5 Movies That Took Place On September 11th Before 9/11

By  · Published on September 11th, 2014

Paramount Pictures

September 11th is a date that will forever live in infamy due to the terrorist attacks 13 years ago. Every time it comes around, we remember and honor the victims of what is usually written as the date itself, 9/11. Parents wish for their unborn kids not to be stuck with it as their birthday. Couples no longer plan their weddings on the day. It’s not an occasion for any other memories besides those of the events of 2001.

But it is one of 366 days on the calendar, and things have and will take place on that particular day in September. Famous people have died, including John Ritter. Other terrible incidents have happened, such as the U.S. embassy attack in Benghazi two years ago. Meanwhile, there are people celebrating anniversaries of weddings held before the attacks cast a dark shadow on the date (two of my own family members included). And people celebrate birthdays on September 11th, including Harry Connick Jr. and Moby.

Also occurring on September 11th in years prior to 2001 were Henry Hudson’s discovery of Manhattan (1609), the groundbreaking for the construction of the Pentagon (1941) and the first public performance of Stephen Foster’s “Oh! Susanna” (1847). And at least four known historical events happened on the date that have been depicted in movies. Joined with one fictional scene taking place on a September 11th, see these movies below.


September 11, 1297

Although Mel Gibson’s Best Picture winner depicts the Battle of Stirling Bridge, which took place on this day 717 years ago, the movie makes a glaring error for historians: there is no bridge in the sequence. Despite the title of the battle and the fact that the bridge itself was a significant part of the event. Instead, the Battle of Stirling on screen is something of a composite between that and other battles. Maybe it’s not even really set on September 11th. I don’t recall any page-a-day calendar being flipped to the date right before the battle begins.

George Washington II: The Forging of a Nation

September 11, 1789

Alexander Hamilton was officially appointed to the position of Secretary of the Treasury by George Washington on this date. Thomas Jefferson, upon returning to America from France, wouldn’t receive his official appointment to the position of Secretary of State for another two weeks. But it’s obviously more dramatic for this 1986 TV movie to show them receiving their jobs at the same time (with Hamilton portrayed by Richard Bekins opposite Jeffrey Jones as Jefferson and Barry Bostwick as Washington), given how much they clashed politically.

The Lindbergh Story

September 11, 1941

While not a prominent movie, The Lindbergh Story is an old documentary that must suffice until we get a full life story biopic of the famous aviator and infamous father of kidnapping victim. The third major act of his life is dominated by his opposition to World War II and the U.S. entering the conflict. In this doc is a rare film clip of him giving a historical speech in Des Moines as part of an America First rally.

The Battle of Chile

September 11, 1973

There may be dramatic films that involve the Chilean coup d’etat of 1973 and the resignation and death of Salvador Allende, but there is certainly none better than Patricio Guzman’s documentary classic. It’s actually in Part II of the film, a whole separately released section, that deals with the coup, and Guzman has extraordinary footage of the whole day’s events, most notably the military assault on the presidential palace. If you see this list as a recommendation of films, though, be sure to see all three parts as well as everything else by Guzman you can get your hands on.

The Big Lebowski

September 11, 1991

Conspiracy theorist love to bring up this one, the only fictional movie and event on the list, as some premonition of 9/11. Never mind that. Sometimes there’s just a man who needs a bit of half & half. There is no significance to the fact that the opening of the movie takes place on September 11 – or earlier if The Dude (Jeff Bridges) is into dating checks for a later time when he will have that 69 cents in his account.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.