young man whose worldview slowly but surely crumbles beneath his feet. As a result of Cruise’s role in “My Left Foot,” he was nominated for his first Academy Award for Best Actor, but he lost to Daniel Day Lewis.
15. Paths of Glory
Compared to the other films on this list, Kubrick’s classic 1957 war drama, The Shining, is considerably less violent. Despite this, 60 years after its initial release, it still packs a punch. This Humphrey Cobb adaptation, starring Kirk Douglas as a French colonel fighting his superiors to keep his troops from being executed for alleged cowardice during World War I, is based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb.
Even a cursory look at the reactions of viewers and critics to “Paths of Glory” reveals high praise. Radio Times calls Kirk Douglas’ performance “outstanding,” while Total Film calls the depictions of trench warfare “frightfully vivid.” The Guardian praises the film as “arguably the best film about the First World War, [which] still has a reasonable claim to be Stanley Kubrick’s best film,” which is the most bold claim. Despite this, the film’s influence can be seen in France’s decision not to screen it until 1975 due to its critical portrayal of French army generalship.