The terrorists are led by totally Middle Eastern actor Robert Forster.
The True Story
The Delta Force was heavily inspired by the real-life hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in June of 1985, and by "heavily inspired" we mean "virtually a scene-for-scene re-enactment."
Especially all the Chuck Norris parts. Those are totally true.
The plane was taken over by terrorists while en route from Athens to Rome, just like in the movie, and the rest of the film's first half is a surprisingly faithful recreation of the TWA incident. For example, in The Delta Force, the hijackers demand that the Jewish passengers be separated from the rest of the hostages and force a German flight attendant to sort through the passports to pick out the Jewish names, apparently because they assumed that all Germans are Nazis and are good at that sort of thing. The hijackers did the exact same thing in real life to German flight purser Uli Derickson (who had a separate TV movie made about her a few years later). Rather than do what they asked, she hid all the passports and claimed she couldn't find them.
Findagrave.com , MGM
Left: Badass real-world hero. Right: Caves like a Jell-O mold left in the sun.
The terrorists on the TWA flight executed an American Navy diver named Robert Stethem by brutally beating him with an armrest, shooting him, and dumping his body onto a runway. The exact same thing happens in The Delta Force:
One of the most iconic images from the TWA hijacking was of the pilot delivering a forced statement to the media with his armed captor clearly visible over his shoulder:
AFP / Getty
Once again, this detail is totally repeated in the movie:
The only real difference between The Delta Force and the real-life TWA hijacking is the way the stories end. You see, the TWA hostages were gradually released over the course of a few weeks and the hijackers got away. One of them was eventually arrested a few years later, but still, that's pretty anticlimactic. So rather than make a straightforward drama about Flight 847, Hollywood decided to engage in wish fulfillment revenge fantasy and ask the ultimate question: "What if Chuck Norris had been there?"
He'd bazooka the shit out of a plane full of hostages?
It's obviously the ending America wanted in real life -- Chuck Norris and the Delta Force heroically eliminate all the terrorists and free the hostages, and everyone drinks beer and sings "America the Beautiful" on the plane ride home.
We're not kidding. This is actually how the movie ends.
Robin Warder is the co-owner of a pop culture website called The Back Row and was recently involved in the making of a sci-fi short film called Jet Ranger of Another Tomorrow.
Related Reading: These aren't the only true stories too badass for film. The man who stopped a burglar with chili-powder punches still hasn't made it to the silver screen. Even horror movies have been topped by the real world, these Swedish twins who flipped out simultaneously haven't even been equaled by Japan. Need more unbelievably true stories? Right here, buddy.