Snipers have always been both respected and feared in equal measure. Capable of outstanding discipline and a neverending supply of patience, these are the most deadly soldiers in military history.
So, naturally, the film industry is exceptionally rich in sniper movies. In fact, some of the best movies of all time fall under the category of sniper movies. Usually, snipers are a common theme of a war film, although this is not the rule, and there are plenty of exceptions.
They can also vary by genre, so you can have a gripping war thriller or a comic action thriller.
The important thing is that, if you are a fan of deadly sniper movies, there are plenty of films to watch.
In fact, I created a list of my top 18 picks among sniper movies, and while there are many more, I recommend these ones as some of the best. Enjoy!
The first on my sniper movie list is Jarhead, which is a name that most people are likely to recognize. After all, it is one of the most famous war movies, and a great sniper movie, at that.
The film is based on a true story, and it revolves around the US Marine Anthony Swofford, and his journey through the Gulf War, from the early days at boot camp, to the front lines.
Anthony wanted to be a sniper, so he enrolled into a sniper course right as the Gulf War begins. The actor’s brilliant performance introduces military life to the audience, and shows the highs and lows of such life.
The Guardian said that “Jarhead is something which is stunning to look at and to listen to, with elegantly chosen pop songs unspooling on the soundtrack under each fresh new horror.”
The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Jamie Foxx, Lucas Black, Scott MacDonald, and others.
American Sniper (2014)
Next on the list of the best sniper movies, we have American Sniper. This is a film that everyone should watch, and probably more than once.
American Sniper is a war film with Bradley Cooper as its lead, and just like our last entry, it is also based on an autobiography (“American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History”), this time by Chris Kyle, a sniper who fought in the Iraq War, with four tours and 255 confirmed kills.
Unfortunately, the Iraq war became his life that the American sniper never managed to shake off. And, even as his final tour comes to an end, he realizes that he doesn’t want to. One of the deadliest snipers of any war movie, he got the status of Legend even during his initial trip, right after 9/11.
The film stars Bradley Cooper, Luke Grimes, Marnette Patterson, Sienna Miller, Sammy Sheik, and others.
Enemy At The Gates (2001)
Then, we have Enemy At The Gates, which is widely recognized as one of the best sniper movies of all time, with some of the best sniper scenes. Considered a major masterpiece, Enemy At The Gates received positive reviews and it was a box office hit.
However, it also received some critical acclaim due to the negative image that it projects in regard to the Red Army and Russian soldiers during World War II.
Enemy At The Gates’ main character, played by Jude Law, is based on Vasily Zaitsev, a real-life sniper who inspired the character.
A Red Army sniper, Zaitsev is a major threat to the Germans, who seek to eliminate him. To say that Enemy At The Gates is among the best sniper films is an understatement, which is why everyone should watch it.
The film stars Jude Law, Ed Harris, Rachel Weisz, Joseph Fiennes, Bob Hoskins, and others.
Jack Reacher (2012)
Moving on, we have another legendary action thriller movie that dominated not only the box office, but the sniper film genre, as well, Jack Reacher.
Jack Reacher is an ex-soldier investigator hired to track down a ghost shooter. The police managed to identify the shooter as an ex-US army sniper, James Barr. However, when they reached the home of the marine sniper, they found the US marine sniper passed out, with his sniper rifle, ammunition, and the van on site.
The question of who is responsible for the killing spree eventually gets answered, and Jack Reacher learns the identity of the ghost shooter. However, that makes the matter even more complicated.
Jack Reacher is one of the most popular and best sniper movies for a reason, and I strongly recommend checking it out.
The film stars Tom Cruise, Lee Child, Rosamund Pike, David Oyelowo, Warner Herzog, and others.
The Wall (2017)
The next entry on our list of the best sniper movies is The Wall. This is one of the most intense and suspenseful films on the list, following two soldiers who are fighting in the Iraq War.
While they are fighting for survival in the Iraqi desert, they end up trapped behind a small wall, while an unseen Iraqi sniper patiently waits for any opportunity to kill them.
Things went from bad to worse when one of them, Matthew, gets fatally shot by the Iraqi sniper, while the other, Isaac, gets wounded.
This sniper movie is shorter than most, but it is still the best sniper movie for those who like tense films that will keep them at the edge of their seat.
The film stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena, Laith Nakli, Lora Martinez-Cunningham, and others.
Up next, we have Shooter, a film featuring a former force recon US sniper, Bob Lee Swagger. After his days as a sniper had ended, Bob Lee Swagger disappeared from the world, withdrawing deep into the Wyoming mountains, in self-imposed isolation.
However, due to his reputation as the best sniper, he soon gets recruited by a retired army colonel in order to prevent an assassination attempt on the US President.
One thing that stands out regarding this film is the massive attention to detail, greater than any other sniper movie out there. All sniper scenes are incredibly realistic and believable, which makes the film not only enjoyable, but also quite chilling.
The film received positive reviews, and is generally considered to be an extremely good sniper movie, so I definitely recommend watching it.
The film stars Mark Wahlberg, Kate Mara, Danny Glover, Rhona Mitra, Michael Pena, and others.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Our next film is the epic WWII cinematic masterpiece, a Steven Spielberg film known far and wide as Saving Private Ryan. This film allowed Spielberg to win his Oscars for Best Director, so if you end up watching at least one movie from this list, make sure that it is this one.
Apart from being one of the best sniper movies of all time, Saving Private Ryan is also one of the best war movies out there.
The plot of the war film is simple, Captain John Miller leads a group of his men behind enemy lines to find and bring back Private James Ryan, the last survivor of four brothers who were all servicemen.
However, if you watch the film, you will quickly see why it belongs on the list of the great sniper movies. And, if you need more convincing, note that the Washington Post said that it is “Searing, heartbreaking, so intense it turns your body into a single tube of clenched muscle, this is simply the greatest war movie ever made, and one of the great American movies.”
The film stars Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Vin Diesel, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, and others.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Next, we have Full Metal Jacket, the second oldest film on the list.
The film follows a group of recruits, starting with the time they spent in boot camp, and following them to and through the Vietnam War. While it does offer some dark comedy, it strongly focuses on the psychology of the war, and what it does to soldiers.
The film follows Private Davis, called the Joker, and Private Lawrence, known as Gomer Pyle. Joker is the first to graduate to the Marine Corps, and he gets sent to Vietnam, where he ends up dragged into the events that led to the Battle of Hue.
One of the best sniper movies from back when sniper movies started to become popular, it is a must-watch for all fans of sniper shooting in a war-torn country.
The film stars Matthew Modine, R. Lee Ermey, Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Baldwin, Arliss Howard, and others.
And, of course, we cannot have a list of the best sniper movies without the movie Sniper, itself. This film was so good that it inspired an entire series of sniper movies that followed over the last three decade.
The film follows a US Marine sniper and SWAT duo, who get sent on a mission to the jungles of Panama. Their job is to assassinate rebel leaders in the area, but the situation becomes complicated when the main character, Master Sergeant Gunnery Beckett, gets paired up with a sharpshooter who doesn’t have the necessary combat skills to pull off this mission.
Now, they depend on one another, but at the same time, they don’t trust one another. However, their mission to kill the rebel leader is of vital importance to stop the fighting in Panama, and so the job has to be done.
The film stars Tom Berenger, Billy Zane, Aden Young, Frederick Miragliotta, and others.
Sniper: Ultimate Kill (2017)
As mentioned, Sniper (1993) spawned an entire series of movies, with Sniper: Ultimate Kill, generally being considered as one of the best sniper movies of the series.
The film depicts several of the original characters, and this time, the well-known US sniper is sent to seek out a Columbian drug lord. The drug lord has been disrupting the balance of things by wiping out the competition by using a ruthless assassin known under his codename, The Devil.
The US’ DEA fears that the consequences could endanger the country, and so it sent its best sniper to eliminate The Devil, and, if possible, capture the drug lord.
The film stars Tom Berenger, Billy Zane, Chad Michael Collins, Danay Garcia, Joe Lando, and others.
Moving on, we have Wanted, a film that differs from most on this list, in a sense that it is not a World War film or anything of that sort. Even so, if you are looking for some excellent sniper sequences, this is the film for you.
The film revolves around Wesley Gibson, a nobody bound to a cheating girlfriend and a dead-end job that he hates. What he hates, even more, is his frequent panic attacks.
However, his life gets turned around when the odd Fox, played by Angelina Jolie, enters his home and tells him that his father is an assassin, and that he was killed by someone who wanted to take revenge against him.
Not sure what the actual events are, he still believes her, and decides to join her and her team.
One thing leads to the other, and Gibson ends up training with an entire army of killers, learning incredible skills that will eventually turn him into a highly-trained sniper. Of course, the swinging bullets and systematic sniper shots seen in the film are pure sci-fi, but this is still a very entertaining film to watch.
The film stars James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Chris Pratt, and Angelina Jolie.
Thank You For Your Service (2017)
Thank You For Your Service is yet another film that differs from most others on this list.
It revolves around Sgt. Adam Schumann, who returns home from the war in Iraq, and struggles to adapt to civilian life.
He, as well as his fellow soldiers, suffer from injuries, as well as the trauma caused by everything they have seen and experienced, with one of them, Michael Emory even having to deal with getting a sniper bullet to the head.
This is a film about physical and emotional rehabilitation, rather than action and cool sniper shots, but it is also a film that is necessary to show the ugly side of war that only bothers those who survived but have never really left the battlefield.
The film stars Miles Teller, Haley Bennett, Joe Cole, Amy Schumer, Beulah Koale, and others.
Lone Survivor (2013)
The next on the list is another intense war film that follows several members of the Navy SEALs, who were sent to Afghanistan. Their mission is two-part: surveillance and the elimination of a Taliban leader, Ahmad Shah.
However, while traveling to the last known location of the Taliban leader, they get spotted by goatherds. Hoping to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, the team spares the locals. This act of mercy did not go unpunished, however, as one of the Afghans notified Taliban fighters of the invaders’ presence.
This, then, leads to a brutal battle in which the SEALs ended up both outnumbered and outgunned. Their mission is a failure, and the only goal that they have moving forward is to survive.
The film stars Ban Bilzerian, Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster, Alexander Ludwig, Emile Hirsch, and others.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Up next, we have the oldest film on the list, The Deer Hunter.
This is a film that follows three lifelong friends, Michael, Steven, and Nick. With Steven getting married, the trio decides to go on one final hunting trip before shipping out to Vietnam.
Along the way, they dream of military honor and heroism of soldiers, only to have those dreams shattered when they witness the inhumanities of war, first-hand.
Those who survive never return the same, and are forever haunted by the experience.
One of the best early sniper movies, The Deer Hunter is a must-watch for those who appreciate a good film about the war and the horrors that come with it.
The film stars Christopher Walken, Robert De Niro, John Savage, John Cazale, Meryl Streep, and others.
The Jackal (1997)
Moving on with our list of the best sniper movies, we have The Jackal.
The film starts with an FBI raid on a nightclub in Moscow, where the brother of a powerful Russian gangster is killed. Seeking revenge, the gangster hires a hitman known as The Jackal to travel to the United States and kill FBI Deputy Director Carter Preston.
Learning of the plan thanks to a Russian agent Valentina Koslova, Preston identifies the only man who has ever seen The Jackal’s face and lived to tell the tale.
The man in question is an imprisoned IRA terrorist, Declan Mulqueen, who gets forced to help with the manhunt that will see the hitman caught before he completes the job he was hired to do.
The film stars Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, Michael Caton-Jones, Jack Black, Diane Venora, and others.
Three Kings (1999)
Three Kings is another one of the best sniper movies I’ve had the pleasure to watch recently, and it takes place just after the Gulf War had ended.
It follows four US soldiers who decided to steal the hidden gold belonging to Saddam Hussein. Things do not go their way, and while three of the men were rescued from the Iraqi intelligence by the rebels, one of them, Sgt. Troy Barlow gets captured and tortured for information.
Meanwhile, in the rebel camp, the three soldiers that were rescued are begged to help the rebels in their fight against the upcoming Elite Guard sent by Hussein. They agree, but only if the rebels help them save their captured friend.
The film stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Cliff Curtis, and others.
Phone Booth (2002)
Phone Booth is one of the best sniper movies that takes place in a single location, a phone booth on a busy New York street.
It follows a cynical PR man, Stu Shepard, who regularly uses the booth to call a girl he likes. Being a married man, he sees this as the best way to cheat on his wife and not get caught.
However, someone, a vigilante sniper seeking his own form of justice noticed what he was doing, and he called the booth just as Stu approached.
Holding him hostage in the phone booth and forbidding him to leave, the sniper watches from an unknown location, shooting at people and things on the street, while everyone believes that the murders were committed by Stu himself.
An extremely intense psychological thriller, Phone Booth is a film that keeps your attention throughout its duration, without a single boring moment.
The film stars Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker, Katie Holmes, Radha Mitchel, and others.
The American (2010)
Last, but not least, we have The American. This is a film about a master assassin known only as Jack. When one of his jobs ends badly, Jack is on the run, and he retreats to the Italian countryside to wait out the storm.
However, he makes an uncharacteristic move by befriending the local priest. Not only that, but he also enters a torrid romance with a local woman.
However, doing this ensures that Jack steps out of the shadows, and attracts attention to himself, which is a fatal mistake under the circumstances.
The film goes from intense to heartwarming, and then back to intense when you least expect it. It is definitely a must-watch.
The film stars George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten, Irina Bjorklund, Paolo Bonacelli, and others.
Which movie on the list is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below as I would be interested to find out.