The five 9/11 films that get it right

This week's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has us remembering the movies that best address a terrible day—and its aftermath.

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  • 25th Hour (2002)

    An early stab at the subject turns out to be one of the most complex: Spike Lee's gritty tale of a drug dealer's final day of freedom was backgrounded with an intentional wealth of post-9/11 detail, linking personal catastrophe to global reckoning. The Tribute in Light introduces a city on edge, followed by a bruised mood throughout—and even a scene before Ground Zero: an argument between guilty friends wishing they'd done more.—Joshua Rothkopf

     Watch now on iTunes    Watch now at Amazon Instant Video

  • Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

    Michael Moore's pop-doc diatribe against George W. Bush traces the tragedy's political fallout, but it's Moore's uncharacteristic restraint regarding the attack itself that sticks with you: sounds of disorder playing over a black screen. His refusal to reduce the event to news footage seen ad nauseam around the world somehow restores the moment's unimaginable sense of horror.—David Fear

     Watch now at Amazon Instant Video

  • United 93 (2006)

    Premiering to tears and thunderous applause at the Tribeca Film Festival (itself founded in the wake of 9/11), Paul Greengrass's shattering re-creation of the doomed flight avoided jingoism—it even introduced a realistic bit of motivation for the iconic "Let's roll" line. The movie's script was a collaboration between the director and improvising actors, informed by hours of interviews with the victims' families.—Joshua Rothkopf

     Watch now on iTunes    Watch now at Amazon Instant Video

  • Man on Wire (2008)

    Tightrope-walker Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire stroll between the two towers obviously predates 9/11 by many years, yet it's hard not to view James Marsh's extraordinary documentary about the feat as a ghost story. You're constantly reminded of the human achievement that went into building those skyscrapers—and that Petit's stunt is now impossible to repeat.—David Fear

     Watch now on iTunes    Watch now at Amazon Instant Video

  • Margaret (2011)

    Though there are no images directly related to the events at Ground Zero, the devastation nonetheless looms large in Kenneth Lonergan's masterful portrait of a privileged NYC teen who witnesses a horrifying bus accident. Her emotional fallout—at home, with friends, in the classroom (where 9/11 is heatedly discussed)—shows how the raw feelings of that petrifying day lingered long past the event itself.—Keith Uhlich

     Watch now at Amazon Instant Video

25th Hour (2002)

An early stab at the subject turns out to be one of the most complex: Spike Lee's gritty tale of a drug dealer's final day of freedom was backgrounded with an intentional wealth of post-9/11 detail, linking personal catastrophe to global reckoning. The Tribute in Light introduces a city on edge, followed by a bruised mood throughout—and even a scene before Ground Zero: an argument between guilty friends wishing they'd done more.—Joshua Rothkopf

 Watch now on iTunes    Watch now at Amazon Instant Video

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