Sporting an all-star cast of some of Hollywood’s most in-demand and diverse leading men, Triple Frontier is the latest Netflix original action movie about a group of ex-military operatives who raid a cartel compound. Bound by the sort of brotherhood forged by being constantly under fire on dangerous missions for the special forces, they decide to pillage a drug dealer’s insanely large payload as compensation for all their unrecognized heroic efforts.
If films that have tropes including disenfranchised military personnel, heists, double-crossing, and brotherly bickering appeal to you, here is a list of movies to check out. Triple Frontier stars Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal, and Garrett Hedlund.
10 ZERO DARK THIRTY
Fans of authentic military movies that show the harsh realities of operatives in warzones will appreciate Zero Dark Thirty, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, about a group of intelligence and military personnel devoted to taking down Osama Bin Laden following the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Towers in New York.
Bigelow was actually attached to direct Triple Frontier when it was in development for several years, but when it failed to gain any financial investment she left it to go make Zero Dark Thirty.
9 THREE KINGS
David O. Russell’s movie about four soldiers who track down gold stolen by Saddam Hussein from Kuwait is big on action and on camaraderie. Starring George Clooney, Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg (who was almost in Triple Frontier), and Spike Jonze, it is at times hilarious, touching, and frequently action-packed.
Like Triple Frontier, its operatives use intelligence gathered during their legitimate mission during the Gulf War to pull off a daring heist, but its actors don’t take themselves quite as seriously as those in the former.
8 THE EXPENDABLES SERIES
Though some may scoff at Sylvester Stallone leading a who’s who of action stars from the ‘80s and ‘90s, the film couldn’t have been made back when all the actors commanded enormous salaries, so it’s fun to enjoy their over-the-top screen time.
7 THE HURT LOCKER
Before he was Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner became noticed by audiences for The Hurt Locker, another gritty military film from Kathryn Bigelow. It followed a bomb squad leader becoming a special ops mercenary following the Iraq War, performing a heist between Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. Much like Triple Frontier, it explored a soldier’s precarious life post wartime conflict.
Kathryn Bigelow was working on The Hurt Locker when she developed the idea, along with writer Mark Boal, for Triple Frontier. After finding no funding, however, she went off to make another critically acclaimed military film, Zero Dark Thirty.
6 ELITE SQUAD
Set in the favelas of Columbia, Elite Squad follows Rio’s military police as they combat drug lords and high-powered cartel criminals. It’s action sequences and tight pacing amongst its military personnel are reminiscent of several key scenes in Triple Frontier.
It’s no surprise, as it’s directed by Jose Padilha, who worked on Netflix’s Narcos series and had a rival project in development to Triple Frontier called Tri-Borders that has yet to be made. In the states, he’s known for his Robocop remake and several documentaries about drug cartels in the Triple Frontier area.
Traffic, with its multiple intertwining narratives and focus on heroin smuggling, was similar to how Triple Frontier was intended to be, back when Kathryn Bigelow was writing it. It would have followed operatives of varying ages in the Tri-Border areas, all working towards a single narrative strand with a particular goal (presumably the heist of cartel money).
Traffic is set in America, with a US drug czar, corrupt DEA agents, and a Mexican cop, and seems entirely too convoluted for the somewhat straight-forward lean that Triple Frontier chose to take, though it would have been interesting.
4 DEAD PRESIDENTS
When young Vietnam combat veterans return home to the Bronx to face reintegration into civilian life, nothing but hardship awaits. They decide to band together and begin a life of crime, feeling hopelessly unrecognized by society for the service they’ve given to their country.
Though the cast in Dead Presidents (which includes Chris Tucker, Larenz Tate, Freddy Rodriguez, and Bokeem Woodbine) doesn’t take on any drug cartels and are painted as disenfranchised rather than action-hero badasses, they share similar feelings of abandonment as the team in Triple Frontier.
With an all-star cast including Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro, this action-packed crime thriller about busting up drug cartels has the same level of moral ambiguity. An FBI agent gets assigned to a Department of Justice special joint task for, but comes to realize its operatives have personal motivations for bringing down one of the largest drug cartels in Mexico.
Triple Frontier is much less edgy than Sicario, and the motives of its team less murky, but it shares similarities in tone, pacing, attention-grabbing set-design, and understated acting.
2 THE LOSERS
Part superhero movie, part military action movie, The Losers follows an elite commando team as they track war criminals and drug dealers in the Bolivian jungles. Just before they are to return to the United States, their helicopter is intended to go down in an orchestrated betrayal. Technically “deceased” in the eyes of their superiors, they decide to use their litany of skills to get revenge.
Starring huge names like Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, and Zoe Saldana, the movie was based on a graphic novel and crackles with pithy dialogue. It is a little referenced but underestimated gem in the genre.
1 KELLY'S HEROES
Like Three Kings, Kelly’s Heroes presents soldiers behind enemy lines involved in a heist of goods in the possession of their aggressor. In this case, the goods are a cache of gold and the enemy is Nazi Germany. The tight-knit group of the 35th infantry leave their assignment to go after the gold and probably get a lot richer than they would in their outfit.
Starring Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, and Don Rickles, it’s an action-packed, feel-good romp that doesn’t really evoke the same danger as Triple Frontier, but definitely must be acknowledged as an inspiration for it.