Evolving Transnational Cinematic Perspectives of Terrorism

by Samuel W. Bettwy


This article describes the attributes of transnational cinema in general and of transnational terrorism cinema in particular and then presents a survey of representative films since the 1970s about terrorism from the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, as well as films from South America and India. The survey shows that, due to the forces of globalization and international terrorism, a transnational, albeit U.S.-European-dominated, cinematic discourse of terrorism is evolving. The discourse is due to the willingness of filmmakers, especially European filmmakers, to challenge their own nations’ public perceptions and cultural discourses of terrorism and the willingness of audiences to consider those challenges.

Keywords: Terrorism, Media, Perception, Counterterrorism


The North Korean government’s extreme reaction to the 2014 film The Interview[1] is a reminder of Hollywood’s parochial perspective of international terrorism since the 1970s which tends to alienate the rest of the world, especially audiences in countries and regions where terrorists are spawned. When Ezra and Rowden wrote in 2010 that commercial cinema’s “depiction of terrorism . . . comes closest to offering its most ideologically revelatory and analytically transparent imagery and narrative constructions,”[2] they were not referring to Hollywood’s superficial, cartoonish renditions of the triumph of American exceptionalism over subhuman, foreign terrorist foes. They were referring to serious attempts, especially through transnational cinematic collaborations, to depict the sources and causes of terrorism. As Baratieri wrote in 2009: “There is still a place for revolutionary cinema that proposes analysis and reveals causes.”[3]

On August 27, 2003, for example, the Directorate for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict at the Pentagon screened the 1966 film The Battle of Algiers[4] for a select group of military and civilian planners and analysts to consider mistakes made by the French in Algeria that should be avoided by the United States in Iraq.[5] The screening was intended to show how the brutal methods of the French military succeeded tactically and operationally against guerrillas of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) in the Battle of Algiers (1956-1957), but failed strategically during the Algerian War as a whole (1954-1962).

Films about terrorism offer insight into the perspectives of both terrorists and counterterrorists. As Quiney states: “fictional and popular cultural representations of the terrorist offer intriguing insights into certain evolving imaginary constructions of terror and its proponents which are influencing legal and political formations of a post-9/11 New World Order.”[6] Transnational cinema is especially worth analyzing, because it transcends national biases and tends to present more balanced and universal narratives. As discussed below, the evolution of international terrorism (or, transnational terrorism)[7] appears to have caused a corresponding evolution of transnational films about terrorism, especially collaborations between U.S. and European filmmakers and between European and Middle Eastern filmmakers.

Definition and Attributes of Transnational Cinema

In general, “transnational cinema is a relatively contemporary development within the unfolding process of globalization.”[8] Film scholars tend to use the term transnational cinema “as a largely self-evident qualifier requiring only minimal conceptual clarification.”[9] Relevant to terrorism studies, transnational cinema and transnational terrorism are interrelated in that both transcend national boundaries and both are considered to be responses to globalization and the “unrelenting march of capitalism across the globe.”[10] Transnational cinema about terrorism can therefore be compared to Third Cinema (and its legacy) which was a reaction of Third World filmmakers to the perceived evils of capitalism and imperialism.[11] But, as discussed below, transnational cinema emanates from both East and West and not only from the Third World. It therefore tends to offer more balanced criticisms of both globalization and terrorism.

The development of digital technologies such as the VCR, the DVD, and now streaming, as well as the increasing use of multilingual subtitles and the globalization of English, have enabled expansive distribution of, and accessibility to, films worldwide. Terrorism has long been a subject of popular cinema, especially Hollywood and Hollywood-styled cinema (also known as First Cinema), and transnational terrorism has become a natural subject of transnational cinema.[12] Indeed, filmmakers from the United States and Western Europe, which are primary targets of transnational terrorism, have increasingly led the way in the production of transnational films about terrorism. By contrast, filmmakers from South America and India, where terrorism has been predominantly domestic, have produced several national films about terrorism, but rarely collaborate with foreign filmmakers to produce transnational films.

Filmmakers have their own inherent, national biases, and because economics compel them to cater to their domestic audiences, their national films tend to express the “national discourse” or “public memory” of their own nations.[13] As Ruberto and Wilson observe, “national cinema can be seen as an insidious and isolationist concept, one that collapses many forms of identity into a hegemonic vision of culture.”[14] Because of these biases, many Western and Eastern[15] national films about terrorism and counterterrorism show parallel and reciprocal processes of humanization and dehumanization.[16] As filmmakers from different countries collaborate to produce transnational films, they tend to challenge their own national discourses and public memories, and it becomes difficult to discern the origin of the film.

“A film might be said to count as an instance of marked transnationality if the agents intentionally direct the attention of the viewer towards various transnational properties.”[17] Overriding properties of transnational films about terrorism include balance, self-criticism, and universal themes. These attributes are generally not achieved purely through the filmmaker’s imagination or independent research. They are achieved through a “cinematic exchange” of ideas, namely through collaboration with filmmakers around the world. A cross-pollination of ideas results in a culturally and politically “hybrid” film.[18]

Transnational films tend to present balanced depictions of terrorism and its causes when they are “experimental,” as do Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers,[19] Spielberg’s Munich,[20] and Hany Abu-Assad’s Paradise Now,[21] meaning that they are designed to promote social, political, artistic, and/or aesthetic values.[22] “Opportunistic” films, on the other hand, are market-driven, as are most Hollywood films, and therefore more likely to reflect the biased or nationalistic attitudes of a particular domestic market. It is generally recognized that a transnational, experimental film about terrorism is more likely to be effective in telling a persuasive story to international audiences, because they are more likely to watch it and to perceive it as authentic.[23]

Films can be scaled from weakly to strongly transnational, depending on the content of the themes and the extent of international collaboration of directors, producers and/or distributors, of reception by audiences internationally, of intercultural dialogue and personalization of both sides (terrorists and counter-terrorists), of polylinguism, and of realism.[24] It is possible for a film that is “made within a purely national framework of production and oriented” towards a domestic audience to express transnational themes such as globalization, Islamic terrorism, and the diasporic experiences of Muslims.[25] Examples of national films that possess transnational qualities include The War Within[26] and Ratnam’s Dil Se[27] which was the first Bollywood film to make the top ten British films list.[28]

The more “national” and/or “opportunistic” a film is, however, the more its discourse includes wholly fictional plots and characters, dehumanization of the terrorist, heroic and ego-centric representations of the counterterrorist, and/or sympathetic personalization of the victims. Hollywood, which dominates the international film market, has produced the largest amount of national films on terrorism, especially action-adventures and policiers. So-called Hollywood or Hollywood-styled films that are designed to appeal primarily to American and other Western audiences reflect an overconfident sense of American exceptionalism and a dehumanization of terrorists who are usually Arab or Middle Eastern. Representative films include Warhead (1977),[29] The Delta Force (1986),[30] and Hot Shots! Part II (1993).[31]

The more transnational and/or experimental a film on terrorism is, the more it uses stories based on real-life events, intercultural dialogue that expresses both criticism and personalization of the terrorist and/or counterterrorist, intercultural dialogue that expresses the desires and motivations the terrorist and/or counterterrorist, multiple native-spoken languages, international settings and filming locations,[32] diasporic and exilic themes,[33] transnational themes such as globalization, international stars, and/or international collaboration between or among filmmakers.

The diasporic narrative, for example, sets up a vehicle for comparing and integrating viewpoints in the host and home countries. Examples include The War Within,[34] India, Indian-American director Mira Nair’s short-subject contribution to September 11[35] (11 film shorts by various directors from around the world), and My Name is Khan,[36] which are discussed below. Examples of transnational films that are based on real-life events include The Delta Force (1986), Munich (2005), Bullet in the Head (2008),[37] and The Assault (2010),[38] also discussed below. The Delta Force is anomalous in that it has back-to-back transnational and national properties; the first half fairly describes an actual event (the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jet aircraft), and the second half regresses to pure fiction to satisfy the appetite of American audiences for retributive justice.[39]

Applying these factors that define transnational films, military and national security strategists and policymakers can benefit from an analytical framework for reading films about terrorism to recognize national biases and the properties of transnational filmmaking. The Battle of Algiers,[40] for example, has transnational and experimental properties, even though it is a one-sided, sympathetic portrayal of the Algerian revolutionaries. It was made by Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo, who was a self-described Marxist, but the film has been well-received by a broad audience internationally and remains a classic. Perhaps its transnational properties explain its enduring appeal.

Pontecorvo’s film contains many of the attributes found in current transnational films such as intercultural dialogue, depictions of heroic female terrorists, personalization of both terrorists and counterterrorists, and realism to garner sympathy for the revolutionary terrorists (the film was banned in France for five years). Pontecorvo achieves realism by using post-World War II neorealist (or cinéma vérité) techniques such as handheld camerawork, shots on location in the Casbah of Algiers, and non-actors, including actual revolutionaries from the French-Algerian War.[41] In fact, it is arguable that realism is among the most persuasive attributes of a transnational film insofar as it reflects social reality to both domestic and foreign audiences.[42]

Below is a discussion of representative films about terrorism from the United States, South America, Europe, India, and the Middle East since the 1970s, showing that, due to the forces of globalization and transnational terrorism, a U.S.-European-dominated global discourse of terrorism is evolving. The discourse is due to the willingness of filmmakers, especially U.S. and European filmmakers, to challenge their own nations’ public memories and national, cultural discourses of terrorism and the willingness of audiences to consider those challenges. U.S. filmmakers appear to be on the verge of venturing down the trail blazed by European filmmakers, namely collaboration with Middle Eastern filmmakers to produce transnational films about Islamic extremism and terrorism.

Evolution of Transnational Terrorism Films since the 1970s

A survey of national films about terrorism across time and around the world reveals that, in general, filmmakers make films about terrorism that has occurred in their own countries. Such a survey also reveals that Hollywood and Hollywood-styled films about domestic terrorism distinctively possess few transnational properties. By contrast, national films made in Europe, South America, India, and the Middle East are comparatively more balanced in their narratives about domestic terrorism. They tend, for example, to personalize terrorists, while condemning their violence. Hollywood films of the 1980s that depict overseas terrorists, such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Afghani mujahedin, also tend to personalize terrorists, demonstrating the ability of U.S. filmmakers to tell balanced narratives about terrorism.

As terrorism transcends national borders, witness Islamic terrorism, filmmakers from different countries are doing the same, collaborating to produce transnational films. U.S. and European filmmakers have collaborated to produce remarkable transnational films, but the collaboration of European and Middle Eastern filmmakers is even more remarkable because it has resulted in a transnational, hybrid product of Western and Eastern points of view. There has been little international collaboration by South American and Indian filmmakers, perhaps because their countries are the targets more of domestic terrorism than of transnational terrorism. A notable exception is Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles’ romantic portrait of revolutionary Che Guevara as a medical student in his early twenties in The Motorcycle Diaries,[43] a strongly transnational, collaborative film. The survey below therefore focuses on the evolution of films about terrorism in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

United States

After World War II, the tension between Israel and neighboring Arab countries began to raise awareness among Americans about Arab terrorism,[44] especially after the 1972 massacre at the Munich Olympics, the expansion of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s terrorist campaign against Israel, the 1973 oil embargo, and the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Americans began to perceive Arabs in general as a possible threat to American national security. This new awareness was reflected in the narratives of several Hollywood films made between 1972 and 1977. As Eisele stated, in Western films, “the Arab other moved from being a (sometime) protagonist and sympathetic other to being an antagonist and savage terrorist.”[45] A representative film is Warhead[46] in which a U.S. weapons expert (played by David Janssen) battles against both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian terrorists to find and disable a nuclear warhead that accidentally fell out of a U.S. Air Force aircraft during a flight over Jordan. In Warhead, the Palestinian terrorists are dehumanized as the laughable Other, “raving, maniacal,…devoid of human decency and morality.”[47]

In the 1980s, the threat of Islamic terrorism is realized; Americans experience the humiliation of the Iranian hostage crisis from 1980 to 1981 and the overseas bombings and hijackings of the mid-1980s.[48] For the most part, Hollywood discontinues its portrayals of easy American triumphs over Arab terrorists. In Back to the Future,[49] for example, Libyan terrorists murder Doc (played by Christopher Lloyd) in retaliation for his theft of their plutonium. One exception is the second half of The Delta Force[50] in which two Special Forces officers (played by Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin) lead a team of counterterrorists who kill dozens, perhaps hundreds of Islamic terrorists in the process of successfully freeing all of their hostages, unharmed.

Hollywood otherwise diverts the attention of its audiences to overseas, revolutionary terrorism in the 1980s. U.S. audiences traditionally worship revolutionaries, so they freely accepted favorable portrayals of the mujahedin who were struggling in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union which was a primary perceived threat to American interests during the Cold War.[51] A representative Hollywood film that supported the national discourse of a justified proxy war against the Soviet Union[52] is Rambo III[53] in which the indestructible hero Rambo (played by Sylvester Stallone) is assigned to help resupply the mujahedin.

The tendency to favorably portray a foreign “freedom fighter” also naturally resulted in strongly transnational films such as the James Bond film The Living Daylights,[54] in which Agent 007 (played by Timothy Dalton) is assisted by the mujahedin. The film is a U.S.-U.K. collaboration, featuring international stars and filmed on location in several countries, including Morocco, Austria, and the United Kingdom. The dialogue is only superficially intercultural, however. The Beast of War[55] contains some transnational properties as well. It presents the story of a series of skirmishes between the mujahedin and a Soviet tank crew that becomes lost in the mountains of Afghanistan. It is filmed in Israel, features foreign actors, contains authentic intercultural dialogue, including Pashto-speaking Afghans, and it gives a personalized portrayal of both the tankers and the mujahedin. It might be argued, then, that Hollywood films of the 1980s about terrorism in other countries tended to be more strongly transnational.

The first half of Israeli-born American filmmaker Menahem Golan’s The Delta Force also stands out as a film ahead of its time. The film begins by closely tracking details of the real-life hijacking of a 1985 TWA jet aircraft and the deliberate killing of an American passenger by members of Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.[56] Names have been changed, including the name of the airline (WTA in the film), but the film’s allusion to the 1985 hijacking it unmistakable.[57] In the real hijacking, the remaining hostages are freed after the hijackers’ demands are met, and the hijackers evade capture. As mentioned above, however, the second half of the film is a fantasy in which American counterterrorists triumph over Islamic terrorists. Director Menahem Golan compromises a potentially authentic film to sate the appetite of U.S. (and perhaps Israeli) audiences for retributive justice.

Just as Hollywood glorified the mujahedin in films of the 1980s, it romanticized IRA terrorists during the 1990s,[58] even after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Such favorable portrayals of the IRA can be explained by Americans’ traditional sympathy for revolutionaries, especially those that do not directly threaten them,[59] and by a lack of appreciation for the terror and violence that Europeans had experienced in World War II.[60] And like the 1980s films about the mujahedin, many of the 1990s films about the IRA have strong transnational properties. Patriot Games,[61] in which the “good” IRA and its leaders are outraged by the brutal tactics of a “bad” splinter faction, is shot in London and Washington, DC, and features international American and Irish stars Harrison Ford, Richard Harris, and Patrick Bergin. The Devil’s Own[62] is a U.S.-Irish production filmed in New York and Ireland, featuring international stars Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford. The film condemns violence, but it portrays the IRA in a good light and the British Special Air Service (SAS) in a bad light.[63] And The Jackal,[64] which is filmed in Russia, Finland, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, and features international stars Richard Gere, Bruce Willis and Sidney Poitier, is about a former IRA sniper and a former ETA terrorist (Basque separatist) who assist the FBI to prevent an assassination of the U.S. First Lady.

Apart from a brief detour to pay tribute to the mujahedin and the IRA, Hollywood films of the 1990s continue to echo the national discourse of American dominance and exceptionalism over Arab terrorists who are portrayed as primitive, irrational and easily thwarted. In a defining scene from Patriot Games,[65] Jack Ryan watches ghost-like images through a live satellite feed as the SAS kills everyone in a Libyan training camp while they sleep (because it mistakenly believes the renegade IRA faction is training there). As Eisele noted in 2002, the Arab terrorist, which first began to appear as a character in Hollywood films in the 1970s, continues to be depicted as “pure evil . . . counterpoised with the pure good of a European hero, or more often an American.”[66]

Representative films of the first half of the 1990s include Delta Force 3: The Killing Game[67] in which the heroes prevent terrorist Kahlil Kadal from detonating a nuclear weapon in Miami, Florida, Hot Shots! Part II [68] in which the hero (played by Charlie Sheen) rescues American troops from a Middle Eastern despot, True Lies[69] in which the hero (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) prevents Arab terrorists from employing a nuclear warhead, and Executive Decision[70] in which the hero (played by Kurt Russell) thwarts Arab terrorists from deploying biological weapons.

Hollywood’s narrative about Middle Eastern terrorists began to evolve rapidly after the fall of the Soviet Union, the advent of globalization, the Persian Gulf War, and al-Qaeda’s partially successful 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, its simultaneous 1998 truck bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and its 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.[71] American fear of Marxism was replaced with fear of Islamic extremism, and U.S. audiences could no longer be convinced, even in suspended belief, that the Middle Eastern terrorist was inept and incapable of striking on U.S. soil. This new national discourse that terrorists are clever enough to carry out their plans is expressed in films like The Siege,[72] Rules of Engagement,[73] and The Sum of All Fears.[74]

The Siege depicts the U.S. President’s declaration of martial law, targeting American Muslims and Arab-Americans, after a series of terrorist bombings in New York City. Director William Friedkin intended an antiterrorism theme in Rules of Engagement, and there are transnational elements such as collaboration with a German production company and intercultural dialogue. But Friedkin’s transnational intent was overshadowed by his depiction of a massacre of a mob of Yemeni civilians by U.S. Marines which prompted the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee to call the film “probably the most racist film ever made against Arabs by Hollywood.”[75] The Sum of All Fears, also a collaboration with a German production company, was completed shortly before the 9/11 attacks, and its release was delayed until May 2002 due to the alarming nature of the film’s subject matter (European neo-Nazis detonate a nuclear bomb on American soil).[76]

After the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which had a tremendous impact on Americans’ concern for personal safety,[77] Hollywood films about domestic terrorists emerged, such as The Rock (1996), about renegade U.S. soldiers with chemical weapons, The Jackal,[78] about an attempted assassination of the U.S. First Lady by an American (played by Bruce Willis), and Fight Club,[79] about a terrorist plot by young male Americans to blow up the headquarters of all U.S. credit-reporting agencies. Unlike Islamic terrorists, the American villains in these films are highly personalized.

Fight Club, a collaboration with Danish film production company Taurus Film, is the most transnational of these films because of its theme and its reception. As Quiney notes, filmmaker David Finchner draws attention “to a new type of terrorist, who translates his personal dissatisfaction and powerlessness into political violence . . . in protest against the new global citizenship.”[80]

In the wake of 9/11, which traumatized Americans even more than the Oklahoma City bombing, Jack Valenti, President of the Motion Picture Association of America, appealed to Hollywood filmmakers to refrain from portraying Islamic terrorists in order to prevent a backlash against “the decent, hard-working, law-abiding Muslim community in this country.”[81] For the most part, filmmakers started making more strongly transnational films.[82] As Shaheen stated in 2008, “I believe thoughtful imagemakers are beginning to rollback slanderous portraits and create fuller, more complicated Arab characters and stories.”[83]

Out of respect for the victims, many U.S. filmmakers initially focused on the victims of the 9/11 attacks rather than grant the perpetrators any further publicity. In September 11,[84] Director Sean Penn portrays a personal view of one victim’s surviving widower (played by Ernest Borgnine), and in The Guys,[85] a journalist agrees to help a New York Fire Department captain write eulogies for eight of the firemen he lost in the World Trade Center. And the release of Collateral Damage[86] was postponed for four months to delete scenes of a terrorist bombing in Los Angeles and an airplane hijacking.[87]

In her contribution to September 11, noted Indian-American filmmaker Mira Nair, a vocal supporter of the Palestinians, tells a diasporic narrative based on the real-life story of Muslim American Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a first-responding paramedic who died when assisting victims of the 9/11 attacks. When his Muslim family reports him missing, investigators immediately suspect that Salman was a terrorist and start treating the surviving family members with suspicion as well.[88] This type of diasporic narrative about American paranoid hyper-vigilance-turned-racism is also told in the U.S. films The War Within[89] and The Space Between,[90] in which an American flight attendant and a Pakistani-American boy connect during 9/11, and in the internationally collaborative Indian film My Name is Khan.[91] The War Within and The Space Between are remarkable because, although they were made without foreign collaboration by American filmmakers about Islamic terrorism, they exhibit strong transnational properties.

In The War Within, American director Joseph Castelo employs extensive intercultural dialogue about the Islamic faith in a story about Pakistani Hassan (played by Ayad Akhtar) and his unwavering, successful plan to detonate a suicide bomb in New York City’s Grand Central Station. Castelo’s narrative is consistent with Egyptian Director Chahine’s theme in his segment of September 11[92] that “Americans decide who the terrorist is.” The main character Hassan turns to terrorism after American agents kidnap him from the streets of London and hand him over to Pakistani agents who torture him for two years. He is radicalized by a cellmate during his incarceration, and after his release, he is enlisted to go to the United States to carry out a suicide bomb attack. FBI agents end up arresting an innocent Pakistani-American who tries to alert them to Hassan’s plan. The film therefore ends where it began with the arrest and interrogation of an innocent who will be taught to resent America and become vulnerable to radicalization.

Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film Munich[93] represents a significant transnational challenge to the American discourse about terrorism. In this collaboration with French and Canadian production companies, he describes a “relationship between cultures from which we [Americans] are absent.”[94] Shot on location in Malta, Budapest, Paris, and New York, it presents a balanced narrative of both the Palestinian Black September members who kidnapped and murdered eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and the Israeli Mossad assassins who tracked them down. Apart from whether Spielberg’s depiction of real-life events is thorough and accurate,[95] it was both credited[96] and criticized[97], in effect humanizing the Palestinian terrorists in his narrative and equating Israelis and Palestinians. In a defining scene, one of the Israeli assassins decries the mission as antithetical to Judeo ethics and morality.

Hollywood has also started taking an interest in South American terrorists, almost as if it (and its audiences) long for the days of a more rational, revolutionary terrorist whose limited demands can be understood and perhaps even met. Just as Hollywood had romanticized the IRA, ETA and mujahedin in the 1980s and 1990s, Steven Soderbergh’s biopic Che[98] glorifies Che Guevara as a true revolutionary who “loves truth, humanity and justice.” To depict Che in a sympathetic light, Soderbergh sought authentic cultural portrayals and had difficulty convincing financial backers of his decision to shoot the film in Spanish, declaring “I hope we’re reaching a time where you go make a movie in another culture that you shoot in the language of that culture.”[99]

Also noteworthy is John Malkovich’s strongly transnational film The Dancer Upstairs[100] which features international star Javier Bardem playing a police captain who battles against the excessive violence of both the Maoist terrorists and the military in an unnamed Latin American country that is strongly hinted to be Peru. The film was partly filmed in Ecuador, and the polylingual dialogue includes the Andean Quechua language. Also noteworthy is director Mike Nichols’ strongly transnational 2007 film Charlie Wilson’s War[101] which is filmed in Morocco and the United States, features international stars Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and is polylingual (English, Dari, Russian, Urdu, Hebrew and Arabic). It sympathizes with the Afghan mujahedin, and criticizes the United States for its failure to engage in reconstruction activities after the Soviets were driven out of Afghanistan.

Karan Johar’s Hindi film My Name is Khan[102] is a rare collaboration between Indian and U.S. filmmakers (and a United Arab Emirates production company).[103] The result is a strongly transnational film. Its narrative is naïve in the Indian tradition, but it contains extensive intercultural English-Hindi-Urdu-Arabic dialogue, it is diasporic, it features internationally-known Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan in the title role, and it is filmed on location in the United States and India. Khan, a Muslim with Asperger’s syndrome living in the United States, is mistaken for a terrorist when he is in reality a hero. The film is critical of the United States’ paranoid, racist hysteria in the aftermath of 9/11, just as Indian-American director Mira Nair was critical in her segment of September 11.[104]

This survey of U.S. films about terrorism suggests a few patterns. Hollywood filmmakers tend to set aside their national bias and employ transnational properties to present balanced portrayals of terrorism when they make films about terrorism that occurs in other countries. Relatively recent examples include Munich, Che, The Dancer Upstairs, and Charlie Wilson’s War. And, when Hollywood filmmakers make films about terrorism that has occurred in the United States, including Islamic terrorism, they tend to buck the Hollywood formula and present a more balanced narrative when they collaborate with filmmakers from other countries. Examples of such balanced narratives through international collaboration are Fight Club and My Name is Khan, and examples of balanced narratives without international collaboration are The Space Between and The War Within. Hollywood filmmakers have not, thus far, followed the lead of European filmmakers to collaborate with Middle Eastern filmmakers. As discussed below, such collaboration might produce even more authentic narratives about Islamic extremism and terrorism.


Western European cinema about terrorism during the Cold War reflects the sensibilities of a shell-shocked people who share the public memory of the atrocities and devastation of World War II and its aftermath, which includes coming to grips with the Holocaust and enduring the looming threat of Soviet expansion.[105] Therefore, unlike U.S. films, Western European films contain anti-violence themes.[106] Cold War European filmmakers offered a more artistic, “Second Cinema” alternative to Hollywood such as New Germany Cinema and French New Wave cinema. European national films also possess transnational properties in that they are often polylingual and deliver balanced portrayals of terrorists. And as discussed below, post-Cold War European national films have become increasingly more realistic. Even though the United States dominates the international film industry, U.S. filmmakers seek to penetrate foreign markets through collaboration with foreign filmmakers, and the collaboration of U.S. and European filmmakers naturally results in an even more strongly transnational, hybrid film.

In the 1970s, German cinema “highlight[ed] a political climate of fear and mistrust rather than specific terrorist acts and their consequences.”[107] Examples include films of New Germany Cinema such as The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum[108] and Germany in Autumn.[109] In the 1980s, German filmmakers began to challenge the national discourse of terrorism in films such as Marianne and Juliane.[110] And by the 2000s, German films had begun to offer greater insight into terrorists’ motivations.[111] In The Legend of Rita,[112] which is loosely based on the Baader-Meinhof gang of 1970s West Germany, filmmaker Schlöndorff provides an “unusual humanization of the often demonized terror campaigns on both sides of the [Berlin] Wall” and “attempts to show the ‘other side’ of each,” implying that “East and West are perhaps not as far removed from one another as they are generally made out to be.”[113] German filmmaker Uli Edel was criticized for glamorizing members of the Baader-Meinhof gang in The Baader Meinhof Complex,[114] portraying the “very sexiness . . . of the Baader-Meinhof show–miniskirts, girls with Kalashnikovs, open sexuality, drug-taking.”[115] The film was criticized, especially by relatives of the group’s victims, for glamorizing their actions.[116]

In Italy as well, the terrorist has been shown in an increasingly personal light since the 1970s. Keep in mind that it was an Italian director, Gillo Pontecorvo, who used neorealist techniques to portray violent Algerian revolutionaries in a sympathetic light in the Battle of Algiers (1966).[117] Marco Bellocchio’s 2002 film Good Morning, Night,[118] which is based on the Red Brigade’s 1978 kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro, departs from earlier depictions by challenging the national discourse of that event and those responsible for it. As Testa observes, the film juxtaposes “the inner workings of an incarcerated human being with those of the much younger one who supervises his imprisonment.”[119] Bellocchio’s approach of equating both sides of the struggle is comparable to the approaches of Enrique Urbizu in No Rest for the Wicked,[120] Spielberg in Munich,[121] and Neil Jordan in The Crying Game.[122]

French cinema has consistently provided a personal profile of the terrorist throughout its experiences with terrorism since the 1950s. Despite a rich history of terrorism to draw upon, however, the narratives of French films during the Cold War are entirely fictional and stylized. French New Wave films include Le combat dans l’ile[123] (right-wing terrorist) and Jean Luc Godard’s films Masculin feminine[124] (would-be revolutionary), La chinoise [125] (Maoist student movement), and First Name: Carmen[126] (bank-robbing revolutionary).

In Le combat dans l’ile, director Alain Cavalier was inspired by the right-wing extremists who attempted to assassinate President de Gaulle for his appeasement policy in Algeria (1960-1962), but there is no reference to any of those real events in the film.[127] Cavalier portrays the antagonist Clément (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant) as a violent madman. Driven by his irrational hatred toward French liberals, Clément alienates his family, his bride, and his best friend with whom he had made a blood pact when they were pre-teens. After he attempts to assassinate a Communist leader, Clément is double-crossed by the leader of his extremist group whom he then pursues to Argentina to exact murderous revenge. In the end, Clément dies in a gun battle with his best friend who is a staunch democrat and a pacifist. Through this narrative, Cavalier condemns the violence of terrorism, presents France’s public memory, and reveals very little about the sources and causes of right-wing terrorism.

Post-Cold War French films continue to personalize the terrorist, but begin to depict real-life events. In The Assault,[128] French filmmaker Julien LeClercq faithfully re-creates the December 24, 1994 hijacking of Air France Flight 8969, giving a balanced, personalized portrayal of both the mujahedin of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and members of the French SWAT team (GIGN) that defeat them. LeClercq personalizes the hijackers, for example, by showing them as they individually dress and then huddle emotionally in group prayer during the morning of the attack.[129]

In Rebellion,[130] French filmmaker Mathieu Kassovitz recreates the bloody 1988 rescue, by a GIGN force, of hostages taken by Kanak separatists in the French protectorate of New Caledonia. Kassovitz presents the event as a politically-driven, unnecessary use of force in which two gendarmes and nineteen Kanaks died. Kassovitz portrays the Kanak leader as rational and intelligent, and the GIGN Captain Legorjus (played by Kassovitz) as “a man involved in a morally and politically complicated event that is ultimately beyond his control.”[131]

The French-German mini-series Carlos[132] is the story of real-life Venezuelan revolutionary Ilich Ramírez Sánchez who founded a worldwide terrorist organization and raided the ١٩٧٥ OPEC meeting. Like Andreas Baader, he is portrayed in this film as a suave, hip, intelligent, good-looking, James Bond-like character.

Spanish filmmaker Jaime Rosales was criticized for failing to condemn home-grown ETA terrorism in the 2008 film Bullet in the Head[133] which is based on the real-life killing of two Spanish Guardia Civil by ETA gunmen in the French town of Capbreton on December 1, 2007. The film depicts two ETA members carrying out their normal daily lives over the four or five days leading up to their planned attack. As one film reviewer noted, “We see them chatting, working, even having sex. For about an hour and a quarter, they just look boringly, bafflingly normal. . . Look, says [filmmaker Rosales]: here the terrorist revolutionaries are; they look like you and me.”[134] In No Rest for the Wicked,[135] Spanish filmmaker Enrique Urbizu condemns the Islamic terrorists by equating them with the counterterrorist Santos Trinidad (played by José Coronado) who is a homicidal alcoholic.[136]

British filmmakers’ portrayal of the IRA has been surprisingly favorable since the early 1990s.[137] In The Crying Game,[138] an IRA member sympathizes with his captive; in In the Name of the Father,[139] an IRA member confesses to a crime to help free the wrongly accused; and in Some Mother’s Son,[140] IRA leader Bobby Sands is portrayed as a martyr and his mother as a hero. Hunger[141] is yet another sympathetic depiction of IRA prisoner Bobby Sands’ 1981 hunger strike. The Boxer[142] denounces IRA violence, but it presents a very personal story about a former IRA member and local IRA members.

European films about terrorism during the Cold War were inspired by real events and by a real Soviet threat, and though filmmakers used experimental techniques to achieve realism, the products were fictional abstractions, consistent with a collective abhorrence of the horrific brutality of World War II. Post-Cold War European cinematic depictions of terrorists and terrorist acts have challenged national discourses and public memories through realistic accounts of actual events and persons. As discussed above, European filmmakers have been collaborating with U.S. filmmakers to produce transnational films such as The Siege (U.S.-Germany), Fight Club (U.S.-Denmark), and Munich (U.S.-Canada-France). As discussed below, European filmmakers have also begun to collaborate with Middle Eastern filmmakers to make transnational films about Islamic extremism, something that U.S. filmmakers have not yet done.

Middle East

As Khatib notes, Arab films portray space more intimately. “[C]onflicts are more localized and closer to home.”[143] Egyptian, Algerian, and Palestinian film industries are robust, and their filmmakers have produced several films that express their national discourses about Islamic fundamentalism, extremism, and terrorism. Egyptian and Algerian filmmakers express the national discourse that Islamic fundamentalism leads to extremism and is therefore a threat to national security. They also tend, however, to blame the West and globalization for the phenomenon of terrorism.[144] Palestinian filmmakers are focused on Israel, and they present the Palestinians as victims, the Israelis as aggressors and persecutors, and the West as either a supporter of Israel or ineffectual in negotiating a peace. U.S. and European filmmakers tend to sympathize with their viewpoint. When European and Middle Eastern filmmakers collaborate, the result is a strongly transnational film that challenges Western discourses about terrorism.

In 1994, Egyptian filmmaker Nader Galal made what is considered to be the first Egyptian film to denounce Islamic terrorism. In The Terrorist (Al-irhabi),[145] an Islamic terrorist converts to secularism and is murdered by his former comrades.[146] In his 1997 film Destiny (al-Massir),[147] Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine depicts Islamic fundamentalists as “dark forces preying on the weak and using terror against every kind of enlightenment and pleasure.”[148] In the evolving era of transnational cinema, a few Eastern filmmakers, most notably Youssef Chahine and Atef Hetata, have collaborated with Western European filmmakers to produce narratives that express a distrust of Islamic fundamentalism, the West, and globalization.

In the French-Egyptian collaboration The Other,[149] Chahine depicts poor and middle-class Egyptians as victims of both globalization and Islamic terrorism through star-crossed lovers Adam and Hanane (played by Hanane Turk) who are modern-day Egyptian Romeo and Juliet. And in his contribution to the collaborative film September 11,[150] Chahine criticizes both Islamic fundamentalists and the United States. In his September 11 short film, he argues that the United States is responsible for 9/11 because it created the monster that attacked it. “Americans decide who the terrorist is,” says Chahine (played by Nour El-Sharif ) in his film.

In the French-Egyptian collaboration Closed Doors,[151] Egyptian filmmaker Atef Hetata depicts how a young, sexually repressed male, Mohammad, growing up in a poor section of Cairo is recruited to study at a local madrassa that espouses the creation of an Islamic nation. As Armbrust writes about the film’s reception, Closed Doors is “oriented to audiences and contexts of production outside the Middle East” so it is eyed with “suspicion among Egyptian expatriate or diaspora audiences.”[152] In the French-Algerian collaboration Rachida,[153] a female schoolteacher in Algiers defies terrorists who attempt to murder her for refusing to plant a bomb at the school where she teaches.

In Bab El-Oued City,[154] which is a French-German-Swiss-Algerian collaboration, Algerian filmmaker Merzak Allouache follows the conflict between a young Algerian man and local Islamic fundamentalists, hinting that the fundamentalists are supported by corrupt government officials.[155] Before he is driven out, the local imam tells the fundamentalists, “Violence begets violence. Islam is a religion of tolerance, against violence.” At the same time that this film criticizes Islamic fundamentalism, it associates Western influences with downfall and decadence.

The transnational 1996 film Haifa[156] is a Dutch-German-Palestinian collaboration. Palestinian director Rashid Masharawi depicts the daily, personal lives of refugees who hold out naïve expectations that their lives will change after the 1993 Oslo peace accords. Lemon Tree[157] is a Dutch-French-Israeli production in which Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis presents the story of an Israeli defense minister who, for security reasons, threatens to tear down the lemon grove of his Palestinian neighbor.

The Academy-Award-nominated Dutch-Palestinian-Israeli-German-French collaboration Paradise Now [158] is a strongly transnational film. Dutch-Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad presents a balanced narrative about two Palestinian friends who are recruited to conduct a suicide bombing mission in Tel Aviv. The Arabic language film is shot on location in Nablus and Tel Aviv. After much soul-searching, one of the would-be suicide bombers, Said, sums up his reasons for carrying out the mission: “[The Israelis] have convinced themselves that they are the victims. How can the occupier be the victim? If they take on the role of oppressor and victim, then I have no other choice but to also be a victim and a murderer as well.” Like Munich,[159] Paradise Now was criticized by both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli debate. Palestinians in the West Bank criticized the film for portraying the suicide bombers as “less than heroic and godless, hesitant in their missions.”[160] At the same time, Israelis criticized the film because it would “encourage more terrorist attacks all over the world.”[161]

By collaborating with filmmakers from Western Europe and Israel, Egyptian, Algerian and Palestinian filmmakers are reaching Western audiences. And because of the courage of Western European and Israeli filmmakers to experiment with such collaboration, Western audiences are seeing narratives that challenge their national discourses about terrorism, capitalism, and globalization.


A survey of films about terrorism since the 1970s reveals that, outside the United States, both national and transnational cinema condemn violence, but provide balanced, personalized portrayals of both terrorists and counterterrorists. Due to globalized market forces, there has been increased international cinematic exchange to produce transnational films, including transnational films about transnational terrorism. Through transnational filmmaking, audiences worldwide are learning more about the causes and sources of terrorism in general and about Islamic extremism and terrorism in particular.

Mazarr’s counterterrorism recommendation is to invest in “cultural entrepreneurs,” including “local writers, artists, and other cultural figures trying to reassert a form of identity in the face of global homogenization, especially those who serve up strong critiques of U.S. culture and policies, so long as the proposed remedies are nonviolent.”[162] Transnational filmmaking jibes with Mazarr’s recommendation, presenting balanced portrayals of terrorists and counterterrorists in internationally collaborative films such as Paradise Now[163] and Munich,[164] diasporic narratives in films such as The War Within[165] and My Name is Khan,[166] and criticism of globalization and Westerners in films such as Fight Club,[167] The Other,[168] Bab El-Oued City,[169] and Closed Doors.[170]

It is arguable that transnational films about Islamic extremism help to disabuse the extremists of their misperceptions that Islam justifies the use of violence.[171] But Hollywood has been reluctant to address religion and “the relationship between violence” and fundamentalist Islam.[172] Perhaps if U.S. filmmakers, like European filmmakers, were to collaborate with Middle Eastern filmmakers, they could produce transnational films that persuasively depict, for example, America’s own religious heritage and its assimilation of Muslims. As Peter Peterson of the Council on Foreign Relations writes, “The credibility of an American message will be enhanced significantly when it does not appear unilateral.”[173] A transnational film can be so internationally collaborative that its national origins are difficult to determine. Such a cross-cultural product may be an effective medium to convey messages to counter the propaganda of Islamic extremists. More studies and performance data and measures are needed, however, to determine whether and to what extent transnational films affect the perceptions and opinions of audiences.

About the Author: Samuel W. Bettwy recently retired from the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the U.S. Army Reserve after serving for 28 years, most recently as the Deputy Judge Advocate for the 79th Sustainment Support Command in Los Alamitos, California. Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Bettwy has also served as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice since 1986. As an adjunct professor of law, he currently teaches Comparative Criminal Procedure through Film at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California, and his course textbook was published in the 2014 special issue of Opinio Juris in Comparatione.


[1] The Interview (Columbia Pictures 2014) (us).

[2] Elizabeth Ezra & Terry Rowden, General Introduction: What is Transnational Cinema? in Transnational Cinema: The Film Reader 10 (Elizabeth Ezra & Terry Rowden eds. 2006).

[3] Daniela Baratieri, Terrorists in Veils: The Battle of Algiers Four Decades Later, in Rethinking Third Cinema 29 (Adeline Koh & Frieda Ekotto ,Eds.), 2009).

[4] The Battle of Algiers (Igor Film et al. 1966) (it, dz).

[5] Michael T. Kaufman, The World: Film Studies; What Does the Pentagon See in ‘Battle of Algiers’?, N.Y. Times, Sept. 7, 2003, available at www.nytimes.com/2003/09/07/weekinreview/the-world-film-studies-what-does-the-pentagon-see-in-battle-of-algiers.html (last visited Mar. 15, 2015).

[6] Ruth Quiney, “Mr. Xerox,” the Domestic Terrorist, and the Victim-Citizen: Masculine and National Anxiety in Fight Club and Anti-Terror Law, 19 L. & Literature 328 (2007). See also Bonnie Marranca, The Globe of War: An Editorial, 25 A J. Performance & Art 1 (2003) (“Everywhere people feel themselves caught in a shifting web of governmental and economic forces beyond their control. . . We have not yet understood [the twentieth] century and the diabolical complexities of modernity.”).

[7] For a definition of international terrorism, see, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 2331(1) (it includes activities that “occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries…”). See also Robert Oakley, International Terrorism, 65 Foreign Aff. 611 (1986).

[8] Nataša Durovicová, Preface, in World Cinemas, Transnational Perspectives 12-33 (Nataša Durovicová & Kathleen Newman , Eds.), 2009) [hereinafter Durovicová & Newman]; see also Will Higbee & Song Hwee Lim, Concepts of Transnational Cinema: Towards a Critical Transnationalism in Film Studies, 1 Transnat’l Cinemas 8 (2010).

[9] Mette Hjort, On the Plurality of Cinematic Transnationalism, in Durovicová & Newman, supra note 8 at 13.

[10] Bhaskar Sarkar, Tracking “Global Media” in the Outposts of Globalization, in Durovicová & Newman, supra note 9 at 39; Michael J. Mazarr, The Psychological Sources of Islamic Terrorism, 125 Pol’y Rev. 59 (June & July 2004), available at www.hoover.org/research/psychological-sources-islamic-terrorism (last visited Mar. 15, 2015) (“The security threats the United States faces today have everything to do with the pressures of modernity and globalization, the diaphanous character of identity, the burden of choice, and the vulnerability of the alienated”); Quan Li & Drew Schaub, Economic Globalization and Transnational Terrorism: A Pooled Time-Series Analysis, 48:2 J. Conflict Res. 230-58 (Apr. 2004) (statistical analysis of the effect of economic globalization on the number of transnational terrorist incidents within countries).

[11] See Teshome H. Gabriel, Third Cinema in the Third World: The Aesthetics of Liberation (Umi Research Press 1982).

[12] Martin Roberts, “Baraka”: World Cinema and the Global Culture Industry, 37 Cinema J. 62-63 (1998) (“deciding where exactly a film is ‘from’ and to whom it is addressed has become increasingly problematic”).

[13] See Lina Khatib, Filming the Modern Middle East: Politics in the Cinemas of Hollywood and the Arab World 5 (2006).

[14] Laura E. Ruberto & Kristi M. Wilson, Introduction, in Italian Neorealism and Global Cinema 3 (Eds. Laura E. Ruberto & Kristi M. Wilson) (Wayne State Univ. Press 2007).

[15] See Quiney, supra note 6.

[16] Jayne Mooney & Jock Young, Imagining Terrorism: Terrorism and Anti-Terrorism Terrorism, Two Ways of Doing Evil, 32 Soc. Just. 119 (2005); Khatib, supra note 13 at 5.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ezra & Rowden, supra note 2 at 1 (“The transnational comprises both globalization – in cinematic terms, Hollywood’s domination of world film markets – and the counterhegemonic responses of filmmakers from former colonial and Third World countries.”); Kathleen Newman, Notes on Transnational Film Theory, in Durovicová & Newman, supra note 9 at 4.

[19] Supra note 4.

[20]Munich (DreamWorks SKG et al. 2005) (us).

[21] Paradise Now (Augustus Film et al. 2005) (nl, il, de, fr).

[22] Hjort, supra note 9 at 26.

[23] Samuel Bettwy, The Potential of Transnational Cinema to Counter Islamic Extremism, 4 Combating Terrorism Exchange J. 84 (Nov. 2014).

[24] Hjort, supra note 8 at 13; Nataša Durovicová, Vector, Flow, Zone: Towards a History of Cinematic Translatio, in Durovicová & Newman, supra note 9 at 100 (“polyglot films . . . seem like the very allegory of transnationality.”).

[25] Hjort, supra note 9 at 13-14.

[26] The War Within (HDNet Films et al. 2005) (us).

[27] Dil Se (India Talkies et al. 1998) (in).

[28] Raminder Kaur, Cruising on the Vilayeti Bandwagon: Diasporic Representation and Reception of Popular Indian Movies, in Raminder Kaur & Ajay J. Sinha, Bollywood: Popular Indian Cinema through a Transnational Lens 317 (2005)

[29] Warhead (Buddy Ruskin 1977) (us).

[30] The Delta Force (Golan-Globus Productions 1986) (il).

[31] Hot Shots! Part Deux (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation et al. 1993) (us).

[32] Higbee & Lim, supra note 9 at 9 (“the movement of films and film-makers across national borders and the reception of films by local audiences outside of their indigenous sites of production”).

[33] Id. at 11 (concerning diasporic films).

[34] Supra note 26.

[35] September 11 (CIH Shorts et al. 2002) (us, fr, jp, eg, ir, gb, mx) (segment “India”).

[36] My Name Is Khan (Dharma Productions, et al. 2010) (in, us, ae).

[37] Bullet in the Head (Fresdeval Films 2008) (es).

[38] The Assault (Labyrinthe Films et al. 2010) (fr).

[39] David Shea Bettwy, The U.S.-European Death Penalty Debate: A Comparison of Filmic Apologists, 17 Southwestern J. Int’l L. 101-60 (2010); David Edelstein, Vigilante Vengeance, Hollywood’s Response to Primal Fantasies, N.Y. Times, Feb. 10, 2002, § 2, at A15.

[40] See supra note 4.

[41] Laura E. Ruberto, Neorealism and Contemporary European Immigration, in Italian Neorealism and Global Cinema, supra note 14 at 244-45; Mark Parker, The Battle of Algiers (La battaglia di Algeri), 60 Film Q. 62 (Summer 2007) (“There are no overlong set speeches . . . and exposition and incident never seem at odds”).

[42] Ruberto & Wilson, supra note 14 at 1.

[43] The Motorcycles Diaries (FilmFour et al. 2004) (gb, us, fr, ar, pe, cl, de).

[44] Jack G. Shaheen, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People 28 (2001) (“The image [of Arabs as villains] began to intensify in the late 1940s when the state of Israel was founded on Palestinian land.”) [hereinafter Shaheen 2001].

[45] John C. Eisele, The Wild East: Deconstructing the Language of Genre in the Hollywood Eastern, 41 Cinema J. 72 (2002);

[46] See supra note 29.

[47] Eisele, supra note 45 at 69; Khatib, supra note 13 at 5 (noting that Egyptian Arabs are depicted as “ignorant, cowardly and barbaric” in the film The Mummy (1999)).

[48] PBS, Terrorist Attacks on Americans, 1979-1988: The attacks, the groups, and the U.S. response, Frontline, www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/target/etc/cron.html (last visited Mar. 15, 2015).

[49] Back to the Future (Universal Pictures et al. 1985) (us).

[50] See supra note 30.

[51] See Tom W. Smith, The Polls: American Attitudes toward the Soviet Union and Communism, 47 The Pub. Opinion Q. 277, 277 (1983) (U.S. public opinion of the Soviet Union reached a low point after the invasion of Afghanistan).

[52] See Mooney & Young, supra note 16 at 115-16; Andrew Hartman, “The Red Template”: US Policy in Soviet-Occupied Afghanistan, 23 Third World Q. 467, 475 (2002).

[53] Rambo III (Carolco Pictures 1988) (us).

[54] The Living Daylights (Eon Productions 1987) (gb).

[55] The Beast of War (A&M Films et al. 1988) (us, gb).

[56] See Oakley, supra note 7 at 611, 613.

[57] The 1987 film Hostage, a U.S.-South Africa collaboration, is also loosely based on the 1985 hijacking. See Hostage (Alpine et al. 1987) (sa, us).

[58] “IRA” refers to the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

[59] See also Che (Wild Bunch et al. 2008) (fr, es, us).

[60 ] See Daniel Byman, Deadly Connections: States that Sponsor Terrorism 244 (2012).

[61] Patriot Games (Mace Neufeld Productions et al. 1992) (us).

[62] The Devil’s Own (Columbia Pictures Corporation 1997) (us).

[63] See Shaheen 2001, supra note 44 at 32 (Brad Pitt would not accept the role of the IRA member unless the screenplay was re-written to humanize his character); Richard Kay & Michael Harvey, Diana So Sorry for Harry’s IRA Movie Trip, Daily Mail (London), June 24, 1997, at 5 (after viewing the film with her two sons, Princess Diana issued a public apology for having watched it).

[64] The Jackal (Universal Pictures et al. 1997) (us, de, fr, gb, jp)

[65] See supra note 61.

[66] Eisele, supra note 45 at 71.

[67] Delta Force 3: The Killing Game (Global Pictures 1991) (us).

[68] Supra note 31.

[69] True Lies (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation 1994) (us).

[70] Executive Decision (Warner Bros. et al. 1996) (us).

[71] See Stephen M. Walt, Beyond bin Laden: Reshaping U.S. Foreign Policy, 26 Int’l Security 64 n.21 (2001-2002); Alvin Richman, Poll Trends: Changing American Attitudes toward the Soviet Union, 55 Pub. Opinion Q. 135 (1991).

[72] The Siege (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation et al. 1998) (us).

[73] Rules of Engagement (Paramount Pictures et al. 2000) (us, gb, de).

[74] The Sum of All Fears (Paramount Pictures et al. 2002) (us, de, ca).

[75] Brian Whitaker, Arabs accuse US filmmakers of racism over blockbuster, The Guardian, Aug. 11, 2000, available at www.theguardian.com/film/2000/aug/11/2 (last visited Mar. 15, 2015).

[76] Steven Holden, Terrorism That’s All Too Real, N.Y. Times, May 31, 2002 (film review), available at www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9D05E6DF163AF932A05756C0A9649C8B63 (last visited Mar. 15, 2015).

[77] Michael Traugott, et al., How Americans Responded: A Study of Public Reactions to 9/11/01, 35 Pol. Sci. & Politics 511, 512 (2002) (“a substantial number of Americans suffered a lost sense of personal safety and security.”).

[78] See supra note 64.

[79] Fight Club (Fox 2000 Pictures et al. 1999) (us, de).

[80] Quiney, supra note 6 at 328-29 (citing Per Petersen, 9/11 and the “Problem of Imagination”: Fight Club and Glamorama as Terrorist Pretexts, 60 Orbis Litterarum 133-44 (2005)).

[81] James Castonguay, Conglomeration, New Media, and the Cultural Production of the “War on Terror”, 43 Cinema J. 102 (2004) (quoting Jonathan V. Last, War? What War?, Wall St. J., Oct. 10, 2003, sec. W).

[82] But see Team America: World Police (2004) in which the heroes save the world from an international terrorist plot led by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.

[83] Jack G. Shaheen, Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11 at 87 (2008) [hereinafter Shaheen 2008].

[84] See supra note 35 (segment “USA”).

[85] The Guys (ContentFilm et al. 2002) (gb, us).

[86] Collateral Damage (Warner Bros. 2002) (gb, us).

[87] Jeff Jensen & Benjamin Svetkey, In the wake of terrorism, execs scramble to rework their film schedules, Entertainment, Sep. 24, 2001, available at www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,175677,00.html (last visited Mar. 15, 2015); see also Dana Calvo & Robert W. Welkos, Hollywood dresses terrorism-themed films in patriotism, Chicago Tribune, May 22, 2002, available at http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2002-05-22/features/0205220198_1_world-trade-center-patriotic-overtones-first-film (last visited Jan 8, 2015) (discussing postponed release, after the 9/11 attacks, of comedy Big Trouble and adventure The Sum of All Fears, because they depict attempted terrorist attacks on U.S. soil). See Big Trouble (Touchstone Pictures et al. 2002) (us); The Sum of All Fears, supra note 73.

[88] William J. Gorta, Missing–Or Hiding?–Mystery of NYPD Cadet from Pakistan, N.Y. Post, Oct. 12, 2001, available at http://nypost.com/2001/10/12/missing-or-hiding-mystery-of-nypd-cadet-from-pakistan/ (last visited Mar. 15, 2015); Jim Dwyer & Daniel J. Wakin, Absent Police Cadet Sought After Disappearance, N.Y. Times, Oct. 12, 2001, available at www.nytimes.com/2001/10/12/nyregion/absent-police-cadet-sought-after-disappearance.html (last visited Mar. 15, 2015).

[89] See supra note 26.

[90] The Space Between (TSB Films 2010) (us).

[91] See supra note 36.

[92] See supra note 35 (segment “Egypt”).

[93] See supra note 20.

[94] Fredric Jameson, Globalization and Hybridization, in Durovicová & Newman, supra note 9 at 319.

[95] The film, which is based on George Jonas’ thriller novel Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team, forewarns the viewer that it is “inspired” by real events.

[96] Yosefa Loshitzky, The Post-Holocaust Jew in the Age of “The War on Terror”: Steven Spielberg’s Munich, 40 J. Palestine Stud. 77 (2011) (discussing “the moral universe constructed and mediated by Spielberg’s Munich.”).

[97] See Morton A. Klein, Don’t See Spielberg’s “Munich” Unless You Like Humanizing Terrorists & Dehumanizing Israelis, Zionist Org. Am., Dec. 27, 2005, available at http://zoa.org/2005/12/102082-zoa-dont-see-spielbergs-munich-unless-you-like-humanizing-terrorists-dehumanizing-israelis/ (last visited on Mar. 15, 2015); Richard Schickel, Spielberg Takes on Terror, Time, Dec. 4, 2005.

[98] See supra note 59. See also The Motorcycle Diaries, supra note 43, directed by Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles.

[99] Soderbergh, Del Toro challenge Cannes with epic Che portrait, N.Y. Daily News, May 22, 2008, available at www.nydailynews.com/latino/soderbergh-del-toro-challenge-cannes-epic-che-portrait-article-1.329019 (last visited Mar. 15, 2015).

[100] The Dancer Upstairs (Fox Searchlight Pictures et al. 2002) (us, es).

[101] Charlie Wilson’s War (Universal Pictures et al. 2007) (us, de).

[102] See supra note 36.

[103] Nyay Bhushan, Fox Star to distribute ‘Khan’, Hollywood Reporter, Aug. 7, 2009, at 8, available at www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/fox-star-distribute-khan-87375 (last visited Mar. 15, 2015).

[104] See supra note 35 (segment “India”).

[105] See Pierre Hassner, Western European Perceptions of the USSR, 108 Daedalus 113 (1979).

[106] See Bettwy, supra note 39.

[107] Jamie H. Trnka, “The Struggle Is Over, the Wounds Are Open”: Cinematic Tropes, History, and the RAF in Recent German Film, New German Critique, No. 101 at 1 (2007).

[108] The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum (Bioskop Film et al. 1975) (de).

[109] Germany in Autumn (Filmverlag der Autoren et al. 1978) (de). See Olaf Hoerschelmann, “Memoria Dextera Est”: Film and Public Memory in Postwar Germany, 40 Cinema J. 78, 91 (2001).

[110] Marianne and Juliane (Bioskop Film et al. 1981) (de). See Hoerschelmann, supra note 108 at 85 (the film “pinpoints 1950s culture [the government’s inadequate portrayal of the Holocaust] as an underlying cause of both the student movement and the terrorist activity of the 1960s.”).

[111] Trnka, supra note 107 at 1-2.

[112] The Legend of Rita (ARTE et al. 2000) (de).

[113] Jennifer Marston William, When West Meets East and Decides to Stay: Shared Historical Experience in VolkerSchlöndorff’s “Die Stille nach dem Schuss (The Legend of Rita, 2000)”, 28 German Stud. Rev. 127, 127 (2005).

[114] The Baader Meinhof Complex (Metropolitan Films et al. 2008) (fr, de, jp, gb).

[115] Nina Power, Why Do Some Images Begin to Tremble?, 63 Film Q. 28 (2009-2010) (film review).

[116] Ibid.

[117] Supra note 4.

[118] Good Morning, Night (Filmalbatros et al. 2003) (it, gb).

[119] Carlo Testa, Film, Literature, and Terrorism: Mapping Italy’s Political Landscape by Cinematic Means, 84 Italica 787 (2007).

[120] No Rest for the Wicked (AXN et al. 2011) (es).

[121] See supra note 20.

[122] The Crying Game (Palace Pictures et al. 1992) (gb, jp).

[123] Le combat dans l’ile (Nouvelles Éditions de Films (NEF) 1962) (fr).

[124] Masculin féminin (Anouchka Films et al. 1966) (fr, se).

[125] La chinoise (Anouchka Films et al. 1967) (fr).

[126] First Name: Carmen (Sara Films et al. 1983) (fr).

[127] Director’s narrative, DVD (2010).

[128] See supra note 38.

[129] See Thomas Sancton, Anatomy of a Hijack, Time, June 24, 2001, available at http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,163487,00.html (last visited Mar. 15, 2015).

[130] Rebellion (MNP Entreprise et al. 2011) (fr).

[131] Philip French, A soldier is at war with himself in a taut colonial thriller that marks a stunning return to form for the director of La Haine, Observer, Apr. 20, 2013, available at www.theguardian.com/film/2013/apr/21/rebellion-review (last visited Mar. 15, 2015).

[132] Carlos (Films en Stock et al. 2010) (fr, de).

[133] See supra note 37.

[134] Peter Bradshaw, Wall of silence, Guardian, Sept. 24, 2008, available at www.theguardian.com/film/2008/sep/25/festivals (last visited Mar. 15, 2015).

[135] See supra note 120.

[136] Urbizu’s story reflects Spaniards’ discontent with both the government and the terrorists. After the Madrid train bombings in 2004, public outcry forced Spain to withdraw its support of the Iraq War, and voters ousted the incumbent administration. See James Phillips, Spain’s Retreat After The Madrid Bombings Rewards Terrorism, Heritage Found. WebMemo, Mar. 16, 2004, available at www.heritage.org/research/reports/2004/03/spains-retreat-after-the-madrid-bombings-rewards-terrorism (last visited Mar. 15, 2015).

[137] Ezra and Rowden call it an “ambivalence” that is due to “general reluctance of Western elites to complicate the racial indexicality of the term ‘terrorist’ as a marker for the potential contagion of ‘Third World’ and implicitly religious alterity.” Ezra & Rowden, supra note 2 at 13.

[138] See supra note 122.

[139] In the Name of the Father (Hell’s Kitchen Films et al. 1993) (us).

[140] Some Mother’s Son (Castle Rock Entertainment et al. 1996) (us).

[141] Hunger (Film4 et al. 2008) (gb, ie).

[142] The Boxer (Universal Pictures et al. 1997) (us).

[143] Khatib, supra note 13 at 12.

[144] Id. at 184.

[145] The Terrorist (Pop Art Management 1994) (eg), available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkGV0hJfIro (in Arabic) (last visited Mar. 15, 2015).

[146] Walter Armbrust, Islamists in Egyptian Cinema, 104 Am. Anthropologist, New Series 922, 924 (2002).

[147] Destiny (France 2 Cinéma et al. 1997) (fr, eg).

[148] Armbrust, supra note 146 at 92.

[149] The Other (Canal+ et al. 1999) (fr).

[150] See supra note 35 (segment “Egypt”).

[151] Closed Doors (MISR International Films et al. 1999) (eg, fr).

[152] Armbrust, supra note 146 at 922.

[153] Rachida (Canal+ et al. 2002) (fr, dz).

[154] Bab El-Oued City (Flash Back Audiovisuel et al. 1994) (fr, ch, de).

[155] Khatib, supra note 13 at 184.

[156] Haïfa (Parev Productions et al. 1996) (us, nl).

[157] Lemon Tree (Heimatfilm et al. 2008) (de, fr, il).

[158] See supra note 21.

[159] See supra note 20.

[160] Ali Daraghmeh, Palestinians living in West Bank have dim view of “Paradise Now”, Jan. 25, 2006, Seattle Times, available at http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20060125&slug=paradise25#_ga=1.204623763.202374697.1426475387 (last visited Mar. 15, 2015).

[161] Julia Sieger, Israelis Protest Oscar Nomination, CBS News, Mar. 2, 2006, available at www.cbsnews.com/news/israelis-protest-oscar-nomination/ (last visited Mar. 15, 2015).

[162] Mazarr, supra note 10.

[163] See supra note 21.

[164] See supra note 20.

[165] See supra note 26.

[166] See supra note 36.

[167] See supra note 79.

[168] See supra note 149.

[169] See supra note 154.

[170] See supra note 151.

[171] Bettwy, supra note 23 at 86-87.

[172] Angel Rabasa, Stacie L. Pettyjohn, Jeremy J. Ghez & Christopher Boucek, Deradicalizing Islamist Extremists 191 (Santa Monica, Calif.: Rand 2010).

[173] Peter G. Peterson, Public Diplomacy and the War on Terrorism, 81 Foreign Aff. 76 (Sept.-Oct. 2002).

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

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