20 years of 9/11: an audiovisual journey through the films that have portrayed it

Two decades of the event that marked the world and from which we are still living the consequences today. Oliver Stone, Brian de Palma, Kathryn Bigelow … The cinema has told what happened on multiple occasions and here we compile it.

On September 11, 2001, the world woke up not knowing that that day was going to change everything. Two decades later, the attacks in New York represent one of the most remarkable historical events of the 21st century and we continue to see the consequences of what happened. Cinema is a reflection of reality and dozens of creators have taken the opportunity to give their views on this event.

Along the way, by the themes chosen by the filmmakers and their way of approaching them, it is possible to perceive how the effects of the terrorist act have evolved. From the first impressions that counted tapes like 11’09”01 – September 11 to the deepest analysis of the recent Worth, through the interesting reviews of the war consequences of Kathryn Bigelow.

There are as many points of view as there are creators and here we compile 18 movies about September 11 to consider.

’11’09”01 – September 11′ (2002)

With the ashes still floating over Manhattan, a large group of filmmakers of all conditions and places – the Isarelian Amos Gitaï, the American Sean Penn, the Egyptian Youssef Chahine, the Iranian Samira Makhmalbaf, the Mexican Alejandro González Inárritu, etc. (from his peculiar point of view) his impressions on the fateful attacks in 11’09”01 – September 11 resulting in an uneven and interesting tapestry of prints (all of them pacifist, of course).

‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ (2004)

The scourge of the American right Michael Moore could not miss the opportunity to turn the government of the disastrous George W. Bush back and a half. There he was born Fahrenheit 9/11, a film awarded at Cannes – Tarantino, president of the jury, surely went crazy – with the Palme d’Or, which presents a biased and Manichean view of the attacks to demonstrate what we all already knew: that Bush was an idiot.

‘World Trade Center’ (2005)

World Trade Center Oliver Stone, as its name suggests, tried to put into images the tragedy experienced on site when the twin towers collapsed. Based on the real nightmare suffered by two firefighters buried behind the rubble, the film was on a par with Stone’s latest productions: low-very low. So his only merit is to have recorded for history the torture experienced by these two heroes.

‘United 93’ (2006)

Although there was already a previous TV movie of the same development –Flight 93 (Flight 93) by Peter Markle-, the virtuoso director of the series Bourne, Paul Greengrass, decided to repeat the exercise of staging with the highest degree of likelihood possible the hijacking of the United Airlines plane that ended up being crashed by the passengers themselves. The result, United 93It is a magnificent film that honors the brave men who died on that plane.

‘Road to Guantanamo’ (2006)

More stories based on true events. In this case, the cinema adapts the view of the opposite side: that of the Taliban captured and sent to the Guantánamo prison –Road to Guantanamo– on the island of Cuba to suffer all kinds of ignominy and humiliation. Filmmaker Michael Winterbottom applies a documentary look to try to make the terrible story reflected as real as possible.

‘Redacted’ (2007)

More horror drawn from reality. Brian De Palma repeats the operation that he already carried out in Iron hearts about the Vietnam War, with this Redacted anchored in Iraq that recreates through all kinds of media -HD, webcam, handycam, 35mm, etc- the rape of a young woman by a bunch of American marines. Creepy and brilliant at the same time.

‘Postal’ (2007)

Uwe Boll, the worst director cinema has known since the days of Ed Wood, performed (to say the least) in Postal a sketch movie taking everything that smelled of the Taliban or pro-Bush to sniffle. An anti-everything film, anti itself included, that produces as much embarrassment as any of its director, only this time it is not hiding.

‘In the Valley of Elah’ (2008)

The war against terrorism began to fill American cinema with ghosts. The signer of Crash, Paul Haggis, a well-known anti-Bush activist, performed with In the valley of Elah a portrait of the deep America (politically closer to republican principles) that must face the stark reality: the same war they supported is taking its children forever.

‘Life without Grace’ (2008)

The indie variant of In the valley of Elah it would be this Life without Grace, personal project of actor John Cusack – notably aged for the role – where we can see the suffering of a father when it comes to overcoming the death in combat of his wife fleeing with his daughters on a trip to an amusement park.

‘The battle of Hadiza’ (2007)

Nick Broomfield is often considered the “British Michael Moore”, given his status as an anti-Labor activist-documentary filmmaker. On The battle of Hadiza the director builds a truthful fiction based on the massacre carried out by American soldiers in Hadiza, where he responds to a terrorist car-bomb killing a lot of innocent people, including women and children.

‘Iraqi Short Films’ (2008)

Do not be scared by the pixelated photo, it is not an error, it is a YouTube capture. Because that is exactly what the Argentine director Mauro Andrizzi proposed to us with this excellent Iraqi Short Films: a collage (and unfinished) film formed from YouTube videos that both American soldiers and Taliban warriors were hanging on site during the siege.

‘In hostile land’ (2010)

The Oscar-winning movie Kathryn Bigelow the hurt Locker it was an amphetamine (and psychopathic) thriller about a bunch of bomb squad in their day-to-day life in Iraq. An outstanding film that portrayed the horrors of war with a handful of high-tension sequences. Almost horror movies.

‘Green Zone. Protected District ‘(2010)

While liberal Europe cried out to heaven for the lies of the American government claiming that there were “weapons of mass destruction”, American cinema began to awaken from its lethargy pointing an accusing finger at its former president. On Green Zone. Protected district, a hallucinatory war thriller full of memorable scenes, the entire scaffolding was designed with a single purpose: to denounce the falsehood of the Bush administration’s claims.

‘Hunting the spy’ (2010)

From a different field, in this case an espionage film, the director Doug Liman reconstructed the sad case of a CIA agent who, for defending her husband – a consultant who denied that Iraq was enriching uranium – ended up being defenestrated by your agency and your government. Hunt the spy it was as brave as it was late.

‘Four Lions’ (2011)

They say that when one can laugh at a tragedy … it is that it has already been overcome. If that’s true then the deranged and hilarious Four Lions by Christopher Morris would be the film that would put an end to the mourning for the fall of the World Trade Center. Hilarious comedy that follows four ground-level intelligence terrorists trying to blow up … a mosque.

‘So strong, so close’ (2012)

A decade after the attack occurred, it was released So strong so close by Stephen Daldry (The hours). It is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer and participated in one of the most contested Oscar races in history – he won The Artist, but competed against Midnight in Paris O Maids and ladies-. The film tells of the journey of a boy who lost his father at the World Trade Center.

‘The darkest night’ (2013)

The darkest night agreed between audiences and critics, something that has not happened with all the films on the list. Portraying the September 11 attacks has not always translated into success on screen, but Kathryn Bigelow -and there are two- he managed to portray the Bin Laden hunt with great skill and attention to detail in The darkest night.

‘Worth’ (2021)

9/11 can be portrayed from as many points of view as the creators want and the passage of time has opened the way to delve into the effects of the tragedy. If at first the films focused on the day that everything happened and then went on to the War in Afghanistan, now we are in another moment. Fresh out of the oven is Worthby Sara Colangelo. It is a judicial drama centered on the lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, in charge of ensuring that the government funds destined to help the victims were distributed equitably.

’11 -S: this is how the White House lived ‘(2021)

20 years seems like a long enough amount of time to be able to talk about something objectively and that’s what Apple TV + is trying to do with 9/11: this is how the White House lived. This documentary, narrated by Jeff Daniels (The newsroom), places us directly at the White House in the 12 hours that followed the terrible attacks. Through interviews with George W. Bush and his closest associates, we learn what happened on that historic day. If you are interested, good news, since it will be available for free and without subscription on Apple TV + to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

Turning Moments: 9/11 and the War on Terror (2021)

Netflix has made its own reflection on the attacks in the form of a documentary series. Its titled Turning Moments: 9/11 and the War on Terror and it is made up of 5 episodes in which it takes a tour of what happened on September 11, 2001 and the subsequent decades. From George W. Bush’s response to the strategy in the war in Afghanistan and the recent events in Kabul. A very interesting document to understand with more perspective what the attacks meant for the world.