- Navy SEAL movies explore the sacrifices and experiences of those in the most dangerous job, showcasing bravery and real-life missions.
- Some films delve into the traumas, perils, and moral dilemmas faced by SEALs, highlighting intense training and mental fortitude required.
- These movies tell riveting narratives about the lives of Navy SEALs, with varying focuses on personal struggles, empowering themes, or thrilling action.
Exploring and honoring the sacrifices and exploits of those involved in the most dangerous job in the world, Navy SEAL movies tell some of the most compelling military-centric stories. From inspiring feats of bravery to heart-pounding depictions of real-life military missions, Navy SEAL movies walk through it all. While at it, many of them also delve deeper into the personal lives of their central Navy SEAL characters, highlighting how their high-stakes jobs impact their day-to-day off-duty lives.
Some of these films even dig into important didactic themes surrounding the traumas, extreme perils, and moral dilemmas the Navy SEALs face during their immensely challenging military operations. Meanwhile, there are a few others that walk viewers through the intense training and mental fortitude it takes to become as calloused as a Navy SEAL. With so many prospective narratives surrounding the lives of Navy SEALs, it is not surprising that there are many riveting movies about the people involved in the special operations force.
9 Act Of Valor
Act of Valor does not try too hard to stand out and elevate itself above the regular fare of military movies. Instead, it presents a conventional narrative where it shows how a group of Navy SEALs finds themselves at odds with a perilous terrorist threat after they attempt to rescue an abducted CIA operative. Despite being predictable, Act of Valor is entertaining because it conforms to some of the best conventions of the genre and fills its runtime with crowd-pleasing twists, action scenes, and training sequences.
8 G.I. Jane
Starring Demi Moore, G.I. Jane follows Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil, who becomes a trial candidate for a U.S. Navy program that eventually intends to integrate women into the services. The challenging training program pushes Jordan to her limits, and the program’s commander John James Urgayle intentionally makes it even more grueling for her. However, she eventually proves everyone wrong by defying all odds and clearing the program. G.I. Jane is best when it focuses primarily on O’Neil’s struggles and strong will to survive her training. However, the movie’s empowering themes get weighed down by its nationalist tropes and uneven pace.
7 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Based on Mitchell Zuckoff’s 2014 book of the same name, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi focuses on the Annex Security Team’s six members, which included two US Navy SEALs, Jack Silva (John Krasinski) and Tyrone S. “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale). Set in Benghazi, Libya, the movie shows how the team defended the American diplomatic compound on September 11, 2012, when militant attacks erupted in the region. Since 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a Michael Bay movie, it does not prioritize storytelling or character development. However, its slam-bang action scenes qualify it as a white-knuckling popcorn flick.
6 Without Remorse
Stefano Sollima’s Without Remorse adapts Tom Clancy’s 1983 book in which a U.S. Navy SEAL, John Kelly, walks down the path of vengeance when Russian hitmen murder his pregnant wife and former unit members. Before releasing in 2021, Without Remorse had been in development hell since the novel was first published, and many actors like Keanu Reeves and Tom Hardy were considered to play John Kelly. Michael B. Jordan was ultimately finalized for the leading role, and he delivered on the acting and action front. Unfortunately, the Tom Clancy adaptation mostly received negative reviews from critics because of its formulaic approach to the genre.
5 The Abyss
While most other Navy SEALs-focused films have patriotic themes, James Cameron’s The Abyss is a science fiction film with Lovecraftian underpinnings. Like most James Cameron movies, The Abyss is visually spectacular and was shot using groundbreaking techniques and technology. The movie focuses on a Navy SEAL, Lieutenant Hiram Coffey, who accompanies formerly married petroleum engineers Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio on a mission to recover a mysteriously sunken nuclear sub. However, what they find in the down deep is far more terrifying and eerie than they had anticipated.
4 Under Siege
Often touted as Steven Seagal’s best movie, Under Seige received immense critical acclaim after its release in 1992 and even went on to earn two Academy Award nominations. Even from a commercial standpoint, the movie was a success, grossing over $150 million internationally. Under Seige begins by introducing the legendary U.S. battleship, the U.S.S. Missouri, which is about to get decommissioned. However, chaos breaks loose when terrorists take over the ship, with the plan of selling it abroad. Little do they realize that former Navy SEAL captain, Casey Ryback, is on board, and he will stop at nothing to end their mission.
3 Lone Survivor
Set in 2005 Afghanistan, Lone Survivor tells the true story of Navy SEALs Marcus Luttrell, Michael Murphy, Danny Dietz, and Matthew “Axe” Axelson, who get deployed on a mission to kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. However, their mission takes a dangerous turn when an Afghan goatherd reports their arrival to the opposition. With what follows, the four men find themselves being outnumbered by the enemy forces with nowhere left to go. Lone Survivor ingeniously makes the best out of the military movie subgenre’s best conventions by brewing an awe-inspiring and heartbreaking tale of heroism.
2 American Sniper
Directed by Clint Eastwood, American Sniper is a biopic loosely based on Chris Kyle’s memoir American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. Featuring Bradley Cooper as Navy S.E.A.L. sniper Chris Kyle, the movie shows how after being a legend on the battlefield, Kyle struggles to adapt and live with his family when he returns home after four tours of duty. While American Sniper was initially a subject of controversy because of its portrayal of the War in Iraq, it was showered with praise from viewers and critics for Bradley Cooper’s brilliant performance and Clint Eastwood’s directorial forte.
1 Zero Dark Thirty
Although Zero Dark Thirty primarily focuses on a group of C.I.A. operatives, who set out on a decade-long hunt to track Osama bin Laden, the movie features some of the most realistic Navy SEAL scenes in its closing arc. Its ending is predictable in the sense that the world already knows that the Navy S.E.A.L.s Team 6 killed al-Qaeda terrorist leader in May 2011. However, what still makes it compelling is how Zero Dark Thirty meticulously walks through the protocol the SEALs follow to enter the compound and kill the terrorist. With no background scores or unnecessary dramatization, the Zero Dark Thirty scene highlights how reality can often be more captivating than fiction.