09/11/2012 03:28 pm ET

Remembering September 11, 2001: The World Trade Center In The Movies (VIDEOS)

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.