Bradley Cooper's portrayal of Chris Kyle in American Sniper seems guaranteed to stand as the most iconic sniper in motion picture history, but there are a few more memorable movie snipers who can round out our Top Ten.
Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Beckett, Sniper
Tom Berenger's performance as a Marine sniper in the original Sniper movie has all the required elements for an '80s military action picture: the Central American drug trade, an off-the-books hit on a rebel leader and his drug lord financier and conflict between the old-school warrior and the young "sniper" who's sat behind a desk and never actually made a kill. Berenger made two sequels and then revived the character in 2014 in Sniper: Legacy, in which Beckett and his now-impressive gut team up with his long-lost son to take down a conspiracy. It's pretty much a lock that Gunny Beckett will return again (and again).
Anthony Swofford, Jarhead
Jarhead pushes the idea that Marines, and in particular Marine snipers, are taught to kill and to do it well. As Swofford said, a Marine “is not a true marine until he has seen combat.” While Swofford (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) doesn’t rack up a high count or square off against a villainous Middle-Eastern sniper, his experience portrays the complexities of war and the life of a Marine on the front lines.
Private Jackson, Saving Private Ryan
The wisecracking Private Jackson in Saving Private Ryan (played by Barry Pepper) lamented their mission as a “serious misallocation of valuable military resources.” Despite not playing the role of main character, Jackson easily earned his time in the limelight. The highlight of his time on screen came during a short-lived duel with a Nazi sniper who was a second too late in spotting his American adversary.
Sergeant JT Sanborn, The Hurt Locker
Sergeant JT Sanborn (played by Anthony Mackie) was not a designated marksman, but he did manage to get on a Barrett-manufactured sniper rifle to pin down an enemy combatant. While the The Hurt Locker got more than a few technicalities wrong, it portrayed the grittier side of combat. As such, Sergeant Sanborn’s bout with a sniper rifle took a very long time, was mostly uneventful, but he was successful in dispatching his foe.
Sgt. Doyle, 28 Weeks Later
In this sequel to 28 Days Later, Jeremy Renner plays a Delta Force sniper on the NATO team tasked with repopulating London after all the Infected from the original movie have died off. Doyle refuses to follow orders to fire indiscriminately into possibly-infected crowds after the virus returns, abandons his post but saves the children who might hold the key to a cure. As with many movie snipers, his solitude and reflection give him a moral clarity that lets him know when to ignore the brass and follow the Truth.
Bob Lee Swagger, Shooter
Powerful and corrupt old men abandon Marine Gunnery Sgt. Swagger to die on an African recon mission gone wrong, Swagger retires to the mountains but gets lured back to civilization to prevent an assassination of the president. It's all a set up and Swagger goes on the run as shadowy government forces try to make him out to be the potential assassin. Mark Wahlberg's temples pulse with rage as he dispenses justice and exposes the conspiracy. Look at this movie as his dry run for Lone Survivor.
Vassili, Enemy at the Gates
The Russian sniper in Enemy at the Gates made a stunning appearance by taking out Nazi officers with complete precision and stealth. The introduction to this movie portrayed Vassili as a standout soldier in a brutal grunt-on-grunt slog. Timing his shots with exploding ordnance to mask his presence, this standout marksman went on to tango with a Nazi sniper during the Battle of Stalingrad.
Bruce Willis is simply known as The Jackal. He's a sniper-for-hire trained by the U.S. military in El Salvador, because Central America was where all the shadowy military activity happened in the '80s. Now it's the '90s, he's gone rogue and the FBI is so desperate that it turns to a former Irish Republican Army sniper played by Richard Gere to stop The Jackal before he takes down the First Lady. This movie is notable for the wide variety of wigs Bruce wears as part of his "disguises."
Vlado Selimović, Shot Through the Heart
Set during the Bosnian war after the collapse of Yugoslavia, the movie tracks two friends who end up on opposite sides of the ethnic conflict. Vlado (played by Linus Roache, who was the last DA on Law & Order) becomes a marksman in the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and realizes that the insurgent sniper wreaking havoc on the city is...his best friend.
The movie is based on an article called "Anti-Sniper" that ran in Details magazine and purports to be based on a true story.