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A Look at Terrorism on the Big Screen

Film expert lists 12 riveting Hollywood movies

Feb. 16, 2011
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Over the years, Hollywood has produced a number of meaningful movies about the deadly deeds of foreign and domestic terrorists. Most have been scary, suspenseful and provocative, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats. In alphabetical order, here are 12 super-tense films that delve into the terrifying ins and outs of individual and state-sponsored terrorism. Each is well worth seeing:

21 Hours at Munich
(1976): This film provides an hour-by-hour look at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games massacre of Israeli athletes by Black September terrorists. William Holden stars as a German police chief, along with Shirley Knight and a truly frightening Franco Nero.

Black Sunday
(1977): This is director John Frankenheimer’s peak in the genre. Israeli agents Robert Shaw and Steven Keats try to stop a blimp pilot (Bruce Dern) from blowing up the Super Bowl in Miami. Bekim Fehmiu and Marthe Keller are simply terrifying.

The Day of the Jackal
(1973): This crackerjack, true-life thriller is based on the 1963 plot to assassinate French President Charles De Gaulle. It features realistic work by Edward Fox as a hit man and Michael Lonsdale as a policeman. Directed by Fred Zinnemann, Jackal is a must-see.

Diplomatic Siege
(1999): Violent Serbian terrorists seize the U.S. Embassy in Romania, killing an American ambassador. But they don’t know that an atomic bomb is on the premises. This film stars Peter Weller, Daryl Hannah, Tom Berenger and a scary Adrian Pintea.

Dirty War
(2004): An emergency services exercise in London dealing with a terrorist chemical/biological attack turns real—with disastrous consequences. A sturdy cast includes Gavin Abbott, Joanne Adams and Shamshad Akhtar. Dirty War is riveting.

The Hamburg Cell
(2004): This film offers a true recounting of the Sept. 11 terrorists being recruited in Hamburg, Germany, and their training. It relates the human side of the young men and their families, and features, among others, Karim Saleh, Maral Kamel and Agni Scott.

The Hijacking of the Achille Lauro
(1989): Abu Abbas (Nabil Hakkim) and three other Palestinian Liberation Front members grab an Italian cruise ship in 1985. The cast of this sad story includes Karl Malden, Lee Grant, E.G. Marshall and Vera Miles.

Passenger 57
(1992): This film sees a jumbo jet taken over by a terrorist group led by a sadistic Bruce Payne and opposed by security man Wesley Snipes in the title role. It also features Alex Datcher as a beautiful stewardess, Tom Sizemore and Robert Hooks. Kevin Hooks directs.

Path to Paradise
(1997): Peter Gallagher and Marcia Gay Harden star in this taut account of the 1993 World Trade Center (WTC) bombing with bumbling terrorists and lax FBI hierarchy. The film ends with a prophetic comment by a captured terrorist during a WTC flyover.

(1942): Alfred Hitchcock’s heart-pounding Saboteur stars Robert Cummings as an innocent dupe battling Nazi terrorist spies. The cast includes Priscilla Lane, Otto Kruger, Alan Baxter and Norman Lloyd (who falls from the Statue of Liberty in a memorable finale). This is not to be missed.

Shake Hands With the Devil
(1959): This is the searingstory of IRA terrorists in war-torn 1920s Ireland, featuring memorable turns by James Cagney, Richard Harris, Don Murray, Cyril Cusack, Michael Redgrave and Sybil Thorndike.

The Siege
(1998): New York City turns to concentration camps for Arabs after widespread terrorist bombings. Denzel Washington and Tony Shalhoub (FBI) and Annette Bening (CIA) cross swords with an Army general (Bruce Willis)—scary stuff.

Richard G. Carter was a columnist with the
New York Daily News and has appeared on “Larry King Live” and “Donahue.”


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