The Best and Worst War Movies About Special Forces

They range from 'Inglourious Basterds' (high) to 'Navy SEALs' (low)

Special forces teams are the best that any military has to offer. They also get the most attention in war movies for the simple reason that they get all the best missions. Some special ops movies, such as 2009's "Inglourious Basterds," are first-rate, while others, including 1968's "The Green Berets," are anything but. Here's a chronological look:

 

01
of 13

"The Guns of Navarone" (1961)

Guns of Navarone

 Columbia Pictures

The Best!

Gregory Peck stars in one of the first commando films, leading a special forces unit to destroy a German fortress in World War II.  This film received almost universal acclaim and a 95 percent rating on RottenTomatoes and set the template for all special forces movies to follow, though to later viewers, these forces might not seem so special.

02
of 13

"The Dirty Dozen" (1967)

The Dirty Dozen

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The Best!

This is a classic 1960s war movie from the patriotic era of war films, with stars Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson leading a crack commando team of convicts behind enemy lines in World War II. It's not serious cinema, but it's great fun.

03
of 13

"The Green Berets" (1968)

The Green Berets

 Warner Bros.-Seven Arts

The Worst!

The purpose of "The Green Berets" was to change the anti-Vietnam War mood of the country to pro-war, but it did a lousy job. Critic Roger Ebert called it "offensive not only to those who oppose American policy but even to those who support it." Many critics labeled it propaganda, and Rotten Tomatoes gave it 25 percent. Plus, John Wayne was too overweight to be a Green Beret.

04
of 13

"Kelly's Heroes" (1970)

Kelly's Heroes

 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The Best!

This war comedy featuring an ad hoc unit of Army soldiers setting out to rob a bank behind enemy lines is highly entertaining. It stars Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, and Donald Sutherland.

05
of 13

"Navy SEALs" (1990)

The Worst!

This clunker starring Michael Biehn and a young Charlie Sheen was meant to be a recruiting tool in the style of "Top Gun," but The Philadelphia Inquirer called it "macho swagger and unabashed hero-worship" and Rotten Tomatoes gave it 19 percent. It left cinemas a week after it opened.  

 

06
of 13

"G.I. Jane" (1997)

G.I. Jane

 Buena Vista Pictures

The Worst!

Demi Moore portrays the first woman to become an elite Navy SEAL. The film takes SEAL training to some absurd extremes, fictionalizing what they could have pulled from real life. USA Today called it "an unfulfilling exercise in pseudo-feminism" and Rotten Tomatoes gave it 55 percent.

07
of 13

"Black Hawk Down" (2001)

The Best!

Ridley Scott's "Black Hawk Down," the true story of Army Rangers and Delta Force stuck into a day-long firefight with the entire city of Mogadishu, Somalia, is one of the best action war movies ever filmed. 

08
of 13

"Tears of the Sun" (2003)

Tears of the Sun

Columbia Pictures

The Worst! 

Bruce Willis leads a special ops team in war-torn Africa to save refugees from an evil warlord. It offers a few decent action sequences but nothing that hasn't been done better in other films. Newsweek said it was "hopelessly steeped in stale Hollywood action conventions."

09
of 13

"Inglourious Basterds" (2009)

Inglorious Basterds

The Weinstein Company

 

The Best!

Brad Pitt stars as Lt. Aldo Raine, leading a commando team of Jewish-Americans bent on killing as many Nazis as possible, done Quentin Tarantino style, in a fantasy revenge plot. It's a creative, entertaining, at times funny romp.

10
of 13

"Act of Valor" (2012)

Act of Valor

 Relativity Media

The Worst!

With this movie the Pentagon got into the filmmaking business in a fictionalized account of real Navy SEAL operations starring real Navy SEALs. It should be no surprise that the story is lame, the acting awful, and the script meandering. Several critics likened it to a recruitment video that just happened to be released to cinemas.

11
of 13

"Zero Dark Thirty" (2012)

The Best!

"Zero Dark Thirty" tells the true story of SEAL Team Six and their assassination of Osama Bin Laden. We know how the story ends, but it's still a gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller: tight, compelling, and difficult to turn away from.

12
of 13

"Lone Survivor" (2013)

The Best!

"Lone Survivor" tells the mostly true story of a team of Navy SEALs behind enemy lines in Afghanistan, stuck on a mountain facing an overwhelming enemy force.  It's thrilling combat and action at its most ferocious. The SEALs take a beating, continuing to live long after they should have keeled over out of exhaustion and wounds.

13
of 13

"Dirty Wars" (2013)

The Worst!

This documentary from The Nation journalist Jeremy Scahill tells how the American military used the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, a special ops unit with no congressional oversight, as a secret army without public accountability. Although critics generally liked its message (85 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), the structure is weak: Scahill pretends he's uncovering clues in front of the camera, effectively acting as himself in a weak attempt to add a narrative to the film.