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George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Nora Dunn ... see more see more... , Jamie Kennedy , Mykelti Williamson , Cliff Curtis , Said Taghmaoui , Judy Greer , Liz Stauber , Holt McCallany , Pete Antico , Peter Macdissi

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... read more read more... 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 at home; and Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) is probably just going to end up back in Detroit. So when one of them comes across a map that seems to point out where Saddam's forces have stashed a large cache of gold they stole from Kuwait, they decide to follow the trail and take some of the war booty for themselves. However, the deeper they journey into Iraq, the more they see of the consequences of America's policies in the Middle East. Although President George Bush and the American military urged Iraqi citizens to rise up against Saddam Hussein, and pledged their support to a people's movement against the leader, Iraqis found that when they took to the streets against Saddam, the United States did not back them up, and the loss of Iraqi lives was fearsome. When Gates, Barlow and Elgin become aware of what's happening, they're torn between their desire to grab the fortune they came for and the demands of their conscience to help the people they came to liberate. Three Kings was directed by David O. Russell and marked a significant change of direction after his dark-humored relationship comedies, Spanking the Monkey and Flirting with Disaster. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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77% liked it

183,207 ratings


94% liked it

129 critics

R, 1 hr. 55 min.

Directed by: David O. Russell

Release Date: October 1, 1999

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DVD Release Date: September 4, 2001

Stats: 5,020 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (5,020)

  • December 19, 2012
    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 th... read moreree 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.
  • July 15, 2012
    Based on true story, this is an action movie about three soldiers who seek treasure for themselves at the end of the Gulf war. They are torn between their own gain and saving refugees. Lots of action and a good soundtrack.
  • March 21, 2012
    I wasnt overly fond of this movie, although critically acclaimed it failed to impress me.
    Maybe because ive seen so many war movies that they arent as interesting as they first were and now im bored of watching the same recycled storyline!
  • February 4, 2012
    Ehhhh, its alright. The acting isn't amazing and the story has no real depth but still, its entertaining.
  • September 8, 2011
    When a group of US soldiers find a map to Saddam's horde of stolen Kuwaiti gold during operation Desert Storm, they decide to go rogue and steal it. Kind of like a cross between Ocean's Eleven and Jarhead, Three Kings is the Iraq "war"'s answer to Kelly's Heroes. Featuring a fine... read more cast and nicely offbeat script, the film starts off really well with plenty of laughs and surreal situations based within the usual "absurdity of war" framework, but when the script decides to throw in some politics it starts to flounder somewhat. There are some valid points made and it's all very well meaning, but Russell's fear of putting the boot in compromises the message and it all ends up a little half-arsed. The worst example is the fact that the point that America was bombing Iraqi civilians pretty much purely for the purposes of its own fat cat oil companies (a perfectly valid one) was made by the guy who was torturing our hero torpedoes any moral impact it may have had. Add the fact that their redemption at the end feels very contrived and unconvincing and you walk away from the film feeling a little cheated. Having said all that, it's a fun military heist movie with plenty of laughs and action and as a whole is pretty damn entertaining. It's just a shame that what should have been the meat of the story was shuffled off onto the back burner.
  • August 11, 2011
    A widely imaginative direction from David O. Russell supports a witty screenplay that manages to put comedy, drama and action all in the same piece. It all fits and succeeds at being entertaining as hell while it also makes you morally think about all of this.
  • July 31, 2011
    David O. Russell's "Three Kings" is a masterpiece. I mean this honestly. It's a triumph of vision, cohesion and observation. The performances are human yet scathing caricatures. The film has a lovely juxtaposition between fact and fiction that extends to history, emotion, violenc... read moree, and crime. The film is imaginative and thrilling yet is always grounded in truth. Really, it's all just extraordinary.
  • July 4, 2011
    A decent action film set at the end of the Iraq war. Three soldiers learn the location of some stolen Kuwaiti gold and plan to help themselves. On their mission they encounter the harsh reality of the current state of the country.
    It has a fine cast and is well made, without feel... read moreing like a hollywood blockbuster. It has the right mix of action and drama, even a bit of humour too.
  • June 16, 2011
    Three Kings manages to be one of the most original war movies ever made and still manages to be ahead of its time in terms of what it wants so say. This isn't just an anti-war message or a joke about the military itself; it truly asks important questions about what people value a... read morend what they will do simply because it is right. The common theme here is greed. Not just when it comes to the gold bullions, but just in terms of valuing certain people's lives over others. David O Russell just knows how to put on the right amount of teasing and comedy to make this digestible so it doesn't come off as sappy. More or less, this is extremely believable in terms of the story and characters; even though half of them are complete morons.
    Mark Wahlberg gives one of his finest performances here as Troy Barlow; one of the most earnest soldiers who basically has no idea what is going on. He's just so naïve in terms of the political agenda, but at the same time has a better understanding of human life than anyone else. This is the kind of role that Mark Wahlberg works best in because his emotions are so believable and he just comes off as a living, breathing person; not a character. George Clooney as Gates is basically the opposite of Troy and is so numb and cynical about the world that it seems like he just doesn't care, but his true self becomes obvious when he sees the terrible situation that the Iraqis are in. George Clooney is great when he's able to be himself; unbelievably charming and salt and peppery. Ice Cube and Spike Jonze do a nice job here too and present some of the best comedic relief in the movie, but also bring some of the most dramatic moments too.
    Visually, Three Kings is just unbelievable. It changes its style so many times depending on the emotion it wants to show off, but in no way does it ruin the experience for the viewer. In fact, it enhances the way we watch the movie and see everything. Some of the hand held sots look spooky and almost too close to a documentary, rather than fiction. The blending of this with sporadically intense scenes and moments in which we connect with these characters the most is so powerful and sets this apart from your straight-forward war movie.
  • May 22, 2011
    Wonderful casting, good plot and neatly crafted.
    It starts as a satire on Gulf war, picks up its pace to shift into an action-adventure gear and finishes off the ride almost as an emotional drama with a human touch.

Critic Reviews

Lisa Alspector
August 25, 2008
Lisa Alspector, Chicago Reader

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

February 9, 2006
Time Out

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

Rick Groen
April 25, 2003
Rick Groen, Globe and Mail

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

Robert Horton
January 1, 2000
Robert Horton,

Three Kings manages to venture into places that most American films never go.

Kevin Maynard
January 1, 2000
Kevin Maynard, Mr. Showbiz

An intelligent film for an excess of visual imagination.

Jonathan Foreman
January 1, 2000
Jonathan Foreman, New York Post

An original and brilliant combination of comedy, action and sophisticated political comment.

Terry Lawson
January 1, 2000
Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press

Imaginative and exciting.

Jay Boyar
January 1, 2000
Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel

Explosively good!

Kenneth Turan
January 1, 2000
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

David O. Russell's nervy attempt to reinvent the war movie and a further step in the evolution of an audacious and entertaining filmmaker. Full Review

Philip Wuntch
January 1, 2000
Philip Wuntch, Dallas Morning News

On any hip-o-meter, Three Kings rules. Full Review

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    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Walter Wogaman: Can I have my pants, please? Pants, on my legs.
    • 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?
    • Walter Wogaman: Military regulations, you cannot drive. Step away from the Chenoweth, ma'am. Don't make me shoot you, ma'am.

Three Kings : Watch Free on TV

Three Kings Trivia

  • In which movie was Mark Wahlberg fighting in the Gulf war?  Answer »
  • Before I was a revered porn star, before I was one of the three kings, before I was caught in the clutch of damn dirty apes, and before I was one of the four brothers, I was called Marky Mark. Who am I?  Answer »
  • Three films have won 11 Oscars each: Ben-Hur, Titanic, and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Which of these three won every Oscar it was nominated for?  Answer »
  • I started my career as a rapper. I starred in movies such as; -Boyz N Tha Hood -Friday -Anaconda -Three Kings -Barbershop -Are We There Yet? Who am I?  Answer »

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