The best movies and TV shows about firefighters

Audiences have long been fascinated with stories that chronicle the experiences of real-life heroes — like firefighters! In honor of the spring return of ABC’s “Station 19” on March 11, 2021 — which is a crossover episode with “Grey’s Anatomy” — is taking a look at the best films and television shows about firefighters. From a movie led by Nicolas Cage to a sitcom set in the ’70s, keep reading for more titles to add to your watchlist…

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In 1991’s “Backdraft,” Kurt Russell and William Baldwin star as Stephen and Brian, two firefighting brothers who’ve long been at odds with one another. After transferring to the arson unit in an effort to prove his worth on the team, Brian finds himself embroiled in an investigation of backdrafts that are somehow connected to a dangerous politician. Desperate to solve the mystery, Brian must call on an unlikely ally if he is to prevail — his brother, Stephen.

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While at a first glance, 2020’s “The King of Staten Island” might not look like a film that should be on this list, the semi-autobiographical flick partially takes place in a firehouse. Pete Davidson stars as Scott, an aspiring tattoo artist who lacks the motivation to turn his passion into his profession. After getting kicked out of his mom’s house, Scott temporarily moves into the fire station where his mom’s boyfriend, Ray (Bill Burr), works. There, he’s also forced to confront the trauma of losing his firefighter father Stan, who died on the job when he was a kid.

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In FX’s comedy-drama series “Rescue Me,” Denis Leary stars as Tommy Gavin, a New York City firefighter whose alcoholism and self-destructive behavior has pushed his loved ones away. Tommy struggles with the tragic loss of his cousin and fellow firefighters during the 9/11 attacks. Now, forced to navigate life without them, Tommy must confront his demons and find a way to forge ahead in a time of uncertainty. The series, which premiered in 2004, ran for seven seasons before concluding in 2011.

Led by Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta, 2004’s “Ladder 49” tells the story of Jack Morrison, a firefighter who finds himself injured and trapped inside a burning warehouse while his friend, Deputy Chief Mike Kennedy, does everything in his power to organize a rescue effort for him. As his life hangs in the balance, Jack begins to reminisce about various pivotal moments in his life.

2002’s “Collateral Damage” tells the story of Gordon Brewer, a Los Angeles firefighter played by Arnold Schwarzenegger who, after losing his wife and son during a terrorist attack, travels to Colombia to avenge their deaths and track down those responsible.

Based on the GQ article “No Exit” by Sean Flynn, 2017’s “Only the Brave” is a biopic that chronicles the experiences of a notable team of firefighters from Prescott, Arizona, known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who lost their lives while bravely fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in June 2013. The touching film, which stars Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch and Jennifer Connelly, was dedicated to those who died.

“Chicago Fire” chronicles the professional and personal lives of the men and women of Chicago Firehouse 51. Dedicated to protecting the lives of those around them, this close knit team remains steadfast in the face of danger. The NBC drama, which was renewed for three more seasons in 2020, was the first installment in the network’s “Chicago” franchise.

1974’s “The Towering Inferno” tells the story of two men who race against time to save the lives of countless individuals after a fire breaks out in a lavish San Francisco high-rise amidst an organized event. Recognized as a noteworthy addition to the mid-’70s wave of disaster films, the blockbuster flick also earned the 1975 Academy Award for best cinematography.

Believe it or not, firefighters aren’t putting out blazes 24/7, especially when the climate doesn’t necessarily call for such action. “Tacoma FD,” which debuted on truTV in 2019, chronicles the everyday lives of the men and women of the Tacoma Fire Department as they deal with the less-than-exciting parts of their profession. More often than not, these first responders are finding hilarious ways to keep themselves busy. The series, which stars Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Marcus Henderson, Eugene Cordero, Gabriel Hogan and Hassie Harrison, was renewed for a third season in 2020.

In 2006’s “World Trade Center,” Nicolas Cage stars as Sgt. John McLoughlin, a Port Authority officer who, with the help of a colleague, Officer Will Jimeno (Michael Pena), bravely puts his life on the line to help rescue the people trapped in the wreckage of the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Co-created by Ryan Murphy, FOX’s “9-1-1” chronicles the lives of firefighters, dispatchers and police officers as they deal with the pressures of having to step up in some of the most dangerous of circumstances. The series, which has a star-studded cast that’s included Angela Bassett, Connie Britton and Jennifer Love Hewitt, also highlights the complicated personal lives of these characters who are called on to protect others.

“9-1-1: Lone Star,” a spinoff of FOX’s “9-1-1,” stars Rob Lowe as Owen Strand, a New York City firefighter and 9/11 first responder who relocates to Austin, Texas, in the wake of tragedy. Moving to a different part of the country doesn’t solve his problems, however, though Owen tries to move past his long-held beliefs about his life and job in an effort to start fresh. 

NBC’s “Third Watch,” which aired on the network from 1999 to 2005, takes place in New York City and follows its local fire and police departments during the “third watch,” or the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift. The series, which featured a cast that includes Michael Beach, Coby Bell, Eddie Cibrian and Nia Long, ran for six seasons and aired a total of 132 episodes.

Before there was “9-1-1” or “Chicago Fire,” there was this 1970s series! NBC’s “Emergency!” debuted in 1972 and starred Randolph Mantooth and Kevin Tighe as members of Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Squad 15 who worked relentlessly to protect civilians from a series of life-threatening situations. Filmed in a semi-documentary style, the show was recognized for its blending of genres as both a medical and action series. 

In the 2008 Christian drama “Fireproof,” Kirk Cameron stars as Caleb Holt, a well-respected firefighter who, after valiantly saving an innocent person’s life, begins to reevaluate his own. After becoming aware of the fact that he hasn’t been an attentive husband to his wife, Catherine (Erin Bethea), Caleb decides to go on a 40-day expedition in an effort to save his marriage before it’s too late. 

The 2019 comedy “Playing with Fire” hilariously tells the story of Jake Carson (played by John Cena) and a team of firefighters who, after rescuing three boisterous children, come to realize that babysitting is a more difficult job than they could’ve ever imagined.

“Chicago Med” — the third instalment of NBC’s “Chicago” franchise — includes occasional crossovers with characters from “Chicago Fire.” The series, which debuted in 2015, also contains episodes like season 4’s “When to Let Go,” which sees the team of medical workers attempt to save a firefighter’s life.

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