Top 10 Best Sniper Scenes

Top 10 Best Sniper Scenes

Nov 17, 2009

With its terrifying long-range killing power, the sniper rifle has earned its place as one of the most feared and revered weapons of war. Off the battlefield, it’s an assassins best friend.

Hundreds of films have showcased the sniper rifle in action over the years, but some have done so far more memorably than others. Be it because they are realistic, stylistic or just plain ol’ awesome, here are ten of the best sniper scenes of all time.


10. Smokin’ Aces (2007)


Shooter: Sharice Watters (Taraji P. Henson)
: 10+ FBI Agents
Weapon: Barrett M82A1

Why it makes the list:
Although the film itself is average at best, Smokin’ Aces contains a beautifully stylised sniper scene worthy of making the tail end of this list. Mauro Fiore’s cinematography is breathtaking, using visual FX to fluidly move the camera from one high-rise building to another as hitwoman Sharice Watters (Taraji P. Henson) cleans up a room full of FBI Agents with her beefy Barrett.  Glass, flowers, blood and bodies all start flying in vicious harmony.


Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)


Shooter: Martin Blank (John Cusack)
: Bicycle rider
Weapon: Remington 700

Why it makes the list:

Sniping a moving target is hard enough. Sniping a moving target on a bicycle is even harder. Sniping a moving target on a bicycle and tracking him through a wall is next to impossible. So what do you call it when John Cusack’s character snipes a moving target on a bicycle by tracking him through a wall while on the phone to his secretary? Freakin’ awesome. That’s what.

Oh and playing beneath all this is the song ‘I can see clearly now’ by Johnny Nash.  How could this scene not make the list?


Shooter (2008)


Shooter: Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg)
Target: 20+ bad guys, attack helicopter
Weapon: M40A3 and Barrett M82
Video: link

Why it makes the list:
So what if Shooter is about as realistic as a painting by Salvador Dali, it’s entertaining. While there are a number of great sniper scenes in this film, I’ve selected the opening sequence takes the cake. Here, the preposterously-named hero Bob Lee Swagger (Wahlberg) takes out a moving convoy of militants — from over 800m away with the help of a spotter — on an armed forces mission in Ethiopia. Each kill is a perfect headshot of course, but that’s not the half of it: when an attack helicopter scouts their position, Swagger swaps to the Barrett M82 with anti-vehicle rounds and, after missing a few shots to build some dramatic tension, he takes the chopper down with a perfect shot to the rotor. Nothing like a bit of bullshit-coated action to kick off a Hollywood blockbuster.

Phone Booth (2002)


Shooter: The Caller (Kiefer Sutherland)
Target: Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell)
Weapon: Silenced L96A1
Video: link (Trailer)

Why it makes the list:

I admit that I’m bending the rules here as this isn’t so much a single scene as it is the entire movie. Nevertheless, Phone Booth makes the list because few films have captured the terrifying anonymity and silent killing power of the sniper rifle quite as well. The film is dripping with suspense, a remarkable achievement considering only a few shots are fired throughout. And since the shooter is identified only by Kiefer Sutherland’s sinister baritone voice, the movie takes on a whole new level of  ‘awesome’.


Dawn of the Dead (2004)


Shooter: Andy (Bruce Bohne)
Target: Zombie Jay Leno, Zombie Burt Reynolds
Weapon: M40A1
Video: link

Why it makes the list:

Just because it’s the zombie apocalypse doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of fun. Marooned on the roof of a shopping mall and surrounded by zombies, the survivors play chess with a weapons merchant across the street using a whiteboard and binoculars. When that gets boring, they decide to spot celebrities in the zombie crowd and tell their new friend to snipe them to smithereens. When Rosie O’Donnell name is suggested as the next target, one of them says, “Nah, too easy. Give him something hard!.” Comedy gold!


Jarhead (2006)


Shooter: Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal)
Target: Iraqi Officer
Weapon: M40A1
Video: None

Why it makes the list:
Jarhead boasts one of my favourite sniper scenes of all time, yet not a single bullet is fired.  While most films about modern warfare are overblown action extravaganzas, director Sam Mendes takes a decidedly different approach with this film, brilliantly capturing the psychological effect of combat during the second Iraq war. The entire film builds up to this one memorably scene where US sniper Anthony Swofford (Gyllenhaal) finally gets a chance to shoot an Iraqi officer after months of physical and psychological preparation. The tension in the air as he adjusts the elevation, switches off the safety and gets the go-ahead from his spotter is almost unbearable. Just moments before he takes the shot, his superior officer bursts into the scene and calls it off. It’s truly gut wrenching stuff, as we genuinely feel as though we’ve been robbed of a kill just as much as Swofford and his spotter.


Saving Private Ryan (1998)


Shooter: Pvt. Daniel Jackson (Barry Pepper)
Target: German Sniper
Weapon: Springfield 1903A4
Video: link

Why it makes the list:
Pvt. Daniel Jackson (Barry Pepper) is not your typical sharpshooter. For one, he cites bible verses as he scopes each of his targets, which strikes me as somewhat contradictory. He’s also left-handed, so using a right-handed bolt-action sniper rifle is the kind of nuisance you just don’t need when there are shells exploding all around you. That said, it didn’t stop him from pulling off one of the most badass sniper shots in filmic history, dominating a Nazi sniper by shooting him clean through his own scope 350 meters away. Factor in gravity, elevation, wind and rain and the chances of pulling off this shot are astronomical. This German sniper was no amateur either, as moments earlier he’d taken down Vin Diesel…. Vin Diesel for fucks sake! That’s almost like killing Chuck Norris.


Wolf Creek (2005)

Wolf Creek

Shooter: Mick Taylor (John Jarratt)
Target: Kristy Earl (Kestie Morassi)
Weapon: Remington M40
Video: link

Why it makes the list:
I bet you didn’t see this one coming. The indie Australian horror Wolf Creek proves that you don’t need a big Hollywood budget to make a truly terrifying sniper scene. Just when it looks like Kristy (Kestie Morassi) is about to escape the clutches of psychopath Mick (John Jarratt) by flagging down a passing car, the serial killer pulls of an impressive long range shot out of seemingly nowhere to take down the innocent driver. Kristy then jumps into the driver’s seat and takes off, but just as it looks as though she is about to get away once again, Mick takes out her tyre with another perfect shot.
The genius here is just how simple it is; the handheld camerawork gives this sequence a chilling authenticity, as does the ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ muzzle flash way off in the distance moments before Mick nails his prey.


Enemy at the Gates (2001)


Shooter: Major König (Ed Harris)
Target: Vassili Vaitsev (Jude Law), Koulikov (Ron Perlman)
Weapon: Mauser 98k
Video: link (4:30 mark)

Why it makes the list:
Forget Shooter and the Sniper series, the definitive sniper movie is Enemy at the Gates. During the historic battle for Stalingrad in 1942, a Russian and German sharpshooter (both with British accents) go head-to-head in one of the most gripping games of cat-and-mouse depicted onscreen. Jude Law stars as gifted Russian marksman Vassili Vaitsev (an actual war hero), and although he pulls of some impressive shots throughout the film, the finest shot goes to his fearsome rival Major König (Ed Harris). As Vaitsev and his partner Koulikov (Ron Perlman) bicker about who gets to  jump first across a plain-sighted gap in a war-torn building, Vaitsev draws the short straw and jumps second. König, however, does the impossible by sniping Koulikov mid-jump. The stunned look on Perlman’s chiselled faced as a bullet rips through his skull is captured in horrifying slow motion and won’t be forgotten any time soon.

The Hurt Locker (2009)

The Hurt Locker

Shooter: Sgt. JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie)
Target: Iraqi Insurgents
Weapon: Barrett M107
Video: link

Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker — a terrific film about a US bomb squad in Iraq – features a 10 minute sniper scene that is gut-wrenchingly tense, tremendously realistic and technically sublime.  During a mission in the arid Iraq desert, Sgt. JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) is forced to take control of the Barrett after a skilled enemy sniper picks off members of his team. This memorable scene captures the very essence of being a sniper better than any other film on this list:
Firstly, it shows how sniping is about cooperation: Sanborn’s spotter, SSgt William James (Jeremy Renner), is just as important to the operation of the sniper rifle as the shooter, designating targets and relaying environmental factors.
It’s about composure: even as flies crawl over his eyelids and sweat beads down his face, Sandborn remains completely focused on the job at hand.
It’s about precision: Sandborn misses his first two shots, you know, because sniping a tiny speck in the distance is fucking hard.
Above all, it’s about patience: as the hours pass and dust starts to encrust his face, Sanborn remains calm and collected, patiently waiting for his target to expose himself.

Barry Ackroyd’s dynamic, hand-held cinematography captures the action superbly, and the absence of a soundtrack allows the ferocious grunt of the Barrett M107 to dominate our senses. Folks, it doesn’t get any better than this.


Honourable mentions:
Full Metal Jacket, Spy Games, Savior, Sniper 1 & 2, Quigley Down Under, The Bourne Identity, Wanted.

*BIG thanks to the Internet Movie Firearms Database for images and weapon information.

So what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with this list? Did we miss anything? Leave a comment below!

  • Thresher

    Could not agree more with number 1. The ending where SSgt James gives him a juicy juicy was perfect.

  • Thresher

    Could not agree more with number 1. The ending where SSgt James gives him a juicy juicy was perfect.

  • Corey Hall

    great list. I thought hurt lockers scene was amazing

  • Click

    What’s up with ‘SpyGame’? Also a good scene.

  • Click

    What’s up with ‘SpyGame’? Also a good scene.

  • JordanKay19

    i have a few problems with the writer of this list 1 being that taking out a helicopter with a .50 caliber bullet is possible as it easily could tear through the metal armor of an attack helicopter and if shot by a good enough sniper could easily hit the roter of a helicopter 2 although the sniper scene in the hurt locker is a good scene it isnt plausible for a bomb squad member to take up a gun as powerful and hard to operate gun as a barret m107 and automatically be able to pull off a shot at that distance . i could tell u this as i have trained with the royal marine commandos to become a sniper rifle operator

    • Dylan

       Really?, well if you had trained with the Royal Marines you would probably know that the US Army EOD teams train and are equipped with the Barrett .50 M107 as it is used as an anti-material rifle.

  • Andrew Buckle

    Totally agree. Especially love the scenes in The Hurt Locker, Jarhead and Ryan!

  • Clarence

    “Full Metal Jacket”, should be among the top 10. Also the sniper scene of “Bourne Supremacy” . And “Enemy at The Gates¨ should be the No. One.

  • Bart

    Just one thing. Jude Law stars as Vassili Zaitsev, not Vaitsev.

  • guest

    you should have put sniper on there.

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  • mtv

    old post but when you think about it, the guy’s they were shooting at had extremely inferior weapons compared to the americans and scored two first shot hits. skill over gear.

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  • Super_6_four

    omfg… u serious? ur number 1 is the movie where the insurgents take out all the mercs 2 of whom r snipn from the same spot ur ‘hero’ picked up the barret, who for some reason is now invisible to the enemy, then he takes out moving targets with seeming ease then miss’ the sationary target sitn in a window silouetted and exposed..??? rly wow ok

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