News / Arts & Entertainment

New York's Twin Towers Appear in Many Hollywood Films

New York City skyline with World Trade Center twin towers in Center. (1990 file photo)
New York City skyline with World Trade Center twin towers in Center. (1990 file photo)
Penelope Poulou

For almost 30 years, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center graced the New York skyline. They were 110 stories high and symbolized strength and optimism. The monumental complex in Lower Manhattan was at the heart of New York's financial center. But the towers were more than that. They became a landmark of popular culture. For three decades, they were showcased in more than 1,000 films. For  Americans and people around the world, they became an emblem of New York and the entire USA.

In 1978, the world watched as Superman, the all-American hero, brought truth and justice to Metropolis.  It was the first of the "Superman" films, showcasing Christopher Reeve as the red caped man of steel. New York's World Trade Center provided the background.

"It summarized a certain kind of American grandeur. Not the grandeur of old. Not the grandeur of tradition because they were so new and so modernist in their design," explains film critic David Sterritt. "But the grandeur, I would say, of sheer American powerfulness."

Hard to miss

Film critic David Sterritt
Film critic David Sterritt

For years film Sterritt lived next to the Twin Towers.  

"I was never very fond of them architecturally," he admits. "However, they certainly are large. I guess for a while they were the tallest building in the world and it’s kind of an American triumphalism here. You not only build the tallest building, but you build it twice!”

Sterritt says the sheer size of the buildings made them hard to miss.

The Twin Towers were also in the drama Wall Street as well as in the opening shots of Brian de Palma's The Bonfire of the Vanities.

Both films highlighted the arrogance and greed of Wall Street in the 1980s.

Mike Nichols's 1987 Working Girl depicts the Towers as a power center.  But here, the Towers are a symbol of women's empowerment.

At the center of the story is Tess, a working class woman from Staten Island, a ferry ride away from Manhattan. She dreams of making it New York's financial district.  She finally succeeds.

The 1979 re-make of King Kong has the giant ape climbing the Twin Towers,  not the Empire State Building as in the original.  

Dramatic stunt

But the most dramatic stunt was in 1974, by the French high wire artist Philippe Petit.  He secretly stretched a wire between the Twin Towers and walked on it for 45 minutes. The police were left to look on.

The 2008 documentary Man on Wire, captures the breathtaking stunt with photographs and original footage. It represented one man's power over the towering edifice.  

The Towers also became linked to romance, like in the 1987 film Moonstruck which features the steel buildings in New York nostalgia. The  story centers around Loretta Castorini, an Italian-American widow who falls in love with a one-handed baker in Brooklyn, played by Nicholas Cage.

In one poetic moment, a full moon shines over Loretta's quaint Brooklyn neighborhood, stirring the hearts of its Italian residents, while the Towers shimmer in the background.  

Disaster movies also appropriated the Towers. In Roland Emmerich's 1996 Independence Day, aliens from another planet destroy, one by one, America's  landmarks, including the World Trade Center.   

"The Twin Towers have been destroyed in various disaster movies that were made before 9/11," notes film critic Sterritt. "That became something that you couldn't do even retroactively after 9/11."

Post 9/11

In some cases, Sterritt says, filmmakers cut out scenes that showed the Towers so audiences wouldn't be upset.

One example can be found in footage from the 2002 movie Spiderman.  Sterritt believes the cuts were patronizing. But New Yorkers have their own opinion.  Here's what some at Ground Zero had to say:

"You know I lost some relatives there. So, it’s a sad thought for me unfortunately," one man said.

"When I see them in a movie, I think it's wonderful and I love it and then when we were travelling and coming across from Jersey we look over it and we don't see it, there is a big gap and we miss it," a woman said.

David Sterritt says the gap is seen best in the 2002 crime drama 25th Hour by Spike Lee, a quintessential New Yorker.

The camera focuses on two parallel beams of light shining up from where the Towers once stood, an amputated New York still feeling its extremities.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Joe Taylor sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his distinction as New York’s “Subway Idol,” and how he beat out thousands for that title. Joe performs several songs from his new CD, “Anything’s Possible.”