The Best and Worst War Movies about Iraq

01
of 15

Three Kings (1999)

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Three Kings. Three Kings

The Best!

Three Kings is an old film, one about the first Gulf War, made before the start of the second war.  In this way, it serves as a curious time capsule.  The film, by David O. Russell, is silly, creative, and a whole lot of fun as it follows Mark Wahlberg and George Clooney as U.S. soldiers behind enemy lines in Iraq, attempting to steal stolen Kuwaiti gold.  Shenanigans ensue as Clooney and Wahlberg end up tangling with Iraq's Republican Guard.  (Though I liked it, it was chosen by veterans as one of the more unrealistic military movies ever made.)

02
of 15

Uncovered: The War on Iraq (2004)

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Uncovered War on Iraq. Uncovered War on Iraq

The Best!

Uncovered: The War on Iraq meticulously tells the story of how the Bush administration fabricated the case to go to war, both manipulating evidence, and exaggerating the threat of weapons of mass destruction.  The film also focuses on the media complicity with these manipulations, giving the administration's claims a sheen of authenticity.  An important film to anyone who wants to know how the war got started...and sold to the American public.

03
of 15

Control Room (2004)

Control Room. Magnolia Pictures

The Best!

The Iraq War was one largely fought in the media and in the realm of public perception.  American perceptions about the war were shaped by CNN and Fox News.  Moreover, Americans believe that we have a free press and access to all the information that is available.  Control Room destroys that myth as it follows Al Jazeera, the Arab news network, as they cover the start of the Iraq war through their own lens.  As viewers, we realize by the end of the documentary that, just like the Middle Eastern populations that watch Al Jazeera, we too have been told just one side of the story.

04
of 15

Why We Fight (2005)

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Why We Fight. Why We Fight

The Best!

Why We Fight is the more philosophical counter-part to Iraq for Sale: War Profiteers.  While that film gets into the very nitty gritty of the actual corporations that defrauded the nation, Why We Fight muses about the nature of the military industrial complex, and what it is within our national psyche that makes wars like Iraq inevitable, and eventually profitable.  A very thoughtful film that's well worth your time.

05
of 15

Jarhead (2005)

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Jarhead. Jarhead

The Worst!

Jarhead is a war movie without a war.  Based on the Anthony Swafford book of the same name, the film (and the book) details Swafford's life as a Marine itching for a fight and sent to the first Gulf War, only to find that there wasn't much of a war to fight.  The film does a good job showing off military life and culture, but the light premise (isn't it amusing when you train for war and then don't get to fight one?) isn't enough to sustain an entire film.  Plus, I find Jake Gyllenhal grating.  Very very grating.

06
of 15

Iraq for Sale: War Profiteers (2006)

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The Best!

Iraq for Sale: War Profiteers is a documentary that examines the big profits that were made on the back of the Iraq war.  Moreover, big profits that were made by corporations largely engaging in corrupt practices and defrauding the U.S. government and the taxpayer.  An infuriating, but ultimately important film.  (This film is part of a series of documentaries that deftly explained the Iraq War.)

07
of 15

My Country, My Country (2006)

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The Best!

My Country, My Country is a documentary with almost no U.S. presence.  Instead, it's entirely told from the perspective of an Iraqi doctor who witnesses the destruction of his country under U.S. control, and the failure of both his countrymen, and the United States, to bring security and democracy.  A heart breaking story of a patriot and father witnessing the collapse of his country.

08
of 15

Redacted (2007)

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The Worst!

Redacted is a "found footage" war movie, in the vein of Cloverfield or the Blair Witch franchise.  Except that none of the "found footage" appears even the slightest bit real; it's so painfully scripted and staged, that as the viewer you want to scream, "That's so obviously not real!  Quit lying to me!"  The dialogue is stilted and forced, the interactions between soldiers - far from being organic and natural - is instead awkward and clumsy (as if they were just actors who had only known each other for a single day before shooting the scene), the direction is tepid and dull, and the production values are on par with a sitcom.  And this is all from the famed auteur director Brian de Palma.

09
of 15

Body of War (2007)

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The Best!

Body of War is a film about Iraq that takes place entirely in the United States.  The film follows Thomas Young, a young Iraq war vet that received extensive injuries immediately after arriving in-country, as it follows his life in the United States as he attempts to live in a wounded body.  A powerful film about the cost incurred by U.S. forces.  (Post script to this film is that Thomas Young has since died.)

10
of 15

Hurt Locker (2008)

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The Best!

The Hurt Locker is a fictional story of an Explosive Ordinance and Disposal (EOD) team based in Iraq, tasked with defusing the many improvised explosive devices that have proved so deadly to U.S. forces.  Simultaneously, a thoughtful deliberation on the U.S. soldier and post traumatic stress, it's also a thrilling action film.  Directed by Kathryn Bigelow who would later go on to direct Zero Dark Thirty.

11
of 15

No End in Sight (2008)

No End in Sight. Magnolia Pictures

The Best!

No End in Sight is a powerhouse of a documentary which dutifully and carefully details the Bush administration's faulty administration of the war in Iraq.  Backed by huge interview "gets" this is an emotional viewing experience, which will leave the viewer angry, upset, and emotional.  (Also one of my top 10 war documentaries of all time.)

12
of 15

Standard Operating Procedure (2008)

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The Best!

Standard Operating Procedure is the twin to Taxi to the Dark Side.  This film tells the story of torture and prisoner abuse in Iraq, the other film telling about torture and prisoner abuse in Afghanistan.  But the films, and the subject matter are linked.  As the film itself makes the case that the harsh interrogation tactics that emerged in Iraq were introduced through soldiers that had arrived from Afghanistan.  Focusing on the scandals that emerged at Abu Garib prison, it's a harsh indictment of power, corruption, and a country that lost its way.

13
of 15

Green Zone (2010)

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The Worst!

Where are the weapons of mass destruction, Matt Damon?!  Where are they?!  

Matt Damon spends Green Zone running around Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction in this action thriller.  Based (very loosely) on the non-fiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, the filmmakers took a political book about the American occupation and turned it into a middling action picture.  It's not a horrible film, it's mildly entertaining, but that's about the best that can be said for it.

14
of 15

The Devil's Double (2011)

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The Worst!

The true life story of an Iraqi soldier who was given cosmetic surgery to be a body double for Uday Hussein (the son of Saddam).  That Uday is pretty much a psychopath, puts Lati Yafita (the protagonist) in a difficult position.  A fascinating story that shows Uday's lifestyle of models, sports cars, unlimited wealth, all the while he torturing and killing with impunity.  The film is fascinating for awhile, especially as it shows us the indulgent lifestyle lived by Saddam's son.  Unfortunately, the film doesn't do as much with the ripe source material as it could have.  After awhile, you're just looking at your watch wondering how much time is left.

15
of 15

American Sniper (2014)

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American Sniper. American Sniper

The Best!

American Sniper, the Clint Eastwood adaptation of the Chris Kyle book about the American military's most successful sniper is part kinetic and intense action film about the Iraq war and part case study of how much one man can endure; in the film Kyle serves as an absorbent collection device for horror, trauma, and all the other awfulness that war can bring.  His ability to experience the terribleness of war and just "squash it down deep inside" seems to be endless...until it's not.  (One can imagine that taking 150 lives - as the number of kills the military formally credits him with - or taking 250 lives, as is suggested to be the real number, would have that sort of an effect on a man.)  The film is not perfect, it provides no introspection to the Iraq war in itself, but it's highly entertaining, and also very contemplative.  Bradley Cooper does an amazing job as Kyle.