10 films to reflect on what happened twenty years ago


Twenty years ago the world changed. The attack on New York City by theSept. 11 has profoundly marked our society. The image of the World Trade Center buildings (or the Twin Towers if you like) collapsing has become iconic. An event of this type cannot help but strike our imagination and has of course the cinema was deeply inspired by it. And so, see a film about 9/11 it can become a way to reflect on that terrible tragedy, twenty years after it.

September 11, the gaze in 10 films

As mentioned, the attack on the World Trade Center that took place that day was profoundly significant for our society. So many of the changes we now take for granted, starting with a series of security measures much more rigid in airports, they have their roots in those facts.

Looking beyond, broadening our gaze on the international geopolitical scenario, it was a first step for many other subsequent events. Not least among these, those related to the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan which in recent weeks have been at the center of the news.

In short, all this to say that – in some way – any film or TV series can give us the opportunity to reflect on 9/11. Think about the episode of Friends in which Ross runs to the airport managing to reach the gate without too many obstacles or at the bet of the Simpson in which Homer has to run up and down the Twin Towers to be able to pay a fine. Or again, a Spider-Man by Sam Raimi whose teaser trailer was removed from theaters in September precisely because it contained an image of the World Trade Center, too painful must see for the American public. But that’s not what we want to talk about.

Today we have selected 10 films that tell us about more directly on September 11th. Different points of view and styles to face the reflection on what happened in a more articulated way. A way to remember again, twenty years later.

The list of our recommendations

So let’s see together what are the our suggestions of films to see to reflect on 9/11. Of course, you are warmly invited to tell us your ideas, both on these titles and on those eventually to be added to the list.

World Trade Center

As you can guess from the name, this is probably the movie more conventional of the list. Directed by Oliver Stone and distributed on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the tragedy, it is the necessary starting point for such a list. It is a reconstruction of that terrible day, addressing it from the point of view of policemen and rescuers who have done everything to save as many people as possible from the disaster. A direct and touching work, perhaps rhetorical at times but which is also important in the narrative for this very reason.


Here we see a completely different point of view. This film, coming to Netflix after a great reception at last year’s Sundance, tells the story of Kenneth Feinberg, a lawyer called to define compensation for the families affected by the tragedy. A drama that tackles the issue across the board, wondering how it is possible giving value to a human life.

The Report

While not dealing directly with 9/11, this film is important to reflect on what happened after. At the center of The Report we find the theme of the methods used by American agencies in interrogations, often combined with torture. These techniques were greatly exacerbated following the attack on the World Trade Center and so we can touch the legacy of that day. Or rather, a part, perhaps the darkest, of it.

United 93

Another great film immediately associated with 11 September, which however does not talk about the Twin Towers. Paul Greengrass’s work focuses on another terrorist attack from that day, one that hasn’t been there. The history of flight United Airlines 93 it is that of a group of passengers who decide to rebel against the hijacker, to prevent him from succeeding in his terrible goal, even at the cost of extreme sacrifice. A different story of that day, but just as important.


Reign Over Me

A Adam Sandler as you have never seen it before. Here the famous comedian finds himself in the shoes of a man who lost his family in the tragedy and who has never been able to get up again. While not strictly addressing the story of events, Reign Over Me gives us the way to analyze its impact about who has experienced them or been affected by them. It is an aspect that can be taken for granted at times and which is instead important to remember to understand what (also) was 9/11.

Very strong and Incredibly Close

If Reign Over Me told us about a father who lost his family, here we see a family that has lost their father. Very strong, incredibly close, it is a moving work in all its parts, which will strike directly to the heart. Certainly not a simple vision, but its ability to guide us in very strong pain of those terrifying events deserves to be honored. Intense, but necessary.

Fahrenheit 9/11

We will not go into the tunnel of dark conspiracies born after the attack, almost discounted after such a huge event. However, it is impossible not to mention in this list one of the most famous documentaries of all time, which has solidified the fame of Michael Moore, which analyzes theBush administration in a profound way, probing it in every dark corner. Although not completely focused on 9/11, it is still important to see to have a more complete vision of what happened in those years.

Zero Dark Thirty

For those who were in early 2000s, the figure of Osama bin Laden embodied the most absolute evil. Head and founder of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, held responsible for the 9/11 attacks, was long the “public enemy number 1”, eagerly sought after by the United States. Here, Zero Dark Thirty tells us every aspect of that research starting from afar to get to the operation that concluded everything, with the death of this terrorist. It is an important work to rebuild the reaction of America to that inauspicious day.

The Road to Guantánamo

That attack was so terrible and unexpected, almost literally to wreak havoc. The United States was in a terrible frenzy and there are several titles on the list that tell it in some way. But perhaps the most direct example is this documentary, which tells the story of three men, British citizens, who, due to an absurd series of circumstances, find themselves locked up in one of the most terrible places on Earth, the Guantánamo prison, for two years. Despite being completely innocent.

The King of Staten Island

OK, with this one we’re cheating a bit. The King of Staten Island hardly talks about 9/11 at all. The protagonist Scott Carlin he is an eternal Peter Pan, called to grow up at last by confronting the trauma of the death of his father, a fireman who has fallen into service. If you are thinking that this happened just during 9/11 you are wrong, but not by much. Scott’s story is in fact based largely on that of his interpreter Pete Davidson and it is the actor’s father who died in the rescue operation. An event that marked him a lot and that transpires in an overwhelming way from this film. In this way The King of Staten Island also becomes a tale of the post-9/11 generation and how that event impacted them. In short, we had to force the rules a bit to put it on the list, but it’s worth it.

And with that concludes our list of 10 films to reflect on 9/11. Do you have any other ideas to suggest? We are ready to welcome them with open arms!

The King Of Staten Island


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