25th Hour (2002)Spike Lee’s “25th Hour” is remarkable in that it is the first film to feature ground zero. While most films set for release or production after the attacks removed any trace of the twin towers or their destruction, Lee chose to use the aftermath of 9/11 as a narrative trope. The compelling drama acts as a love/hate letter to Manhattan while portraying post 9/11 life. It effectively captures both the virtues and indescribable pitfalls of living in the city. The film takes place over the course of a single day in which Monty (Edward Norton) enjoys his last hours of freedom before he’s incarcerated for seven years. Its strong supporting cast (that includes Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Brian Cox) and Monty’s chilling anti-NY monologue make the film difficult to forget. Five years after the attacks, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle reflected on the film’s impact. “Released 15 months after Sept. 11, 2001, Spike Lee's ‘25th Hour’ is the only great film dealing with the Sept. 11 tragedy,” said LaSalle. “With the picture in the planning stages as Sept. 11 took place, Lee wisely decided not to ignore the tragedy but to integrate it into his story. “‘25th Hour’ is as much an urban historical document as Rossellini's "Open City," filmed in the immediate aftermath of the Nazi occupation of Rome.”
Loose Change (2005, 2008)A series of low budget documentaries that hit the web from 2005 to 2009, “Loose Change” has incited major debates. The films, directed by Dylan Avery, maintain that the U.S. government planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks. It critiques the information put forth by the 9/11 commission report and uses eyewitness accounts and reports from various news outlets to demonstrate inconsistencies between what people saw happen and what the government claimed happened. Though its accuracy has been widely disputed, “Loose Change,” has become an internet sensation. Vanity Fair’s Nancy Joe Sales noted that the film “just might be the first Internet blockbuster.” "Loose Change" has been broadcast on several television networks throughout the world. The “9/11 Truth Movement” (which that grew as a result of the film) continues to question how and why the attacks happened.
Remember Me (2010)On the surface, Allen Culter's “Remember Me” appeared to be a tween friendly romance. Following the death of his brother, Tyler (Robert Pattinson) finds solace in his relationship with Ally (Emile de Ravin), a classmate who’s also grappling with loss. Yet film-goers were stunned by its unexpected conclusion—in which it is revealed that the film is set in 2001. Following the film’s release various outlets accused the film of being exploitative and using the 9/11 attacks for shock value. “While it might have initially seemed like Robert Pattinson's latest movie, 'Remember Me,' would be generating controversy and debate over whether it proves that the 'Twilight' star has real acting chops,” said Moviefone’s Bryan Reesman, “it has actually caused a big stir among critics and audiences because of its incredibly dramatic (and some feel overwrought) final minutes.” By contrast, The Daily Beat’s Ramin Setoodeh, noted that the film’s twist effectively conveys the catastrophe. Other films about September 11 (‘World Trade Center,’ ‘United 93’) have presented their grim subject matter from the very start, in every TV ad and theatrical trailer. ‘Remember Me’ is targeted to a different demographic: teenage girls, many of whom were very young in 2001,” said Setoodeh. "For them, September 11 is probably a distant memory or maybe even just a lesson in a history book, especially for kids who didn't live in New York or Washington. Given that measure, this movie accurately depicts the horror, danger, grief, rage, meaninglessness, and brutality of that day. It actually honors history, albeit in a strange and unsettling way.”
United 93 (2006)“United 93” tells the story of United Airlines flight 93--which crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on 9/11. Directed by Paul Greengrass, the film includes the perspective of the passengers as well as the hijackers. It illustrates the overtaking of the plane (believed to be headed for the white house) by a group of courageous passengers. According to Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum “United 93” is a therapeutic venture that thanks those who gave their lives. “Movies are the perfect medium for this exercise in gratitude — they always have been, with the screen so big and the audience so huddled together,” said Schwarzbaum. “And the world has never felt more precarious, or the distinctions between the lucky and the unlucky more tenuous, than they did on the day the World Trade Center fell, the Pentagon was attacked, and one Boeing 757 crashed near Shanksville, Pa., diverted by doomed passengers who died yanking control away from their captors' hands.”
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2006)Before Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” hit theaters, a storm of controversy surrounded the film. Its content, which questioned the government’s actions before and after the 9/11 attacks, led Disney (the film’s initial distributor) to drop the film. The pull-no-punches documentary condemns President George W. Bush and other major political figures for their inept leadership skills. The film accuses the Bush administration of having ties to Middle Eastern Leaders and questions the decision to invade Iraq by using powerful images of death and anguish. The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival where it received a 15 minute standing ovation and the coveted Palme d’Or award. After being released by the Weinstein Company, the film raked in over $222 million worldwide. It remains the highest grossing documentary of all time.
Over the last eleven years, a number of films have been made about the 9/11 attacks. While some deal with the subject head on, others aim to capture post 9/11 culture. Here are five notable film's that offer an engaging perspective on the tragedy.