As we somberly mark the eleventh anniversary of September 11, 2001, when terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York City, we would be prudent to remember that not only did our country lose thousands of lives and suffer immeasurable physical and psychological damage on that day, but we also lost those iconic landmarks that for 20 years had been used as a dramatic backdrop for dozens of American films, television shows and comic books.
For me, the film that will always be most lovingly associated with the Twin Towers is the 1976 remake of King Kong. This is one of the coolest movie posters of all time and through the exaggerated perspective of famed science-fiction artist John Berkey, the giant ape is straddling both of the towers while holding Jessica Lange in one hand and a crumpled Air Force jet in the other.
In the King Kong movie (which wasn’t nearly as good as the poster), Kong climbs up the South Tower (then only three years old) and at one point during his climatic battle actually jumps across the buildings to the North Tower. As a teenager in the mid-70s, I had this poster on my bedroom wall for years – and as someone who never got the chance to see the World Trade Center in person, this movie and poster will always be my favorite memory of those monolithic towers.
In post-9/11 printings of the ’76 Kong movie DVD, the famous poster has been replaced with a picture of actress Lange in Kong’s hand – as if the poster never existed. But the Twin Towers can also be seen in many other pop culture-themed movie posters including Superman, Superman II and Supergirl (where New York City played Metropolis), X-Men, Splash, Rumble in the Bronx, Antz, Men in Black and even Godzilla vs. Megalon (a 1976 King Kong poster rip-off.)
My last untarnished memory of the towers is their prominence in the early marketing of the first Spider-Man movie (2002). The initial Spider-Man movie poster from 2001 was a close-up of the hero hanging on the side of a building with the Twin Towers reflected in his mask’s eye-piece. The first trailer for the film also had the Wall-Crawler capturing a helicopter full of thieves in a spider-web that was stretched across the space between the towers.
Both the poster and the trailer were pulled from circulation after the tragic events of 9/11, but Spider-Man would later help the comic book community heal with the release of The Amazing Spider-Man #36, where the hero watches helplessly as his hometown is attacked and the Twin Towers crumble to the ground – a reflection of the helplessness we all felt on that infamous day.
With the exception of the Statue of Liberty, I can’t think of any other structures that have been such a noteworthy part of America’s pop culture history as the Twin Towers, even before the events of September 11. And in the same way that we mourn over the loss of our loved ones, it’s comforting to look back at images of them in happier times – and remember.
What is your favorite pre-9/11 memory of the Twin Towers in pop culture? Let us know in the comments below.