Director: Paul Greengrass
Stars: J.J. Johnson, David Alan Basche, Liza Colón-Zayas
“How soon is too soon?” is a commonly asked question when it comes to applying the big-screen treatment to tragic moments in American history. Few events better exemplify this than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In 2006, we learned that Hollywood believed that five years was enough time for people to want to replay these events on the big screen, with both Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center and Paul Greengrass’ United 93 hitting theaters less than four months apart.
Though both films favor sensitivity over shock value, neither picture proved particularly profitable at the box office. But Greengrass’ elegantly paced drama—which offers a real-time accounting of the hijacking and subsequent crash (prompted by the passengers) of United Flight 93—is worth a second look. Replacing melodrama with honesty, the film’s straightforward style plays (like other films on this list) a bit like a documentary, letting the everyday heroes who emerged that day speak for themselves and, as a result, creating one of the most moving films in recent memory.