Movies involving snipers are usually a crowd favorite, with compelling storylines involving hard-fought battles between war protagonists and terrorists hellbent on hurting thousands of innocent people.
From classics to modern top grossers, the following are 11 of the best sniper movies of all time that will keep you on the edge of your seats.
Based on my own experience, research, and recommendations from friends & family, I compiled a list of the 11 best sniper movies in 2024. I link to my sources at the end of this article if you’d like to do some further reading.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays US soldier Anthony Swofford, who, along with his team, is deployed to Saudi Arabia.
The group endures 175 days of hardships there, fighting in the frontlines while taking the sweltering heat, monotony, and desolation.
Swofford goes home disillusioned, only to find out that his girlfriend has left him for another man.
The movie also provides a glimpse of Swofford’s life before the fated mission, when he underwent basic combat training at boot camp under a demented drill instructor, and eventually, the arduous sniper course.
“Jarhead” is based on the memoir of Anthony Swofford, former US Marine, published in 2003. Interestingly, the term “Jarhead” is slang for a Marine.
This sniper movie includes Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard, John Krasinski, Lucas Black, and Brian Geraghty.
There are two sequels, namely “Jarhead 2: Field of Fire” and “Jarhead 3: The Siege.” They hit the theaters in 2014 and 2016, respectively.
Audacious with clean action and real drama, “Jarhead” will not disappoint.
When a man suspected of masterminding the killing of five innocent civilians is captured, he mentions Jack (Tom Cruise), a former soldier as slippery as an eel.
The detective-in-charge immediately sets out to find him, but the search proves to be hopeless. That is until Jack shows up on his own term.
The suspect is James Barr (Joseph Sikora), an ex-US Army sniper who served in Iraq. Jack believes James is guilty, given his background, but still agrees to help the defense attorney.
As the movie progresses, you see the backstory between Jack and James, leading to why James asks for him.
Ultimately, Jack finds out who the culprits are in the killing spree and why they committed such a heinous crime.
“Jack Reacher” is based on the book series by author Lee Childs.
It is directed by Christopher McQuarrie and stars Rosamund Pike, Werner Herzog, Richard Jenkins, Robert Duvall, and David Oyelowo.
Filled with heart-thumping action, “Jack Reacher” deserves a spot as one of the top-rated sniper movies of all time.
James McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson, an office worker tired of his lackluster job, constant panic attacks, and two-faced girlfriend.
When Gibson gets an unexpected visit from an enigmatic woman named Fox (Angelina Jolie), his life takes an abrupt turn, not necessarily for the better.
Fox claims that Gibson’s father was an assassin and is now dead. The person who killed the old man is allegedly after him as well.
While still skeptical, Gibson agrees to quit his job and train with a team of assassins. The hefty amount sent to his bank account also fortifies him.
As Gibson learns to become a lethal killer and sniper, he discovers a secret he has no way of running away from.
“Wanted” is loosely based on the mini-series of the same name written by Mark Millar and J. G. Jones. It was released in 2008.
If you are looking for an action-thriller with an unexpected twist, this will satisfy you.
Jack (Clooney) receives an invitation to design a powerful sniper rifle for an assassination of a powerful man. After signing the contract, he discovers that there is more to the job than required.
The suspense comes in when Jack finds out that a secret Swiss assassin is monitoring his every move.
When Jack unexpectedly falls in love and finds a friend in a priest, he breaks the rules of secrecy stated in his contract. He flees to a small town in Italy and contacts an associate, fearing for his life.
Double-crossed and fatally wounded by the end of the film, Jack’s fate is left to be determined by the viewers.
Dutch filmmaker Antoin Corbijn directed “The American,” which also stars Violante Placido, Johan Leysen, Paolo Bonacelli, and Thekla Reuten.
It is a bit shorter than the usual movie length, running at only 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Action-packed and beautifully shot, “The American” is a gripping sniper movie that should be on your list.
“Saving Private Ryan” stars multi-awarded actor Tom Hanks who plays Captain John Miller. He and his seven men are tasked to find a lost soldier in the war field.
Private Ryan (Matt Damon) is the only one out of four brothers to survive the war. A special squad, led by Miller, is formed to bring him back to his family, no matter what it takes.
The harrowing mission turns into a personal introspection journey for each of the soldiers. They learn what real strength is as they fight for their lives on the battlefield.
The movie is set during the Normandy invasion of World War II. It draws inspiration from the adventure of Fritz Niland, a real US soldier, and the US war department order known as a sole survivor directive.
“Saving Private Ryan” features several sniper sequences, particularly a compelling sniper duel between one of Miller’s men and a German soldier.
After more than two decades, it remains second to none among war/sniper genre movies on many moviegoers’ lists.
Swagger had the perfect record until his latest operation went down the drain, and he left everything behind.
Not for long, a high-ranking official manages to trace his location and convinces him to take a new job. There is an assassination plot against the President of the United States, and he must help stop it.
Swagger soon realizes that mission is not as it seems. The government has set him up, and he becomes the center of a nationwide manhunt, the mastermind of the attempt to kill the President.
Instead of going on the run, Swagger uses his unique set of skills and embarks on an impossible journey. He wants to get revenge from those who betrayed him and clear his name, once and for all.
Starring other stars like Kate Mara and Danny Glover, “Shooter” is a political action-thriller film you cannot miss out on.
“Sniper” centers on the lives of an unlikely duo consisting of a US Marine sniper and a SWAT member sent on a mission to kill rebel leaders.
Master Sergeant Gunnery Beckett (Berenger) carries the stigma of having been the cause of death of his squad. Another chance for redemption is when he is paired up with Richard Miller (Billy Zane), a sharpshooter from SWAT.
Though a gifted marksman, Miller’s lack of experience in the field and less than stellar combat skills make him a liability for Beckett. Both have their share of struggles that they must overcome.
Stuck in the jungles of Panama with only each other to rely on, Beckett and Miller labor to make their mission a success.
“Sniper” enjoys a cult following, setting off a total of seven direct-to-video sequels, including “Sniper 2”, “Sniper 3,” and “Sniper: Reloaded,” among others.
It is directed by Peruvian filmmaker Luis Llosa and features other stars such as Zane, J.T. Walsh, and Aden Young.
Staff Sergeant Shane Matthews (Cena) is a sniper sent to Iraq to investigate a pipeline construction site. Serving with him in the war-inflicted country is Sergeant Allan Isaac (Taylor-Johnson), his faithful spotter.
When answering a distress call, the two become the target of a barrage of sniper fire let loose by an unseen enemy.
Matthews ends up critically injured, while Isaac sustains a shot on the leg.
With nothing but a flimsy wall protecting them from the enemy sniper, Isaac is left to fight for his and his partner’s life.
Directed by Doug Liman, “The Wall” hit the theaters in 2017. Aside from Cena and Taylor-Johnson, it also stars Spencer Thomas and Laith Nakli.
At 1 hour 30 minutes, it is shorter than other sniper movies. However, this does not diminish its impact as one of the best films made for the big screen.
Set during World War II, the movie revolves around Vassili Zaitsev (Law), a highly skilled sniper in the Red Army. During the Battle of Stalingrad, he plays a pivotal role in the Russians’ win against the German forces.
From an ordinary infantry soldier, Zaitsev rises in rank, thanks to his impeccable skills as a marksman and the savvy backing of Danilov (Joseph Fiennes), a political officer who makes him the protagonist of a propaganda campaign.
Their friendship is tested when they fall in love with a female soldier named Tania (Rachel Weisz).
As the battle for Stalingrad rages, Vassili faces the ultimate challenge when the Nazis send König (Ed Harris), an elite marksman and master from Berlin’s best sniper school, to hunt him down.
“Enemy at the Gates” is based on the real-life story of Russian legendary sniper Vassili and a close reflection of Hitler’s invasion of Stalingrad from 1942 to 1943.
It enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim despite the chilly reception in Russia due to its negative image of the Red Army.
Bradley Cooper is Chris Kyle, a soldier who makes a name for himself as one of the most lethal snipers in American history. After fighting in Iraq, he comes back to his family, only to realize that the horrors of war follow him home.
Kyle’s traumatic experience in the war field puts distance between him and his wife and newborn son. Unable to settle, he decides to return to Iraq four times.
Each leg of the tour makes it clear to the sniper that he cannot leave his past behind. His decision may end up jeopardizing his beloved family or cement his life as a civilian.
“American Sniper” is inspired by the true-to-life story of Chris Kyle, a SEAL sniper who earned the moniker “Legend” during the Iraq war. His memoir, “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History,” was published in 2014.
The movie got an Academy Awards nomination for Best Picture and an Oscar Best Actor trophy for Cooper.
“The Jackal” revolves around two main characters, a lethal assassin and master of disguises and an Irish Republican Army (IRA) sniper.
Aside from his connection with the Russian mafia, The Jackal (Willis) has an enigmatic link with Mulqueen (Gere), who, during that time, is serving time in jail.
When The Jackal goes on a killing spree and plots to kill a politician, Mulqueen is offered a conditional release and ordered to capture the assassin.
Mulqueen’s hidden motives for going after The Jackal are revealed through the movie’s twists and turns.
“The Jackal” is based on a novel by English author Frederick Forsyth, “The Day of the Jackal,” published in 1967.
It is directed by Michael Caton-Jones and stars Mathilda May, Sidney Poitier, Jack Black, and J.K. Simmons.
With a running time of 2 hours 5 minutes, it will surely fulfill your thirst for heart-pounding action and suspense.
26 Honorable Mentions:
- The Deer Hunter
- Full Metal Jacket
- Behind Enemy Lines
- The Hitman
- 12 Strong
- Black Hawk down
- The Virtuoso
- Kill Chain
- Leon: The Professional
- Elephant White
- The Marksman
- The Hurt Locker
- Lone Survivor
- Act of Valor
- Phone Booth
- Two-Minute Warning
- Spy Game
- Shot Through The Heart
- Casualties of War
- Three Kings
- Flags of the Fathers
- 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
- Hyena Road
- Home of the Brave
- Hacksaw Ridge
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