Iraq anniversary: best TV shows and films about 2003 war - from Generation Kill to Official Secrets

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Two decades on from the invasion of Iraq, these are the best films and TV shows to watch to understand the conflict

It has been 20 years since the invasion of Iraq, the first stage in the Iraq War which was waged until 2011. The military operation led to the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athist government.

The invasion, and particularly then British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision to go to war with Iraq, was based on a belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but no such weapons were found.

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Over the course of the Iraq War, more than 300,000 Iraqi civilians are estimated to have been killed (some estimates put the figure about one million), as well as 179 British service personnel and more than 7,000 US troops.

In the years since the invasion and subsequent war, the conflict has inspired a series of TV shows and films. While some (like American Sniper) are derisible one-sided propaganda pieces, others provide a more nuanced account of a devastating conflict.

Generation Kill (2008)

This series, made when the Iraq War was still ongoing, is based on the true story of Evan Wright, a Rolling Stone reporter who was embedded with The 1st Recon Marines during their assault on Baghdad in 2003. Generation Kill stars Alexander Skarsgård as marine Brad Colbert, and Lee Tergesen as Wright. The HBO series follows the troops from their deployment during the first days of Operation Iraqi Freedom through to the Battle of Baghdad where they realise the scale of the conflict they are involved in.

Generation KillGeneration Kill
Generation Kill | HBO

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Blockbuster action film The Hurt Locker, starring Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie, follows a bomb disposal team in Baghdad who are nearing the end of their tour. Maverick sergeant William James (Renner) alienates his fellow soldiers due to his maverick methods. The film saw director Kathryn Bigelow become the first woman ever to win the Oscar for Best Director - it also picked up gongs for Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing.

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The Hurt LockerThe Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker | Lionsgate

Occupation (2009)

Three-part drama series Occupation starring James Nesbitt, Stephen Graham, and Warren Brown follows three former British soldiers who served in Iraq who each return to Basra, in the south of the country for different reasons. The series explores how the conflict changed each of the soldiers and tested their friendships - Occupation also shows what the invasion meant for civilians in the embattled nation.

Occupation | BBC

Official Secrets (2019)

This biopic film tells the true story of British whistleblower Katharine Gun, a linguist who worked for Government Communications and in 2003 leaked top secret information to The Observer ahead of the invasion of Iraq. The information in question was a request by the US for help from the UK in gathering compromising intelligence on diplomats from member states of the UN Security Council who were due to vote on the second UN resolution on the prospective invasion of Iraq.

Official SecretsOfficial Secrets
Official Secrets | Clear Pictures

Baghdad Central (2020)

Baghdad Central, based on the debut thriller novel by Elliott Colla, follows former police inspector, Muhsin, who has lost his family in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s removal from power. As he searches for his missing daughter, Muhsin endures mistaken arrest and torture by US forces before being recruited by the British to work in the Green Zone, an area in central Baghdad that was the focus of attacks by insurgents.

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