5 of the Most Realistic Combat Sequences Since ‘Saving Private Ryan’

October 28, 2021Mac Caltrider

These five scenes are as close as Hollywood gets to real combat. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

In 1998, Saving Private Ryan forever changed the way Hollywood depicted combat. Prior to Steven Spielberg’s portrayal of the Normandy landings, war movies typically portrayed combat as a glory-filled adventure void of carnage and chaos. Since the groundbreaking film, Hollywood has produced a steady stream of authentic war movies. Here are five of the most realistic combat scenes to arrive in the wake of Saving Private Ryan.

Band of Brothers

After working together on Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg and Tom Hanks teamed up again to tell the story of America’s 101st Airborne Division from D-Day to the end of the war in Europe. 

The HBO miniseries Band of Brothers was a breakthrough television event. It set new standards for both the quality of TV shows and for graphic depictions of war. Between a heart-pounding jump into occupied France and sustained artillery bombardments in Bastogne, Belgium, nearly every episode of Band of Brothers has at least one realistic combat sequence, but episode three’s assault on the French town of Carentan stands apart for its authentic portrayal of urban combat.

Black Hawk Down

Ridley Scott’s 2001 rendering of the Battle of Mogadishu marked a milestone in silver-screen warfare. Before Black Hawk Down, most war movies depicted historic battles, but Scott brought movie combat scenes into the 21st century. The film celebrated the fighting ability of America’s special operations units as well as their state-of-the-art weaponry. Things like fast-roping onto an objective, dominating the battlefield at night, and using MH-6 Little Birds for close air support made Black Hawk Down a cinematic leap into the future of war films. Now almost two decades old, the movie still stands the test of time and remains one of the most realistic war movies. 

Lone Survivor

Say what you will about the rest of the film, but the opening firefight of Lone Survivor is as close to real as Hollywood gets when it comes to small-unit firefights. The absence of music, John Wayne heroics, and one-liners makes the scene so authentic, it’s borderline uncomfortable to watch. The scene starts slowly with a single, unanswered gunshot breaking the tension. It doesn’t take long before the firefight skyrockets to a cacophony of gunfire, snapping bullets, and desperate SEALs saying “fuck.” Unfortunately, six minutes into the mountainside gunbattle, the scene begins to devolve into a slow-motion spectacle, but the opening moments are unrivaled when it comes to realistic depictions of rural combat. 

The Pacific

Like Band of Brothers, nearly every episode of The Pacific contains realistic combat scenes, but one of the things the Marine-focused miniseries pulled off especially well was capturing those pre-mission jitters. Episode five perfectly blends the nerve-wracking moments of calm before the fight with the sensory overload of an amphibious landing. Chaos reigns as Marines disembark their vehicles under fire and storm the heavily defended island of Peleliu. The Pacific uses the same formula as Saving Private Ryan, mixing a shaky hand-held camera with special effects to create a gritty scene of World War II action. 

The Outpost

The 2020 Afghanistan war film The Outpost depicts the Battle of Kamdesh with an unprecedented level of authenticity. The film is an accurate portrayal of fighting from remote Hesco-lined bases in Afghanistan’s alpine valleys. The seemingly corny banter between soldiers is accurate to real life, adding to the eerie lack of discernible differences between the film’s fictional battle scenes and real footage from the same corner of Afghanistan. Watch the scene here

Read Next: Listen: The Sounds That Make ‘Saving Private Ryan’ a Masterpiece

Mac Caltrider
Mac Caltrider

Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Military Moves To Cut Suicides, But Defers Action on Guns

In a memo released Thursday, Austin called for the establishment of a suicide prevention working gro...

March 17, 2023Associated Press
us military drills japan-south korea
US, Partners Stage Military Drills Amid Japan-South Korea Talks

The Sea Dragon 23 exercises that started on Wednesday will culminate in more than 270 hours of in-fl...

March 17, 2023Associated Press
leo jenkins a word like god
‘A Word Like God’: New Book From Army Ranger Leo Jenkins

In his latest poetry collection, Ranger-turned-writer Leo Jenkins turns away from war to explore cosmic themes of faith, fatherhood, and art.

March 16, 2023Mac Caltrider
us drone
Pentagon Video Shows Russian Jet Dumping Fuel on US Drone

The Pentagon on Thursday released video of what it said was a Russian fighter jet dumping fuel on a ...

March 16, 2023Associated Press
10th Mountain Division
‘Climb to Glory’ — A History of the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division

From the mountains of Italy to the mountains of Afghanistan, the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division built its legendary reputation by fighting in some of the most inhospitable places in the world.

March 16, 2023Matt Fratus
iraq invasion 20 years later
Why US Troops Remain in Iraq 20 Years After 'Shock and Awe'

The roughly 2,500 U.S. troops are scattered around the country, largely in military installations in Baghdad and in the north.

March 15, 2023Associated Press
Ohio train derailment
First Responders
BRCC Donates Coffee to Towns Ravaged by Train Wreck and Historic Storms

Americans living in East Palestine, Ohio, and central Oklahoma are recovering from February disaster...

March 15, 2023Jenna Biter
Coffee Or Die Photo
DOD Official Says Sub Agreement Will Help Guarantee Free, Open Indo-Pacific

Mara E. Karlin, performing the duties of deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said the agree...

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved