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Top Ten British Special Forces Movies

Over the years, British special forces such as the SAS, and elite units such as the Royal Marines, have been depicted on the silver screen a number of times. In this article, we countdown 10 of the best British special forces movies...

Patriot Games

This hollywood blockbuster is based on the book by Tom Clancy and features recurring Clancy character, Jack Ryan, a CIA operative who becomes entangled in the British-IRA conflict when he prevents the assassination of members of the Royal Family by terrorists. When an IRA training camp is found in Libya, the SAS are called in to take it out, while Ryan and other CIA men watch the operation via satellite. It's only a short scene but very effective. As the CIA supervisor says in the film, 'the SAS can be in and out in 2 minutes'... and they are!

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They Who Dare

Dirk Bogarde stars in this 1954 movie, based on a true story, about a group of SBS (Special Boat Section) Commandos on a mission to attack German airfields on the Greek island of Rhodes during World War 2.

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Half Moon Street

Often preferring cameos to the starring role, the SAS only show up at the end of this 1986 political thriller starring Sigourney Weaver, when members of the counter terrorism unit storm a hotel room and save the day.

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The Fourth Protocol

Before taking up the mantle of James Bond, Pierce Brosnan played the bad guy in this 1987 thriller based on a Frederick Forsyth novel. Brosnan plays a KGB agent hell-bent on smuggling a nuclear bomb into the UK and destroying a US air base. The film is relatively short on action until the climax which sees the SAS, with a little help from Michael Caine, assaulting a house in order to stop Brosnan completing his mission. Of note is the depiction of the SAS team being transported in Agusta A109s, as they would be by 8 Flight - a nice detail.

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The Cockleshell Heroes

In November 1942, a small number of Royal Marines from Boom Patrol Detachment (RMBPD) carried out a daring Commando raid against the German-held port of Bordeaux in France. This 1955 British film immortalizes the brave men who carried out the operation and makes for a truly gripping and moving account of British derring-do.

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An Ungentlemanly Act

Stuart Urban's film takes a wry look at the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982. It stars the late Ian Richardson as Governor Rex Hunt and Bob Peck as Major Mike Norman, the commander of Naval Party 8901, a Royal Marines unit tasked with defending the islands. Mixing scenes of satire and action, this is an excellent movie and comes highly recommended.

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The Longest Day

This 1962 epic about the allied D-day landings in Normandy has earned the well-deserved status of a classic. Among other depictions, it features Paras from the British 6th Airborne Division seizing Pegasus bridge following a glider and parachute insertion behind enemy lines. The Longest Day is truly one of the all time great war movies.

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The One That Got Away

One of two films in this countdown based on the infamous 1991 Gulf War SAS operation, The One That Got Away is based on Chris Ryan's best selling book. Directed by Paul Greengrass, who would go on to make the Bourne series of spy thrillers, this film is less gung ho that Bravo Two Zero and somewhat critical of McNabb. It does however still feature some well executed action sequences and Paul McGann is great as Ryan.

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Bravo Two Zero

Andy McNabb's account of an ill-fated SAS operation behind Iraqi lines in Gulf War I gets the hollywood treatment in this 1999 movie. Sean Bean gives a strong performance as McNabb and the film features several exciting and well-staged action set pieces, even if they most likely do not accurately portray what really happened. One of the few great war films about the first Gulf War.

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Who Dares Wins

Who Dares Wins (known as 'The Final Option' in the States, was made in 1982, quickly cashing-in on a new-found public fascination with the SAS following their dramatic intervention at the Iranian Embassy in 1980. It stars Lewis Collins, who was also playing ex-SAS soldier, Bodie, in the tv show, The Professionals, at the time. In a somewhat implausible plot, Collins plays an ex-SAS captain who stages being kicked out of the regiment in order to infiltrate a left-wing terrorist cell who go on to take over the U.S. Embassy in London. Despite a silly plot, the film does feature a number of exciting action scenes, including the SAS storming a house to rescue Collins' family and the film's climax, a full-scale SAS assault on the terrorist-held Embassy.

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Honourable Mentions

Some of the films that just missed out getting into the top 10...

The Living Daylights

We could have including any number of James Bond movies in this list. Bond is after all, a MI6 operative. If we were to include a Bond film it would have to be the Living Daylights, Timothy Dalton's first Bond movie. The pre-credits sequence features a exercise on the Rock Of Gibraltar between MI6 operatives and the SAS although they don't get to do much except get killed by the bad guy and shoot up a land rover.

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The Guns Of Navarone

An extremely popular war movie, The Guns Of The Navarone tells the fictitious story of a British commando raid against a heavily fortified German gun emplacement on the island of Navarone. Starring Gregory Peck, David Niven. Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle and Stanley Baker, this is a fantastic yarn which builds to a tense and exciting climax. A sequel of sorts, Force 10 From Navarone, was released in 1978 but failed to live up to the success of the original. Note: in the Alistair McClanee book the film is based on, the commandos include members of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) and the SBS.

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A Bridge Too Far

Stirring big budget hollywood movie about Operation Market Garden, the daring but failed allied airborne assault into Holland in September 1944. An all-star cast includes Sean Connery who is excellent as Major-General Robert E. Urquhart, the grizzled commander of the British 1st Airborne division who leads his Paras on a mission at Arnhem.

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