As A Source

World Trade Center as a Primary Source

Movie Poster for Greengrass’
United 93.

As a primary source, the film World Trade Center can reveal a good deal of information about the time in which it was made, specifically the early years after 9/11. This film was the second major motion picture to cover the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 1, 2001.1 The first major motion picture to come out on 9/11 was Paul Greengrass’ United 93, which came out on April 28, 2006, four months before World Trade Center. These two films are considered historic because before they came out Hollywood had completely avoided showing or talking about the World Trade Center and in some cases 9/11.2 In fact, for some movies in the production, the Twin Towers were digitally removed. It did not matter if the movies dealt with tourism or not.3 Many directors did this out of concern that it would make people uncomfortable.  

In the aftermath of 9/11, this Spider-Man Movie Poster is an example of something that was pulled. The reason this poster was pulled has to do with the fact that the Twin Towers are reflected on his eyeglass.

The films that came in years following 9/11 primarily focused on “fantastical escapism, nostalgia, and family entertainment.” The goal of these films was to avoid unpatriotic subjects in order to help Americans cope with the terrorist attacks.4 However, by 2004 and 2005 writers, directors, and producers started to explore ways in which they could create books or produce movies or television shows on narratives related to 9/11. As a result of this exploration came Ian McEwan’s novel “Saturday,” Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and the made for television movie Flight 93. Since these were some of the things coming out before the World Trade Center they were not as much concerned that the movie was coming out too after the attacks. Especially because this was a story few heard and was not contaminated with politics.5

World Trade Center as a Secondary Source

John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno.

The movie World Trade Center is definitely a good secondary source when looking at the experiences of Officer Will Jimeno and Sergeant John McLoughlin on September 11, 2001. A major reason why this film can be a considered secondary source for them is that this movie was made with their cooperation and truly their story. Originally McLoughlin and Jimeno wanted to write a book as a sort of legacy for our fellow officers and their children. However, according to Jimeno they “We were approached by a movie agent and went reluctantly. We weren’t even walking yet. We listened, and he said we had an interesting story; we told him to come back when he had something.”6

Gif of Nicolas Cage and Michael Peña in hospital beds after their characters were rescued.

While this film is considered a small-picture view of the incidents that occurred on September 11, 2001, it provides viewers an idea of what it must have been like to be at the World Trade Center on 9/11/01 through the eyes of Jimeno and McLoughlin, two Port Authority Police Officers. As Director Oliver Stone mentioned he wanted viewers to experience the film from inside the skin of Jimeno and McLoughlin.7

For the most part, there are minor inaccuracies in this film. However, according to Jimeno “What you’re seeing in the film, we lived through” and “I’d say the film was 95 percent true. There’s a 5 percent that Oliver needs to convey our thoughts to the audience.”8 Similarly McLoughlin said After seeing World Trade Center, he says some of the parts are “dead on” and some have been changed to add drama. Overall, though, “it’s true to the whole event.”9 From interviews with Oliver Stone one can get an idea of the “5%” that he needed to embellish because he attempts to exaggerate “the metaphysical stuff” in order to add a layer of drama. Stone admits to the fact that John did not have the dream of his wife talking to him as he was being rescued. Even though the real John did not really have the dream of his wife talking to him she was the one who motivated to stay alive when he was trapped. In a way, that scene is Oliver Stone putting emphasis on that fact.

World Trade Center is good secondary because it reminds people of the honors that occurred that on September 11, 2001, but it also reminds them of the good.

Final Scene of the 2006 World Trade Center. In this scene, you will see both John McLoughlin, played by Nicolas Cage, and Will Jimeno, played by Michael Peña, at a Thank You Picnic with their families. In addition, this scene contains real Port Authority Police Officers as well as the real John McLoughlin, the real Will Jimeno, and their families.

“9/11 showed us what human beings are capable of. The evil, yeah, sure. But it also brought out the goodness we forgot could exist. People taking care of each other for no other reason than it was the right thing to do. It’s important for us to talk about that good, to remember. ‘Cause I saw all of it that day.”10

-Nicolas Cage as John McLoughlin

  1.  Thomas  Riegler,  “9/11 on the Screen,” Radical History Review 111 (2011): 155-165, accessed November 10, 2020, DOI: 10.1215/01636545-1268767.
  2. David Ansen, Sean Smith, Lorraine Ali, Joshua Alston, Jac Chebatoris, David Gates, Devin Gordon, and Ramin Setoodeh, “Natural Born Heroes,” Newsweek 148, no. 6 (August 7, 2006): 46–53,
  3.  Thomas  Riegler,  “9/11 on the Screen,”
  4. Thomas  Riegler,  “9/11 on the Screen.”
  5. David Ansen, Sean Smith, Lorraine Ali, Joshua Alston, Jac Chebatoris, David Gates, Devin Gordon, and Ramin Setoodeh, “Natural Born Heroes.”
  6.  Christine Spine, “Oliver Stone’s Ground Zero,” Entertainment Weekly, no. 890 (August 11, 2006): 34–37,
  7.  Christine Spine, “Oliver Stone’s Ground Zero,” Entertainment Weekly, no. 890 (August 11, 2006): 34–37,
  8. Anne Hawke, “Real Cops Say ‘World Trade Center’ Gets It Right,” August 10, 2006. 
  9. Barry Caine, “‘Trade Center’ Survivors Story,”  East Bay Times, August 17, 2016.
  10. World Trade CenterAmazon Prime Video, 2006,, 1:58:20-1:59:00