25 Unforgettable Films Depicting Terrorism: A Compelling Exploration of a Global Issue

zero dark thirty

Across the globe, there have been numerous terrible and horrible terrorist attacks that have captured the globe's attention. It only makes sense that movies have tried to memorialize these feelings for future generations to learn about. Here are some movies that viewers have recommended that tackle the tough topic well. 

1. Arlington Road (1999)

Arlington Road
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

After his wife dies in an attack by an extremist group, a man becomes obsessed with learning everything he can about the group. Soon, he begins to believe his neighbors are involved in a terrorist conspiracy. Is the man right about the neighbors' connection with the extremist group, or is he losing his mind with grief?

2. Richard Jewell (2019)

Richard Jewell
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

When a security guard finds a backpack hidden under a bench in Centennial Park during the Olympic Games in Atlanta, he suspects it may be explosive. After he helps evacuate the area and get everyone to safety, he's stunned to learn the FBI put him at the top of their list of suspects. 

3. The Siege (1998)

The Siege
Image Credit: 20th Century Studios.

The Siege follows an anti-terrorism expert and a CIA agent determined to uncover the culprits of a terrifying series of terrorist attacks in New York City. As the two investigate, a sadistic general declares martial law in the city and begins racially profiling Arab Americans.

The anti-terrorism expert and the CIA agent try with all their might to shut down the general's racist campaign. 

4. True Lies (1994)

True Lies
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

While everyone, including his family, believes this man is a salesman, he's an undercover spy with the mission to stop a terrorist with nuclear weapons. His wife is lonely and has no idea why her husband must work such long hours.

When the terrorist kidnaps both him and his wife, the spy must stop the terrorist and win back his wife's affection. 

5. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Zero Dark Thirty
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Inspired by the true story of the 9/11 terrorist attack, Zero Dark Thirty chronicles one operative's journey as she tracks down Osama bin Laden to end his life. But is all of the torture, violence, and U.S. military resources worth tracking down the leader of al-Qaeda? 

6. The Kingdom (2007)

The Kingdom
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The Kingdom tells the tale of one federal agent's quest to take down a terrorist group in Saudi Arabia. As the agent leads his expert team on the mission, they team up with unlikely partners to help them end the terrorist threat. 

7. Body of Lies (2008)

Body of Lies
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

A confident FBI agent hatches a plot to capture one of the most prolific terrorists of all time. To bring him out of hiding, the agent concocts a scheme to create a fake terrorist group. But the agent has another powerful enemy that wouldn't hesitate to kill him if he discovered the agent's plan. 

8. Speed (1994)

Image Credit: 20th Century Studios.

This action-packed thriller takes place on a bus that can't drive below 50 miles per hour, or a bomb will go off, killing all the passengers. A Los Angeles police officer and a fearless woman team up to keep the bus moving. Can they disarm the bomb and help the innocent passengers return home safely?

9. United 93 (2006)

United 93
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

United 93 reflects the harrowing true story of passengers aboard United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. When the crew realizes terrorists have taken over their flight, they work together with the passengers to prevent mass destruction. Their act of courage cost them their lives. 

10. Paradise Now (2005)

Paradise Now
Image Credit: Constantin Film.

When a terrorist group recruits two friends to attach bombs to their bodies and sacrifice their lives for the group's ideology, their plans are foiled, and they're forced to turn back. The two are separated in the scuffle, and when they reunite, one tries to convince the other that they should abandon their violent job.

11. Stronger (2017)

Image Credit: Lionsgate Films.

Based on a true story, Stronger is about a young man who tragically lost his legs during the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013. He wakes up in the hospital and looks down to see his legs are gone.

With the help of his adoring family and friends, the man helps the police crack the case wide open when he identifies one of the bombers. 

12. Good Morning, Night (2003)

Good Morning, Night
Image Credit: 01 Distribution.

When a terrorist group abducts an Italian politician, the government refuses to negotiate with the group, and they decide to murder the politician. But one group member begins to struggle with the morality of their actions. Can she stop her fellow group members before it's too late?

13. Black Sunday (1977)

Black Sunday
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

A Vietnam veteran who has psychosis after the events of the war takes a turn for the worse when he teams up with a terrorist. Together, they plan to have the veteran fly a blimp directly into the stands at the upcoming Superbowl. Can investigators stop this diabolical plan before the terrorists take action? 

14. La Chinoise (1967)

La Chinoise
Image Credit: Athos Films.

La Chinoise is a French dark-comedy about a group of disillusioned students who want to take action against their government for terrorism. But when they attempt to assassinate a Russian official visiting Paris, their worlds are turned upside down. 

15. Swordfish (2001)

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

This twisted film follows a talented spy hired by the CIA on a crucial, undercover mission. The spy must convince a dangerous hacker to help steal billions of dollars from the government. Swordfish is full of twists that make audience members gasp and fall out of their seats. 

16. Four Lions (2010)

Four Lions
Image Credit: StudioCanal UK.

When four blundering British men hatch a terrorist plot to bomb the London Marathon, their incompetence derails the plan. Each man prepares for the mission with increasing idiocy. But do they realize the serious nature of their crimes and, thus, the consequences of their actions? 

17. The Battle of Algiers (1966)

The Battle of Algiers
Image Credit: Magna.

The Battle of Algiers is a film that causes its viewers to question who exactly the real terrorists are. It's about the French's efforts to quash what they deem to be a terrorist uprising in Algeria but is a revolution against French colonialism. The film does an excellent job of presenting each side of the story. 

18. Nighthawks (1981)

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

After completing a successful terrorist mission in London, a terrorist travels to New York to incite more violence. But a New York City cop intent on protecting his city does everything possible to prevent the terrorist's success. 

19. Blown Away (1994)

Blown Away
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Blown Away is about one man's terrorist revenge plot against the leader of Boston's bomb squad. As the terrorist kills squad members, the soon-to-retire leader of the bomb squad uncovers the evil behind the brutal murders. And it's much worse than he ever could have expected. 

20. The Crying Game (1992)

The Crying Game
Image Credit: Miramax.

When the Irish Republican Army (IRA) captures a charismatic British soldier, one IRA officer grows attached to the Brit. As other IRA members warn him to avoid the British soldier, the officer must contend with his morals and curiosity. But will his interest in the soldier threaten the plans of the IRA? 

21. Munich (2005)

Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Munich is a story of vengeance that makes viewers deeply consider their morals. It follows an Israeli agent on a revenge mission in the aftermath of the murders of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. As the agent takes out more and more of his targets, he questions whether or not he's doing the right thing. 

22. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)

13 Hours
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

When terrorists unleash a violent attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the Annex Security Team must take down the assailants to prevent more American deaths. The clock is ticking as they develop a plan to save those they're duty-bound to protect.

23. Utøya: July 22 (2018)

Utøya-July 22
Image Credit: Nordisk Film.

Based on a true story, Utøya: July 22 tells the harrowing tale of the massacre at the Utøya political summer camp in Norway. The story centers on the victims' perspectives of the violence and terror they witnessed on that terrifying day. 

24. Patriots Day (2016)

Patriots Day (2016)
Image Credit: Lionsgate.

After the Boston Bombing on April 15, 2013, police were determined to track down the terrorists responsible as quickly as possible. Viewers watch as the police question witnesses and victims, piecing together a story that leads them straight to the killers.

25. Carlos (2010)

Image Credit: Film En Stock.

This three-episode mini-series is based on the story of Venezuelan terrorist, Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, and his worldwide terrorist organization that raided the 1975 OPEC meeting.

 Source: Reddit.

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Maya (she/they) is a queer entertainment and culture journalist from Worcester, MA with bylines in publications like Pulse Magazine, HorrorPress, CM Pride, Fangoria, and TransLash News & Narrative. They cover interviews, reviews, roundups, news, and more in the entertainment and lifestyle space. She loves horror, LGBTQ+ representation, and creativity. They hope their writing both entertains readers and inspires them to think critically.