From “United 93” to special episodes of “The West Wing” and “Law & Order,” here’s how Hollywood has portrayed the terrorist attacks on screen
Friday marks 19 years since 9/11, and Hollywood has struggled all that time with how to address it. Here’s how 21 films and TV shows tried to tell stories tied to Sept. 11, 2001.
“South Park” (2001) The first episode of the always topical dark comedy to air after 9/11 revolved around America’s invasion of Afghanistan.
“The West Wing” (2001) Creator and showrunner Aaron Sorkin wrote this special episode, about a fictional terrorist attack, and it aired just three weeks after the attacks.
“Law & Order” The 9/11 attacks occurred during Season 12 of the long-running drama, and several later episodes revolved around it, including one episode where a woman’s remains were dumped at Ground Zero in order to cover up a murder.
“24” (2001) Shot a few months before the attacks, the Fox spy thriller became more timely and relevant than it ever intended to be.
“Third Watch” (2001) This drama about New York City’s first responders remembered 9/11 with a non-fiction episode, followed by two episodes putting its main characters directly in the aftermath of 9/11.
“25th Hour” (2002) Spike Lee’s drama, featuring a pivotal scene within sight of Ground Zero, was the first major film to confront 9/11. It premiered in December 2002.
“Rescue Me” (2004) The Dennis Leary dramedy focuses on a firefighter who lost his best friend in the 9/11 attacks. The events of that day would reverberate through the entire series.
“Tiger Cruise” (2004) This Disney Channel original movie saw Hayden Panettiere’s character dealing with the events of 9/11 as they happened, while on a cruise with military members and their families.
“United 93” (2006) Paul Greengrass took a straight, fact-based approach to tell the story of the passengers who tried to take back the plane.
“World Trade Center” (2006) Oliver Stone’s drama portrayed the events of 9/11 from the perspective of first responders.
“Reign Over Me” (2007) Adam Sandler played a man struggling five years after the 9/11 attacks killed his wife and daughter.
“Postal” (2007) Uew Boll’s crass comedy opened with a scene joking about fictional 9/11 hijackers – suggesting that they flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center by accident.
“Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay” (2008) The comedy threequel followed the best friends as they’re detained and sent to Guantanamo Bay, after a paranoid fellow plane passenger mistakes Kumar’s bong for a bomb.
“Fringe” (2009) The season one finale of the sci-fi drama featured an alternate world, where the 9/11 attacks hit the White House instead of the Twin Towers.
“Julie and Julia” (2009) Set in 2002, Amy Adams’ character Julie starts cooking as a way to get away from her stressful day job of fielding calls from 9/11 victims during the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.
“Remember Me” (2010) The Robert Pattinson drama had a twist ending that culminated in the 9/11 attacks. Many people found it an odd fit.
“Dear John” (2010) This Nicholas Sparks adaptation starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried featured flashbacks that saw one character re-enlist in the army due to the 9/11 attacks.
“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (2011) Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of the Jonathan Safron Foer novel followed a kid who lost his father in the 9/11 attacks.
“Homeland” (2011) Set in a distinctly post-9/11 world, the series started off mirroring the themes of paranoia and terrorist threats present in the US in the years following the attacks.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” (2012) Mira Nair’s thriller is based on Mohsin Hamid’s novel about a Pakistani man (Riz Ahmed) who’s a rising star on Wall Street until 9/11 upends both his career and his personal life as he becomes the subject of suspicion.
“9/11” (2017) Charlie Sheen, Gina Gershon and Whoopi Goldberg star in a flawed adaptation of a play called “Elevator” about people trapped in the World Trade Center that fateful day, but it never becomes the tacky exploitation exercise that you might expect.
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