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Image: Captain America
Jay Maidment  /  Paramount Pictures
Chris Evans plays superhero Captain America in the movie version of the comic book.
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updated 9/11/2011 3:25:33 PM ET 2011-09-11T19:25:33

The day, it is understood, changed everything.

But how did 9/11 really change Hollywood—and its audience? Plenty, but here are five of the biggest ways:

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1. The Superhero Explosion: In the decade before 9/11, not a single man-in-tights movie led its year as the No. 1 box-office hit. Then, less than eight months after the terror attacks, the original Sam Raimi "Spider-Man" opened, and rewrote the record book. Moviegoers, never exactly adverse to heroes, suddenly were hungry for super-sized ones. Batman and Superman were dusted off; Iron Man, Thor, the Fantastic Four and more were all drafted. The comic-book's moment had arrived.

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Slideshow: Best and worst superhero costumes (on this page)

2. America First: True enough, the American consumer has always responded to flag-friendly titles. But since Sept. 11, there's no mistaking "America" is the producer's and viewer's choice, from "America's Got Talent" to "Captain America" (a gimme, granted) to the show that has dominated pop culture for eight of the last 10 TV seasons, "American Idol."

Story: 5 ways 9/11 didn't change Hollywood

3. Manly Men (and Women, Too): Firefighters, police and other rescue workers who ran toward disaster, rather than away from it, were revered more than ever in the post-9/11 world, and the burgeoning reality-TV genre was their tribute. For every "Teen Mom" trainwreck, there were countless more "Ice Road truckers," "Deadliest Catch" seafarers and "Dirty Jobs doers."

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

4. All Tickers, All the Time: Amid the information-overload of Sept. 11, Fox News ushered in the modern era of the ever-present headline scroll: It was running commentary for a world that needed a lot of explaining, and it hasn't stopped running since. Some people hate it; probably more would feel lost without it.

5. A Whole New War of the Worlds: In the months after Pearl Harbor, Hollywood cranked out the war movies for a receptive nation. In the 10 years since 9/11, films still can't address the New York and Washington D.C. events without being accused of being " offensive" (see: the disdain for Robert Pattinson's "Remember Me") or largely shunned (see: the modest box-office returns for Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center" and the Oscar-nominated "United 93"). Steven Spielberg probably came the closest to breaking down our barriers, but even he had to do it in the guise of a space-alien attack. The audience asked for space, and, for once, got it.

Story: Hollywood struggles with 9/11 films

And that's just for starters.

PHOTO TIMELINE: Hollywood After 9/11

© 2012 E! Entertainment Television, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Photos: Best and worst superhero costumes

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  1. Old-fashioned 'America'

    In the 2011 film "Captain America," Chris Evans' costume is meant to resemble a World War II airman's jumpsuit, director Joe Johnston told Entertainment Weekly. It's modest and practical, a far cry from the tight Spandex sported by many heroes. Evans told MTV News the costume was "not comfortable" but that the redesigned version he wears in "The Avengers" is more more modern and "looks fantastic." (Paramount Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Costume of the gods

    "Thor" isn't just a superhero, he's a Norse god, and his armor and cape reflect that. The L.A. Times reported that Chris Hemsworth was so afraid he wouldn't look strong enough to play the role that he worked out too much -- and for a while, his costume was too tight. He reportedly backed off on the workouts and his costume was altered to fit. (Paramount Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Cold as ice

    January Jones looks breathtakingly cold as Emma Frost in 2011's "X-Men: First Class." Jones told MTV her favorite costume from the film involved a fur cape. (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Not easy being 'Green'

    In 2011's "Green Lantern," part of Ryan Reynolds' glowing costume was CGI-generated, a decision which did not delight fanboys. (Warner Bros) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. I am 'Iron Man'

    Anyone could be inside Robert Downey Jr's "Iron Man" costume, but it's still recognized as one of the cooler hero costumes in recent years. You may also see it at your doorstep come October -- it's a popular Halloween choice. (Paramount Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Regular Joe

    Some superheroes don't really need Spandex. Seth Rogen pretty much just donned a mask to play 2011's "Green Hornet." (Columbia Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Does whatever a spider can

    We're used to seeing Spider-Man in red, white and blue, but in 2007's "Spider-Man 3," Peter Parker's suit mysteriously changes to black, bringing out the dark side of the hero. (Sony Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Bluer than blue

    In 2000's "X-Men," Mystique's blue skin sets her apart from the other heroes. (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Most embarrassing costume ever?

    Yes, that's George Clooney in the costume on the left, starring in 1997's "Batman & Robin." For some reason, the costume sported visible nipples, one of the oddest choices in superhero costuming ever. In the photo at right, Michael Keaton wears a more traditional batsuit in 1989's "Batman." (Warner Bros.) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Mrow!

    Some of the more notable comic-book costumes for women are that of slinky, sexy "Catwoman." Here, Michelle Pfeiffer plays her in 1992's "Batman Returns," while Halle Berry shows a little more skin in 2004's "Catwoman." Obviously, the costume designer took the words "cat suit" to heart. (Warner Bros.) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A classic

    Few superhero costumes stand the test of time as well as that worn by the late Christopher Reeve in 1978's "Superman." (Warner Bros.) Back to slideshow navigation
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Video: TODAY remembers the sights and sounds of 9/11