Terrorism, long a popular theme in Hollywood movies, became even more fashionable after 9/11 as violent “terrorists” appeared with increasing frequency in many genres, including thrillers. Charles Darwin observed that the more powerful an antagonist appears to be, the more our anger transforms into terror.1 Darwin also commented upon terror’s relationship with surprise. “Attention,” he wrote, “if sudden and close, graduates into surprise; and this into astonishment; and this into stupefied amazement. The latter frame of mind approximates terror.”2 The dictionary defines “terror” as

1. Intense, overpowering fear. 2. One that instills intense fear: a rabid dog that became the terror of the

neighborhood. 3. The ability to instill intense fear: the terror of jackboots pounding down

the street. 4. Violence committed or threatened by a group to intimidate or coerce

a population, as for military or political purposes. 5. Informal: An annoying or intolerable pest: that little terror of a child.3

September 11 produced a variety of emotional responses, including intense fear, which for many transformed into full-blown terror and panic. Those feelings helped inspire the post-9/11 cycle of terror-themed films.