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25 Movies About 9/11 That Will Move You To Tears

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, left an indelible mark on life in the United States and across the globe. Many of those who were alive and old enough to remember that terrible day recall it with vivid imagery. These people can tell you exactly where they were when two hijacked planes hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center. For some, revisiting those tragic events proves too painful; for others, delving into 9/11 stories provides a step in a continual healing process. In the decades since foreign terrorists attacked the U.S., many filmmakers have tried to highlight the heroes of that day who sacrificed themselves to save others. In the late summer weeks leading up to the anniversary, many news networks and streaming services broadcast sobering documentaries to commemorate the day. Other directors created beauty from the ashes of the attacks, weaving fictional stories that resonate with audiences.

Television shows like "Friends" and "Saturday Night Live" also addressed the events of 9/11, as Hollywood processed the tragedy. Below, we've curated a list of 25 excellent films about September 11th: Some of these films deal directly with the horrific day, while others feature the overwhelming impact September 11th had on people whose lives were forever altered. Some films, like "World Trade Center" did well at the box office while others, like "Ash Tuesday," barely made a blip on the cinematic radar. Still, all will likely have you reaching for the tissue box.

World Trade Center

"World Trade Center" wasn't the first film about 9/11 to see a Hollywood release, but it remains one of the most hopeful and tear-jerking movies about the aftermath of the attacks. Nicolas Cage and Michael Peña star in this 2006 Oliver Stone-helmed movie closely based on the true survival story of New York City Port Authority police officers John McLoughlin (Cage) and Will Jimeno (Peña). On September 11, 2001, McLoughlin and Jimeno answered the call to help evacuate the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The officers arrived at the center's concourse as the South Tower collapsed. They lay trapped underneath the rubble, but after 14 hours, they were miraculously rescued by U.S. Marines Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon) and Jason Thomas (William Mapother). McLoughlin and Jimeno were the last two of twenty survivors found.

Roger Ebert only gave the movie 2.5 stars out of five, and wrote, "[Stone] overdoes the slow-motion in the early scenes, which fail to convey the overwhelming chaos most people who were there describe." However, the New York Times said, "There are many words a critic might use to describe Mr. Stone's films — maddening, brilliant, irresponsible, provocative, long — but subtle is unlikely to be on the list. Which makes him the right man for the job, since there was nothing subtle about the emotions of 9/11." Regardless, the film showcases courage in the midst of horrifying circumstances, and may elicit a tear — or even a sob — from viewers.

United 93

While many 9/11 films focus solely on the attack on the World Trade Center, "United 93" provides insight into the heroic actions of passengers on United Airlines 93. The flight took off from Newark, New Jersey, and was hijacked 45 minutes later. Per the Baltimore Sun, many onboard had learned of the World Trade Center attacks, and assumed their hijackers planned to target the White House or the Capitol in Washington D.C. A group of passengers accepted their own fates, but chose to protect the lives of countless others: They forced the plane to crash in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. There were no survivors.

Per NBC News, writer-director Paul Greengrass used the 9/11 Commission Report and conversations with victims' loved ones to attempt to accurately portray the events of the flight, but invented details as well to fill in the gaps. Greengrass does a phenomenal job of weaving the ordinary with the fear-filled chaos that must have gripped those on board. In an interview with EW about "United 93," Greengrass said, "The point is, it's the most important event of my lifetime. And Hollywood has a long and honorable tradition of processing reality. Somehow we have to start to try and make sense of what happened that day." The film provides a stark look at evil, and conversely, bravery in action. We dare you not to cry with passenger Todd Beamer's "Let's roll" proclamation just before he and others perform the ultimate act of heroism.

The Guys

Although both "World Trade Center" and "United 93" were released within five years of the 9/11 attacks, they weren't Hollywood's first attempts at depicting that horrible day. Debuting at the Toronto Film Festival in 2002, "The Guys" centers on the story of Nick (Anthony LaPaglia), a New York City fire captain who must prepare eulogies for the eight firefighters he lost on September 11th. With the help of a local editor, Joan (Sigourney Weaver), Nick processes his grief. The film is based on a December 2001 off-Broadway play starring Weaver and Bill Murray, and was workshopped at The Flea Theater just three months after 9/11. The movie was released in theaters in April 2003.

The film gives a raw look at the massive losses experienced by the New York City Fire Department and was released in fairly close proximity to the events of 9/11. After the play opened in Los Angeles with Helen Hunt as Joan and Tim Robbins as Nick, Variety called it "a simple and affecting expression of the event's emotional impact on New Yorkers." "The Guys" also provides a quiet, authentic look at grief, but in 2003, theater audiences may not have been ready for such a painful, emotional examination of the 9/11 attacks. "The Guys" quickly and quietly disappeared from theaters, taking in a meager $21,366 at the box office.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" was one of the first major 9/11 movies to deal with the emotional impact on children who lost a parent in the attacks. Oskar (Thomas Horn) is a neurodivergent 9-year-old who can't grasp the death of his father, Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks). The elder Schell loved to send his son on treasure hunts, and a year after the collapse of the towers, the boy embarks on a final quest left by his dad. In the process, the young Schell learns much about himself and begins to heal.

Hanks appeared on the Today Show to promote the film and talked about the importance of catharsis in the movie-going experience. Hanks explained, "Sometimes I think that you realize there is an important issue that is being addressed perhaps for the first time, or maybe in a brand new (way) ... and in this case it comes out in 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.'" Unfortunately, many critics found the film disingenuous and heavy-handed, with the Toronto Star's Peter Howell calling it "9/11 porn" and The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw declaring it a "meaty whiff of phoney-baloney." However, at the 2012 Academy Awards, the film still grabbed a best picture nomination and a best actor in a supporting role nomination for the great Max Von Sydow. Although the harsh criticisms are somewhat merited, it's hard not to feel moved by Oskar Schell's struggles.

Reign Over Me

"Reign Over Me" further explores the emotional impact of those left in the wake of 9/11. Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) loses his entire family in the World Trade Center attacks, and five years later, he's teetering on the edge of losing himself completely. He runs into his old college buddy, Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle), who decides to extend his friendship once again in hopes of bringing his friend back to life. It's apparent that Fineman's life stopped on the day he lost his family, and Johnson experiences his own struggles. The friends help each other. One of the rare dramatic departures for Adam Sandler, "Reign Over Me" explores painfully deep grief, and doesn't tie everything up with a neat bow.

According to Box Office Mojo, the film cost $20 million to make, and gained a small profit at the box office, earning over $22 million worldwide. Charlie Fineman is reminiscent of Parry (Robin Williams) in Terry Gilliam's "The Fisher King" — another layered character who struggles with unthinkable loss. A review in The Hollywood Reporter said the film "doesn't exploit our emotions about Sept. 11; it simply tells a story that exists because of what happened that day — one that should resonate with a wide, appreciative audience." The movie can prove dark at times, but ultimately centers on a beautiful story of friendship, loss, and healing.


Released on Netflix in 2020, "Worth" examines 9/11 from a legal standpoint. Written by Max Borenstein, the biopic stars Michael Keaton as Kenneth Feinberg, an attorney and law professor at Columbia University who is named Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. "Worth" depicts Feinberg's struggles to see the families of 9/11 victims receive just compensation. Feinberg also wrote the best-selling book, "What is a Life Worth?" which examines the painful task of attributing monetary value to the life of a human being, and which provides the source material for the film. The star-studded cast of "Worth" includes Amy Ryan as Feinberg's law partner, Camille Brios, and Stanley Tucci as 9/11 widower Charles Wolf.

In an exclusive interview at Looper, Borenstein reflected on 9/11, stating, "I think it's one of those events that is seared in our memory, largely because everything in our lives changed forever. It's a lot like the Kennedy assassination was for another generation — one of those things that the event itself was dramatic and tragic, but beyond that, it just reshaped the way we as Americans, and I think citizens of the world, kind of conceive our place in it." "Worth" empathetically reminds us that for those who lost loved ones on 9/11, the pain has never truly gone away.

Zero Dark Thirty

The film "Zero Dark Thirty" focuses on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden provided a face for the terror of 9/11, and the movie pulled audience members in with a taut, thrilling, fast-paced plot that showed his assassination. The scenes depicting brutal torture techniques may prove difficult to watch, but they expose problematic war-time interrogations. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, "Zero Dark Thirty" showcased a star-studded cast including Jessica Chastain, Chris Pratt, and Kyle Chandler. The movie raked in over $132 million at the global box office. The film led to tough questions, and sparked public controversy. A review in the New York Times called the movie, "A wrenchingly sad, soul-shaking story about revenge and its moral costs, which makes it the most important American fiction movie about Sept. 11, a landmark that would be more impressive if there were more such films to choose from."

Jessica Chastain snagged a best actress Golden Globe Award for her role in the film and critics sang its praises. However, "Zero Dark Thirty" was largely snubbed at the Academy Awards due in part to the debate surrounding its sobering look at murky wartime ethics. "Zero Dark Thirty" doesn't provide escapism per se, but the phenomenal direction, cinematography, writing, and acting emotionally frame vital questions about our country and the cost of waging war.

Come From Away

In 2021, the Tony Award-winning 9/11 musical "Come From Away" made its television debut on Apple TV+. Based on the true story of 6,759 people whose U.S.-bound flights were grounded in the small Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland, the musical showcases the hope that rose amid the uncertainty of September 11, 2001. Gander holds a population of only 9,651 people, and the island's population swelled with the stranded passengers (aka "the plane people"). For the next five days, the citizens of Newfoundland opened their homes and hearts to the plane people, providing them with places to sleep, food, and kindness. The story sounds too good to be true — as if the musical had created a fantasy world. Yet in a dark moment, ordinary people acted upon a desire to help others. Jenn Colella, who plays pilot Beverly Bass, spoke to Broadway.com about filming the show for an audience of 9/11 frontline workers and survivors, saying, "We tried to prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally for that moment. We knew it was going to feel overwhelming."

Per Deadline, the musical ends its Broadway run in 2022, and stands as the third longest-running Broadway musical (behind "Dear Evan Hansen" and "Tina-The Tina Turner Musical"). "Come From Away" takes the stories of real-life people and weaves them through excellent songwriting to convey the interconnected nature of humanity.

The Space Between

The 9/11 film "The Space Between" debuted in 2010 at the Tribeca Film Festival, before hitting cable television via the USA Network. The indie drama features the story of a 9-year-old Muslim boy, Omar Hassan (Anthony Keyvan), an unaccompanied minor flying on September 11. Flight attendant Montine McLeod (Melissa Leo) becomes Hassan's temporary guardian when their flight is grounded in Texas, and she learns that his father worked in the World Trade Center — the elder Hassan goes missing after the attacks on the Twin Towers. The story depicts the bond the two form as they embark on a road trip to New York together, and shows that common struggles and desires run deeper than religious and racial differences.

At times a bit on the nose, "The Space Between" elicits strong performances from Leo and the young Keyvan and holds moments of emotional resonance. In a tepid review of the film, The Hollywood Reporter said, "Writer/director Travis Fine handles the thawing relationship between the two protagonists well...but something more was needed to balance this two-hander and to deepen the bond Fine eventually envisions between the boy and his new guardian."

Windows on the World

The 2019 award-winning "Windows on the World" saw 9/11 framed as a heart-rending and heart-warming immigrant's tale. Ryan Guzman stars as Fernando, a young Mexican who watches the Twin Towers collapse from his television screen and immediately worries about his father Balthazar (Edward James Olmos), who immigrated to New York City in search of a better life. Balthazar works at the famed Windows on the World restaurant, located on the top floors of the World Trade Center's North Tower, and remains missing weeks after the attacks, his undocumented status standing as an obstacle in discerning his fate. Fernando embarks on a journey to find his dad and uncovers truths about both himself and his father along the way.

Although "Windows on the World” is set against a 9/11 backdrop, the showcased themes of racial discrimination and immigrant life resonate in today's world as well. In an exclusive screening of the film, "Windows on the World" screenwriter, Robert Mailer Anderson, told The Wrap, "We're fighting cultural wars right now, and we have to create empathy and understanding. The current political climate has made a story like this more necessary." The father-son drama was a father-son effort behind-the-scenes, too: Edward James Olmos' son, Michael, directed the moving tale.

25th Hour

"25th Hour," a 2002 crime drama helmed by Spike Lee and starring Edward Norton, has been called by Rolling Stone, "the only 9/11 movie that still matters." The film uses New York City as a character, and authentically displays the dark atmosphere left by the attacks. Alas, "25th Hour" isn't directly about 9/11, and centers on Norton's protagonist, Monty Brogan, who's set to begin a seven-year prison sentence. Yet Lee masterfully injects the palpable sorrow of post-9/11 New York into the film. The attacks are a part of the overall story of "25th Hour," although without any explicit references or storylines that revolve around September 11th: Tributes to the fallen and American flags are seen throughout the film. In one scene, Norton's co-stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper peer out an apartment window that overlooks Ground Zero.

In the "25th Hour" DVD commentary, Norton says, "It was like looking at it through the angle of another story, but the melancholy that the city was full of in that year afterward. I feel like the impact of 9/11 emotionally is all through this movie." Director Spike Lee spoke to the New York Times after the film's release and summed up the film by stating "We were very careful how we were going to portray Sept.11 because we know it's still very painful and that it will always be very painful for those who lost people."

Man in Red Bandana

Released in 2017, the 9/11 documentary "Man in Red Bandana" tells the true story of Welles Remy Crowther, who displayed true heroism in the World Trade Center evacuation. Crowther chose to lead others to safety before perishing in the tower's collapse. He wasn't a firefighter or first responder -– he was an equities trader. Yet, he sprung into action, and his story wasn't known until months later, when survivors recalled a man in a red bandana who saved their lives. Crowther's actions on 9/11 have inspired many to pay tribute to him, and to live their lives in a way that honors his memory.

The documentary's title stems from the red bandana Crowther had tied around his face while saving countless lives. In the film, Crowther's father, Jefferson Crowther, recounts gifting his son with two red handkerchiefs, "one to show and one to blow": Welles Crowther ensured he always had two red bandanas on him for the rest of his life. The documentary features the original Lyle Lovett song, "One Red Bandana" and narration by Gwyneth Paltrow. It showcases interviews with Crowther's loved ones along with those he saved. Coincidentally, during filming, Paltrow discovered that her parents were long-time friends of the Crowther family (per People Magazine), making her participation in the project all the more poignant. Crowther was just 24 years old when he perished, and his story is truly awe-inspiring.

American Sniper

Directed by Clint Eastwood, the biopic "American Sniper" is tangentially related to 9/11; without the fateful events of that day, the story behind the film may have never occurred. The movie focuses on Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, who served four tours in Iraq. Kyle's life and eventual murder moved the hearts of many, and proved the far-reaching ripple effects of 9/11.

The film focused on Kyle's struggles with his wartime activities once he'd returned to civilian life, and garnered mostly positive reviews from audiences and critics. On February 2, 2013, Chris Kyle was murdered by Eddie Ray Routh, a veteran with severe PTSD who Kyle brought to a shooting range: A tragic loss of two lives. "American Sniper" does not show the murder onscreen: Screenwriter Jason Hall told the New York Daily News, "In the end, I think we felt that this was a film about Chris's life and not about his death. We also wanted to be careful not to glorify the guy who did it." "American Sniper" earned a slew of Academy Award nominations, and brought in an impressive $547,459,020 worldwide.

The Hurt Locker

The second 9/11 film directed by Kathryn Bigelow on our list, "The Hurt Locker" carries some of the same emotional weight and harrowing cinematography of "Zero Dark Thirty." Bigelow's first feature since 2002, "The Hurt Locker" is full of the bleak thrill of war. The film features Jeremy Renner as Sergeant First Class William James — the leader of a U.S. Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team in Iraq. The sergeant's job entails securing areas strewn with Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), a common weapon of mercenaries and terrorists. Bigelow isn't afraid to show the horrifying realities of war: James witnesses the deaths of his team members, and of a local Iraqi boy, Beckham (Christopher Sayegh), who he's befriended. When James returns stateside and attempts to settle into civilian life with his family, he finds he's been so conditioned to war, that's the only situation in which he knows how to function.

In an interview with CinemaBlend, Renner talked about the intensely arduous process of donning a 100-pound bomb deflection suit, and how proud he was of the film. He said of the finished product, "it's very intelligent, and has a lot of great character driving elements in it that drive the story. I think all across the board ... it has something to say about human drama." In 2010, "The Hurt Locker" won six Academy Awards (including best picture).

Flight 93

Based on the same 9/11 events behind "United 93," "Flight 93" was made for television, and debuted on A & E in 2006, just before the motion picture's release. The moving telefilm injects more personal elements into its storyline than its cinematic counterpart, although it still pulls timeline details and dialogue from official records. Both films about the ill-fated flight and thwarted terrorist attack focus on the bravery of ordinary people, and they differ enough to make them equally watchable. Per Variety, the telefilm was made with the cooperation of victims' families, and "at its core ... eschews cheap emotional flourishes or gimmickry in a tale that needs none, featuring convincing performances and a gripping pace, particularly given the preordained outcome."

The budgetary differences between television versus the big screen do nothing to take away from the universal emotional resonance of the story. The telefilm is a quieter version of the events that unfolded on the flight, but allows for more character development of the passengers, and the loved ones who wait to hear of their fates. EW called the telefilm "a generous yet unbombastic treatment appropriate for heroes who armed themselves only with pots of boiling water and trays of soda pop."

Rebuilding Hope: The Children of 9/11

"Rebuilding Hope: The Children of 9/11" is a riveting documentary that first aired in 2021 on the Magnolia Network. The film chronicles the lives and families of four children who were born after their fathers perished in the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. People.com has spent the past twenty years covering these families, and paid tribute to them before the film's release. Siblings Nicole Gartenberg Pila and Jamie Gartenberg (who lost their father Jim), Ronald Milam Jr. (who lost his father, Army Major Ronald Milam), and Alexa Smagala (whose father was New York firefighter, Stan Smagala) recount their struggles and triumphs as they grew up in the shadow of 9/11.

Per People, Smagala shares the following in the film, "What happened to my dad made me who I am today — and I want people to know that." A review published in the Independent discusses the lack of anger any of the profiled children hold for those who killed their fathers. For each of these now-adult children, their fathers left legacies they long to live up to, and the film allows viewers to grow attached to each of the families, who are portrayed in an authentic light.

The Report

Amazon Prime's 2019 political drama, "The Report," deals with some of the torture techniques the CIA used on terror suspects in the wake of 9/11. Based on a true story, the film features Adam Driver as Senate staff member Daniel J. Jones, who was selected by Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Benning) to investigate the 2005 destruction of CIA 9/11 interrogation videotapes. Jones spent six years conducting a thorough investigation and compiled a 6,700-page report on his findings. Jones ultimately blew the whistle on the horrific treatment of 9/11 suspects held at Guantánamo Bay and other detention centers.

"The Report" stirs anger and frustration at the ways in which the U.S. has abused its power. Driver's co-star Jon Hamm (who plays President Barack Obama's Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough) told Vanity Fair why he signed on to act in the film, "If somebody lights a fire in your house, you can't ignore it just because someone else lit it. It's still a fire, you have to put it out ... When people like Dan (Jones) do their jobs and tell the truth, and when people like Dianne Feinstein does her job and gets it out there, people actually get to know the truth." The critically-acclaimed film reminds viewers that all governments must be held accountable, and raises many thought-provoking questions.

The Mauritanian

The 2021 9/11-related legal drama "The Mauritanian" poses further troubling questions about Guantánamo Bay. Based on a memoir by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the film centers on the post-9/11 imprisonment of Slahi at Guantanamo Bay. Starring Jodie Foster as Slahi's attorney Nancy Hollander, Shailene Woodley as her associate Teri Duncan, and Tahar Rahim as Slahi, "The Mauritanian" highlights torture suffered by detainees at the Guantánamo Detention Center. Hollander and Duncan become horrified when they learn of the abuse Slahi received at the hands of his captors and his wrongful incarceration, and they work tirelessly to get him released. Slahi was released 14 years after his arrest without ever being formally charged with any crime.

The film marked Foster's first starring role in a major studio film since the 2013 movie "Elysium." Foster spoke to Deadline about her view of "The Mauritanian" and explained, "I think this film deals with, obliquely, the residual effect of what 9/11 meant to Americans and what it made us become. It's a way to process this weird transformation our country went through at this particular moment in time." Rahim plays a compelling and sympathetic Slahi, and it's easy to feel engaged with his character.

The Second Day

"The Second Day" is a beautiful 2011 documentary filmed from the perspective of a young boy in New York City on 9/11. When Brook Peters was 4 years old, he attended a kindergarten class at P.S. 150 in Tribeca — mere blocks away from the World Trade Center. At 11, Peters began recalling his experiences in front of a video camera. He completed his 38-minute documentary at 14 years old, and initially shared it with Ground Zero-area schools to inspire others impacted by 9/11. In the film, Peters interviewed his classmates, 9/11 first responders, and teachers (among others) about their recollection of that day, and what they learned as a result.

New York Magazine interviewed the teenage Peters (then in eighth grade) about his inspiring film, which had just debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. In the interview, Peters espoused these words of wisdom, "I've always thought that the more that you learn now, the less you'll have to do later in life. That way, you can just be more sage and wise." As a result of his film, Peters had a brief moment in the spotlight, and was even named the ABC News "Person of the Week." Per "The Second Day" website, Peters went on to attend Emory University, studying filmmaking.

The Hamburg Cell

Released in 2004, "The Hamburg Cell" is a British-Canadian television movie offering a fictionalized account of the lives of the 9/11 terrorists. The film depicts the slow radicalization of Western Muslims in Hamburg, Germany, who transform into militant extremists and ultimately, form a terrorist cell and become involved with the 9/11 attacks. Many of the 19 9/11 hijackers came from middle-class, moderate backgrounds, with their militancy beginning in early adulthood. "The Hamburg Cell" focuses on Ziah Jarrah (Karim Saleh) who, to those who knew him, was an unlikely member of the Hamburg terrorist cell. Jarrah moved to Germany from Lebanon to attend university, and kept his extremist views a secret from family and friends.

"The Hamburg Cell" injects Jarrah and his cohorts with authentic thoughts and emotions — to a certain extent, they are humanized. The film begs a question that eerily can be posed in the political climate of the U.S. today as well: How do educated, rational people fall for lies that vilify entire swaths of humanity? There are no protagonists in "The Hamburg Cell," only broken, misguided people who destroy countless lives based on extremist beliefs. The Guardian praised the film in a review, saying, "If there is a more important, more urgent story to be told than this, I can't think of it: the story of the 9/11 hijackers."

In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11

The HBO documentary, "In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11" dedicates 30 minutes to what students at Stuyvesant High, just blocks from the World Trade Center, witnessed on September 11, 2001. 18 years after the events of 9/11, eight former Stuyvesant High students gathered to remember that day and the role it played in shaping their lives. The documentary's director, Amy Schatz, holds an extensive resume in documentaries on difficult subject matter geared toward kids, including a film about the Parkland shooting, "Song of Parkland."

According to Variety, Schatz partnered with HBO and the 9/11 Tribute Museum to show modern kids how the attacks occurred and how to work to prevent similar tragedies in the future. Schatz talked to Variety about "In the Shadow of the Towers," and said, "These students ended up being, to me, a nice representation of America: people of diverse backgrounds, first and second generation Americans, children of immigrants, immigrants themselves." The former students interviewed for the film include Mohammad Haque, who lost his uncle on 9/11. The stories shared in the film are powerful and moving, and give great insight into how teenagers processed the attacks on America.

9/11 Fifteen Years Later

Every year as the 9/11 anniversary approaches, news networks and streaming services are inundated with documentaries about the attacks. Several of these documentary films stand the test of time, and "9/11 Fifteen Years Later" — a look back at the 2002 "9/11" documentary by the Naudet brothers – truly shines. The French-American Gédéon and Jules Naudet were in New York City on September 11, 2001, to film a rookie firefighter with historic Engine 7, Ladder 1 when Jules accompanied firefighters on a call at the World Trade Center. Although Gédéon initially stayed behind at the station, he soon joined his brother. The filmmakers recorded the events inside of the tower, providing the most extensive video footage of the attacks.

15 years after the initial release, additional footage and narration from actor Denis Leary were added and CNN aired the final result. The Naudet brothers' film proves tough to watch — the terror and death filling the camera lens is unfiltered and may evoke a visceral reaction. However, as time passes, it becomes easy to detach from the sobering horror of 9/11, and "9/11 Fifteen Years Later" helps the world never forget. The brothers sat down with Vanity Fair to discuss their memories of the chaotic moments spent inside the World Trade Center. Jules Naudet remembered, "The light changes and everything becomes pitch-black. I definitely think the building is coming down. I was afraid of dying."

Ash Tuesday

After its premiere in 2003, the 9/11 indie drama "Ash Tuesday" was met with little fanfare. The film showcased the stories of six Manhattan residents coping with the aftermath of 9/11, who find their lives are linked. "Ash Tuesday" features a cast full of stellar character actors, too. Janeane Garofalo, Giancarlo Esposito, Jennifer Carpenter, Tony Goldwyn, and Pauly Perrette play the interconnected, lonely New York characters, and each gives a convincing performance. The movie never gets too heavy as scenes are injected with light, witty humor.

Mixed reviews may have sunk the small film, which in many ways feels more like a play than a movie, but the storylines are nevertheless genuinely moving. Variety declared that audiences would, "find this earnest trauma-fest awkward and old hat." Yet, the movie infused its broken characters with hope and effectively promoted the message that we all need relationships to help us through the darkest times.

102 Minutes that Changed America

In 2008, the History Channel premiered "102 Minutes that Changed America," a powerful 9/11 documentary. The film focuses on the time that elapsed between the moment American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower, and the moment the World Trade Center collapsed. A collection of raw video footage from hundreds of witnesses allows audiences to view those 102 minutes in real-time and the end result is sobering. The documentary provides a historical record for those who didn't experience 9/11 firsthand. Emergency calls and recorded voicemails during the attacks palpably capture the tsunami of emotions experienced by people in New York City on that fateful day.

Sans analysis, narration, and soundtrack, "102 Minutes that Changed America" is harrowing and contains some painful footage to watch. Filmmakers Nicole Rittenmeyer and Seth Skundrick also edited and produced "9/11 The Days After" as a follow-up to their hard-hitting documentary. "102 Minutes that Changed America" didn't follow an outline or a script — the collected footage the movie contains speaks heartbreaking volumes all on its own.

Dear John

Based on the 2006 Nicholas Sparks novel, "Dear John" was released in 2010, and the film sets its protagonists in a world directly related to 9/11. Films based on Sparks novels à la "The Notebook" often evoke thoughts of sappy, tear-jerking romances — and "Dear John" doesn't provide an exception. However, the film also tackles the struggles of father-son relationships and the relational costs of war. John Tyree (Channing Tatum) is an army staff sergeant counting down the days until his retirement. In the spring of 2001, he meets and falls in love with Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried), but their passionate romance halts when the 9/11 attacks occur and Tyree is deployed. Tears and heartache soon follow, and Curtis writes her love a "Dear John" letter.

Solid chemistry and vulnerable acting from Tatum and Seyfried balance out the overwrought emotion, and their romance is believable. Phenomenal character actor Richard Jenkins plays Tyree's father, and it's hard not to root for the healing of fissures between father and son. Although critics didn't love the film, "Dear John" grossed just under $115 million worldwide. In equal turns heartbreaking and heartwarming, the film deals with authentic issues, including the far-reaching impacts of 9/11, and may induce waterworks.