The Depiction of Terrorists in Blockbuster Hollywood Films, 1980–2001

An Analytical Study

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About the Book

This book examines how American foreign policy and the commercial film industry’s economic interests influenced the portrayal of international terrorism in Hollywood blockbuster films from the time of the Iran hostage crisis to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Part I provides a historical overview of modern international terrorism and how it relates to the United States, its news media, and its film industry. Part II covers depictions of terrorism during the Cold War under President Reagan, including films like Commando and Iron Eagle. Part III covers the Hollywood terrorist after the Cold War, including European terrorists in the Die Hard franchise, Passenger 57, Patriot Games, Blown Away, The Jackal and Ronin; fundamentalist Islamic terrorists in True Lies and Executive Decision; the return of the communist threat in Air Force One; and 9/11 foreshadowing in The Siege.

About the Author(s)

Helena Vanhala is an associate professor of media arts at Robert Morris University. She is a former freelance journalist, originally from Finland, and now living in Pittsburgh.

Bibliographic Details

Helena Vanhala
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 363
Bibliographic Info: 36 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2011
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3662-0
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5690-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix

Introduction: Bringing the Terrorist into Frame      1

PART I. MODERN INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM      17

1. International Terrorism and the News Media      34

2. International Terrorism and the United States      52

3. International Terrorism and the Hollywood Film Industry      87

PART II. THE HOLLYWOOD TERRORIST AND THE COLD WAR RED TERROR NETWORK      127

4. International Terrorism in the Americas: “It’s Time to Die”      135

Invasion USA (1985)      135

Commando (1985)      142

5. State Sponsored Middle Eastern Terrorism      150

Iron Eagle (1986)      150

The Delta Force (1986)      156

PART III. THE HOLLYWOOD TERRORIST AFTER THE COLD WAR      169

6. “Yippee Ki-yay, Motherfucker”: From German Euroterrorists to Heroes of the Past      187

Die Hard (1988)      187

Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)      188

Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)      188

7. Euroinvasion: Madmen from Britain and Northern Ireland      205

Passenger 57 (1992)      205

Patriot Games (1992)      214

Blown Away (1994)      219

The Jackal (1997)      223

Ronin (1998)      228

8. Hollywood’s Version of Fundamentalist Islamic Terrorism: Return of the One-Dimensional Evil Arab Muslim      233

True Lies (1994)      235

Executive Decision (1996)      242

9. Return of the Communist Threat: U.S. President Takes On Russian Communist Terrorists      .      252

Air Force One (1997)      252

10. Predicting 9/11: Power of Belief      260

The Siege (1998)      260

Conclusion: Patterns and Themes of the Hollywood Terrorist      275

Chapter Notes      303

Bibliography      337

Index      347