A look back at how the events of September 11, 2001 have been depicted on film.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the film industry struggled to figure out how to depict that cataclysmic day onscreen. Not surprisingly, the first movies out of the gate were documentaries that combined news footage with interviews with survivors and their families. Then in September 2002, one full year after the attack, two feature films premiered at the Toronto Film Festival that directly addressed 9/11, though they stopped short of recreating any of that day’s most famous images. One was 11’09″01, a collection of 11 short films running exactly 11 minutes each directed by such internationally renowned directors as Ken Loach, Mira Nair and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. The second was the independent film The Guys, which starred Anthony LaPaglia as a fire captain who struggles with penning eulogies for the eight men he lost at the World Trade Center.
With the floodgates finally open, September 11 became a hot topic for directors in and outside of Hollywood. From 2002 on, a number of films were released that dealt with that day in remarkably different ways. Here’s a recap of some of the approaches filmmakers have taken to one of the worst days in American history.
1. You-Are-There Recreations
Released within three months of each other in 2006, Paul Greengrass’ United 93 and Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center were the first major studio films to depict some of the events of that day in painstaking, and often painful, detail.
2. What Happened After
A dud upon its initial theatrical release, Spike Lee’s 2002 drama The 25th Hour has become a favorite for the director’s fanbase for the way it captures the dark, depressed mood of post-9/11 New York. Three years later, The Great New Wonderful used a Crash-style narrative device to explore similar subject matter, telling the stories of several strangers whose lives occasionally intersect in unexpected ways.
3. Extreme Documentaries
It was only a matter of time until professional rabble-rouser Michael Moore tackled September 11 and its aftermath and the resulting film was 2004’s Fahrenheit 9/11, which won the top prize at that year’s Cannes Film Festival. The makers of the new documentary Loose Change 9/11: An American Coup take conspiracy theories even further, suggesting that the Bush administration may have had a hand in the attacks.