This 2016 dark comedy-crime film was written by Jason Smilovic and Stephen Chin, and Todd Phillips, who directed the picture.
It was based on true events and follows the story of two young men who manage to land a massive military contract and all the foul play that ensues.
The leads are Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, along with Ana de Armas and Bradley Cooper.
In War Dogs, we follow David Packouz, who works as a massage therapist and lives with his girlfriend, who becomes pregnant.
After meeting an old friend, Efraim Diveroli, David’s life changes drastically, and he soon becomes involved in shady dealings when the two land a massive military contract.
War Dogs, unfortunately, received mixed reviews from critics, but the audience members who saw it were pleased, as we’re sure you were, which is why you are looking for films of its ilk.
Our top three picks for similar films are Pain & Gain, 21 Jump Street, and Lord of War.
For these and more great recommendations, be sure to read on.
1) Pain & Gain
Pain & Gain is a 2013 action comedy film that was also based on actual events. Michael Bay directed it. As in War Dogs, there are drugs, money, and the need to constantly reach greater heights.
If you enjoyed the dark humor of War Dogs, you will enjoy this.
The film is a loose adaptation of the book Pain & Gain: This Is a True Story (2013). It follows the actions of the Sun Gym Gang, who were responsible for kidnapping, torturing, and then the extortion of Victor Kershaw, who was based on the real-life Marc Schiller.
The gang also killed and dismembered certain individuals.
The movie stars Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, and Anthony Mackie. Although well-received by audience members, it was criticized for its controversial manner of adapting the source material.
The film managed to make $86.2 million off of a $26 million budget at the box office.
2) 21 Jump Street
This 2012 film is a buddy cop action comedy film, starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller directed the film. If you enjoy Jonah Hill’s comedy style, this film will have you in stitches as not only did he star, he also co-wrote the screenplay.
The film is about two police officers, Schmidt and Jenko, who have to go undercover as high school students to identify the dealer of a new synthetic drug and then bust the supplier.
It was well-received by both critics and audience members alike and was seen as an “affectionate satire of ’80s nostalgia and teen movie tropes”. The film was created on a budget of $42 million and made a return of $201.6 million.
3) Lord Of War
This 2005 crime drama was written, directed, and produced by Andrew Niccol. As well as starring in the lead role, Nicolas Cage also co-produced the film. It follows a fictional illegal arms dealer, but similarly to War Dogs, several true stories inspired it.
The film follows the story of a twenty-year man, Yuri Orlov (Cage), who tries to reassure his younger brother of the possible ethical issues he may have about the business.
He supplies guns to those who would be considered warlords and does not seem bothered, but one problem is that when you’re supplying everyone with a weapon, it’s only a matter of time until one turns on you.
Along with Cage are Ethan Hawke, as an ATF Agent, Jared Leto, as Vitaly Orlov, and Bridget Moynahan, as Ava Fontaine.
The film received mainly positive reviews from critics, but audience members seemed to love it most. Unfortunately, it only managed to make back $72.6 million after spending a budget of $50 million, regardless of the great audience feedback.
4) Burn After Reading
Burn After Reading is an exceptional example of a black comedy film released in 2008 and written, directed, and produced by Ethan and Joel Coen. As with War Dogs, the film follows those who try to profit from the problems of others.
In War Dogs, they are seeking to profit from the war, but in this film, we follow a pair of rather unintelligent individuals who are gym employees.
They stumble upon misplaced memoirs of a recently jobless CIA analyst, then attempt to reap financial benefits from their find.
The movie stars Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand in the lead roles, and with them are George Clooney, J.K. Simmons, Tilda Swinton, and Richard Jenkins.
The film impressed the critics, and it was nominated for Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards. At the box office, it performed fairly well and turned its budget of $37 million into $168 million.
5) Get Hard
This hilarious 2015 comedy was the directorial debut of Etan Cohen, and it was written by him and Jay Martel and Ian Roberts.
Although the action scenes prevalent in War Dogs do not feature in Get Hard, there is still plenty of excitement, and the humor certainly makes light of an otherwise heavier topic, in this case, being sentenced to prison for fraud.
The plot follows the story of a wealthy hedge fund manager who is framed for embezzlement. He is sure that he will be exonerated, but instead is sentenced to ten years. He then recruits the man who washes his car to help him prepare for prison.
The film stars Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Alison Brie, and Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris, and they will have you laughing almost all the way through.
It was not well received by critics; however, audience members felt differently, and in the end, it grossed $111.8 million on its $40 million budget.
6) American Made
This film is a 2017 action comedy with plenty of both in the mix, directed by Doug Liman. It does not follow an arms dealer, but rather the man who does the delivering thereof.
The movie follows the story, which was inspired by true events, of the life of Barry Seal. He was a former TWA pilot who changed career avenues and started flying missions for the CIA.
He also became a drug smuggler in the 1980s for the Medellin Cartel; then, he opted to become an informant for the CIA to top it all off.
The film stars Tom Cruise as the lead, and aboard this journey are Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, Caleb Landry Jones, and Alejandro Edda.
The movie received overall good reviews, and Cruise’s performance was particularly praised. The box office return was $134.9 million on a budget of approximately $50 million.
7) The Wolf Of Wall Street
It is a 2013 epic biographical black comedy, which the highly skilled Martin Scorsese directed. The film was based on the memoir of the lead character, Jordan Belfort.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays this role, and we see him going from someone trading penny stocks to his company eventually being found out for high levels of fraud and corruption.
Just like Efraim Diveroli, Jordan Belfort is the sort of character who honestly does not understand the concept of taking ownership of his mistakes and is an incredibly self-centered human being who will do anything to get ahead of the game.
If you enjoy the depiction of a money-hungry individual who had a taste for the “finer” things in life, then you’ll find this one a worthwhile watch.
In this film, we have DiCaprio, along with Jonah Hill, who offers up just as much of a great performance. Additionally are Margot Robbie and Kyle Chandler.
The performances, direction, and overall production value earned the film Academy Award nominations and had DiCaprio winning a Golden Globe. The film was a box office hit, making $392 million on a budget of $100 million.
8) The Laundromat
Here we are not looking at arms dealing, but rather the nature of laundering money and what comes of getting on the wrong side of certain people.
The plot deals with three concurrent stories, which focus on various people around the world whose narratives are interconnected by the wrongs done to them by the scheming of their company.
The film, like War Dogs, is fictionalized, but the main plot is based on truth.
Regardless of the star-studded cast of Meryl Streep, Jeffrey Wright, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Matthias Schoenaerts, and David Schimmer, the film received mixed reviews from the critics.
It was initially released in theatres and then was made available for streaming on Netflix.
Written and directed by David O. Russell, Joy is a 2015 biographical comedy-drama about a woman who was able to turn herself into a millionaire, single-handedly by founding and growing a business empire.
The occasional tension and suspense, which is felt throughout War Dogs, is also seen in this film, and it also follows the story of one making it big, even though the odds are not in their favor.
We follow a strong-willed woman and, although she does not get herself involved in the likes of the shady dealings in War Dogs, there are elements of struggling to overcome obstacles in her way.
Jennifer Lawrence plays the leading role of Joy Mangano. Additionally, there are Robert De Niro, Édgar Ramírez, Virginia Madsen, Bradley Cooper, and Diane Ladd.
The film was criticized for its pacing, though the performances were praised, and the box office return was $101.1 million from a $60 million budget.
10) The Big Short
The film was released in 2015 and is a biographical comedy-drama, which Adam McKay directed. Like War Dogs, it follows a story based on true accounts of events that unfolded. The movie is set during the 2007–2008 financial crisis, which was ignited by the housing bubble.
Although not broken up into acts, the film follows three simultaneous stories connected by the actions of the people involved, and we see how these aid in bringing about the crash of the housing market.
The film stars big names, such as Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Melissa Leo, Brad Pitt, and Hamish Linklater. It was awarded an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and it also received other nominations.
The film was well-received overall, and the budget of $50 million saw a return of $133.4 Million.
Related to: 25 Movies Similar to The Big Short
11) Catch Me If You Can
This pseudo-biographical crime movie was released back in 2002 and was directed and produced by Steven Spielberg. Instead of grown men trying to sell Chinese-made ammunition, we follow the story of a young lad, who was able to live the jet-set lifestyle by cashing in fraudulent cheques.
Like in War Dogs, you wonder how long he will be able to get away with it and evade capture.
The film was based on an autobiography by Frank Abagnale, who claimed to have been on the run from the FBI at the age of nineteen. This was after he managed to pose as a doctor, prosecutor, and a Pan American World Airways pilot.
The authenticity of the source material has come into question, but the entertainment factor shan’t deter you.
Leonardo DiCaprio played the lead role of Frank Abagnale, and Tom Hanks took the role of the FBI agent, Carl Hanratty, who was chasing after him.
Critics gave the film great ratings, and it performed exceptionally well at the box office as well. It managed to make $ 352.1 million, on a budget of $52 million.
12) 99 Homes
This film was directed by Ramin Bahrani and was written by himself and Amir Naderi. The 2014 drama follows the story of Dennis Nash, who one day receives an eviction notice.
To save his family’s home, he chooses to take up a job offered by his evictor. Like we see in War Dogs, though, this film also shows us that one’s actions have a ripple effect and that we do not live as islands.
The film does not have the humor of War Dogs, but it is filled with grippingly tense scenes. Like in War Dogs, we see a character faced with choosing to do what is right or what best serves himself and his family.
Andrew Garfield plays the lead role of Nash, and accompanying him are Laura Dern, Michael Shannon, and Tim Guinee.
The film received excellent reviews, and the critics found it to be provocative and offering a story of great relevance.
The film will have you concerned for what the future holds for our characters, and this is what will keep you on the edge of your seat. It was shot on a budget of a mere $1.9 million and unfortunately only made a box office return of $8 million.
13) Molly’s Game
This 2017 biographical crime drama, was written and directed by Aaron Sorkin and was his directorial debut. Just as in War Dogs, we follow the story of a character, a woman in this case, who builds up an empire and then watches as the pieces fall out of place.
Unlike in War Dogs, the film does not deal with arms dealers, but rather a woman who runs an underground poker empire where she soon becomes the target of an FBI investigation.
Like in War Dogs, though, she is persistent and ultimately makes mistakes that lead to her demise.
Molly Bloom, the lead role, is played by Jessica Chastain. Additionally, the cast comprises Idris Elba, Jeremy Strong, Kevin Costner, and Michael Cera.
Chastain earned a Golden Globe nomination, and the movie received nominations for various other awards. The reviews were excellent, yet the box office only brought in $59.3 million, on a budget of $30 million.
21 is a 2008 heist drama film that Robert Luketic directed. If you enjoyed the high stakes that the characters were up against in War Dogs, then you will find this film just was thrilling.
We are left wondering how the game will play out in the end and whether our characters will manage to get away with what they are doing.
We follow Ben Campbell, an MIT student who has an incredible gift for math and numbers. Unfortunately, he has a major problem that he cannot solve, and that is his tuition fees.
Soon he is roped in with a few fellow students and their one lecturer who has him learn the act of counting cards, which is not exactly illegal, but will certainly make you some enemies.
This film stars Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Bosworth, and Liza Lapira. The box office returns were no indication of the negative reviews it received from critics, as it made $159.8 million on a budget of $35 million.
15) Black Mass
If you were intrigued by the devious and somewhat erratic decisions of those in War Dogs, you will certainly enjoy this 2015 biographical film, by Scott Cooper.
It is a lot darker than War Dogs, but the story and acting are impeccable. It is based on a book, released in 2001, by Gerard O’Neill and Dick Lehr.
We follow the story of Whitey Bulger, who is a small-time criminal who manages to expand his business at a rapid speed. He is left untouched by the FBI as they voluntarily decide not to charge him with the mounting offenses against him.
This film offers guns and betrayal, as in War Dogs, and there are plenty of thrilling moments.
Johnny Depp plays the role of Bulger, and with him are Kevin Bacon, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, and Dakota Johnson.
The critics were mainly satisfied with the film, and although audience members loved it, it only managed to turn its budget of $53 million into a modest $99.8 million.
Written and directed by Brian Helgeland, this biographical crime thriller, which was released in 2015, is a definite must-watch for anyone who is a fan of guns and gangsters.
The film is an adaptation of the book by John Pearson, which was about the career and ultimate imprisonment of the Kray twins.
The film is based in London, during the 1960s, and follows the story of two brothers who were gangsters and everyone knew of them.
They became legends in their world, and everything was going well for them, but Ronnie Kray is an absolute loose cannon, and his brother has to figure out what to do about him before he blows everything for the pair. With the police breathing down their necks, things are not easy for the pair.
Tom Hardy gives an exceptional performance as both of the brothers and along with him are Emily Browning, David Thewlis, and Christopher Eccleston.
The film critics did not appreciate the film, but hailed Hardy’s performance. Audience members loved it, but unfortunately, it only made a box office return of $43 million on a budget of $20 million.
Although an older film, this 1990 biographical crime film is a classic gangster movie directed by Martin Scorsese and is more than worthy of a watch. The idea of wanting to be something more than what you are living, is a definite similarity to War Dogs.
The stellar cast consists of Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Paul Sorvino, and Lorraine Bracco. The film looks at the rise and ultimate fall of a Mobster, Henry Hill, and his friends.
The film, donned as being one of the best films of all time, won an Academy Award and was nominated for Golden Globes and British Academy Film Awards, along with others.
It unfortunately only managed to make $47.1 million at the box office after having spent a budget of $25 million.
Written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Regua, this crime comedy-drama was released in 2015. The story follows a professional con artist who decides to take on an aspiring woman to assist him on his jobs.
Unfortunately for him, love soon blinds him and whether they can trust one another comes into question. Like the characters in War Dogs, they are after more than mere crumbs as they want the whole pie, but sometimes one bites off more than one can chew.
The film stars Will Smith, as Nicky Spurgeon, and Margot Robbie, as Jess Barrett. With them are Gerald McRaney, Adrian Martinez, B. D. Wong, and Robert Taylor.
The film was noted for the leads’ performances, but was otherwise seen as lacking substance. At the box office, it managed to do satisfactorily and made $158.8 million off of a budget of $50.1 million.
19) Live By Night
The film is a crime drama, released in 2016 and was written, directed, produced by, and starred Ben Affleck. It was based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane.
The film follows the story of a determined bootlegger who eventually becomes a gangster. It also stars Elle Fanning, Chris Messina, Brendan Gleeson, Sienna Miller, and Zoe Saldana.
One theme that is a throughline in this film and which it has in common with War Dogs is the notion of what the rules are and whether one has it in one to do certain acts.
Characters are tried and tested, and there are victories and defeats. Ultimately our antihero needs to decide what and who he truly wants to be.
The film was met with mixed reviews, which may have been due to Affleck’s major role in creating the film and potentially stretching himself too thin. It also underperformed at the box office and earned $22.7 million, on its budget of $65 million.
20) War Machine
This 2017 movie is a satirical war film and is unique in nature. It was directed by David Michôd and was based on a nonfiction book by Michael Hastings.
Although based on the book, it is a fictionalized adaptation, and the representations may not be exactly as seen in the book.
The film follows General Glen McMahon, played by Brad Pitt and based on the real-life Stanley McChrystal, who was brought in to aid in ending the Afghanistan war.
Because of the style of the film, there are elements of humor; however, it, like War Dogs, deals with very serious issues.
With Pitt, are Anthony Michael Hall, Topher Grace, Anthony Hayes, Will Poulter, and Tilda Swinton. The film had a budget of $60 million and was released on Netflix. It garnered mixed reviews, but the acting and wit were commended.
21) American Gangster
This biographical crime film, was directed and produced by Ridley Scott and released in 2007. The film is a fictionalized version of the criminal career of Frank Lucas.
It is similar in that it deals with an individual involved in the transportation and distribution of illegal substances.
Unlike in War Dogs, this time the story focuses on a man who smuggles heroin into America on the service planes returning from the war in Vietnam.
However, there are still plenty of scenes with guns. Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe star in the lead roles.
Along with the leads are Ted Levine, Josh Brolin, John Ortiz, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Ruby Dee. The film was nominated for twenty-one awards, and of those two were Oscars.
The critics also relished it, and at the box office, it made $266.5 million on a budget of $100 million.
22) Logan Lucky
This 2017 heist comedy was directed by Steven Soderbergh, who came out of retirement to direct the film. The film does not deal with arms dealers, but rather is about a man and his brother who hope to pull off a money heist.
It follows Jimmy Logan and his one-armed brother and their sister, who seek to steal money from the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
They also recruit a safe-cracker to assist them on the job. However, things pretty quickly become more complicated than they originally expected, and soon they have to dodge an FBI agent.
The film stars an ensemble cast of Channing Tatum, Riley Keough, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig, among others. It received excellent reviews from the critics, but the box office, unfortunately, did not reflect this, as it only made $48.5 million on a budget of $29 million.
23) Public Enemies
This 2009 biographical crime drama was directed by Michael Mann, who also co-wrote the screenplay. If you enjoyed the illegal activities, the guns, and the carefree spirit of War Dogs, you will thoroughly enjoy this film.
It follows the final years of John Dillinger, a notorious bank robber, who was active during the Great Depression. We watch as he and his crew rob bank after bank and soon become public figures. An FBI agent pursues them, and we witness the game of cat and mouse which ensues.
The film stars Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Stephen Dorff, and Stephen Graham. The movie received generally favorable reviews and did well at the box office, turning its budget of $80 million into a substantial $214.1 million.
Snowden, too is a biographical film, and this one does not have the comic elements of War Dogs, but it is a great 2016 thriller. Instead of selling arms to the government, this film is about Edward Snowden, a subcontractor for the CIA who leaked classified information from the NSA.
The film follows the terrifying reality which George Orwell foretold of, in his book 1984, only this time it is not a fictional world, but a definitive truth about a man who found out that the NSA is collecting and has access to anyone and everyone’s information and is watching them at all times.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the role of Snowden. An ensemble cast of Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo, Tom Wilkinson, and Scott Eastwood are with him.
The film received mixed reviews, but Gordon-Levitt’s performance was praised. At the box office, it underperformed and made $37.3 million on a $40 million budget.
25) The Infiltrator
Brad Furman directed this 2016 biographical crime thriller. Instead of following the bad guys, as we did in War Dogs, we follow the story of a U.S. Customs special agent, who goes undercover to bust criminals.
The movie was based on the autobiography of Robert Mazur. The plot is centered on the operation where, in the 1980’s he went undercover as a corrupt businessman to bring down Pablo Escobar.
The film stars Bryan Cranston, Benjamin Bratt, Diane Kruger, John Leguizamo, and Joe Gilgun. The critics generally showed favor to the film, and the actors’ performances were particularly commended. It underperformed at the box office and only made back $20.7 million of its $28 million budget.