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. Seals, Delta Force, SAS, SWAT, BOPE, you name them. There are not enough movies cherishing the badassery of these units. Here are ten of our favorite special forces movies.
Navy SEALs (Amazon). This is not the best Navy SEALS movie in my opinion, far from it actually, but it is one the most famous and hollywood-ized 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. Realism is not a strength of this movie, but it features a cameo by god:
The Finest Hour (Amazon). 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.
SWAT (Amazon). Technically a remake, this action-packed movie about LA’s elite police force is quite an enjoyable flick. With a cool cast, amazing firefights 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.
Black Hawk Down (Amazon). The 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.
Bravo Two Zero (Amazon). 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 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.
Tears of the Sun (Amazon). The tagline for this movie should read “sexy hot italian MILF, stuck in jungle genocide, gets rescued by Bruce Willis and his Navy crew”. That is pretty much the essence of this 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.
Delta Force (Amazon). I know what you’re thinking. This 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.
Sniper (Amazon). A different take on special forces, this one started a whole franchise of Marine Corps sniper movies, and inspired the pretty good Shooter with Mark Wahlberg. Berenger plays the grumpy old vet, and Zane the young 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.
Elite Squad (aka Tropa de Elite) (Amazon). 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. 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….Continue reading: See our review of part one and two here.
Who dares wins (Amazon). 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. A British thriller about the cut throats of the SAS on an impossible mission.
G.I. Jane (Amazon). 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. After all this Hollywoodizing for almost two hours, Scott gives us 5 screen minutes of actual combat. Click here to read our review of G.I. Jane
That was my rundown of some of the best I 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.