Renowned for their effectiveness in psychological warfare on the battlefield, snipers are considered one of the coolest military units around. It didn’t take long for Hollywood to pick up on the idea and create a series of films and franchises featuring snipers with pinpoint accuracy and the cool demeanor to match.
Given the sheer amount of skill required to become a sniper, there’s a certain mystery and allure attached to the film’s specialist characters. From illegal assassins to military heroes, these snipers are one-man armies that can dish out massive damage with a single gun and a handful of bullets.
The Caller – Phone Booth (2003)
It’s hard to deny the cool factor of a villain being able to stay so calm in the face of so much chaos. The mysterious caller, played by acting veteran Kiefer Sutherland in one of his best roles, terrorizes Stu Shepard’s character by trapping him in a phone booth and cutting off all his escape options.
Obviously he has a beef with Shepard and he backs him up with a high-powered Remington 700 rifle fitted with a tactical scope. It’s just one of a series of elements that lead to a wonderful plot at the end of the film, which practically begs for a sequel.
Miguel Bain – Assassins (1995)
Few movie villains are as cool and suave as Miguel Bain from killerswritten by the Wachowskis a few years before they created the Matrix movies. Expertly played by Antonio Banderas, Bain is both sadistic and charming, depending on the scene.
He is clearly an unbalanced man, but his skill at work is exemplary. Although he is usually seen closing in on a pair of pistols, he is also an expert marksman who can target targets from almost any distance with stunning accuracy.
Agent 47 – Hitman (2007)
the Hitman video games were successful enough to spawn a film adaptation starring The Mandalorian Timothy Olyphant as the Bald Assassin. The character is beloved by fans of the games, primarily for his intimidating looks and extensive knowledge of assassination techniques.
A renowned sniper, Agent 47 is capable of eliminating several targets in a row, without arousing suspicion. This skill is less focused in the movie, but seeing as it was designed primarily for fans of the games, the connection is undeniable.
Bob Lee Swagger – Shooter (2007)
In this action movie directed by Antoine Fuqua, Mark Wahlberg plays Bob Lee Swagger, a US Marine Force reconnaissance team gunnery sergeant and acclaimed marksman. The film was criticized for its plot, but the shooting techniques were quite accurate, thanks to the on-set presence of American sniper Patrick Garrity.
The film is notable for a scene in which Wahlberg’s character is camouflaged in white atop a snow-covered glacier and proceeds to take out enemy snipers before turning his attention to Jack Payne (Elias Kotias). He pulls a gun from Payne’s hand, then dismembers him with another blow.
Leon – Leon: The Professional (1994)
Leon was a master assassin who worked with a variety of weapons during his career. He considered sniper rifles the first weapon an assassin should learn, due to the fact that it maintains a healthy distance between shooter and target.
It is for this reason that he trains the young Mathilda in the art of sniping during the film. Leon takes her to a rooftop and loads his sniper rifle with a paintball cartridge, which Mathilda uses to assassinate a high-ranking VIP during an early morning photo shoot. It’s scenes like this that helped Leon: the professional inspiring other crime thrillers with a similar feel.
Isabelle – Predators (2010)
Isabelle was a member of the Israeli IDF forces, and her specialty as a sniper was considered the highest rank. In Predators, she wields a Blaser R93 daring action sniper rifle with a highly specialized ELCAN Optical Technologies DigitalHunter scope, which aids her in her shooting.
Cool and calm at all times, Isabelle was able to spot targets at great distances, and she was also exceptional at shooting fast-moving targets. Even under the influence of a powerful narcotic, she was able to stabilize her rifle long enough to seriously injure the Super Predator by the end of the film.
Thomas Beckett – Sharpshooter (1993)
Thomas Beckett’s character was one of the original sniper heroes of the action movie genre, beginning with the titular Sniper in 1993. A master gunnery sergeant with impeccable precision, Beckett led numerous missions behind enemy lines to assassinate various villains.
In the first film, he is paired with Richard Miller, a SWAT team sniper and Olympic medalist with no combat experience. Beckett and Miller develop an antagonistic relationship that nearly leads to the former’s death. Beckett would later star in a series of Sniper sequels where he continued to demonstrate his proficiency with a rifle.
Private Jackson – Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Few snipers in action movies are as cool and collected as Private Jackson in Saving Private Ryan. His pinpoint accuracy comes in handy several times throughout the film, especially during a scene where his unit is pinned down by a German sniper in a tower.
He is later revealed to be an instrumental combatant in the film’s final battle, though he meets his unfortunate end at the cannon of a large Panzer tank. Even the members of his unit are amazed at how easily he sleeps, night after night, which they contribute to his clear conscience in the face of evil.
Vasily Zaitsev – Enemy at the Gates (2001)
Loosely based on the events of a real Russian sniper during World War II, this story features Jude Law in one of his best roles as Vasily Zaitsev, a man turned hero for the good of the world. Stalin’s propaganda effort against the Germans. Trained from an early age in the art of marksmanship, Zaitsev is deployed as a specialist who soon makes life hell for the Nazi invaders in Stalingrad.
To compensate, the Germans bring in their own expert sniper with an even deadlier technique. Zaitsev must try to stay one step ahead of an opponent who knows all of his moves, and some of them. Only by exercising all his ingenuity and psychological tactics can he survive the ordeal.
Chris Kyle – American Sharpshooter (2014)
This Clint Eastwood-directed action movie biopic was based on the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, a remarkably skilled sniper who served on the front lines during the Iraq War. The real Chris Kyle is considered a legend within the sniper community, with 255 kills to his name.
American sniper explores the trauma suffered after so many years of killing on the battlefield and how it affects her attempts to readjust to a normal life at home. As such, it’s one of the few movies to tackle the subject of what happens after the room is cleaned, and there’s no one left to kill.
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