10 Navy SEAL Movies That Everyone Needs to Watch

Photo Credit: 1. Wade / MovieStillsDB 2. Zayne / Columbia Pictures / MovieStillsDB 3. Kupca / Warner Bros. / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: 1. Wade / MovieStillsDB 2. Zayne / Columbia Pictures / MovieStillsDB 3. Kupca / Warner Bros. / MovieStillsDB

The US Navy SEALs are among the most elite forces within the US military. These operatives are asked with conducting the most difficult and secretive missions in the most dangerous countries, and they undergo extensive training to ensure they’re successful. Given the mystery and awe that surrounds their operations, it’s no surprise that several Navy SEAL movies have been released by Hollywood, and the following is a list of the top releases everyone needs to watch at least once.

Lone Survivor (2013)

Still from 'Lone Survivor'
Lone Survivor, 2013. (Photo Credit: waryrwmn / MovieStillsDB)

We’re kicking off our list of the best Navy SEAL-related movies with Lone Survivor (2013). Starring Mark Wahlberg, the film is a dramatization of the book of the same name, which covers the events that occurred during the ill-fated Operation Red Wings. By Marcus Luttrell, the non-fiction release covers what occurred from the point of view of the only Navy SEAL to survive – the “lone survivor.”

A group of four Navy SEALs, including Luttrell, were tasked with conducting reconnaissance on an area frequented by militant leader Ahmad Shah. Shortly after inserting themselves into the region, the quartet were attacked by Shah and his fighters, with only Luttrell surviving the ambush. One of the two Quick Reaction Force (QRF) helicopters sent in to provide aide was also shot down.

The lone Navy SEAL was rescued by local villagers and eventually brought out of the area by the American forces. He returned to active service after recovering from his injuries and was deployed to Iraq, but was later returned to the United States after hurting his knee and fracturing his spine.

Lone Survivor does a good job retelling what happened during Operation Red Wings and Luttrell’s resolve to survive the mission. That being said, there are several inaccuracies that audiences should be aware of, such as the number of militants involved in the ambush (the exact number is debated) and some of Luttrell’s actions in the film, which are slightly misrepresented.

Tears of the Sun (2003)

Cole Hauser and Bruce Willis as James "Red" Atkins and Lt. A.K. Waters in 'Tears of the Sun'
Tears of the Sun, 2003. (Photo Credit: Zayne / Columbia Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

Presenting a moral message in the aftermath of 9/11, Tears of the Sun (2003) is an action-packed special ops movie that sees Bruce Willis, Tom Skerritt and Cole Hauser portray Navy SEALs charged with evacuating Dr. Lena Fiore Kendricks (Monica Bellucci) and a group of missionaries from Nigeria after a military coup d’etat.

Things become a bit more complicated when the Navy SEALs arrive at the camp, only to learn that Kendricks won’t leave without those who are injured, prompting Willis’ character, Lt. A.K. Waters, to reluctantly take those who are able to move, leaving it open to rebel attacks – which is what happens.

A fictionalized story based on a similar mission that occurred in Columbia with the Canadian Joint Task Force Two, Tears of the Sun is largely accurate in its depiction of such action, largely thanks to real-life Navy SEAL Harry Humphries having served as its technical advisor. This made it difficult for some to watch, both on-screen and in-person during the filming process.

Under Siege (1992)

Steven Seagal as Casey Ryback in 'Under Siege'
Under Siege, 1992. (Photo Credit: charlytraveler / Warner Bros. / MovieStillsDB)

While his life has since taken an unusual turn and he hasn’t appeared in a film since 2019, Steven Seagal was once a mainstay of the action film genre, and a prime example of that is 1992’s Under Siege.

Seagal stars as former Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Casey Ryback, who is tasked with saving the USS Missouri (BB-63) from a group of mercenaries, led by William Strannix (Tommy Lee Jones). The former has taken over the battleship with the intent of selling the vessel’s Tomahawk missiles, as a sort of revenge against the CIA, which had previously tried to assassinate him.

While an action-packed release, what we like most about the film is that it was filmed on real-life naval vessels, with the USS Alabama (BB-60) standing in for Missouri and the USS Drum (SS-228) for the hijacked North Korean submarine. Footage of Missouri is also used.

While we like Under Siege, just don’t ask us to discuss Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995). We’ll give it a less than favorable review…

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)

John Krasinski as Jack Silva in '13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi'
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, 2016. (Photo Credit: rosethornbird / MovieStillsDB)

The next entry on our list of the best Navy SEAL movies is 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016). Based on the 2012 Benghazi attack, it follows a six-man team from the Global Response Staff (GRS), made up of former Navy SEALs, Marines and a US Army Ranger, as they counter an attack by Ansar al-Sharia militants on the US diplomatic compound and the CIA’s Annex in the city.

Starring John Krasinski as Jack Silva, the film wasn’t a hit at the box office, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on your must-watch list, especially if you’re looking for a good action movie. That being said, it was called out for taking some liberties when it came to covering the actual events of the deadly attack.

Many were upset over the film’s omission of civilian efforts to rescue J. Christopher Stevens, the US Ambassador to Libya, during the attack. It also insinuated that the CIA chief told the GRS operatives to stand down at the US diplomatic compound, which the real-life chief denied. Whether this actually happened is muddle in uncertainty, as some sources refute the claim.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Jessica Chastain as Maya in 'Zero Dark Thirty'
Zero Dark Thirty, 2012. (Photo Credit: CozlCan / Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

The hunt for Osama bin Laden following 9/11 was one of the primary reasons the United States launched the War in Afghanistan. He went into hiding shortly after the attacks, and it took nearly a decade for the American forces to track him down, with SEAL Team Six taking him out as part of Operation Neptune Spear.

A year after the mission, Zero Dark Thirty (2012) premiered in theaters. Starring Jessica Chastain, the movie is a dramatization of the nearly 10-year hunt for the leader of al-Qaeda.

Similar to other war films, the release was criticized for being historically inaccurate. As Graham Allison states, there were three things the movie got wrong, in particular: the effectiveness of torture, the “film’s hype of a fictional heroine who succeeded in defying ‘the system’,” and the ineffectiveness of the Obama Administration (the president actually played a prominent role when it came to ramping up the hunt for bin Laden in 2009).

Despite these criticisms, Zero Dark Thirty was a major success at the box office, with the film receiving five nominations at the 85th Academy Awards, taking home the Oscar for Best Sound Editing.

G.I. Jane (1997)

Demi Moore as Lt. Jordan O'Neil in 'G.I. Jane'
G.I. Jane, 1997. (Photo Credit: eliks / MovieStillsDB)

G.I. Jane (1997) may seem like an odd choice for this list, as it received mixed reviews, but we felt it deserves a spot, given there’s yet to be a female join the elite ranks of the Navy SEALs (a recruit, however, did become the first to successfully complete the 37-week course to become a Naval Special Warfare combatant-craft crewman in 2021).

Starring Demi Moore as Lt. Jordan O’Neil and Viggo Mortensen as Command Master Chief John James “Jack” Urgayle, G.I. Jane follows the former as she undergoes specialized training similar to that undertaken by those wishing to become Navy SEALs, after a US senator pressures the Navy to integrate women into the elite force.

While Moore wound up winning the Razzie Award for Worst Actress for her portrayal of O’Neil, she later wrote in her memoir that it was her proudest professional achievement.

Captain Phillips (2013)

Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips in 'Captain Phillips'
Captain Phillips, 2013. (Photo Credit: slidemen / Columbia Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

If you’ve been reading War History Online for any length of time, then you’ll know we’re big fans of Tom Hanks. Not only is he a stellar actor, but he’s brought us many amazing war films and miniseries – think Saving Private Ryan (1998) and, most recently, Masters of the Air (2024).

You might not think he’s appeared in a Navy SEAL-related movie, but you’d be wrong. Captain Phillips (2013) is the big-screen retelling of the incredible 2009 rescue of Richard Phillips by a team of Navy SEALs from Somali pirates. The men responsible for the rescue? Snipers with Red Squadron, Naval Special Warfare Development Group – better known as SEAL Team Six.

Officially known as the Maersk Alabama hijacking, the incident in the Somali Basin saw the captain’s cargo ship taken over by four pirates and held hostage. Hanks portrays Phillips in the film, with Barkhad Abdi playing the lead pirate, Abduwali Muse.

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse (2021)

Michael B. Jordan as John Kelly in 'Tom Clancy's Without Remorse'
Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, 2021. (Photo Credit: yassi / MovieStillsDB)

If there’s a chance for us to include a Tom Clancy-based film in an article, we’re going to take it, and since we can’t include The Hunt for Red October (1990), we’re going with the 2021 movie, Without Remorse, about a Navy SEAL who seeks to avenge the deaths of his pregnant wife and team members.

Michael B. Jordan stars as John Kelly, the Navy SEAL in question, and given his film resume, we’d say he was the perfect choice to portray the famous literary character. Taking on Russian hitmen is no small feat, so the audience needs to believe the character will be successful in his endeavor, and that’s exactly what Jordan brings to the table. If you’re looking for an action film to watch, this is one we highly recommend.

A sequel was green-lit in 2023, with the script reportedly based on Clancy’s Rainbow Six. To say we’re excited would be a severe understatement!

American Sniper (2014)

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in 'American Sniper'
American Sniper, 2014. (Photo Credit: Korsar / MovieStillsDB)

Chris Kyle is arguably one of the most famous snipers in US military history, and his time as a Navy SEAL was immortalized in the 2014 movie, American Sniper. Based on the late veteran’s book of the same name, the film stars Bradley Cooper and covers Kyle’s tours in Iraq and the toll his time abroad had on himself and his family.

Directed by famed actor Clint Eastwood, American Sniper was a commercial success, bringing in an impressive $547.4 million at the box office. However, it wasn’t without its critics. Just as Kyle was called out for some questionable claims in his book, so, too, was the film for the slight twisting of historical events, such as its depiction of the enemy sniper, Mustafa. While the fighter has a big role in American Sniper, Kyle actually admitted he never saw him.

Despite some issues with its historical accuracy, American Sniper is a must-watch for anyone looking for film about the Iraq War. Sadly, Kyle was never able to see the finished product in theaters, as he lost his life during an encounter at a Texas shooting range with a 25-year-old US Marine who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The sniper’s friend, Chad Littlefield, was also killed in the incident.

The Rock (1996)

Sean Connery as John Patrick Mason in 'The Rock'
The Rock, 1996. (Photo Credit: waryrwmn / MovieStillsDB)

We’re closing off our list of Navy SEAL movies with a classic, The Rock (1996). Sean Connery, Ed Harris and 1990s-era Nicolas Cage – how can it get any better?!

Directed by Michael Bay, The Rock centers around a Navy SEAL mission to stop a group of rogue US Marines, led by Brig. Gen. Francis Hummel (Harris) and Maj. Tom Baxter (David Morse), who’ve taken tourists hostage on Alcatraz and are threatening to launch a host of rockets containing a nerve agent on San Francisco. Why? They want the Pentagon to acknowledge the 83 men who perished on missions led by Hummel and pay their families $100 million.

Given Alcatraz’s notorious and dark history, there’s no better setting for a plot like this than the shuttered island prison. As the movie progresses, audiences see just how dangerous a place it could be, with only two members of the infiltration team surviving their foray onto the premises. What’s more, the pair aren’t even Navy SEALs! They’re an FBI chemist (Cage) and a retired Special Air Service (SAS) captain (Connery).

More from us: The Movies That Made Kirk Douglas One of the War Genre’s Best

It’s likely everyone reading through this list has seen The Rock, but if you haven’t, we suggest logging off your computer and watching it ASAP. You won’t be disappointed!

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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