The CIA Just Declassified the Movies Osama Bin Laden Watched While in Hiding

mater cars osama bin laden movies
Getty Images/Buena Vista Pictures

It's been six years since SEAL Team 6 raided Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, killing the terrorist leader who masterminded the 9/11 attacks, but the trove of documents and electronic files the SEALs seized continues to provide insight into the life of one the Western world's most reviled men. 

Namely, what kind of movies he watched while he was hiding from all of America's military and intelligence forces. 

The CIA has released select files from the compound over the years, and on November 1 the agency made public an additional 470,000 documents, in case you needed some light reading on a fall afternoon.

While the site containing the files crashed relatively quickly, the CIA's press release notes some revealing info about what documents and files were redacted. There's the expected fare, things like porn and material that would compromise national security, but the nation's top spy group also noted it withheld copyrighted materials, including movies and TV shows the head of al-Qaeda presumably watched at some point during his decade in hiding. The titels revealed in the press release include:

  • Antz
  • Batman Gotham Knight
  • BBC Great Wildlife Moments
  • Biography -- Osama bin Laden
  • Cars
  • Chicken Little
  • CNN Presents: World’s Most Wanted
  • Final Fantasy VII
  • Heroes of Tomorrow
  • Home on the Range
  • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
  • In the Footsteps of bin Laden -- CNN
  • National Geographic: Kung Fu Killers
  • National Geographic: Inside the Green Berets
  • National Geographic: Predators at War
  • National Geographic: World’s Worst Venom
  • Peru Civilization
  • Resident Evil
  • Storm Rider -- Clash of the Evils
  • The Kremlin from Inside
  • The Story of India
  • The Three Musketeers
  • Where in the World is Osama bin Laden

It's impossible to deduce the psychology of Osama bin Laden from a list of movies at his compound, of course, and any of us subjected to evaluation based on our pop culture tastes might not hold up too well (I would hate for my A Walk to Remember DVD to fall into the CIA's hands). Nevertheless, this limited list contains a few interesting tidbits. 

First, bin Laden clearly took an interest in himself -- it's probably smart to watch Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden if you're trying to, ya know, escape detection by the most advanced technology in armed history. Biographical accounts of his life also likely provided insight into how the West perceived him.

Second, what's with all the animated kids movies? Granted, Woody Allen's Antz is pretty dark, but Cars, Home on the Range, and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs do not exactly fit the public image of a man conceiving the global terrorism plots. There were, however, several children in the compound, so it's reasonable to guess the kids movies were for them.

Third, bin Laden wasn't single-mindedly focused on America, with programs on Peru, Russia, and India on the list of copyrighted materials provided by the CIA. Some escapism is likely necessary when you literally can't leave or even be seen outside your house.

And while it's clear that he hoped to get inside America's collective consciousness, he probably should've picked a National Geographic special about the SEALs, rather than the Green Berets.

Finally, there's a dash of irony: Resident Evil. These probably weren't the only forms of entertainment bin Laden viewed over the years, but we'll never know the full extent of what went on at the Abbottabad compound unless the CIA releases all of the documents in its possession.

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Wes Rendar is a writer who did not participate in the Seal Team 6 raid on the Abbottabad compound, but has seen Antz.