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Image: 'United 93'
Universal Pictures
"United 93" was just one of the heartbreaking films about the Sept. 11 attacks.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 9/7/2011 11:54:05 AM ET 2011-09-07T15:54:05
OPINION

Spoiler alert: Plot twists for various movies ahead.

In some ways, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were just too earth shattering to take in. And in the ensuing movies about the attacks, it was often small scenes and lines that stood out, whether they aimed straight at viewers' hearts or provided a small moment of levity.

'World Trade Center'
Nicolas Cage, as a police officer surviving the tower collapse, is finally wheeled into the hospital. His agonized wife, Maria Bello, has been frantically trying to get to him. When they’re allowed to see one another, Cage’s line, “You kept me alive,” coming near the end of an already emotionally charged movie, is the get-out-your-handkerchief moment.

Video: TODAY remembers the sights and sounds of 9/11 (on this page)
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'Reign Over Me'
Adam Sandler? As a mourning 9/11 widower? It’s probably what kept audiences away in droves: His fans didn’t want to see him in a 9/11-based drama and his non-fans didn’t want to see a 9/11-based drama with him in it. But Sandler shuffling around his empty apartment, locked away from humanity, lost in grief, is more moving than anyone expected.

Story: 10 years later, TV still has trouble capturing 9/11

'Man On Wire'
A moving, exciting documentary from 2008 about tightrope walker Philippe Petit. In 1974, Petit decided to walk on a wire between the Twin Towers. The archival photos of the actual event succeed in recalling a moment in history when the sight of the famous skyscrapers evoked hope and achievement.

Story: See the Twin Towers rise again in movie clips

'Inside Man'
Like so many other post-9/11 movies set in New York that never actually address the actual attacks, this briskly paced heist movie from Spike Lee is shot through with plenty of bitter, dark comedy informed by the event, specifically a scene where police interrogate a cantankerous young man in a turban who, exasperated, barks, “I’M A SIKH!”

Story: Twin towers erased from some films after 9/11

'United 93'
You might think that the rousing “Let’s roll!” scene of this movie would be its takeway moment. But it's the final shot, providing a cockpit pilot’s point of view of the inescapable and rapidly approaching ground that sticks forever, erasing inspiration and replacing it with chilling horror.

'Remember Me'
In what is essentially a romantic drama about an emotionally wounded young woman (Emilie de Ravin) and her equally damaged boyfriend (Robert Pattinson), the World Trade Center attacks are employed as a twist ending meant to wring tears. For audiences not paying attention to subtle calendar cues placed throughout the movie, one scene serves as the “Gotcha!” moment: Pattinson stares out the window of his father’s office while the camera slowly pulls back to reveal that he is standing inside the WTC and in the path of what will, in moments, be an oncoming plane.

Slideshow: Robert Pattinson

'Fahrenheit 9/11'
Call him manipulative, but Michael Moore knows how to pull news footage to make a point, especially when he employs footage of then-President George W. Bush on a golf course smoothly transitioning from grave warnings about terrorism to jokingly teeing off on the green: “We must stop the terror," Bush tells the cameras. "I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you. Now watch this drive.”

Dave White is a film critic at movies.com.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: September movies

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  1. 'Apollo 18'

    Stars: Lloyd Owen, Warren Christie

    Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 2

    Think there wasn't an "Apollo 18" lunar mission? Think again. Decades-old found footage from the supposed secret expedition reveals the reason the U.S. has never returned to the moon. Hint: Didja see "Alien"? (The Weinstein Company) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. 'The Debt'

    Stars: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Tom Wilkinson

    Director: John Madden

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 2

    "The Debt" begins in 1997, as shocking news reaches retired Mossad secret agents Rachel (Mirren) and Stefan (Wilkinson) about their former colleague David. The group supposedly tracked down a Nazi war criminal in 1966 -- or did they? (Miramax Films) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. 'Shark Night 3D'

    Stars: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan and Alyssa Diaz

    Director: David R. Ellis

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 2

    The title, "Sharl Night 3D," says it all. But sharks in a freshwater lake? Hollywood will do anything to get the blood, bikinis and severed limbs flying in 3-D. (Relativity Media) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. 'A Good Old Fashioned Orgy'

    Stars: Jason Sudeikis, Leslie Bibb and Tyler Labine

    Directors: Alex Gregory, Peter Huyck

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 2

    In "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy," Jason Sudeikis and pals have partied for years at his dad's beach house. But when dad (Don Johnson) announces he's selling the place, his son decides it's time for the ultimate party. (Samuel Goldwyn Films) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. 'Contagion'

    Stars: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Jude Law

    Director: Steven Soderbergh

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 9

    Have your face masks ready -- you'll want one after seeing "Contagion." The action thriller follows people trying to survive a lethal virus. Big stars abound, and it sure looks like from promos that things don't go well for Gwyneth Paltrow. (Warner Bros) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. 'Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star'

    Stars: Nick Swardson, Don Johnson and Christina Ricci

    Director: Tom Brady

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 9

    "Bucky Larson" is a kid from the Midwest who moves out to Hollywood in order to follow in his parents footsteps -- which for him, means becoming a porn star. (Columbia Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. 'Warrior'

    Stars: Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte and Joel Edgerton

    Director: Gavin O'Connor

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 9

    In "Warrior," two estranged brothers face the fight of a lifetime. Nick Nolte plays their alcoholic dad, who trains one to eventually land in the ring against the other in a mixed martial-arts tournament. (Chuck Zlotnick) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. 'Straw Dogs'

    Stars: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard

    Director: Rod Lurie

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 16

    "Straw Dogs" is a remake of the 1971 Dustin Hoffman thriller, infamous for its controversial rape scene. L.A. screenwriter David Sumner relocates with his wife to her hometown in the deep South. There, while tensions build between them, a brewing conflict with locals becomes a threat to them both. (Screen Gems) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. 'I Don't Know How She Does It'

    Stars: Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan and Kelsey Grammer

    Director: Douglas McGrath

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 16

    "I Don't Know How She Does It" is a comedy centered on the life of Kate Reddy (Parker), a finance executive who is the breadwinner for her husband and two kids. Based on the best-selling novel. (The Weinstein Company) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. 'Drive'

    Stars: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Bryan Cranston

    Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 16

    In "Drive," Gosling plays a Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman. After a heist goes wrong, he discovers that a contract has been put on his life. (Richard Foreman Jr Smpsp / FilmDistrict) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. 'Moneyball'

    Stars: Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright and Jonah Hill

    Director: Bennett Miller

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 23

    Brad Pitt stars as Oakland A's manager Billy Beane in "Moneyball," based on Michael Lewis' book. The focus is on Beane's attempt to create a competitive team despite Oakland's unfavorable financial situation. (Columbia Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. 'Abduction'

    Stars: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins and Alfred Molina

    Director: John Singleton

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 23

    In "Abduction," Taylor Lautner plays a young man who sets out to uncover the truth about his life after finding his baby photo on a missing persons website. (Lionsgate) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. 'Dolphin Tale'

    Stars: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr.

    Director: Charles Martin Smith

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 23

    IThe 3-D film "Dolphin Tale" is is inspired by the true story of a bottlenose dolphin named Winter who lost her tail in a crab trap. Her human friends work frantically to create a prosthetic so she can still swim. (Warner Bros.) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. 'Dream House'

    Stars: Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts

    Director: Jim Sheridan

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 30

    The beautiful home in "Dream House" is more of a nightmare. Soon after moving in, a family learns that a mother and her children were brutally murdered there. (Universal Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. '50/50'

    Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and Anna Kendrick

    Director: Jonathan Levine

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 30

    "50/50" is a comedic account of a 27-year-old man's cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease. (Summit Entertainment) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. 'Killer Elite'

    Stars: Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro

    Director: Gary McKendry

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 30

    Action film "Killer Elite" focuses on a retired member of Britain's Elite Special Air Service (Jason Statham) who is forced into action when his mentor (Robert De Niro) is taken hostage. His mission: kill three assassins dispatched by their cunning leader (Clive Owen). (Open Road Films) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 'What's Your Number?'

    Stars: Anna Faris, Chris Pratt and Chris Evans

    Director: Mark Mylod

    Scheduled release date: Sept. 30

    "What's Your Number?" refers to the number of men a woman has slept with. Anna Faris plays Ally, a woman whose number is 20, as she looks back at those men wondering if any of them are her true love. (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
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Video: TODAY remembers the sights and sounds of 9/11

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