The twentieth anniversary of 9/11 is in two days. We’re continuing to suggest resources to learn more about that day and its consequences. Today we’re recommending documentaries. A good documentary does more than give you facts. It gives you insight into why things happened and what they meant to the people who experienced them.
Dozens of documentaries have been released about 9/11, so any list of documentaries worth watching will inevitably miss ones worth watching. Some early 9/11 documentaries include Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero, The Man Who Knew, and 9/11: Phone Calls from the Towers. Moreover, several documentaries are set to debut over the next two days. Among these are Paramount+’s The 26th Street Garage: The FBI's Untold Story of 9/11, Discovery+’s No Responders Left Behind, CBS’s The CIA: Race Against Time–The True Story of the CIA and 9/11, and a suite of offerings from the History Channel: Rise and Fall: The World Trade Center; 9/11: The Legacy; 9/11: Four Flights; and 9/11: I Was There.
We look forward to watching all of these offerings. But today we are sticking to our rule of recommending resources that are available at the time we post. So here are the seven recent 9/11 documentaries we are recommending:
9/11: Inside the President’s War Room (2021). Ever wonder what it was like to be in the George W. Bush administration on 9/11? Inside the President’s War Room tells that story. Interviews with former Bush administration officials—including President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State Colin Powell—provide a glimpse of just how surprised and horrified America’s leaders were by the events of that day. You can watch 9/11: Inside the President’s War Room on Apple TV.
9/11: One Day in America (2021). The 9/11 attacks brought tragedy to New York City, but also highlighted the bravery and patriotism of its inhabitants. Over the course of six episodes, National Geographic’s 9/11: One Day in America lays out the events of 9/11 in New York City from the perspective of those survived them and those who came to their aid. The documentary follows firefighters and paramedics as they try to rescue victims, and survivors as they try to reunite with their loved ones. You can watch 9/11: One Day in America on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, or Hulu.
Generation 9/11 (2021). Nearly three thousand people died in the 9/11 attacks. Some one hundred of them were expectant fathers. PBS’s Generation 9/11 tells the stories of seven children who never met their fathers because of the terrorist attacks. Now in their twenties, they reflect on what it was like to grow up without their fathers, their relationship with 9/11, and the direction they see the world headed after 9/11. You can watch Generation 9/11 on the PBS website.
In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11 (2019). Students at Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan watched from their classrooms as the Twin Towers fell and their building shook in response. Two decades after the attack, director Amy Schatz gathered eight former Stuyvesant High students to recount their experiences from that day. What emerges is a perspective on the attack from young people who were just coming of age at the time. You can watch In the Shadow of the Towers on HBO Max.
Muslim in Trump's America (2020). Director Deeyah Khan explores the legacy of 9/11 and the recent rise in anti-Muslim intolerance using interviews with both Muslim Americans and members of hate groups. Khan captures a unique moment in the United States, filming before and amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd protests. Muslim in Trump’s America won a Peabody Award in 2021. You can watch it on YouTube.
Revealed: The Hunt for Bin Laden (2021). Navy SEAL Team Six raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, around 1:00 a.m. on May 2, 2011. Moments later the al-Qaeda leader was dead. Although the raid lasted just thirty-eight minutes, years of searching and planning went into it. Based on the 9/11 Memorial and Museum’s exhibit with the same name, Revealed recounts the decade-long mission to locate bin Laden. Director Andrew Kukura interviews former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former CIA Director Leon Panetta, and other top U.S. officials to show how the U.S. intelligence community tracked bin Laden and how the administration responded when he was located. After you watch Revealed, check out this discussion of the documentary from CFR. You can watch Revealed on Amazon Prime or Google Play.
Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror (2021). 9/11 launched the United States into a fight against jihadist terrorism that continues to this day. Over the course of five episodes, Turning Point unpacks the events of 9/11, as well as the timeline and ramifications of the resulting war on terrorism. The documentary also includes interviews with senior Bush administration officials, U.S. servicemembers, members of the Taliban, and more. You can watch Turning Point on Netflix.
Here are the other entries in this series:
- More Resources Worth Exploring About 9/11
- Seven Reflections Worth Reading About 9/11
- Seven Movies Worth Watching About 9/11
- 9/11 Online Exhibits and Resources Worth Viewing
- Seven Resources Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Theories
- Seven Podcasts Worth Listening to About 9/11
- Seven More Books Worth Reading About 9/11 and Its Aftermath
Margaret Gach and Leila Marhamati assisted in the preparation of this post.