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11 Best Iraqi War Movies To Better Understand Iraq’s Military History!

11 Best Iraqi War Movies To Better Understand Iraq’s Military History!

As a country with a longstanding tradition in the art of strategy and combat, the history of Iraq has inspired many tales of war and consequently Iraqi war movies. Myths and legends of mighty characters have been written in ink, drawn in pencil, or shot in a film.

Iraq has witnessed many wars and armed conflicts in its short time as an independent country. From the war against Iran to the Persian Gulf War and then the invasion by the United States, the country has seen much bloodshed in recent years.

11 Best Iraqi War Movies To Better Understand Iraq's Military History!

These films will offer you different perspectives on the wars that plagued Iraq. Some of them are simple war films, and others are very thoughtful documentaries. All of them are necessary to see the larger picture and understand the history of this country.

The war films set in Iraq exhibit a profound interplay between their narratives and the evocative settings, providing viewers with an immersive glimpse of this iconic country through the discerning eyes of the directors. These films masterfully weave together the essence of the Iraq backdrop with the intricate stories of their main protagonists, yielding an enriched cinematic experience. In our pursuit to honor the art of cinematic travel, we have meticulously curated a collection of exceptional war films, encompassing Russian war movies, American War movies, and Afghan war movies. By delving into these diverse cinematic portrayals, we gain a deeper understanding of past and present conflicts, the individuals involved, and the profoundly human aspects intrinsic to the ravages of war.

Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or elsewhere.

You can get one month free of Amazon Prime (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.

Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best. 

While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.

11 Best Iraqi War Movies To Better Understand Iraq's Military History!
11 Best Iraqi War Movies To Better Understand Iraq's Military History!
11 Best Iraqi War Movies To Better Understand Iraq's Military History!

Three Kings (1999)

Three Kings, by David O. Russell, tells the story of a gold heist during the 1991 Iraqi uprising. Saddam Hussein’s de facto government was in control of Iraq from 1979 until 2003. During this time, there were several uprisings, one of them being in 1991 after the end of the Persian Gulf War. The movie is considered one of the best black comedies due to its surprising and exciting treatment of the Iraq war.

The film opens with the story of an Iraqi army soldier trying to surrender when US troops try to capture him near the end of the Gulf War. He is shot by Sergeant Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg) in confusion over how to handle stray soldiers, earning him the admiration of his fellow Private Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze) and Specialist Walter Wogeman. (Jamie Kennedy).

Their Major is Archie Gates (George Clooney), a Special Forces soldier who is having sex with a journalist, Cathy Daitch (Judy Greer), when he is interrupted by Adriana Cruz (Nora Dunn), the television reporter he must escort in the military zone.

All the characters are bored since the war is over. But the monotony is broken when they discover a map indicating the location of a Kuwaiti gold reserve stolen by the Iraqis. Immediately, the four decide to search for the treasure. But as they do so, they discover the living conditions of the Iraqi people, and from then on, the treasure hunt will become a redemption story that will profoundly change them and test their humanity.

Courage Under Fire (1996)

Courage Under Fire, by Edward Zwick, is an intriguing story about an officer who must thoroughly examine the merits of a fallen officer while dealing with his past.

During the Gulf War, after accidentally destroying one of his tanks, including that of his friend Captain Boylar (Tim Ransom), Lt. Col. Nathan Serling (Denzel Washington) returns home to his family. The military conceals the incident and assigns Serling the mission to investigate the story of Captain Karen Emma Walden (Meg Ryan), a helicopter pilot who is about to become the first war hero to receive a posthumous degree. The Medal of Honor for action in combat.

Walden was a helicopter pilot sent to rescue the crew of a downed Black Hawk helicopter. When she encountered an enemy T-54 tank, her crew destroyed it. However, her helicopter was shot down shortly after. The two crews could not agree to defend themselves, and when the survivors were rescued the next day, Walden was reported dead.

The film sees Serling presenting his final report, where he realizes that the pilot had been left for dead and, after this, unintentionally killed by the government when bombing the area. Anne Marie’s (Christina Stojanovich) daughter receives the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony. Later, Serling tells the Boylars the truth about how his son died and says he can’t apologize to them. The Boylars tell Serling that he must release the burden on him at some point and grant him his forgiveness.

The Messenger (2009)

The Messenger, by Oren Moverman, is a dramatic film screened at the Berlin Festival, where it won the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay. It also received four nominations for the Independent Spirit Awards, one for the Screen Actors Guild Award, one for the Globe Gold, two for the Satellite, and two for the Academy Awards.

Young Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) has recently returned from Iraq, an experience that has deeply marked his soul. He is paired with Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), a tough and cynical veteran, with whom he is assigned as Casualty Notification Officer.

The two have the delicate task of informing the relatives of soldiers who have fallen in the war. Each such mission is the most difficult test for Will and Tony because it is impossible to predict the reaction of the parents or wives of the dead. The only thing left for them is to try to forget themselves with the help of alcohol and entertainment.

Over time, Will and Tony learn to cope with the different reactions of the victims’ relatives, learning to remain as detached as possible. That’s until they knock on the door of the newly widowed Olivia Pitterson (Samantha Morton).

Like many times before, they are tasked with telling this person of her husband’s death. Yet, this time, Will is awe-struck by the woman. He becomes obsessed until he is dragged into her pain and subsequently enters into a relationship with her, facing a strong ethical dilemma.

Jarhead (2005)

Jarhead, by Sam Mendes, is a film adaptation of Anthony Swofford’s book of the same name, published in early 2003, where he recounts his experiences as a Marine in Operation Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait from the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi troops in 1991. The title refers to the colloquial form with which the Marines are called, “jarheads”, due to the appearance given by the typical military haircut of the Marines.

The story begins with Anthony, a twenty-year-old Marine sent to the Saudi Arabian desert in the first Gulf War, to be prepared to fight in Kuwait after its occupation by Iraq. “Swoff”, as his friends call him, is trained as a scout sniper at a United States Marine Corps boot camp in 1989 under the leadership of Staff Sergeant Sykes. A fatal accident occurs during training when a recruit loses his nerve and is caught in a real machine gun fire used for training. 

The movie shows how he lived through a very different war from the one described in the newspapers and on the channels of the time. The film shows the waiting of Marines and soldiers who have not directly entered the armed conflict and how they deal with boredom, depicting soldiers terrified to be at war but also excited to kill their first victim.

It also shows some young people, like any other, avid for sex, with continuous fights due to coexistence, practical jokes, and problems derived from their situation, such as being away from their families, or long-distance relationships with their partners.

My Country, My Country (2006)

My Country, My Country, by Laura Poitras, looks at the state of democracy in the U.S. and Iraq, particularly for the latter given the 2005 National Assembly elections. The film was nominated for an Oscar in 2007. It is the first in a three-part film series about global surveillance and espionage affair, including The Oath (2010) and Citizenfour (2014).

The film follows parliamentary candidate Dr. Riyadh al-Adhadh, who, as a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, is opposed to the U.S. occupation. He works as a resident doctor in Baghdad. He leads an inspection of the military prison in Abu Ghraib and mediates between the people, some of whom have been detained for more than a year without charge—children and the elderly are shown.

Al-Adhadh is shown as a figure caught between extremist fronts: representatives of the radical part of the population who want to fight the US invasion with violence threaten him for insisting on unarmed resistance. The Central Intelligence Agency, in turn, classified him as “anti-American” and therefore put him on a watch list.

After the film’s release, Poitras was put on a watch list by the United States Department of Homeland Security and was detained around 40 times by the agency entering the United States with no explanation or charge. According to her statements, Poitras was asked, in particular, about a client for her films about the War on Terror, and her computers, film cameras, and smartphones were confiscated for weeks. Poitras assumes that the contents of the storage media were copied.

The Hurt Locker (2008)

The Hurt Locker, by Kathryn Bigelow, recounts the daily life of a US bomb squad deployed in Iraq. Awarded with major film awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director, The Hurt Locker has been universally praised by critics and is considered one of the best war-drama movies in modern cinema. This film turns out to be the first in which a female director wins the Oscar for Best Director, Nomadland being the only other film directed by a woman to win this award at the 93rd Academy Awards.

Bomb specialist Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) is assigned to the US Army’s Bravo Squadron during the Iraq War in 2004, after his predecessor, Staff Sergeant Thompson (Guy Pearce), is killed in Baghdad by a remote-controlled improvised explosive device. Under his command are Sergeant J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), who secure the site while James defuses the bombs. The only goal of the two is to survive the few days left of the service.

One night they relax together at James’ accommodation, who turns out to have a young son. When his girlfriend got pregnant, he married her, and since then, they have officially divorced, but they are still living together. Sanborn finds a box under the bed where James collects the parts of previously defused bombs. As he puts it, the box contains everything that almost killed him so far.

Sanborn and Eldridge are shocked at the strange collection. Due to James’ peculiar methods and behavior, Sanborn and Eldridge quickly conclude that their new superior is a reckless tension seeker who is not afraid to violate military protocol.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Zero Dark Thirty, also directed by Kathryn Bigelow, recounts previous intelligence work and the assault by special operations forces that ended in the death of Osama bin Laden. The film earned five 2012 Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (for Jessica Chastain), Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, and Best Sound Editing, winning only the latter.

Set in 2003, Maya (Jessica Chastain) is a young CIA operative who has spent her entire brief career focused solely on intelligence related to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (Ricky Sekhon). Maya has been reassigned to work with Dan (Jason Clarke), an officer at the American embassy in Pakistan. During the first few months of her assignment, Maya often accompanies Dan to a “black place” (torture center) for his ongoing interrogation with Ammar (Reda Kateb), a detainee with links to several Saudi terrorists.

Shortly after the 2005 London bombings, Abu Faraj is arrested by the CIA and local police in Pakistan. Maya interrogates and tortures Abu Faraj, but he denies knowing anything about a courier with that name. This is interpreted by Maya as Abu Faraj trying to hide Abu Ahmed’s true importance. Maya investigates Abu Ahmed for the next five years, determined to use him to find Bin Laden.

Her friend and fellow officer, Jessica (Jennifer Ehle), is killed in the Chapman Base bombing (in 2009). Ahmed’s trial seems to lead nowhere when Maya realizes that Abu Ahmed’s real name is Ibrahim Sayeed. Using his real name, she finds his vehicle and follows him through a large suburban compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, eventually finding Bin Laden’s hideout.

Green Zone (2010)

Green Zone, by Paul Greengrass, is an adaptation of the 2006 non-fiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone. In this book, journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran documents what it was like to live in the Bahgdad government zone during the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Throughout a raid on Baghdad during the Third Gulf War, Iraqi General Mohammed Al-Rawi and his men escape from a safe house away from main Allied forces targets. Al-Rawi then goes to downtown Baghdad. He hides, meets his vassals, and talks to them about the American invasion of Iraq. Given the chaotic conditions, his command is to wait for the Americans to call for help. Only if this did not happen should the fight be resumed.

Meanwhile, Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) and his men are investigating a warehouse that, according to US intelligence reports, is said to be storing weapons of mass destruction. The investigation, like the two previous ones, remains unsuccessful.

During the debriefing of the operation, Miller expresses his displeasure that the information provided to him by the secret service from anonymous sources is mostly wrong and, therefore unusable. Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), a CIA employee and foreign expert in the Middle East, becomes aware of Miller’s statements and confirms his suspicions.

Control Room (2004)

Control Room, by Jehane Noujaim, is a 2004 documentary about news organizations that covered the invasion of Iraq and the attack on the Arabic news outlet Al Jazeera in 2003. The film shows how different public figures pointed towards Al Jazeera as an unfaithful source of information after it began criticizing the U.S. government.

During the documentary, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is seen in press conferences complaining about Al Jazeera’s propaganda line. Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf is also seen accusing the medium of transmitting North American propaganda.

At the beginning of the documentary, press officer Rushing points out Al Jazeera’s bias, saying that they focus on American tanks and Iraqi wounded. Rushing laments Al Jazeera’s trend and speculates why it does not show the material of Iraqi military atrocities, such as soldiers taking families hostage.

A crucial point in the documentary is when Rushing realizes that Fox News broadcasts with the same lack of objectivity that he accuses Al-Jazeera of perpetrating: he concludes that both parties institutionalize media bias.

But the most important moment was when the center of Al Jazeera in Baghdad was attacked on April 8, 2003, the official version being that the attack was directed against a group of insurgents who operated from the building of Al Jazeera. After this attack, most opinions reveal that this attack was carried out to silence the Arab media from reporting war crimes perpetrated by the Americans.

Sand Castle (2017)

Sand Castle, by Fernando Coimbra, tells the story of a young infantryman named Matt Ocre (Nicholas Hoult), who joins the U.S. Army to pay for his college education. After a short time, however, he was repelled by everyday military life and tried to evade service by breaking his hand. Shortly after the hand has healed, his unit receives the operational order and is transferred to Iraq during the war.

After a U.S. helicopter mistakenly destroyed a water pipe and pumping station in the village of Baquba, Matt’s unit was tasked with repairing it. In addition, the same unit is responsible for distributing water at different points during the repair. During a supply stop, the unit is attacked, killing one member in the firefight.

The local sheik refuses to help mobilize the local population for repair work, as he believes he is exposing them and himself to the revenge of the resistance fighters; he cannot be convinced that the U.S. Army will protect him.

As the story progresses, the local school principal gets in touch with the protagonist, which allows the soldiers to enlist some Iraqis to help with the repairs. But local resistance fighters want to prevent cooperation. Among the workers at the pumping station is an assassin who, in the process, carries out a bomb attack on the station.

From day to day, Ocre slips deeper and deeper into the senseless killing and dying of war. Ultimately, he is a seemingly empty shell who only wants revenge. But his superiors, against his will, send him back to the United States on a plane.

American Sniper (2014)

American Sniper, by Clint Eastwood, is a loose adaptation of the memoir of the same name. The film follows the life of Chris Kyle, who became the deadliest sniper in US military history with 255 kills in four trips to the Iraq war.

The film received praise from critics, especially for Bradley Cooper’s lead performance and Eastwood’s direction, although it drew some controversy over his portrayal of both the Iraq war and Chris Kyle. At the Academy Awards, American Sniper received six nominations and won an award for Best Sound Editing.

The film is centered on the person of Chris Kyle, a Texan who broke the record for deaths as a sniper in the US Army. Kyle was sent to Iraq with a mission to protect his teammates. His pinpoint accuracy and marksmanship saved countless lives on the battlefield, earning him the nickname “Legend,” but the word of his exploits reached the enemy ranks. In Iraq, Chris took part in four dangerous missions while at home, his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and their two young children were waiting for him.

Returning to the United States, Kyle suffers due to what he has seen in the war. At a family birthday, Kyle almost kills a dog playing with his son. Realizing this, thanks to Taya, Chris decides to seek help and goes to a psychologist who works with war veterans. Chris spends time with other vets at the shooting range and in group therapy. In 2013, Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were trying to help Marine Eddie Ray Routh, who had an episode when they were shot and killed by him.