10 Awesome Special Forces Movies

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Tango down! Welcome to our list of 10 awesome special forces movies. They used to be cool and all over TV, but only since supposedly Seal Team 6 capped Osama Bin Ladin, they are back in talks to grace your local celluloid screen: Special forces. Be they military, naval, police or other, special forces have always had a special place in “cinema for men”. You’re sitting in the theater drinking your beer, munching your popcorn, wishing you were one of these badass super men. Highly likely that you are not. These aren’t just regular old soldiers, these are the best of the best, working like a swiss clock, performing under the craziest circumstances, accomplishing hellish missions. They’re having fun saving the world, and because they are secret they’re doing it for the honor, not the glory. US Navy SEALs, Delta Force, British SAS, Police SWAT, the Brazilian BOPE, the German GSG9, you name them. There are not enough movies cherishing the badassery of these units. Here are ten of our favorite special forces movies.

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Navy SEALs

Navy SEALS - special forces movies

Navy SEALs (Amazon) is not the best Navy SEALS movie in my opinion, far from it actually, but it is one the most famous and hollywoodized ones and it has got a fun cast and some insane shit going on, definitely recommended watching. That was when Charlie Sheen was still young and crackin’, and it seemed to be a fun job to go on these missions.

Class of special ops in this movie: Navy SEALs (USA)

Realism is not a strength of this movie, but it features a cameo by god:

The Finest Hour

The Finest Hour - special forces movies

The Finest Hour (Amazon) is my favorite Navy SEALS movie actually, because it makes quite an effort to portray BUDS training and some of the SEALs way of life. Not a very well known movie, but definitely worth watching with a young Rob Lowe. Pictured above is the Spanish DVD, the movie is quite hard to find. What’s nice is that it is quite a well rounded movie that lets you experience the world of Navy SEALS but without the Hollywood exaggerations you find for example in GI Jane.

Class of special ops in this movie: Navy SEALs (USA)

SWAT

SWAT - special forces movies

SWAT(Amazon) is technically a remake (of the TV show), but this action-packed movie about LA’s elite police force is quite an enjoyable flick. With a cool cast, amazing fire fights and a routine script, it does most things right and makes you want to join up. What I particularly enjoyed were the gunfights and how they sounded on the DVD. Special Forces movies are very male-targeted, so I have not problem admitting that I like it when guns sound awesome in a movie.

Class of special ops in this movie: S.W.A.T. (USA)

Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down - special forces movies

Black Hawk Down (Amazon) is an adaptation of the book about the infamous incident is an enormously stylized, action packed war movie, that features a bunch of Delta Force hot shots as sidekicks, played by Eric Bana and Co. These guys go in with small agile helicopters and run around in skateboard helmets! It would be cool if Ridley Scott made a follow up to this movie but only about the Delta Force, maybe using the famous PC game series as inspiration. It is time for another movie on these cracker heads.

Class of special ops in this movie: various including Delta Force (USA), Army Rangers (USA), Navy SEALs….

Bravo Two Zero

Bravo Two Zero - special forces movies

The British SAS enjoys a really good reputation among special forces, and Andy McNabb’s dime novels have contributed to the myth. Bravo 2-0 (Amazon) is quite an interesting action movie, that has gone a bit under the radar, probably because it’s a British movie also. Sean Bean running around with a grenade launcher in his pre-Lord of the Rings decades is quite a treat, and the movie is well made – cheesy 80s moments aside.

Class of special ops in this movie: Special Air Service, SAS (UK)

Tears of the Sun

Tears of the Sun - special forces movies

The tagline for Tears of the Sun (Amazon) should read “sexy Italian woman, stuck in jungle genocide, gets rescued by Bruce Willis and his Navy crew”. That is pretty much the essence of this Antoine Fuqua flick. Monica Bellucci is the damsel in distress and Willis the SEAL team leader who has to face tough moral decisions and defy orders. The movie is quite violent and I am not sure how factually accurate it is. Definitely a nice exercise, but not a terribly good movie. Willis is a bit too cool for a SEAL. Gritty action, jungle colors, questionable graphic violence, bad dialogue..  but entertaining.

Class of special ops in this movie: Navy SEALs (USA)

Delta Force

Delta Force - special forces movies

I know what you’re thinking. Delta Force (Amazon) is campy old 80s trash with Chuck Norris, and you’re not entirely wrong. However, out of the handfull of movies made about Delta Force, this is the only one that is a) at least somewhat famous and b) actually entertaining cinema. Chuck Norris can roundhouse kick every special force on the planet, because he is a special force. When the Boogey Man goes to sleep at night he checks the closet for Chuck Norris. Chuck Norris haunts Freddy Kruger in his nightmares.

Class of special ops in this movie: Delta Force (USA)

Sniper

Sniper - special forces movies

A different take on special forces, Sniper (Amazon) started a whole franchise of Marine Corps sniper movies, and inspired the pretty good Shooter with Mark Wahlberg. Tom Berenger plays the grumpy old vet, and Billy Zane the young SWAT hot shot asshole. I love the whole camouflage aspect of the movie and the delicate balance between no action (snipers sometimes wait months until they fire a single shot) and lots of action. I have only seen some of the straight-to-video sequels, and none of them are worth the while.

Class of special ops in this movie: Marine Corps (USA), S.W.A.T. (USA)

Elite Squad (aka Tropa de Elite)

tropa de elite 2 - special forces movies

In 2008 at the Berlin International Film Festival a Brazilian movie that depicted the work of Rio de Janeiro’s special police force BOPE won the prestigious golden bear award for best film. Its name was Elite Squad aka Tropa the Elite (Amazon). The police unit, which often shows up in Human Rights Watch reports and is considered one of the toughest and most professional urban warfare units in the world, is the spearhead of the crime-ridden city’s law enforcement policy and has a reputation of being comparatively non-corrupt. The director made one of the most successful Brazilian movies ever….

Class of special ops in this movie: BOPE (Brazil)

Furious Cinema related reading: See our review of ELITE SQUAD 1 and 2 here, in our Berlinale special.

Who dares wins

Who Dares Wins - special forces movies

I have read great things a bout this one, and it seems to be a real treat, but haven’t seen it so far. This goes on my personal to watch list. Who Dares Wins (Amazon) is a British thriller about the cut throats of the SAS on an impossible mission.

Class of special ops in this movie: SAS (UK)

Honorable mentions:

G.I. Jane

While I admire the style and the characters, it is just laid on a little too thick, and the SEALs action I was looking for is pushed aside by a story that is primarily about female strength, sadism and stereotypes. Meh, I expected more from G.I. Jane (Amazon). After all this Hollywoodizing for almost two hours, Ridley Scott gives us 5 screen minutes of actual combat.

Class of special ops in this movie: Navy SEALs (USA)

Furious Cinema related reading: Click here to read our review of G.I. Jane

G.I. Jane - special forces movies
That was my rundown of some of the best I special forces movies could think of. I wish The Finest Hour was available on DVD, but it was quite an under the radar movie and possibly a TV flick, a shame really. It will be interesting to see what Bigelow and Co will come up with, there are quite a few new spec-ops movies to come out of tinsel town yet. They will be grittier, but more glorified, they will be more complex, and more professionally made. There is a trend to make movies like this look ultra realistic, I hope they keep at least some badassery.

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Sebastian

Sebastian

Founder and Editor-in-Chief. Also founder and executive editor of The Quentin Tarantino Archives, The Spaghetti Western Database and Pistolero. Director of The Triple Feature Foundation.

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36 Responses

  1. Snakebite1812 says:

    Almost all of these movies would be classified as special operations forces. Only the U.S. Army Green Berets wear the Special Forces tab on their shoulder. Most of the media and civilian population assume that seals and every other “shooter” are Special Forces. 

  2. Trippinmarlin says:

    my fav. is the finest hour..totally under rated and hard to find

  3. Rickanthony2 says:

    Who dares wins AKA Final Option is a treat: a moderate pace but the ending action looks spot on given the time period. You can watch at netflixs watch me now.

  4. miltary wave says:

    The raid : redemption…is kick ass

  5. Apple says:

    Troupe de elite is one the best I have seen. Both 1st & 2nd part are treat to watch. Though I don’t understand Portuguese, even watching with subtitles kept me glued to the movie. Strongly recommened

  6. Bravo Two Zero about a britt. sas mission

  7. samson107 says:

    theres a great film called Special Forces, best one iv seen

  8. acir says:

    latest one should be ‘act of valor'; the french ‘special forces’ is ok, but i hate the part that they got lame while passing thru the village where a member got sniped. just thought that it does’nt do justice to any special force unit. what was the sniper doing leaving behind his rifle and gears in the middle of nowhere? and why did the team played ball while under pursuit by the enemy?

    you might wanna check out that very few black ops scene from ‘clear and present danger’. the insertion, the ops itself… i’m addicted to those until today. ding chavez (rainbow 6) the man!!

    • Sebastian says:

      I liked the french “Special Forces” movie a lot actually, but wrote this article almost a year before

  9. recce says:

    Act of valor, period

    • Sebastian says:

      I thought that was an exciting movie considering it was made with real SEALs but overall it was a shallow, pathetic and overly patriotic-sentimental piece of propaganda….

  10. Jack Deth says:

    Definitely ‘Blackhawk Down’, ‘Bravo Two Zero’ and ‘Who Dares Wins’!

    Honorable Mentions: ‘The Great Raid’ and ‘Act of Valor’.

  11. BB53 says:

    “GI Jane” was a tremendous disappointment. It has some good parts, but I was expecting so much more from Ridley Scott than a generic “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar” piece. I mean, this is the guy who made the enormously stylish and entertaining “Thelma and Louise” and “Black Rain”.
    And “Delta Force 2″ was much better than “Delta Force”, despite the absence of Lee Marvin. Norris was in the best shape of his life for that movie.

    • Peter Peter says:

      I liked GI Jane a lot. It was just as good as Thelma and Louise imo. Basically Demi Moore is doing the same thing in the Navy as those two women did as outlaws on the run. What did you expect beyond that? More real war scenes etc? It might’ve been light on that stuff but it was supposed to primarily be about her going through SEALS training and I thought that was really well done and fun to watch.

  12. Tom says:

    The list can’t be any better than the available movies, and the US stuff is not too good. Think Green Berets with john wayne as a standard setter. :)

    There are a ton of WWII movies that have to do with commando operations, any one of which could stand in this company.

    Inglorious Bastards had a nominal special operations aspect. Though like a lot of QT stuff it has good scenes, not much overall.

    I guess in a non-US vein Enemy at the Gates is SO sniper wise.

    Another good film that is well known and US director, but not set in the US is Cross of iron by Peckinpah. I suspect those were supposed to be conventional forces, but they were raiding behind the Russian lines, so they deserve a pass I’m thinking.

  13. dj says:

    You totally forgot to mention the Army Rangers in black hawk down who are actually a Special Operations force. And for the record, Civilian SWAT teams are not special ops, they are special weapons and tactics teams, hence the term SWAT.

  14. Trevor says:

    Very good.

  15. you idiots! says:

    HOW ABOUT THE OBJECTIVE, SNIPER, SHOOTER, 2 GUNS (sorta), 9th Company, Intimate Enemies (French SOF film like Forces Especiales) and like fifteen other MORE relevant films you totally missed

    • Peter Peter says:

      Yep the title is 10 AWESOME SPECIAL FORCES MOVIES. Not EVERY SPECIAL FORCES MOVIE EVER MADE. Also this is only one persons choices. They may not have seen the ones you mentioned or might not even like them.

  16. Alex Davis says:

    You fucking idiot, black hawk down was Army Rangers not Delta.

  17. kev mac says:

    “The Hunted” (2003) is definitely the craziest special forces movie ive ever seen, although most of the movie is just about one soldier gone rogue stalking hunters in the wilderness. I highly recommend this movie!

  18. cousse says:

    Does anyone know of a movie i saw in the 90’s. It had a seen where someone put weights on a dudes feet , and he had to get them off at the bottom of the pool . Then they put a scorpion in one shoe and he or she had to pick the right one. Its driving me nuts might be an 80’s movie.

  19. Wow, No one noticed? says:

    Blackhawk Down features Delta Force and US Army Rangers, not the corps.

  1. November 11, 2011

    [...] Sebastian previously covered another subgenre of war cinema with his furious: 10 Special Forces films list which looked at divisions of the military such as Navy SEALS, Army Rangers, BOPE etc who are called [...]

  2. February 1, 2012

    [...] Video At FC we’re big fans of films like The Green Berets, Navy SEALS, GI Jane and other special forces classics. The upcoming action-adventure film Act of Valor looks like it’ll be quite a furious and cool [...]

  3. February 12, 2012

    [...] Tango Down: 10 Awesome Special Forces Films [...]

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