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4 movies that inspired Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II

Miguel Ortiz Avatar
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Call of Duty revolutionized the first-person shooter video game genre when the franchise started in 2003. Since then, other games have mimicked its gameplay and cinematic action sequences. Building off of other media, Call of Duty itself has been inspired by popular action films like The Rock and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi in its campaign missions. With the 2022 release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, the franchise steps up its cinematic nature with even more inspiration from Hollywood. Minor spoilers ahead.

Here are 4 movies that inspired Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II

1. Zero Dark Thirty

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II
The climactic raid influenced the previous Modern Warfare title (Sony Pictures)

The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare reboot from 2019 featured its own mission that bore resemblance to the 2012 film that depicted Operation Neptune Spear, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. CoD:MWII gets things started off early with its second campaign mission “Kill or Capture.”

kill or capture
“Kill or Capture” sets the tone of the game as the first full-length mission (Activision)

In the mission, a joint UK SAS-U.S. Marines special forces unit splits into two teams and conducts a raid on a terrorist compound to capture or kill a high-value target. Keeping spoilers to a minimum, the mission features night vision, close-quarters room clearing, and a help going down. While it’s certainly not a one-for-one of the raid depicted in Zero Dark Thirty, elements of the film can be seen throughout the mission.

2. Lone Survivor

Navy SEALs
Navy SEALs fight a downhill retreat in Lone Survivor (Universal Pictures)

The 2013 film Lone Survivor, based on the book with the same name by Marcus Luttrell, recounts the ill-fated 2005 Navy SEAL mission in Afghanistan, Operation Red Wings. When a four-man SEAL team is compromised during a reconnaissance mission, they’re forced to battle dozens of Taliban fighters on an Afghan mountain. Fighting a downhill retrograde, the SEALs are forced to jump from a cliff to escape their pursuing enemy. The film depicts this intense firefight and desperate escape in graphic detail.

lone survivor Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II
This mission drew heavily from Lone Survivor (Activision)

In Cod:MWII, the mission “Cartel Protection” has the player shooting it out with a pursuing enemy during a downhill retreat. Taking cover behind rocks and trees, covering your AI comrades in bonding movements and returning fire with a suppressed rifle, the player can easily draw parallels between the mission and Lone Survivor. To top it off, the downhill movements leads to a dead end that forces a cliff jump. It’s worth noting that both the downhill gunfight and cliff jump were also playable in the 2010 Medal of Honor video game reboot.

3. Sicario

border scene
The border scene builds up great tension before exploding in a fast firefight (Lionsgate)

With CoD:MWII‘s inclusion of a fictional Mexican cartel, the 2015 film Sicario was a natural inspiration for many of the campaign’s missions. The mission “Borderline” has the player shooting it out with sicarios in an American border town while “Recon by Fire” features a cartel tunnel segment straight out of the film.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II border
A mission at the border crossing would have been a welcome addition to the campaign (Activision)

A clandestine mission titled “El Sin Nombre” forces the player to work stealthily through a hacienda in Mexico to target a cartel leader. While it’s not quite the same as Alejandro’s John Wick-like infiltration of the cartel leader’s hacienda in Sicario, the mission captures much of the tenseness of the action drama. Outside of the campaign, CoD:MWII pays tribute to Sicario‘s iconic shootout at the border crossing with the multiplayer map “Santa Seña Border Crossing.”

4. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

transformers didn't fit Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II
A large-scale battle like the one in Transformers didn’t fit the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II narrative (Paramount Pictures)

The third installment in the Michael Bay Transformers movies, Dark of the Moon featured a climactic battle in Chicago between the Autobots and Decepticons, as well as their respective human allies. Set along the Chicago River, the battle features iconic buildings from Chicago’s skyline.

chicago Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II
Chicago is often passed over for New York or Los Angeles as a setpiece for an action movie or game (Activision)

Although CoD:MWII‘s campaign doesn’t include any transforming cars or a full-scale battle on the Windy City’s streets, it’s final mission features a desperate race to stop the deployment of a catastrophic weapon. “Countdown” also takes place entirely in a fictional Chicago high-rise on the Chicago River near the iconic DuSable Bridge like the climactic battle in Dark of the Moon.

Feature Image: Activision