Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

How Accurate Is American Sniper?

Clint Eastwood has directed a lot of movies in his time. And while they've comprised a myriad of genres and told a variety of stories, the legendary filmmaker is especially drawn to true stories about real-life figures who are synonymous with heroism and controversy. Eastwood told Cinemablend that he doesn't intentionally seek out these types of projects, but he's helmed so many that they naturally fall into his lap.

Such was the case with American Sniper, the R-rated success story based on Chris Kyle's autobiography of the same name. The story chronicles the aforementioned sniper (played by Bradley Cooper) as he leaves home soil and becomes the deadliest marksman in the history of the Navy SEALS during the Iraq war. As The Guardian pointed out, Kyle recorded 160 confirmed kills out of a probable 255 during his four tours between 2003 and 2009. As is the case with every biopic, some moments in American Sniper were heightened, changed, or fabricated for the sake of storytelling. At the same time, Eastwood's Best Picture nominee is grounded in facts to some degree.

Chris Kyle was a rodeo rider before he became an American Sniper

American Sniper depicts Kyle as a rodeo rider and rancher prior to his tenure in the Navy SEALS. Per History Vs Hollywood, this aspect of the film was accurate. Kyle started riding bulls and horses in high school, which led to him entering small local rodeo competitions and traveling between cities up until he had to retire from the sport during his freshman year of college. During an event, he fell off his bronco, was kicked unconscious, and needed to be taken away in a life-flight helicopter. Kyle received pins in his wrists, and his injuries included broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder, and a bruised kidney and lung.

American Sniper makes this period of Kyle's life seem very turbulent. In the movie, he also finds his girlfriend in bed with another man. While this part of the story may have been true, it isn't mentioned in Kyle's autobiography, suggesting that it was made up for the film. That said, his main relationship shown in American Sniper was mined from reality.

American Sniper's marriage storyline is true to life

The relationship between Chris Kyle and Taya (Sienna Miller) is a huge part of American Sniper, so it's unsurprising to learn that it's based on actual events. As Slate pointed out, Eastwood's film stays true to how their relationship came to be and played out, including their drunken vomiting incidents. Their phone conversations were regularly disrupted by combat — though not the one in which she revealed her pregnancy. The movie also changed some details of their wedding. In American Sniper, it is revealed that he's being called up for war during the ceremony. However, the real Kyle and Taya got married after learning that he was being deployed.

One of the more powerful moments in American Sniper is a conversation between Kyle and Taya on the day of his death in which she tells him that she's glad he's returned from the war — and this scene did, in fact, mirror a true conversation they had prior to his passing. According to the Slate report, Taya told screenwriter Jason Hall that they had a similar exchange one month before the tragedy at the shooting range. This anecdote was added to the rerelease of Kyle's memoir.

The villains in American Sniper were greatly exaggerated

In American Sniper, an enemy marksman named Mustafa (Sammy Sheik) exists in the background, rarely seen, shooting down American soldiers and Iraqi law enforcement officers. It's only a matter of time until he becomes Kyle's main nemesis when he guns down Ryan Job (Jake McDorman). Kyle eventually eliminates his opponent in a climactic moment toward the end of the film, but that's not how events played out in real life.

Per Slate, it's true that there was a talented gunman called Mustafa who was responsible for the deaths of many American troops. Mustafa was described as an "Olympian" in Kyle's autobiography, but he was only mentioned in passing. Kyle never came into contact with the shooter, and he believed that Mustafa was shot down by another sniper. Similarly, "The Butcher" (Mido Hamada) — a Jordanian militant who attacks small children and is hunted down by Kyle's team in the film — isn't even mentioned in the SEAL's book. That's because he didn't exist, though the character may have been inspired by Abu Deraa, an Iraqi warlord whose current status remains a mystery.