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SURVEY RESULTS: Who Played the Best (and Worst) Navy SEAL on Screen?

USNI News readers have picked their number one choice for the best actor portrayal of a Navy SEAL on film or T.V. 

Bradley Cooper as MCPO Chris Kyle

Bradley Cooper in a promotional photo for American Sniper

Cooper’s Academy Award nominated turn as MCPO Chris Kyle was easily first place in the USNI News poll commanding 30 percent of votes. The actor put on 40 pounds of lean muscle in ten weeks and took a small arms crash course to portray legendary SEAL sniper Chris Kyle for the 2014 Clint Eastwood directed biopic, American Sniper.

Mark Wahlberg and John Krasinski

Mark Wahlberg as HM1 Marcus Luttrell and John Krasinski as Jack Silva the alias for the still-unidentified former SEAL in 13 Hours

Two more contemporary portrayals of real SEALs took the second and third spots in the poll.

Mark Walhberg’s performance in the 2013 Peter Berg film Lone Survivor as SEAL HM1 Marcus Luttrell took 17 percent of the vote while John Krasinski’s portrayal of the former SEAL turned diplomatic security operative in 13 Hours took 14 percent of the vote.

Tom Selleck

The all-time top fictional SEAL portrayal in the USNI News survey was Selleck’s Emmy-winning performance as Ferrari driving, .45 wielding, Hawaii-living SEAL-turned private investigator Thomas Magnum in the eponymous series, Magnum, P.I.

Tied for Last Place

Hulk Hogan in Thunder in Paradise and Rob Lowe in The Finest Hour

Hulk Hogan and Rob Lowe tied for last place portrayal of Navy SEALs with zero votes apiece.


    Richard Widmark in “The Frogmen”

    • Curtis Conway

      Wasn’t that Richard Widmark that launched the nuke in the Arctic in the ‘Bedford Incident’ . . . oh . . . it was James MacArthur with not enough sleep on the launch button.

  • Jon Beck

    OJ should be given special credit. Not only did he use the SEAL training he received on set in the real world, but he’s also a quiet professional.

  • Western

    This must bring a smile to the face of Marcus Luttrell, who had an acting slot in Lone Survivor. You can’t act, Luttrell! Lol.

  • Marcd30319

    Another slow Friday at the USNI news blog.

  • Ctrot

    Who voted for Demi Moore???

  • Kenneth Millstein

    I couldn’t agree more with the final top vote recipient. Bradley Cooper was both terrific as Chris Kyle as a Seal and as a human being. Because of the film, I joined the Chris Kyle Facebook group and in memory of MCPO Kyle I have set up a small remembrance memorial in my living room which includes a solid silver memorial coin to MCPO Kyle. May he RIP. I am a US Navy Veteran and I completely understand the unbelievable commitment it takes to be such an elite warrior. God Bless all of them!

  • Eric Schwarze

    At first i want to hate the winner, and everyone that voted for him, what kind of soldier abandons his post in the middle of a fight to call his/her significant other!!! man i hated that film, it was so cheesy, and Bradley played such a annoying character! But…after taking a breath, i will concede that as an actor playing a character he did an amazing job (his annoyingness was so convincing), and it was not his fault the script was awful, the director was horrible, and hollywood is obsessed with PTSD and has no imagination.

    I will still contend the contest was about who played a Navy SEAL the best, not who played a dude with PTSD the best (bradley could have been playing any random soldier)…but hey…what do I know…I am just a keyboard warrior.