12 Navy SEAL Movies for Action Lovers
The Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, and Land) are the United States Navy’s primary special operations force. The best of the best, these elite men and women are called upon when shit hits the fan.
Operating across the globe, these small teams take on the hardest missions, from capturing or assassinating high-level targets to operating behind enemy lines in a wide range of environments, including maritime, jungle, urban, arctic, mountainous, and desert. Involved in highly classified missions, Navy SEALs are real-life heroes whose exploits are often explored on the big screen in blockbuster movies that come under the subgenre of Navy SEAL movies.
These action-packed films take us on gripping adventures across the globe where our favorite actors are cast as grizzled veterans fighting for the freedom of all Americans. From heart-pounding missions in treacherous terrains to intense hand-to-hand combat encounters, these Navy SEAL movies not only entertain but also offer a glimpse into the remarkable lives of these extraordinary individuals. Some are based on real-life assignments while others are fictional accounts of the missions these special forces members are tasked with completing.
So pack your parachute, load your pistol, and prepare for an adrenaline-fueled exploration of the silver screen’s most captivating portrayals of the Navy SEALs that are sure to leave you inspired, in awe, and craving for more.
12 Navy SEAL Movies for Action Lovers
1. Navy SEALs (1990)
When a film is entitled Navy SEALs, you pretty much know what to expect. This underrated 90s gem centers on a group of Navy SEALs who uncover a warehouse full of Stinger missiles while on an extraction mission. Forced to leave the missiles behind, they soon find out they belong to a terrorist leader, Ben Shaheed, who aims to use the weapons to further his cause. The SEALs must then undertake several high-risk missions to discover the whereabouts of the missiles and take down Shaheed.
Featuring a top-notch cast (Charlie Sheen, Michael Biehn, Dennis Haysbert, Bill Paxton, and more) and some great action set pieces, Navy SEALs is much better than the reviews suggest (it only has a critic score of 18% on Rotton Tomatoes). Sure, the plot is a bit ropey and it’s not going to win any Oscars, but this type of B-grade action flick is elevated thanks to the cast, making it a good popcorn flick.Watch on Prime
2. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
The operation to hunt and kill Osama bin Laden was close to a decade-long manhunt that stretched across the globe and was turned into the award-winning movie Zero Dark Thirty. Coming off the Oscar success of The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow was tasked with telling the story of how fictional CIA analyst Maya Harris (Jessica Chastain) managed to track down bin Laden at a compound in Pakistan and execute the most wanted man in the world.
Released to universal praise, Zero Dark Thirty was also a hit at the box office, with people fascinated to see the inner workings of the American military and government and how they traced bin Laden to his desert hideout.
While not without controversy, Zero Dark Thirty gives a fairly balanced account of what happened, with the final nighttime raid on bin Laden’s compound heart in your mouth kinda stuff. Mention must also be made of the ensemble cast which includes heavy hitters such as Jason Clarke, James Gandolfini, Kyle Chandler, Chris Pratt, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Édgar Ramírez, and Frank Grillo.Watch on Netflix
3. Tears of the Sun (2003)
Although not well received by critics, audiences gave this Bruce Willis headliner positive feedback. Tears of the Sun focuses on a team of Navy SEALs (led by Willis) who are sent to rescue a US citizen (Monica Bellucci) who is working in the Nigerian jungle as the rebellion army approaches. When they arrive to escort her from the danger, she refuses to leave, forcing Willis and his team to take a great role in the coming conflict.
It’s pretty standard stuff when it comes to Navy SEAL movies, with Willis in typical stoic action-hero form. The fight scenes are well executed and the cast is great, it’s just the story that lacks something that could have turned this from a good movie into a great movie.Watch on Netflix
4. Lone Survivor (2013)
Another real-life drama, Lone Survivor is based on the book of the same name about a four-man SEAL reconnaissance and surveillance team whose mission behind enemy lines finds them fighting for their lives. Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster are the four SEALs who find themselves outmanned and outgunned by Taliban forces.
Lone Survivor has plenty of action but also highlights the bond between soldiers and the help the Americans got from locals not associated with the Taliban. Like similar Navy SEAL movies, liberties were taken in regard to the actual events that occurred, but overall, the story is compelling enough to make you forget about these historical accuracies and enjoy the action unfolding on screen.Watch on Prime
5. American Sniper (2014)
While already an established actor when cast as real-life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, it’s fair to say this film pushed Bradley Cooper into the upper echelon of movie stardom. Before this, he was the guy from The Hangover who had appeared in several critically acclaimed movies (The Place Beyond the Pines, American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook), and while successful, American Sniper showed Cooper’s range as an actor.
Based on the tragic story of sniper Chris Kyle, a sniper who managed to survive three tours of Iraq only to be killed by fellow Marine Eddie Ray Routh while at a shooting range after finally leaving the service. American Sniper is as much about the action as it is about the impact war can have on a person’s mind. Kyle suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and the movie delves into how this affected not only Kylie but his family and friends.Watch on Apple TV
6. Act of Valor (2012)
Critics hating Navy SEAL’s flicks and moviegoers loving them seem to be a common theme. Act of Valor is another movie about a SEAL team that got bad reviews but made decent money at the box office.
Directed by Scott Waugh and starring a mix of actors and actual Navy SEALs and US Navy Special Warfare Combatant Crewmen, the movie follows a team of SEALs who uncover a deadly terrorist plot that stretches from Indonesia to Mexico and puts the lives of millions of Americans at risk.
B-grade action of the highest order, Act of Valor is at its best when the camera is focused on the action, with the editing and cinematography commendable, unlike the plot, which is paper thin at times. Still, this is a solid watch that makes a great double feature with Navy SEALs.Watch on HBO Max
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7. G.I. Jane (1997)
Ridley Scott’s fictional tale about the first woman to undergo special forces training caused quite a ruckus due to lead actor Demi Moore shaving her head for the role. If you can get past that, then you are in for a well-made movie that shows just how hard Navy SEAL training is and why only the best of the best are accepted.
This is one of Moore’s best roles, and despite winning the Razzie Award for Worst Actress, she is dynamite as Lieutenant Jordan O’Neil, who defies the odds and manages to make it to the end of basic training. It’s then on the battlefield that she must finally prove her worth when the trainees are called up to help out in a reconnaissance mission in Libya that has gone off the rails.
Coming off the back of Striptease, arguably the worst performance of her career, Moore is fantastic, with the script by David Twohy and Danielle Alexandra wonderfully brought to life by Scott and his crew.Watch on Direct TV
8. Under Siege (1992)
Not your typical Navy SEAL movie, Under Siege is another Die Hard rip-off, this time set on a boat. When former CIA operative William Strannix (a crazy Tommy Lee Jones) and his group of mercenaries take control of the US Navy battleship Missouri, former United States Navy SEAL turned chef Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal) is the only man left who can take them down.
Under Siege is one of the few Die Hard copies that works, thanks to a brilliant script by J. F. Lawton (the guy who wrote Pretty Woman), great fight scenes, and over-the-top performances from Jones and a cross-dressing Gary Busey.
This has everything you want from a 90s action movie and helped cement Seagal as a bonafide movie star, although his career has been less than impressive since.Watch on Apple TV
9. Without Remorse (2021)
The latest in a long line of Tom Clancy book adaptations, Without Remorse stars Michael B Jordan as John Kelly, a former US Marine who is hell-bent on revenge after a mission goes wrong and Russian operatives kill his pregnant wife and his entire Navy SEAL team. Full of intrigue and double-crosses, Kelly uncovers a government conspiracy that only he can stop before war between America and Russia kicks off.
A pretty standard action thriller, Without Remorse had been in development hell for over 20 years before Jordan signed on. Adding star power to proceedings are Guy Pearce, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, and Colman Domingo.Watch on Prime
10. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)
Directed by Michael Bay, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is an action-packed ride full of fast cuts, wonky editing, and plenty of explosions. The Navy SEAL movie is based on Mitchell Zuckoff’s book of the same name that documents the 2012 Benghazi attack that saw six members of the Annex Security Team, who were former Navy SEALs, protecting a group of American diplomats as waves of Libyan militants attacked the compound they were staying in.
If you watch this for what it is; a Micahel Bay action flick, then you’ll be entertained, but if you’re after a historically accurate account of what happened, then look elsewhere. Bay is never one to let the truth get in front of a good story, something he proves with this movie.Watch on Paramount+
11. The Rock (1996)
This one might be seen as cheating, as the Navy SEAL team are actually the bad guys, but hey, it’s my list so it’s getting a well-deserved mention. The Rock is part of Nicolas Cage’s 90s action trilogy (the other two movies are Con Air and Face/Off), with the Navy SEAL movie focusing on a group of US Force Recon Marines who take control of Alcatraz and threaten to fire rockets loaded with chemical weapons into San Francisco unless they receive $100 million.
Enter Stanley Goodspeed (Cage in top form), a chemical weapon expert who is teamed with prisoner and former MI6 operative John Mason (Sean Connery), the only man ever to escape the Rock.
Essentially Die Hard on Alcatraz, The Rock ticks all the boxes, with the creative and original script handled much better by Michael Bay than the previously mentioned 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.
It also helps that the cast is full of great actors, with Cage and Connery well supported by Ed Harris, Michael Biehn, David Morse, John C. McGinley, John Spencer, and William Forsythe. A worthy addition to the Navy SEAL movies genre of action movies.Watch on Fubo
12. The Abyss (1989)
After the success of The Terminator and Aliens, James Cameron could pretty much do what he liked. And that’s exactly what he did when developed The Abyss, a story he came up with when he was just 17.
After an American submarine sinks, a crew of Navy SEALs led by Lt. Hiram Coffey (Michael Biehn) is sent deep into the ocean to secure the area. Joined by ex-husband and wife duo Virgil (Ed Harris) and Lindsey (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), what they find at the bottom of the ocean will change their lives forever.
A step in a different direction for Cameron after the pulsating action of his previous movies, The Abyss is a visually stunning piece of filmmaking that showed Cameron didn’t need to rely on special effects to tell a compelling story, although the CGI in the film certainly adds to the finished product. A critical and commercial success, The Abyss is very different from the other types of Navy SEAL movies on this list, but well worth your time.Watch on Prime
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