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Most epic sniper movie scenes ever filmed

Who doesn't love movie snipers? They're the zen ninjas of the action roster, deadly from a distance and always cool amid the chaos. Even when hell is raining down over their heads, when all seems lost, our hearts stop at that deep breath, that slow finger, light on the trigger, waiting for the perfect shot. A solid sniper scene can turn a run-of-the-mill action flick into an edge-of-your-seat suspense ride. It can make a great movie even better. And sometimes, it can bring the action to a head all on its own. Let's look at some of the greatest sniper scenes ever filmed.

Through the scope – Saving Private Ryan

How badass are Barry Pepper's characters? We're talking Matty in Knockaround Guys, Galloway in We Were Soldiers, and, most famously, Private Jackson, the Bible-quoting sharpshooter in Saving Private Ryan. Even in a movie filled with A-list actors and incredible visuals, Barry Pepper never fades into the background. Best example? When Vin Diesel gets hit by a sniper and everybody's diving for cover, Barry Pepper is already doing the numbers, loading his gun, pinpointing the enemy sniper's position. When the moment comes for his skills to come into play, he takes charge of the situation with ease, taking down the other sniper in the most badass way possible during one of the most iconic scenes in the entire movie.

In the park – Jack Reacher

In the books by Lee Child, Jack Reacher is 6-foot-5 with fists the size of hamhocks. Tom Cruise is a little closer to 5-foot-6 with fists best described as sensuous wiffleballs. But despite the outcry over the size discrepancy, 2012's Jack Reacher is still a pretty darn good movie, and Tom Cruise can still glare with the best of them. The movie opens with a sniper set up inside a raised parking garage, scanning over seemingly random people at a public park across the way. It's a brutal, intense scene, built on the pregnant silence as the scope jumps from person to person. There's no music, just the slow, rhythmic breathing of the man behind the scope, and you know something bad is going to happen, even before the bullets start flying. Sure, it doesn't have as much action as the shoot-out at the end of the movie, but the way this scene kicks off the events of the movie makes it one of the most important parts of the entire film.

2,100 yards – American Sniper

The story of real-life Navy S.E.A.L. Chris Kyle, American Sniper offers a hard-hitting look at the brutality of war in the Middle East and the effect it has on those who serve in the armed forces. Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper as Kyle, the movie plays out more like a Western than an in-the-trenches war movie, focusing on the actions and emotions of one man in the midst of a wartorn land. In the movie, Kyle rarely takes his eye off the scope, even when he's back home and far from the battlefield, but even with the many sniper scenes, one stands out: the 2,100-yard shot over the rooftops of Fallujah that cemented the real-life Chris Kyle's status as a legend among his fellow troops. In real life, the shot didn't happen quite the same way. But honestly, after that baby scene it's a safe bet that nobody really minded.

Get to the chopper – Shooter

Shooter is a fast-paced, bullet-driven thrill ride caught somewhere between a war movie and a Stallone-esque action romp. In other words, we like it. Helmed by stylish action director Antoine Fuqua, Shooter stars Mark Wahlberg as an ex-Marine sniper named Bob Lee Swagger who's framed for killing the president. What does he do? He goes on a rampage to find the real killer and clear his name, of course! Cue guns, guts, and glory as Bob Lee Swagger reluctantly takes up his old skills to bring the bad guys to justice. But Bob Lee Swagger isn't content to kill people the old-fashioned way. No, that would take too many bullets. So in the scene above, Swagger decides to kill an entire helicopter with his sniper rifle by blowing up a gas tank below it, engulfing the chopper in the ensuing fireball. Deadpool would approve.

Decoys – Wanted

The Hollywood debut of Russian director Timur Bekmambetov, Wanted punched through our screens with more style and flair than RuPaul in a laser tank. It was so stylized, so over the top, that you didn't realize it that it wasn't actually that good until the credits were rolling and you found yourself wiping away the drool, wondering what the hell you just watched. The world of Wanted is a world where people can flip cars over other cars perfectly every time. Where people can jump from skyscraper to skyscraper hitting headshots with the ease that comes from being born in the middle of a basejump. Where people can curve their bullets just by concentrating real hard and flicking their wrists. It wasn't good, but it was fun as hell.

And the hook that brought us all in was the opening scene, where we watch a guy get shot by a sniper from across the city. After the bullet breaks through his forehead, time slows and reverses, showing the bullet fly backwards across the city, through a train, to the sniper himself. Visually, the shot defined the movie: Impossible, but oh-so-shiny. In fact, there may have only been one other scene quite so satisfying in Wanted – the other sniper scene, the one at the end.

Quigley's resume – Quigley Down Under

As far as Westerns go, Quigley Down Under ranks among the best, despite not technically being a Western. Starring Tom Selleck as Matthew Quigley and Alan Rickman as his nemesis, Marston, it's got all the gunslinging fun you'd expect from cowboys in Australia. Who can forget the moment Quigley arrives at Marston's ranch and is asked to prove his worth as a sharpshooter? Marston sends off one of his ranch hands with a bucket, and everyone watches the guy disappear into the distance on horseback while Quigley coolly nitpicks with his rifle. Then, without looking up to see where the target is, he goes full-on Selleck, drawling out, "Abooout there'll do." The scene's got more guts and swagger than the entire population of Deadwood and more grit than the Sahara. Needless to say, Quigley got the job.

One by one – Enemy at the Gates

As a movie about snipers sniping snipers, you can expect a lot of sniping when you watch Enemy at the Gates. But although it's been criticized over the years for the fact that all the Russians are inexplicably British, it's still a taut war thriller with one of the most epic matchups in movie history: Jude Law versus Ed Harris. The question is, how do you pick a single scene to highlight from Enemy at the Gates? It's a hard choice. You've got Jude Law and Rachel Weisz pinned down after walking into Ed Harris's trap. You've got Ed Harris picking off Ron Perlman, that mountain of simian manliness, as he leaps over a bombed-out gap in a building. You've got Jude Law keeping Ed Harris in his crosshairs while Harris slowly starts to realize it's all over.

But the most epic? We're calling it: Jude Law taking out enemy officers one by one, each shot timed to a bomb blast so nobody hears the rifle report. It comes early in the movie, but it's so perfect. The dawning panic as each officer realizes that the guy standing next to him is already dead builds up the tension so smoothly that you're almost cheering when Jude Law stands to take aim at the last man standing.

This is my boomstick – The Bourne Identity

The Bourne Identity was a grounded, gritty movie that landed in just the right climate as the world was finally tiring of the increasingly cartoonish antics of Pierce Brosnan's James Bond. Bourne wasn't an unkillable super-spy – he was just a confused guy who happened to be really, really good at killing. And at no point in the movie was that more apparent than the scene in which he outsmarts a sniper who comes to take him down. It's just so perfectly Bourne, always a step ahead of his enemies even when they start out with the upper hand. With nothing but a shotgun and a quick, explosive diversion, Bourne works his way close enough to take back the advantage. If that had been James Bond, he probably would have ... blinded him with a laser watch, maybe. So he could escape in his invisible car.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno – Dawn of the Dead

Get it? The "Tonight" show? Because they're getting kill- ... never mind. Let's start again: Zak Snyder's 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead did a fantastic job at taking away the social commentary of the Romero original and replacing it with fast zombies, stilted dialogue, and more blood than the first three "Of The Deads" combined. Which isn't to say it's a bad movie. It's still pretty good in its own right, thanks in no small part to scenes like the one above. And okay, this scene isn't exactly "epic" in the sense that most of these are, but be honest – when has a scene like this ever happened in another movie? For originality points alone, this scene ranks up on top.

Here's the setup: Holed up in a shopping mall during the zombie apocalypse, the small group of survivors gets a little bored. Enlisting the help of the gun shop owner across the parking lot, they play a game of "shoot the celebrity" in the crowd of milling zombies below. It's a good spot of comedic relief to an otherwise intense movie, and even today it's worth a watch just to see Modern Family's Ty Burrell being a complete A-hole to everybody around him.

Target practice – The Jackal

Starring Bruce Willis's hair and featuring the kind of eight-paragraph plot summary made popular by Harrison Ford's Jack Ryan movies, The Jackal is that one super-convoluted political action thriller that we've all seen most of on TNT at some point or another. Okay, it's not all that bad, but even at its release, most of The Jackal's fame stemmed from one particular scene. You know the one. After Jack Black's character builds a motorized base for a giant .50-caliber automatic sniper rifle, the Jackal decides to test it on Jack Black, just to make sure it works. Jack Black runs a little ways out, holds out a pack of cigarettes ... and BLAM! Suddenly, Jack Black has no arm. Man, it's brutal. The music is intense. Jack Black's stumbling and falling, already knowing what's about to happen. We know what's about to happen, but it's still a surprise when it finally does. As forgettable as the rest of the movie is, this scene has to rank on some kind of best-of list somewhere. Somewhere...

Hotel hotshots – Smokin' Aces

Like Wanted, 2006's Smokin' Aces was a violent, over-the-top experience that will never be called a classic, although you can bet it's sitting on a lot of DVD shelves right now, just waiting for a lazy weekend. The movie's about a gaggle of assassins trying to take out Jeremy Piven in his high-rise hotel suite, but that's not important. The important part is when a bunch of those assassins converge on the hotel at the same time as Ryan Reynolds and Ray Liotta's FBI team. There's a brief elevator shootout, and it's crazy, it's cool, but it's just an appetizer for the mayhem that occurs when the elevator door opens and Taraji Henderson's character opens fire with a .50-caliber sniper rifle from across the hotel courtyard. Chaos erupts, bodies fly across the room, and Ryan Reynolds screams profanities almost nonstop. If that doesn't sound like fun, we don't know what is.