There are a few movies that stand out when I think of tactically legitimacy on the screen. Of course “John Wick” and its sequel will always stand out, but — despite Keanu Reeves’ awesome display of firearm proficiency — they aren’t necessarily meant to be 100% realistic, they’re meant to be awesome and entertaining. Which they most definitely are.

However, some movies have a different purpose in mind: to imitate realism. That often means mishandling weapons for the actor playing a lay person who doesn’t know what they’re doing, but it also means competency from say, a trained hitman character or a supposed ex-Navy SEAL. Every once in a while, the actor is properly trained and does justice to those roles.

As usual, I don’t recommend watching any of these unless you’ve seen the whole movie. These aren’t in any particular order, though the first one almost always comes to mind when I think of this sort of thing.


There are some great scenes in this entire movie, where Tom Cruise stars as a contract killer who has a taxi driving him around LA from one kill to the next. You hear a lot of people talk about Tom Cruise in different ways — you don’t generally hear them complaining about his tactical proficiency.

Hip-firing isn’t exactly a good idea — most of the time. But if someone’s up in your face, threatening your life, aiming isn’t exactly hard from less than a foot away. You draw to what some call the position of retention, or the first step in a complete draw, fire upon the closest and/or greatest threat, and then move onto the next, drawing forward as you go. This is a great example of exactly that.


Again, this movie has several tactical scenes worth watching, though I will say that for some reason they portrayed Delta in a sort of hokey way. However, beyond that, their use of weapons and tactics, combined with creative environments like say, a traffic jam, made for some very interesting, brutal and realistic scenes. “Precision” is an art in combat that is often lost in many movies, with SAW-toting heroes, blowing through crowds of bad guys. “Sicario” gives a glimpse into what precision shooting in a volatile environment actually looks like.

“Bravo Two Zero”

This is an older one, but I remember it as the first time I had heard of a movie being “tactically correct” from an older Ranger when I was a kid. The movie is based on the book by Andy McNab, who documents his real life experiences during the Gulf War. Though they are far from perfect, we have come a long way in realism with movies. Still, compare this with movies from the time and you have quite a distinct difference.

Combat in open terrain like this is incredibly difficult — no cover, no nothing. You just have to bound and try your best to gain fire superiority, until you can either fight straight through the objective, break contact, or, as in this case, find a place with a better advantage and continue the fight. Keep in mind that, while this is a recreation, it is a true story.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include some final shootouts, like from “Heat,” or more recently “Wind River,” but go watch the actual movies first! The primary fights are at the end.

Which scenes come to mind for you?

Featured image courtesy of Dreamworks. Videos from YouTube.