Terrorists use violence and intimidation against innocent civilians to convince governments to listen to them. It’s a cowardly act that often ends in mass bloodshed, and we’re unfortunately living among these terrorists. Thankfully, Hollywood has screenwriters willing to dive into the heads of these monsters to show us what drives the most horrific monsters in our society.
Here are the top 20 terrorism movies released prior to 2020 to learn more about the life of a terrorist and those protecting us from them.
20. World Trade Center (2009)
The real-life attack on NYC’s twin towers on September 11, 2001 is forever ingrained in the brains of every American who was alive on that day. Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena do their best to pay homage to the first responders who jumped into action.
19. Arlington Road (1999)
Jeff Bridges is a college professor whose FBI agent wife is murdered by extremists. Now nothing is what it seems, including his new neighbors, played by Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack.
18. Black Sunday (1977)
Inspired by the true 1972 Summer Olympic massacre perpetrated by the Black September organization, this fictional story follows the pilot of the Goodyear blimp manipulated by a Black September female he’s in love with to bomb the Miami Orange Bowl during Super Bowl X.
17. Blown Away (1994)
Jeff Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones respectively play a police bomb squad agent and Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomber embroiled in a cat-and-mouse game through Boston.
16. The Crying Game (1992)
All anybody remembers about this movie is the hot woman was a man the whole time. What’s forgotten is the IRA terrorism backdrop. Forest Whitaker, Miranda Richardson, and Jay Davidson star.
15. The Rock (1996)
Ed Harris plays a General who’s gone rogue and holding the city of San Francisco hostage from Alcatraz prison. Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery are the FBI agent and captured British spy sent to stop him.
14. United 93 (2006)
Terrorists actually seized control of three airplanes on September 11, 2001, but the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 fought back and crashed the plane after the hijacking.
13. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Jessica Chastain plays a fictional CIA analyst orchestrating the search for Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader who orchestrated 9/11.
12. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
A Las Vegas smuggling ring is just a front for a terrorist plot to target Washington D.C. with a space laser weapon.
11. Airheads (1994)
Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi, and Adam Sandler are a band with losers who decide to become winners by holding a radio station hostage and forcing them to play their demo. Things get out of control when the police show up to negotiate.
10. Speed (1994)
Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock are stuck on a bus that’s forced to stay over 55 miles per hour to avoid starting a bomb and killing everyone aboard. As they navigate busy city streets, the police are hot on the trail of the mad bomber responsible.
9. Patriots Day (2016)
Kevin Bacon and Mark Wahlberg play law enforcement involved in the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers, Russian brothers Tamerlan and Dkhokhar Tsarnaev. This real-life attack was forever immortalized by this high-budget movie.
8. Body of Lies (2008)
Ridley Scott’s thriller is an adaptation of a fictional story of a CIA agent (Leonardo DiCaprio) investigating terrorism in Iraq. He finds himself deeply immersed in espionage and counterespionage and unable to trust anyone, even his boss (Russell Crowe).
7. Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
The most unthinkable terrorist attack succeeds in this fictional tale of terrorists invading the White House and kidnapping the President (Aaron Eckhart) and his staff. It’s up to a disgraced former security officer (Gerard Butler) to save the day.
6. Munich (2005)
Steven Spielberg‘s historical drama is based on the book Vengeance, which follows Operation Wrath of God, the Israeli government’s retaliation against the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) massacre of Olympic athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.
5. The Jackal (1997)
When a Russian gangster’s brother is killed during an FBI raid, he hires a hitman named the Jackal (Bruce Willis) to kill the FBI’s Deputy Director (Sidney Poitier) in retaliation. The FBI enlists an imprisoned IRA terrorist who can identify the Jackal to find him.
4. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) no longer has IMF to back him, and a terrorist organization called The Syndicate rose up to threaten the world. Now he has to gather his team (including Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg) to stop them.
3. Die Hard (1988-2013)
Arguably one of the greatest Christmas movies ever made is about a terrorist plot on a Los Angeles office building being thwarted by an NYC cop whose wife is in the crossfire.
2. Hotel Mumbai (2018)
Members of the Lashkar-e- Taiba storm the Taj Mahaj Palace Hotel in one of a series of attacks in this movie based on the real-life 2008 terrorist attack. Several native workers in the kitchen staff help the foreign guests stay as safe as possible.
1. The 15:17 to Paris (2018)
This real-life 2015 terrorist attack on a train is thwarted by three young Americans traveling together through Europe. The men (Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone) play themselves and reenact their actions that saved 500 lives in this Clint Eastwood-directed movie.