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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

Country-pop singer, Lizzie Sider sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to perform songs from her new album, “Butterfly,” and to talk about her anti-bullying tour.

Blogs

African Music Treasures