Architect Minoru Yamasaki's World Trade Center has been a movie star even since the late sixties, when it was under construction. After its completion in 1973, it became an iconic, if unavoidable place-setter, appearing in hundreds of New York-set films, an oeuvre that's the source of obsession for some list-makers.

The attacks of September 11 turned the towers of the WTC into a marker of another variable for storytellers: time. One can feasibly track the evolution of certain movies based on their treatment of the structure. In the case of "Spiderman," a teaser trailer released before the attacks was subsequently scrubbed of WTC references when the movie hit theaters in 2002. Meanwhile, director Cameron Crowe ignored the directives of studios and refused to alter skyline footage in "Vanilla Sky." Even for filmmakers working today, the issue of how to treat the WTC is larger than some clinical question of visual accuracy -- it concerns sensitivity, a love of the city, and for many, a message to those who committed the attacks.

Seeing the WTC's towers onscreen or in pictures can of course never bring back the sensation of seeing them in the sky -- nor can it erase the action that took them down. But as we remember those who lost their lives, we embrace also the cultural touchstones that paid tribute to the towers in their life, death, and resurrection.

Click through below for a video timeline of the World Trade Center onscreen.

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  • 1971: "King Kong"

    The 1971 "King Kong," shown to the left, is the only one to depict the Great Ape scaling the World Trade Center (in the 1933 original, the ascent is on the Empire State Building, then the tallest of New York City's skyscrapers). In 2005, Peter Jackson <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/05/nyregion/05kong.html" target="_hplink">quietly returned to the Empire State</a> for his big budget remake.

  • 1979: "Manhattan"

    Practically every early Woody Allen movie can be called a love letter to Manhattan, but that's truest when it comes to "Manhattan," his 1979 black and white rom-com-dram (new term). The <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079522/" target="_hplink">typography in the movie's posters</a> managed to incorporate the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State building, and of course -- the World Trade Center -- into the lettering, the latter, as the H.

  • 1981: "Escape From New York"

    There's an <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2008/sep/08/escapefromnewyork.kurtrussell" target="_hplink">undeniable prescience</a> to the imagery in John Carpenter's 1981 post-apocalyptic thriller "Escape From New York." In this scene, Kurt Russell as Snake Plisken flies by power glider to the top of the World Trade Center, providing a view that <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21YUoCZT05Y" target="_hplink">functions as foundation in the history lessons of modern conspiracy theorists</a>.

  • 1981: "Senior Trip"

    The eighties movie about a Midwestern graduating class in the Big Apple references one icon to introduce another. When the seniors come upon the World Trade Center, they do it to the same music of the opening scene in "2001 Space Odyssey," Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra.

  • 1989: "When Harry Met Sally"

    Nora Ephron romanticized no New York City landmark more than the Empire State building in "Sleepless In Seattle." But when Harry and Sally met years before, they did it in Washington Square Park, with a view of the World Trade Center between the arch.

  • 1997: "The Devil's Advocate"

    This scene and a few others featuring the World Trade Center were altered after the attacks of September 11, to update the 1997 thriller "The Devil's Advocate" for TV.

  • 2000: "American Psycho"

    Mary Harron's iconic adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' "American Psycho" locates itself in the high rises of Wall Street. This, of course, meant sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline, which only a year later, would be transformed.

  • 2002: "The Gangs Of New York"

    Released barely a year after the attacks of Sept. 11, Martin Scorsese's epic historical drama "The Gangs Of New York" <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/05/movies/film-new-york-post-9-11-and-pre.html" target="_hplink">did not shirk the responsibility to rewrite the city's narrative</a>. In this final montage, the skyline reflects the destruction wrought by the 1863 Civil War Draft Riots, the subsequent rise of the city, and the crime that defaced it again in 2001.

  • 2002: "Spiderman"

    In the summer of 2001, Sony released a teaser trailer and poster for its upcoming blockbuster "Spiderman." The early trailer (seen to the left) not only incorporated the World Trade Center into its imagery, but used its towers as crucial props for an action subplot that was eventually scrubbed.

  • 2011: "Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close"

    Jonathan Safran Foer's second novel "Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close" was one of the first splashy releases in the publishing world to confront the attacks of Sept. 11 head on, in 2005. It took five more years for the story of a boy coming to terms with the absence of his father, who died in the World Trade Center, to hit the big screen, in an adaptation starring Tom Hanks.

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