Weird History

Historical Inaccuracies In ‘American Sniper’  

Genevieve Carlton
34.1k views 14 items

Navy SEAL Chris Kyle earned the nickname "The Legend" for his service in Iraq. With 160 confirmed hits during the conflict, Kyle became the most dangerous American sniper in history. In 2012, he turned his story into a memoir, titled American Sniper. Two years later, director Clint Eastwood transformed it into a blockbuster film starring Bradley Cooper. Tragically, Kyle was slain in 2013 at a shooting range while trying to help a Marine suffering from PTSD. The film memorialized Kyle, portraying him as a hero the year following his demise.

But how accurate is American Sniper? The film made several significant changes, such as exaggerating some of Kyle's opponents and completely fabricating others. In reality, Kyle did make a stunning 2,100-yard shot, but it wasn't to end his rival sniper, Mustafa. And, despite the drama of the infamous opening scene, Kyle never shot a child.

Even more significantly, controversies surrounding Kyle's veracity extend to his memoir, in which he exaggerated his medal count. A jury also found Kyle guilty of defamation for fabricating a story in which he punched Jesse Ventura. American Sniper has earned a spot on some lists of the worst movies of all time for its harsh depiction of all Iraqis. Fans, however, praise the film for its nuanced depiction of Kyle's struggle as a sniper, claiming it ranks as one of the best movies ever made. Kyle himself claimed he never felt any regret over pulling the trigger.

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The Butcher Was Completely Fab... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Historical Inaccuracies In ‘American Sniper’
Photo: Warner Bros.
The Butcher Was Completely Fabricated

In addition to Mustafa, Kyle faces off against the Butcher in American Sniper's film adaptation. The Butcher brutally accosts children and slays a family that leaked information to the SEALs. 

In reality, Kyle's memoir never mentions the Butcher, nor an insurgent who eliminated an entire family for providing intel. The character may be based on Ismail Hafidh al-Lami, also called Abu Deraa, who may have ended thousands of lives in the mid-2000s, though this correlation is not confirmed. The movie does, however, rely on the Butcher to heighten the stakes of Kyle's quest and demonize his opponents.

The Passings Of Ryan Job And M... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Historical Inaccuracies In ‘American Sniper’
Photo: Warner Bros.
The Passings Of Ryan Job And Marc Lee Were Heavily Dramatized

Two of Kyle's close friends, Ryan Job and Marc Lee, perish in the film. Their passing shakes Kyle, driving him to track down the culprit - his rival sniper, Mustafa. However, the movie altered both his friends' fates. Ryan Job was blinded during a firefight with insurgent snipers, but he ultimately survived the conflict. Job attended college and married before he passed in 2009 from complications during a facial reconstruction surgery.

In Lee's case, the movie depicts Kyle arguing that his friend's demise stemmed from a lack of conviction about the Iraq conflict itself. In reality, Lee's mother, Debbie, claims the movie completely misrepresented her son. Lee never questioned the struggle in Iraq, Debbie claimed. "It felt like an [affront] on Marc to us who knew the real Marc, knew him and knew his story," she said of the film.

All Of Kyle's Hits Were Justif... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Historical Inaccuracies In ‘American Sniper’
Photo: Warner Bros.
All Of Kyle's Hits Were Justified, According To The Film

In the film adaptation of American Sniper, Kyle fights for a just cause, and each of his targets seemed to deserve their fate - the Iraqi insurgents are "AQI" or al-Qaida in Iraq. In total, Kyle racked up 160 confirmed hits and 255 probable hits, and each of his targets is depicted as a "savage." While Kyle faces emotional turmoil over the life-threatening decisions he makes, he never fears he made a mistake.

The movie draws directly from Kyle's memoir, where the SEAL wrote, “I hated the damn savages I’d been fighting. I always will. They’ve taken so much from me.” The film, however, paints the Iraq conflict as a black-and-white issue. More than 500,000 Iraqis perished in the struggle, many of whom were civilian non-combatants. American Sniper instead implies that the worst sin would have been questioning the righteousness of the Iraq missions.

Kyle Didn't Eliminate Mustafa is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Historical Inaccuracies In ‘American Sniper’
Photo: Warner Bros.
Kyle Didn't Eliminate Mustafa

The Iraqi sniper, Mustafa, serves as Kyle's nemesis in the American Sniper film. The rivalry between the two drives the plot, especially after Mustafa fatally injures one of Kyle's close friends, Ryan Job. In the film, Kyle ends Mustafa with a dramatic 2,100-yard shot.

In real life, however,  Kyle didn't end his nemesis. While Mustafa did exist, Kyle's memoir only mentions him in passing, and the two never met. As Kyle wrote, "I never saw him, but other snipers later [offed] an Iraqi sniper we think was him." And while Kyle did make a 2,100-yard shot, it was for a different target.