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Popular movies, TV shows, and songs that were altered or banned after 9/11

On September 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al Qaeda hijacked four planes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States.

Two of the planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third hit the Pentagon and the fourth crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Almost 3,000 people were killed following the events of 9/11, shocking billions across the world.

In the days directly following, popular culture changed as hundreds of films, TV shows, and songs had to be altered due to bans placed on content featuring the twin towers or referencing plane hijackings in order to avoid distress.

Now, 20 years on, the Daily Star has looked back at popular blockbusters, songs, and shows that have forever been changed following the tragedy.


Spider-Man (2002)

The original 2002 Spider-Man trailer for the film, released in the summer of that year, saw Spider-Man foil a heist by capturing the bandits' escaping helicopter in a web between the two World Trade Center buildings. But following the attacks, this trailer was recalled.

  • Unseen September 11 photos show fire ripping through towers and horror at Ground Zero

In the film itself, scenes featuring the buildings were removed and new scenes were added in tribute to the strength and resilience of New Yorkers. The iconic scene where one city-dweller tells the Green Goblin, "you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us," was actually a post-9/11 reshoot.

Back to the Future (1985)

  • Face-tattooed thug tried to grab police woman's gun while handcuffed to hospital bed

Back to the Future. was edited for TV broadcasting in late 2001. During which all references to the Libyans being "terrorists" and Doc Brown's violent death were removed.

This version of the movie still plays on TV today, prior to the watershed.

ET: The Extraterestrial (1982)

  • Missing one-year-old found in cave where kidnapper 'planned to sacrifice her to spirits'

Stephen Speilberg's ET was celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2002 but the director had to make some changes before its re-release that year.

In the original version, Elliott's mother says about his Halloween costume, "you're not going as a terrorist", which was changed to "you are not going as a hippie". Also, many guns belonging to government agents were edited out and replaced with walkie-talkies.

TV Shows

F.R.I.E.N.D.S (1994 – 2004)

  • Man sacked for complaining after only getting three chicken nuggets for £1.99 in canteen

The widely popular US sitcom, Friends was in its eighth season in 2001 and had to make changes to its early episodes.

A title card that dedicated the episode to the people of New York City was added to the Season 8 premiere, while a subplot in Episode 3 where Chandler (Mathew Perry) jokes about bombs before his honeymoon flight with Monica (Courtney Cox) was replaced.

Sesame Street (1969 – on going)

The PBS kid's show, Sesame Street realised quickly that children needed an outlet to understand their grief for the horrific event so the show's 33rd season, which aired in February 2002, began with an episode that saw Elmo meet FDNY firefighters from Harlem, New York.

  • Glam racegoers go all out as festival returns after last year's closed off event

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Other scenes are written to reflect the changing national mood after 9/11 included one about dealing with the loss of loved ones.


U.S. radio stations took a red pencil to their playlists, banning over 150 songs that mentioned things related to the attacks, like airplanes ("Leavin' on Jet Plane"), fire ("Burning Down the House"), or references to the Middle East (The Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian").

Among the most famous songs to become even more popular at the time was John Lennon's "Imagine" and Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" – as these unobjectionable tracks echoed the grief, pain, and uncertainty the country felt across the states at the time.

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