9/11 anniversary: The best documentaries to watch, 20 years on

These films and series look at the causes and consequences of the deadly 2011 attacks.

Katie Wright
Saturday 11 September 2021 06:30 BST
It’s the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks (Alamy/PA)
It’s the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks (Alamy/PA)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


This year marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that took place in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.

On that morning, 2,753 people were killed at the World Trade Center in Manhattan when two hijacked flights crashed into the iconic Twin Towers. A further 184 people died when another plane crashed into the Pentagon, and all 40 passengers and crew onboard United Airlines Flight 93 died, when the plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

In the years since, documentary makers have examined the lead-up to the attacks carried out by followers of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, looking at how the tragic day unfolded, and the impact it had on America and the world at large, with a slew of new releases to coincide with the milestone anniversary.

Turning Point: 9/11 And The War On Terror

New from Netflix, this five-part series features archival footage and eye-witness accounts from survivors of the attacks, delves into the history of al Qaeda starting in 1980s, and chronicles the United States’ response as well as the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan.

Watch on: Netflix

9/11: Life Under Attack

Featuring previously unseen footage, this feature-length film is made up entirely of video and audio recordings from private phone calls, emergency services, air traffic control, airlines, and military sources, painting a vivid picture of what it was like to be caught up in the terrifying events.

Watch on: ITV

No Responders Left Behind

Five years in the making, the powerful film follows former The Daily Show host Jon Stewart, social activist John Feal and FDNY firefighting hero Ray Pfeifer, as they battle to get financial support for the thousands of first responders suffering from illnesses as a consequence of the toxins released at Ground Zero after 9/11.

Watch on: Discovery+

Children Of 9/11: Our Story

Shining a light on the tragic legacy the attacks left on children who weren’t born yet, this 90-minute film features six young people whose fathers died on September 11, following them through adolescence up to the 20th anniversary.

Watch on: Channel 4

Surviving 9/11

One of two 9/11 documentaries commissioned by the BBC this year, this 90-minute film features 13 first-hand accounts of the attacks, honing in on the human stories and the impact that day had on survivors’ lives.

Watch on: BBC

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