It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, but it has. And in recent years, a funny thing happened: The events of 9/11 have started coming back as movies. It began with the always-brilliant writer-director Tony Kaye’s gleefully cynical 2004 film WTC, which followed the experiences of a few residents of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11th. Then came the much-loved The Princess Bride, the Spiderman franchise and now the Hunger Games, with each new instalment bringing back haunting memories of that dreadful day.
The latest film in the 9/11 movie franchise is War Horse, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and will be released on October 18th in the UK and Ireland. This touching and thoroughly enjoyable adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel is set in the early 1900s and follows Private William Warbeck (played by Jeremy Irvine), an Englishman who volunteered for service in World War I and was sent to the front lines. There, alongside his horse, Blitzen, he saw many of the worst atrocities of the Great War, including the Battle of Jutland.
But it’s not just military conflicts that have been made into movies. We’ve seen disaster movies (think 2012), romantic comedies (the first two Harry Potter films) and even a fantasy-adventure (the first Avengers film). And as Kaye demonstrated with his 2004 film, it’s not always about the actual events themselves; the stories behind them can be just as compelling.
Here, we look back at some of the movies that have been made in response to the September 11th attacks, and whether they measure up to the original.
The Spiderman franchise, which began with Sam Raimi’s groundbreaking 2002 film, continued with a number of successful sequels and spin-offs that followed the exploits of our friendly neighbourhood Spiderman. But in 2019, yet another Spiderman film was released, the tenth in the series. This September 26th premiere was the culmination of a decade of waiting, and with a lot at stake, it was worth the long wait.
The new film, Spiderman: Far From Home, takes place a year after the events of Spiderman: Homecoming, in which Spiderman (played by Spiderman veteran Tom Holland) had to return to Earth after spending a year in the moon. Upon his return, Spiderman sets about preparing for his next grand adventure – this time taking the fight to the other side of the world. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan, and when Spiderman inevitably gets sucked into a time loop, it’s up to our beloved wall-crawler to figure out how to break out of it.
The Princess Bride
In the same year as Spiderman, another classic fairy tale was turned into a movie: The Princess Bride. This movie version, released on October 2nd, is an adaptation of the highly acclaimed (by us, at least) 1987 novel by the same name, by William Goldman. The film stars Richard Gere as Prince Vladimires, a mysterious and handsome visitor to Gloucestershire who turns out to be the long-lost son of the Duke of Gloster (played by Christopher Walken). When the Duke learns that his son is actually the long-lost nephew of Prince Louis (played by Meryl Streep), he is overjoyed, and plots to marry Louis’s young and attractive daughter, Princess Annabel (played by Kika Richeze). So begins one of the great love stories of all time.
In Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse, which won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, World War I is depicted from the point-of-view of the horses that served in it. Jeremy Irvine’s riveting performance as Private William Warbeck will stay with you for a long time after you’ve watched this beautiful film. The story, based on a true-life incident that took place in World War I, follows the journey of Warbeck, who volunteers for service in World War I in order to impress a woman he loves. Like most of the other 9/11 adaptations, War Horse is a coming-of-age story about a young man finding his way in the world.
Harry Potter series
It’s well-known that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books have been among the top-selling books in the world for many years, and the Harry Potter franchise turned 10 this year. The series, which began with the phenomenal film adaptation in 2001, continued in 2017 with the highly regarded (and much-anticipated) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. In these recent additions to the franchise, we met the world’s most famous wizard, Harry Potter, and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. In the same year as the Fantastic Beasts film, the much-hyped Lego Harry Potter set was released, consisting of four Harry Potter minifigures and an assortment of mini-figures and mini-vehicles. It was very well-received and became a huge success.
The Avengers, Marvel’s supergroup of superheroes, have been around for more than half a century now, and for many of us, this is the ultimate example of a superhero team-up movie. The first film in the Avengers series, which was released in 2012, tells the story of Ironman (played by Robert Downey Jr.), the Hulk (played by Bruce Banner), Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson) and the rest of the big-hearted bunch as they attempt to protect the Earth from destruction at the hands of a powerful enemy. Written and directed by Joss Whedon and co-directed by Kevin Feige, the Avengers film series has amassed an impressive legacy.
Many of us will always have a special place in our hearts for these five films because they were the first to bring the September 11th attacks to life on the big screen. However, they are far from perfect; as noted, all of the movies are about ten years removed from that fateful day. While they are visually stunning, the acting can at times be a little stilted. But you know what? That’s what makes them feel so real. They didn’t feel like Hollywood fictions; they felt like memories. And that, my friends, is a special kind of magic.