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Three Kings (1999)


Average Rating: 7.8/10
Reviews Counted: 129
Fresh: 121
Rotten: 8

Critics Consensus: Three Kings successfully blends elements of action, drama, and comedy into a thoughtful, exciting movie on the Gulf War.

Average Rating: 7.5/10
Reviews Counted: 29
Fresh: 26
Rotten: 3

Critics Consensus: Three Kings successfully blends elements of action, drama, and comedy into a thoughtful, exciting movie on the Gulf War.


Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 183,810



Movie Info

Three stars team up for this unusual look at America's role in the war against Iraq. In 1991, as the Gulf War winds to a close, three American servicemen find themselves happy to have achieved victory but wondering about the ultimate importance of what they've done (especially since Saddam Hussein is still in power). Major Archie Gates (George Clooney) is a decorated Vietnam veteran and special forces officer with two weeks to go before he retires; Sgt. Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg) has a new baby … More

R (for graphic war violence, language and some sexuality)
Action & Adventure , Comedy
Directed By:
Written By:
David O. Russell
In Theaters:
Sep 4, 2001
Warner Bros. Pictures - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Three Kings

All Critics (133) | Top Critics (29) | Fresh (121) | Rotten (8) | DVD (26)

A damning yet idealistic satire about the motives behind U.S. foreign policy.

Full Review… | August 25, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The last reel descends into a muddle of trade-offs, heroic about-turns and romanticised rebels, but this is defiant, provocative cinema; Russell may yet prove a film-maker to treasure.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

No, Three Kings is not a great picture, but it is a very good one, perhaps the first feature of merit to come out of the Gulf War.

Full Review… | April 25, 2003
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Ultimately, instead of drawing us in, his swagger and the dazzle of his pyrotechnics keep us at a remove from the savagery. They become abstractions, too.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic

It has the freedom and recklessness of Oliver Stone or Robert Altman in their mad-dog days, and a visual style that hungers for impact.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
At the Movies
Top Critic

The first Hollywood feature to take on the 1991 Gulf War, Three Kings does so in an impudently comic, stylistically aggressive and, finally, very thoughtful manner.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Top Critic

One of Hollywood's few films about the Gulf War, David O. Russell's Three Kings is an original war feature that's effective as a social satire as well as political critique.

Full Review… | February 4, 2011

Violent, liberal George Clooney Gulf War caper.

Full Review… | December 15, 2010
Common Sense Media

Ithis is a career making movie, then its writer/director David O. Russell who deserves the credit with this very creative effort from the debut filmmaker.

Full Review… | July 6, 2010
Dark Horizons

Three Kings mightn't be the best thought-out or most reassuring movie of the year, but the more I think about it, the more I'm sure that it is one of the best.

Full Review… | June 28, 2009
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

It's amazing how much action can be crammed into a movie about a war where most soldiers didn't actually see any action. Three Kings has its fair share of shootouts, none that are merely squeezed in for guilty pleasures. Every shot fired is motivated by c

Full Review… | April 9, 2009

Far more intelligent and perceptive than most actioners, yet with enough thrills and spills to satisfy adrenaline junkies.

Full Review… | August 25, 2008

(The) screenplay abruptly changes tone after the first half-hour, eventually incorporating some genuinely harrowing sequences... The final picture becomes something noticeably deeper and smarter than its first reels suggest.

Full Review… | August 6, 2007
Kalamazoo Gazette

Worth watching.

Full Review… | July 14, 2007
Big Picture Big Sound

With characters you can root for and a story that is both engaging and honest, Three Kings goes for the gold and comes out a winner.

Full Review… | May 11, 2007

Keilich strikes a sweetly engaging balance between humor and pathos.

Full Review… | March 12, 2007

An action movie with a conscience.

Full Review… | December 6, 2005
Film Threat

Go see it for the effects, action and treasure hunt story, but enjoy the intelligence, too.

Full Review… | April 9, 2005
Reeling Reviews

It's an outrageous comedy and a challenging morality play, while at heart its a classic Western (set in an unlikely context).

Full Review… | January 15, 2005
Looking Closer

Combinando humor e drama com talento, funciona como uma dura crítica à política belicista dos EUA - sendo tão (ou mais) relevante hoje em dia do que quando foi lançado.

September 13, 2004
Cinema em Cena

The violence and profanity are there, but so is a sharp-edged political point of view, interesting characters and a plot enhanced with dark humor.

Full Review… | June 25, 2004

A map that leads as near to the Iraqi heart as we can find in American movies.

Full Review… | April 7, 2003
Film Snobs

From frame one, the cinematography of Newton Thomas Sigel is also unmistakable. The washed-out look and grainy feel of the picture puts the audience right into the harsh and unmerciful desert heat.

Full Review… | March 8, 2003

Audience Reviews for Three Kings

This is quite simply the best anti-war movie since Catch 22. Wild, whacko, irreverent, chaotic, you are never sure what will happen next or where your loyalties lie. The innate utter stupidity of war is beautifully exposed, as are the often all too ordinary motivations of those who participate in it - lust for adventure, fame, promotion, wealth, but also sudden compassion, honesty and reflection. A roller coaster ride of action and thrills with sudden counterpoints of instant horror that make you think and ashamed of yourself for laughing out loud just a moment before. If this doesn't shake some holy beliefs in the truth of what we are told, and the justification for what we are doing, nothing will. Highly recommended! 4 Stars 4-2-14

Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer


Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer


A great war film with flawed, unheroic characters. Captures the mercenary spirit of (some) soldiers which undoubtedly exists but is rarely portrayed in war films. There is a beautiful sense of isolation and desperation depicted in this gritty film.

Christian C

Super Reviewer


I thought I had previously rated and reviewed this, but I guess not.

Directed by David O. Russell, this is a movie based on a true story about three American servicemen during the Gulf War who hatch a plan to make off with a stash of Kuwaiti gold stolen by Saddam Hussein. The three initially decide to make off with the fortune, but the closer they get to finding it, the more they realize the truth and consequences about the role of the U.S. in the part of the world, and the realities of American foreign policy. These revelations have profound impacts on the men, forcing them all to make some tough choices and evaluations.

While the set up alone is great, what makes the movie really shine is how ambitious it is in terms of genre classification. It's humorous (at times), quite serious and dramatic at others, and in general a really scathing socio/political satire. Oh eyah, it's also a war film, too. It's a mix that doesn't always work, but manages to in this case, thanks in no small part to the skill of the director.

It's not all on him, though. The script is quite great, and very intelligent, the casting is top notch, with the three leads of George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube all delivering very fine work, providing nicely rounded and developed characters. Yes, even Ice Cube (for those who doubt he actually does having acting skills).

The action scenes are well done, and don't upstage the meat of the picture, the camerawork and editing are pretty good, and the fact that the film finds a nice balance between entertaining and enlightening is remarkable.

Definitely give this one a shot, it's terrific.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Three Kings Quotes

Major Archie Gates:
They helped us find it, Ron. We made a deal. It's a soldier's honor, ya can't fuck 'em now.
– Submitted by Jason S (10 months ago)
Sergeant Troy Barlow:
Okay. Well, then you choose who we take. Tell the others it's not convenient and they're gonna have to die because I can't do that, Chief, okay? You're gonna have to do that yourself.
– Submitted by Jason S (10 months ago)
Conrad Vig:
Come on, man, this is good music. Man, Judas Priest'll pump you up, man.
Chief Elgin:
No. We're not listenin' to that headache music. Stop.
Conrad Vig:
Just one song.
Chief Elgin:
What you need is that Easy Listenin' Classics.
Conrad Vig:
(reacting to Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now") I do not need that.
Chief Elgin:
You need somthin' to calm your nerves.
Conrad Vig:
Not Easy Listenin' Classics.
– Submitted by Jason S (10 months ago)
Walter Wogaman:
Can I have my pants, please? Pants, on my legs.
– Submitted by Jason S (10 months ago)
Debbie Barlow:
What was that?
Sergeant Troy Barlow:
A wall just exploded.
Debbie Barlow:
I thought the war was over, honey.
Sergeant Troy Barlow:
Well, it is and it isn't, babe. Could you do me a favor and call the Reserve Center?
– Submitted by Jason S (10 months ago)
Walter Wogaman:
Military regulations, you cannot drive. Step away from the Chenoweth, ma'am. Don't make me shoot you, ma'am.
– Submitted by Jason S (10 months ago)

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