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When the Cold War melted, the Pentagon wasn’t the only one scrambling to find a credible threat. Hollywood, which had long gorged itself on Red-fear films, also needed a new cash cow. The terrorist peril may have been hatched by our military brass, but — as this survey of ’90s blockbusters attests — DreamWorks, Paramount, and 20th Century Fox were only too eager to handle the propaganda. —Tim Dickinson

True Lies
James Cameron. 144 minutes. 20th Century Fox, 1994.
The threat: Arab terrorists of the “Crimson Jihad” nab four Kazakhstani warheads and promise to nuke Miami unless the U.S. withdraws from the Persian Gulf.
The foil: Secret agent Schwarzenegger
The good stuff: “We’re going to catch some terrorists. We’re going to beat the crap out of them. You’re going to feel a lot better.”
Box office: $146 million

The Rock
Michael Bay. 135 minutes. Buena Vista, 1996.
The threat: Traitorous Marines capture Alcatraz and threaten to shower San Francisco with implausibly deadly VX gas.
The hype: “One teaspoon of this shit … will kill every living organism within an eight-block radius!”
The foil: FBI agent Nicholas Cage teams with former jailbird Sean Connery to break into the Rock, neutralize the rockets, and force-feed VX to the last of the mercenary turncoats.
Box office: $134 million

Face/Off
John Woo. 138 minutes. Paramount, 1997.
The threat: Terrorist Nicholas Cage hides a nerve-gas bomb somewhere in Los Angeles and rasps: “I’m about to unleash the biblical plague that ‘HELL’-A deserves!”
The twist: Cage gets offed during an FBI sting, and special agent John Travolta must steal his face — literally — to go undercover and locate the bomb. But Cage miraculously recovers and dons Travolta’s mug. The two-faced terrorist then disarms his own bomb and infiltrates the highest ranks of the FBI.
The foil: Cage-faced Travolta returns from the underworld to unleash his own brand of terror on Travolta-faced Cage.
Box office: $112 million

Die Hard With a Vengeance
John McTiernan. 131 minutes. 20th Century Fox, 1995.
The threat: Riddling mastermind Jeremy Irons plants a bomb in a Manhattan elementary school.
The twist: The bomb is only a ruse. Irons — not unlike the Pentagon — exploits the terrorist canard to steal the nation’s gold reserves.
The foil: Detective Bruce Willis and Good Samaritan Samuel L. Jackson blow up Irons and save the world economy.
Box office: $100 million

The Peacemaker
Mimi Leder. 123 minutes. DreamWorks, 1998.
The threat: A “Muslim-Croat-Serb,” toting a stolen Russian warhead in his backpack, wants to blow up the United Nations.
The foil: Acting chair of the Nuclear Smuggling Group, Nicole Kidman, teams with Lt. Colonel George Clooney to hunt down the psychopathic Yugoslav on the streets of New York.
The good stuff:“God, I miss the Cold War.”
Box office: $41 million

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In-depth journalism that investigates the powerful takes real money and is so damn important right now.But it doesn’t take a Mother Jones investigation to know that billionaires and corporations will never fund the type of reporting (like they do politicians) we do that exists to help bring about change. Instead, our mission-driven journalism is made possible by people power, and has been for 46 years now since our founding as a non-profit.

In “TITLE TK” Monica Bauerlein writes about the perilous moment we’re in, and why it’s so important that we raise $325,000 by the time November’s midterms are decided so we can be ready to throw everything we have at the big issues facing the nation no matter what happens. Please help MoJo’s people-powered journalism with a donation today.

$400,000 to go!

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