On the anniversary of September 11th, let’s take a look back at some perfectly innocent promotional art that’re now scarred for life!
Look: No one wants to make light of 9/11. It was on of our country’s greatest tragedies, most of you capable of reading this (reading period) lived through it, we experienced a spat of trauma, now it’s time to move forward with a little pop culture levity, huh? We’re not talking about people who lost their lives here, just buildings. Two buildings. Okay, ready?!
In the scheme of things, the World Trade Center’s New York residency was relatively short lived, limited to just thirty years of existence, less than half that of The Empire State Building (and it’s stature as the world’s tallest building was even shorter, bested by the Willis/Sears Tower a mere two years later.) I’ve actual heard architectural buffs refer to them as an eyesore, due to the fact that they didn’t jibe with the considerably more classical look of greater Manhattan. And yeah, looking at the Twin Towers up close now, and ESPECIALLY in the images below, they admittedly give off a very dated, 1970/80s feel. But their beauty at night cannot be denied, and for three decades they literally defined the NYC skyline. With that in mind, even though this is going to make us all feel a little awkward, you can’t really fault Hollywood for regrettably including them in so very many movie posters back in the day. A lazy artist could simply toss in a silhouette of a Microsoft clip art picket fence, but as long as you added in those two solid steel dicks jettisoning into the sky, a New York City setting could be conveyed with only a passing glance. Such is the case here, as we’ve selected several classic movie posters (i.e. from films the majority of you have actually seen) that now you no longer look at without tiny pangs of patriotic heartbreak.
1. King Kong
Let’s start with our earliest example of the WTC being used in a movie poster, Dino De Laurentiis embarrassing, yet immortal 1976 version King Kong. Looking to up the ante of the 1933 original in every conceivable way, up to and including a 40-foot gorilla robot, the Twin Towers were chosen as the stage for Kong’s final stand, and it’s said Empire State Building enthusiasts/employees protested the decision by picketing in monkey costumes.
2. Godzilla vs. Megalon
Although Godzilla vs. Megalon became ‘Zilla’s lowest-grossing film on his home turf up to that point, the film went on to become a surprising success in America. While neither the Japanese movie nor its marketing made any allusions to an NYC setting, the US theatrical posters deceptively depicted a climatic battle that never actually happened on the top of the World Trade Center in order to capitalize on the aforementioned Kong Kong remake’s awareness.
3. Superman II
In what looks like another bit of false advertising, the WTC is clearly depicted in the poster for 1980’s Superman II. However, if we’re being fair, Metropolis was always a stand-in for New York in the comics, so the production followed suit by shooting on location there. Why it’s also on fire is anybody’s guess.
The 1984 Super Spin-off, Supergirl, doesn’t get off so easy. Metropolis is barely ever mentioned, with most of the movie largely taking place in The Phantom Zone and around a Popeye’s Fried Chicken (seriously.) If you’d like to learn more about this adorable flop, the Laser Time gang devoted an entire episode to the Supergirl movie!
5. The Squeeze
Ho boy… I’ve never seen this movie, and I kind of doubt any of you have or ever will either. Critically panned, a commercial failure, almost two times over-budget, and a production that resulted in the drowning death of a stuntman? Far and away the most jarring of our 9/11 imagery, I’d guess the studio doesn’t care enough open old wounds by whipping up a new poster isn’t worth the studio’s time because The Squeeze has never even been released on DVD.
6. Other People’s Money
I can’t think about this movie and not watch Danny Devito’s Larry the Liquidator’s brutal speech given to a struggling Rhode Island factory. What’s notable about this poster is that it’s currently one of the few posters/covers, that’s been altered, yet still has the balls to leave the the WTC on its cover to this day rather than Photoshop it into oblivion. If you can get past the pain, both a pretty beautiful and perfectly evocative of the movie’s time.
7. The Secret to My Success
Speaking of Adobe products, if there was an award for the most Photoshopped looking poster before Photoshop even existed, this Michael J. Fox comedy would undoubtedly run away with the prize. With that in mind, it’s a little bizarre the WTC hasn’t been digitally removed from the promotional art while being touched up for digital releases. Don’t tell me the studio is worried about the poster looking unrealistic?
8. Escape From New York
Depicting a future with the Twin Towers still standing is probably the most accurate thing about Snake Plissken’s adventure through a Manhattan-wide prison city set in the far-off dystopian year of 1997.
9. Babe: Pig in the City
Awwwww, Poor Babe! Not only did this pretty awesome sequel flop and fade into obscurity, it’s adorable poster now recalls the deadliest attack on American soil!
This probably shouldn’t count since its one of Ghostbuster’s many home video/DVD covers, but the New York setting is very much a costar in this 1984 classic that just celebrated its 30th Anniversary.
11. Rumble in the Bronx
Jackie Chan had been an international sensation for some time before 1995, but it was Rumble in the Bronx that launched his stardom in North America, thanks in part to the movie’s NYC setting… even though it as was filmed almost entirely in Vancouver.
Without a doubt, the most infamous instance of WTC used in the promotion of a film is the first teaser trailer for 2002’s Spider-man, which showed more of the Twin Towers than it does Peter Parker. Sony pulled the trailer immediately after the events of 9/11, but it not only still live on the internet, you can find several early teaser posters on eBay depicting the Twin Towers reflected in Spidey’s eyes.
13. Moscow on the Hudson
Unarguably even more tragic than 9/11, Robin Williams untimely passing makes this the saddest poster/cover of all-time! We talk a bit about this lesser know film on Laser Time’s loving tribute to Williams.
Wanted to give a quick shoutout to 2008’s The Wackness, one of the few movies I’ve ever seen nostalgically set in my boyhood stomping grounds of the mid-90s. It’s also one of the few, if not the only, movie posters to include the Twin Towers post-9/11 for authenticity’s sake.
As we recently discussed in our show all about 90s Prime-Time Cartoons, The Critic is hardly what you call timeless, but it still sucks that the show’s otherwise innocuous opening reminds you of September 11th in its very first second.
Sesame Street Magazine, October 1976 issue
If you were wondering where our header image comes from, it’s from the cover of a very real kids magazine published in 1976, featuring art by Where The Wild Thing’s Are’s Maurice Sendak. I don’t want to start any conspiracy theories, but do you know what Children’s Television Workshop’s initials are spelled backwards…
OKAY, I’M DONE/NEVER FORGET!