The loudest explosions might be in war movies, but there’s something about watching an expert sniper at work as a swerving projectile hits the target with alarmingly accurate precision. A well-made sniper movie can be hard to come by given that it’s not exactly an established genre by itself and that’s exactly where I step in. Here’s a comprehensive list of the best sniper movies that are sure to ‘blow’ you away.
1. Targets (1968)
Hailed to be one of the most powerful films of 1968, Roger Corman’s crime thriller was a scathing social commentary. Forty years since its release, it’s still one of the strongest cries for gun control in American cinema. Boris Karloff stars as an elderly horror film star who is due to make his final appearance at a public screening. He comes to face with a psychotic Vietnam war veteran who has turned into a mass-murdering sniper. Peter Bogdanovich creates a well-paced movie that does well enough to hammer home the point of curbing gun violence without ever coming across as preachy.
2. The Day of the Jackal (1978)
Not to be confused with the 1997 remake, Fred Zinnemann’s 1978 political thriller was a thing of beauty. It opened to glowing reviews with Roger Ebert calling it spellbinding. The film racked in an impressive 7 BAFTA nominations. Based on Frederick Forsyth’s novel of the same name, The Day of the Jackal tells the tale of a professional assassin known only as of the “Jackal” who is hired to assassinate Charles de Gaulle, then President of France.
3. Enemy at the Gates (2001)
Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 2001 war film revolves around a cat-and-mouse game between a celebrated Russian war hero and a German sniper during the Battle of Stalingrad. Jude Law adds an air of gravitas to his role of Vasily Zaitsev, a celebrated sniper who played a decisive role in his side’s victory.
Upon release, it received flak for its historical inaccuracies with Germans claiming that the movie only simplified history and glorified war. The romance looked completely out of place while additional sub-plots only added to the runtime. But, when it does concentrate on the two men and their duel, it’s a thrilling experience that’s sure to keep you on the edge of your seats.
Where to Watch: Netflix
4. Phone Booth (2002)
This 2002 neo-noir thriller narrates the story of a publicist, Stuart Shepard who finds himself trapped in a phone booth. Pinned down by an extortionist’s sniper rifle, he is unable to leave or call for help. The sniper aware of every detail of Stu’s life uses it to manipulate and challenge him to a myriad of mental games. Now, he must somehow survive the sniper and convince the cops that he’s not the killer they’re looking for. I found it to be an intense nail-biter that had me guessing what could conspire until the end credits rolled down.
5. Sun cheung sau (2009)
Dante Lam’s stylish action flick is a solid cop versus robbers film that deserves a mention on this list. The plot revolves around an unlikely team-up of a steely police officer and a hot-headed rookie in the pursuit of a former teammate who’s gone rogue. Set to release in May 2008, the film had to be delayed for more than a year. One of the actors, Edison Chen was embroiled in a nasty controversy surroundings allegations of sexual misconduct. His scenes had to be edited out later. Despite all this, the film rises above its generic template to make for a supremely entertaining watch.
6. The American (2010)
George Clooney stars as an expert craftsman and ruthless assassin in The American. He’s given the task of creating a killing machine capable of immense destruction. However, while at the job he falls in love and befriends a priest, breaking his own rules of getting emotionally involved. This leads to a shocking shifting of allegiances and leaves our hero mortally wounded. Can he find the strength to put up a fight?
7. American Sniper (2014)
Chris Kyle’s biographical war film is loosely based on the memoir American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in US Military History. One of the best sniper movies out there, it offers an incredibly moving character study. Featuring an excellent performance from Bradley Cooper, American Sniper explores the physical and psychological toll exacted on soldiers everywhere. This is one of my all-time favorite works of Cooper who exudes confidence, intensity, and vulnerability in equal measure. Clint Eastwood, the man who popularized Westerns is right in his element here creating impeccably crafted action sequences that make us forget we’re watching a film.