Independence Day
Independence day movieposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Produced by Dean Devlin
Written by Dean Devlin
Roland Emmerich
Starring Will Smith
Bill Pullman
Jeff Goldblum
Mary McDonnell
Judd Hirsch
Margaret Colin
Randy Quaid
Robert Loggia
James Rebhorn
Harvey Fierstein
Vivica A. Fox
Music by David Arnold
Cinematography Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Editing by David Brenner
Centropolis Entertainment
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) July 2, 1996
Running time 145 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $75 million
Gross revenue $817,400,891
Followed by Independence Day: Resurgence
IMDb profile

Independence Day (also known by its promotional abbreviation ID4) is a 1996 science fiction film about a hostile alien invasion of Earth, focusing on a disparate group of individuals and families as they coincidentally converge in the Nevada desert and, along with the rest of the human population, participate in a last-chance retaliation on July 4 – the same date as the Independence Day holiday in the United States. It was directed by Roland Emmerich, who co-wrote the script with producer Dean Devlin.

While promoting Stargate in Europe, Emmerich came up with the idea for the film when fielding a question about his own belief in the existence of alien life. He and Devlin decided to incorporate a large-scale attack when noticing that aliens in most invasion films travel long distances in space only to remain hidden when reaching Earth. Principal photography for the film began in July 1995 in New York City, and the film was officially completed on June 20, 1996.

The film was scheduled for release on July 3, 1996, but due to the high level of anticipation for the movie, many theaters began showing it on the evening of July 2, 1996, the same day the film begins. The movie's combined domestic and international box office gross is $816,969,268, which at one point was the second-highest worldwide gross of all-time. It holds the 25th highest worldwide gross of a movie all-time.


On July 2, 1996, a massive alien mothership enters orbit around Earth and deploys saucer-shaped spacecraft 15 mi wide over major cities. In New York City, David Levinson discovers transmissions that he believes the aliens use as a timer to coordinate their attack. David and his father Julius warn the President of the United States (Thomas J. Whitmore) of the attack by playing on David's relationship with his ex-wife Constance, who is on the President's staff. The President orders evacuations of the targeted cities shortly before the aliens' timer runs out. The President, his daughter, portions of his staff and the Levinsons narrowly escape aboard Air Force One as the destroyers lay waste to Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles and other major cities around the world. The President's wife, First Lady Marilyn Whitmore, was at a speaking engagement in Los Angeles and was evacuated, but the helicopter crashes.

Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) is at his girlfriend Jasmine's home for the holiday weekend when he is recalled due to the emergency. Leaving Jasmine and her son, he joins the attack against the aliens and asks her to meet him at the base. Russell Casse is a former pilot from the Vietnam War believed to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after claiming to have been abducted by the aliens ten years earlier. Russell and his children drive through the desert with a caravan of like-minded people in trailers, in an effort to escape the populated city centers.

On July 3, the United States counterattacks; the Black Knights, a squadron of Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets, attack a destroyer near the remains of Los Angeles. Their weapons fail to penetrate the craft's force field, and it releases scores of smaller "attacker" ships which are armed with similar shields and weaponry; a one-sided dogfight ensues. Hiller survives by luring an attacker to the Grand Canyon[1], where he causes it to crash and then subdues the alien pilot. Hiller is picked up by Russell Casse. They take the captured alien to Area 51, where the President and his staff have landed. Area 51 conceals a top secret facility housing a repaired attacker and three alien bodies recovered from Roswell in 1947.

Jasmine and her son stumble upon the First Lady, who is severely wounded from the helicopter crash and care for her along with other refugees. They make their way to the base, only to find it destroyed by the attackers. Hiller steals a helicopter and goes to the base where he reunites with Jasmine and her son.

The alien regains consciousness in the Area 51 lab, and reveals that its species travels from planet to planet, harvesting a planet's resources before moving on. The alien attempts a psychic attack against Whitmore, but is killed by secret service agents. Whitmore orders a nuclear attack on a destroyer. The mission is aborted when a nuclear missile fails to penetrate the alien's shield. The injuries to the First Lady prove to be fatal.

On July 4, David devises a plan to use the repaired attacker to gain access to the interior of the mothership, in order to introduce a computer virus and plant a nuclear bomb. It is hoped that this will cause the shields of the Earth-based alien craft to fail long enough for a worldwide attack to eliminate them. Hiller volunteers to be the mission's pilot, with David accompanying him to upload the virus. Hiller and Jasmine are married, with David and Constance serving as witnesses. With few pilots to man available aircraft, the battle requires volunteers, including Whitmore and Russell, who have previous combat flight experience. Morse code is used to contact armies around the world, in order to coordinate the attack without raising the aliens' suspicions.

After the virus is implanted, Whitmore leads an attack against a destroyer approaching Area 51. The fighters' supply of missiles are exhausted against the craft and its large complement of attackers, and the destroyer prepares to fire its main weapon at the base. Russell possesses the last remaining missile, but his firing mechanism jams. He pilots his aircraft into the center of the alien weapon in a suicide attack, annihilating the ship. Human forces all over the world bring down the remaining destroyers using the same method. Hiller and David, who have discovered the aliens preparing a large ground invasion force, are discovered aboard the mothership. They are unable to make their planned escape and release their missile into the center of the mothership. After releasing the weapon they manage to escape before the device detonates, destroying the mothership. Hiller and David return to earth unharmed, crash-landing their ship near Area 51. The world celebrates, and the main characters watch debris from the mothership enter the atmosphere.

Cast and characters

  • Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller: An assured United States Marine Corps F/A-18 pilot at the forefront of the human resistance counter-offensive. His ambition before the alien attack is to join NASA's astronaut training program. Devlin and Emmerich had always envisioned an African-American for the role,[2] and specifically wanted Smith after seeing his performance in Six Degrees of Separation.[3]
  • Jeff Goldblum as David Levinson: An MIT-educated computer expert who is a chess enthusiast and environmentalist, working as a satellite technician for a cable television company in New York City when he discovers the aliens' invasion plot. He still has strong feelings for his ex-wife and later formulates a plan to defeat the invaders.
  • Bill Pullman as President Thomas J. Whitmore: A former Persian Gulf War fighter pilot and current President of the United States whose approval ratings early in the film indicate the nation's dissatisfaction with his performance. To prepare for the role, Pullman read The Commanders by Bob Woodward and watched the documentary film The War Room.[4]
  • Margaret Colin as Constance Spano: The White House Communications Director and David's ex-wife. Though she still loves David, she feels that he is underachieving, and divorced him to pursue her career alongside President Whitmore.
  • Robert Loggia as General William Grey: A United States Marine Corps general who is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and one of President Whitmore's most trusted advisors. Loggia modeled the character after generals of World War II, particularly George S. Patton.[5]
  • Randy Quaid as Russell Casse: A widowed, alcoholic crop duster and veteran Vietnam War pilot who claims to have been an alien abductee ten years prior to the events of the film. He struggles to care for his three children. At the end of the film, he sacrifices himself to destroy an alien destroyer, gaining the admiration of his eldest son, who previously held little respect for him.
  • James Duval as Miguel Casse,[6] Russell's eldest son. He was not very respectful of his alcoholic father (even calling him "Russell"), but after Russell sacrifices himself to save everybody, Miguel thinks better of him.
  • Judd Hirsch as Julius Levinson: David Levinson's father. The character was based on one of Devlin's uncles.[7]
  • Mary McDonnell as Marilyn Whitmore: The wife of President Whitmore. She is wounded while fleeing the destruction of Los Angeles and later dies from internal bleeding.
  • Vivica A. Fox as Jasmine Dubrow: A single mother, Steve's girlfriend and exotic dancer. She searches for fellow survivors in the aftermath of the Los Angeles attacks, finding the First Lady in the process.
  • James Rebhorn as Albert Nimziki: The Secretary of Defense and former director of the CIA. He advocates the use of nuclear weapons in response to the alien threat. Rebhorn described the character as being much like Oliver North.[8] The character's eventual firing lampoons Joe Nimziki,[9] MGM's head of advertising and reportedly accounted for unpleasant experiences for Devlin and Emmerich when studio executives forced recuts of Stargate.[10]
  • Harvey Fierstein as Marty Gilbert: David's boss, who is killed during the alien attack on New York City.
  • Adam Baldwin as Major Mitchell: A United States Air Force officer who is the commanding officer at Area 51.
  • Brent Spiner as Dr. Brackish Okun: The unkempt and highly excitable scientist in charge of research at Area 51. He is later killed by a captured alien.[11] Devlin, who is open to the idea of bringing Dr. Okun back in the event of a sequel, later implied the character is merely in a coma.[12] The character's appearance and verbal style are based upon those of visual effects supervisor Jeffrey A. Okun, whom Emmerich had worked with on Stargate.[13]
  • Harry Connick, Jr. as Captain Jimmy Wilder: The best friend of Steve and fellow pilot, killed while fleeing a failed attack on an alien spacecraft. Connick took over the part for Matthew Perry, originally cast in the role.[14]
  • Kiersten Warren as Tiffany: Jasmine's exotic dancer co-worker who is killed during the alien attack on Los Angeles.


The idea for the film came when Emmerich and Devlin were in Europe promoting their film Stargate. A reporter asked Emmerich why he made a movie with content like Stargate if he did not believe in aliens. Emmerich stated he was still fascinated by the idea of an alien arrival, and further explained his response by asking the reporter to imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning and discover 15-mile-wide spaceships were hovering over the largest cities in the world. Emmerich then turned to Devlin and said "I think I have an idea for our next film."[7][15][16]

Emmerich and Devlin decided to expand on the idea by incorporating a large-scale attack, with Devlin saying he was bothered by the fact that "for the most part, in alien invasion movies, they come down to Earth and they're hidden in some back field ...[o]r they arrive in little spores and inject themselves into the back of someone's head."[17] Emmerich agreed by asking Devlin if arriving from across the galaxy, "would you hide on a farm or would you make a big entrance?"[17] The two wrote the script during a month-long vacation in Mexico,[15] and just one day after they sent it out for consideration, 20th Century Fox chairman Peter Chernin greenlit the screenplay.[10] Pre-production began just three days later in February 1995.[7][15] The United States military originally intended to provide personnel, vehicles, and costumes for the film; however, they backed out when the producers refused to remove the Area 51 references from the script.[7]

A then-record 3,001-plus special effects shots would ultimately be required for the film.[16] The shoot utilized on-set, in-camera special effects more often than computer-generated effects in an effort to save money and get more authentic pyrotechnic results.[7] Many of these shots were accomplished at Hughes Aircraft in Culver City, California, where the film's art department, motion control photography teams, pyrotechnics team, and model shop were headquartered. The production's model-making department built more than twice as many miniatures for the production than had ever been built for any film before by creating miniatures for buildings, city streets, aircraft, landmarks, and monuments.[18] The crew also built miniatures for several of the spaceships featured in the movie, including a 30-foot (9.1 m) destroyer model[19] and a version of the mother ship spanning Template:Convert.[20] City streets were recreated, then tilted upright beneath a high-speed camera mounted on a scaffolding filming downwards. An explosion would be ignited below the model, and flames would rise towards the camera, engulfing the tilted model and creating the rolling "wall of destruction" look seen in the film.[21] A model of the White House was also created, covering 10 ft by 5 ft, and was used in forced-perspective shots before being destroyed in a similar fashion for its own destruction scene.[22] The detonation took a week to plan[10] and required 40 explosive charges.[22]

File:USA little colorado pano AZ.jpg

A World War II training aircraft with a camera mounted on its front navigated through the walls of the Little Colorado River canyon, and the footage was used as pilot point-of-view shots.[23]

The aliens in the film were designed by production designer Patrick Tatopoulos. The actual aliens of the film are diminutive and based on a design Tatopoulos drew when tasked by Emmerich to create an alien that was "both familiar and completely original".[24] These creatures wear "bio-mechanical" suits that are based on another design Tatopoulos pitched to Emmerich. These suits were 8 ft tall, equipped with 25 tentacles, and purposely designed to show it could not sustain a person inside so it would not appear to be a "man in a suit".[25]

Principal photography began in July 1995 in New York City. A second unit gathered plate shots and establishing shots of Manhattan, Washington D.C., an RV community in Flagstaff, Arizona, and the Very Large Array on the Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico.[25] The main crew also filmed in nearby Cliffside Park, New Jersey before moving to the former Kaiser Steel mill in Fontana, California to film the post-attack Los Angeles sequences.[26] The production then moved to Wendover, Utah and West Wendover, Nevada,[27] where the deserts doubled for Imperial Valley and the Wendover Airport doubled for the El Toro and Area 51 exteriors.[28] It was here where Pullman filmed his pre-battle speech. Immediately before filming the scene, Devlin and Pullman decided to add "Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!" to the end of the speech. At the time, the production was nicknamed "ID4" because Warner Bros. owned the rights to the title Independence Day, and Devlin had hoped if Fox executives noticed the addition in dailies, the impact of the new dialogue would help them win the rights to the title.[7] The right to use the title was eventually won two weeks later.[10]

The production team moved to the Bonneville Salt Flats to film three scenes, then returned to California to film in various places around Los Angeles, including Hughes Aircraft where sets for the cable company and Area 51 interiors were constructed at a former aircraft plant. Sets for the latter included corridors containing windows that were covered with blue material. The filmmakers originally intended to use the chroma key technique to make it appear as if activity was happening on the other side of the glass; but the composited images were not added to the final print because production designers decided the blue panels gave the sets a "clinical look".[29] The attacker hangar set contained an attacker mock-up Template:Convert wide[18] that took four months to build.[10] The White House interior sets used had already been built for The American President and had previously been used for Nixon.[22] Principal photography completed on November 3, 1995.[10]

The movie originally depicted Russell Casse being rejected as a volunteer for the July 4 aerial counteroffensive because of his alcoholism. He then uses a stolen missile tied to his red biplane to carry out his suicide mission. According to Dean Devlin, test audiences responded well to the scene's irony and comedic value.[7] However, the scene was re-shot to include Russell's acceptance as a volunteer, his crash course in modern fighter aircraft, and him flying an F-18 instead of the biplane. Devlin preferred the alteration because the viewer now witnesses Russell ultimately making the decision to sacrifice his life,[7] and seeing the biplane keeping pace and flying amongst F-18s was "just not believable".[30] The film was officially completed on June 20, 1996.[10]

The film's plot deliberately and closely follows the plots of classic alien invasion fiction, most notably The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells and its 1953 film adaptation. Whereas the premise of the film bears little resemblance, there are many elements from War of the Worlds, including the aliens' resistance against nuclear weapons (on a related note, the same scene shows, in the wreckage, a lamp post twisted into the shape of the Heat Ray from the 1953 film), and the aliens defeat via a virus (however, Wells' aliens were killed by a biological virus). Independence Day has also been an influence on later fiction.Template:Or


While the film was still in post-production, 20th Century Fox began a massive marketing campaign to help promote the film, beginning with the airing of a dramatic commercial during Super Bowl XXX, for which Fox paid $1.3 million.[31] The subsequent success of the film at the box office resulted in the trend of using Super Bowl air time to kick off the advertising campaign for potential blockbusters.[32][33]

Fox's Licensing and Merchandising division also entered into co-promotional deals with Apple Inc. The co-marketing project was dubbed "The Power to Save the World" campaign, in which the company used footage of David using his PowerBook laptop in their print and television advertisements.[34] Trendmasters entered a merchandising deal with the film's producers to create a line of tie-in toys.[35] In exchange for product placement, Fox also entered into co-promotional deals with Molson Coors Brewing Company and Coca-Cola.[36]

The movie was marketed with several taglines, including: "We've always believed we weren't alone. On July 4, we'll wish we were", "Earth. Take a good look. It could be your last", and "Don't make plans for August". The weekend before the film's release, the Fox Network aired a half-hour special on the movie, the first third of which was a spoof news report on the events that happen in the film. Roger Ebert attributed most of the film's early success to its teaser trailers and marketing campaigns, acknowledging them as "truly brilliant".[37]


The shot of the White House's destruction was the focus of the film's marketing campaign. A fleeing helicopter was added to the shot in the final print.

The film had its official premiere held at the now-defunct Mann Plaza Theater in Los Angeles on June 25, 1996.[38] It was then screened privately at the White House for President Bill Clinton and his family[39] before receiving a nationwide release in the United States on July 2, 1996, a day earlier than its previously scheduled opening.[40]

Author Stephen Molstad wrote a tie-in novel to help promote the film shortly before its release. The novel goes into further detail on the characters, situations, and overall concept not explored in the film. The novel presents the finale of the film as originally scripted, with the character played by Randy Quaid stealing a missile and roping it to his crop duster biplane. Following the success of the film, a prequel novel entitled Independence Day: Silent Zone was written by Molstad in February 1998.[41] The novel is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and details the early career of Dr. Brackish Okun.[42] Molstad wrote a third novel, Independence Day: War in the Desert in July 1999. The novel is both a midquel and sequel to the film. Set in Saudi Arabia on July 3, it centers around Captain Cummins and Colonel Thompson, the two Royal Air Force officers seen receiving the Morse code message in the film.

On August 4, 1996, BBC Radio 1 broadcast the one-hour play Independence Day UK, written, produced, and directed by Dirk Maggs, a spin-off depicting the alien invasion from a British perspective.[43] None of the original cast was present. Dean Devlin gave Maggs permission to produce an original version, on condition he did not reveal certain details of the movie's plot and the British were not depicted as saving the day.[43] Independence Day UK was set up to be similar to the 1938 radio broadcast of The War Of The Worlds; the first 20 minutes were set as being live.[43]

An Independence Day video game was released in February 1997 for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and PC, each version receiving mostly tepid reviews.[44][45] The multi-view shooter game contains various missions to perform, with the ultimate goal of destroying the aliens' primary weapon. A wireless mobile version was released in 2005. A computer game entitled ID4 Online was released in 2000.

After a six-week, $30 million marketing campaign, Independence Day was released on VHS on November 22, 1996.[46] It became available on DVD on June 27, 2000, and has been re-released on DVD under several different versions with varying supplemental material ever since, including one instance where it was packaged with a lenticular cover.[47] Often accessible on these versions is a special edition of the film, which features eight minutes of additional footage not seen in the original theatrical release.[48] Independence Day became available on Blu-ray discs in the United Kingdom on December 24, 2007,[49] and in North America on March 11, 2008.[50]



One of the film's creatures on the cover of the July 8, 1996 issue of Time.

Independence Day was the highest-grossing film of 1996.[51] In the United States, Independence Day earned $104.3 million in its first full week,[52] including $96.1 million during its five-day holiday opening, and $50.2 million during its opening weekend.[53] All three figures broke records set by Jurassic Park three years earlier.[52] That film's sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, claimed all three records when it was released the following year. Independence Day stayed in the number one spot for three weeks, and would gross $306,169,268 in the domestic market[51] and $510,800,000 in foreign markets during its theatrical run.[51] The combined total of $816,969,268 once trailed only the worldwide earnings of Jurassic Park as the highest of all-time.[54] It has been surpassed by several 21st century films since, and currently holds the 24th highest worldwide gross for a movie all-time. Hoping to capitalize in the wake of the film's success, several studios released more large-scale disaster films,[55] and the already rising interest in science fiction-related media was further increased by the film's popularity.[39]

A month after the film's release, jewelry designers and marketing consultants reported an increased interest in dolphin-themed jewelry, since the character of Jasmine in the film wears dolphin earrings and is presented with a wedding ring featuring a gold dolphin.[56]


Independence Day is ranked as "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes with a 61% positive rating, with 33 out of 54 critics giving it positive reviews.[57] It has a metascore of 59 (based on 18 reviews) on Metacritic.[58] Critics acknowledged the film had "cardboard" and "stereotypical" characters,[2][40][59][60][61] and weak dialogue.[55][61][62][63] The shot of the White House's destruction has been declared a milestone in visual effects and one of the most memorable scenes of the 1990s.[64][65]

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film his highest rating, declaring it the "apotheosis" of Star Wars.[40] Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave it a B+ for living up to its massive hype, adding "charm is the foremost of this epic's contemporary characteristics. The script is witty, knowing, cool."[60] Eight years later, Entertainment Weekly would rate the movie as one of the best disaster movies of all-time.[55] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times felt that the movie did an "excellent job conveying the boggling immensity of [the] extraterrestrial vehicles [...] and panic in the streets" and the scenes of the alien attack were "disturbing, unsettling and completely convincing".[2]

The nationalistic overtones of the film were widely criticized by foreign reviewers. Movie Review UK described the film as "A mish-mash of elements from a wide variety of alien invasion movies and gung-ho American jingoism."[66] The speech in which Whitmore states that victory in the coming war would see the entire world henceforth describe July 4 as its independence day, was described as "the most jaw-droppingly pompous soliloquy ever delivered in a mainstream Hollywood movie" in a BBC review.[67] In 2003, readers of the United Kingdom's most popular movie magazine Empire voted the scene that contained the speech as the "Cheesiest Movie Moment of All-Time".[68] Conversely, Empire critic Kim Newman gave the film a five-star rating in the magazine's original review of the film.[58]

Several prominent critics expressed disappointment with the quality of Independence Day's much-hyped special effects. Newsweek's David Ansen claimed the special effects were of no better caliber than those seen nineteen years earlier in Star Wars.[61] Todd McCarthy of Variety felt the production's budget-conscious approach resulted in "cheesy" shots that lacked in quality relative to the effects present in films directed by James Cameron and Steven Spielberg.[38] Roger Ebert cited a lack of imagination in the spaceship and creature designs as one of the reasons for his marginally negative review,[69] and Gene Siskel expressed the same sentiments in their on-air review of the movie.[37]

Despite this, the movie won the Academy Award for Visual Effects,[70] beating Twister and Dragonheart. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound but lost to The English Patient.[71] Composer David Arnold won a Grammy Award for his work on the film.[72] The movie also won an Amanda Award for Best Foreign Feature Film.[70] Viewers voted for Independence Day to receive an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss,[73] a People's Choice Award for Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture,[74] and a Kids' Choice Award for Favorite Movie. It received Saturn Awards for Saturn Award for Best Director, Best Science Fiction Film, and Best Special Effects.[75] The film was awarded Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects at the inaugural Golden Satellite Award ceremony. The film received a Golden Raspberry nomination in 1996 for Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 million but lost to Twister.[70]


The possibility of a sequel had long been discussed,[76] and Devlin once stated the world's reaction to the September 11th attacks influenced him to strongly consider making a sequel to the film.[77][78] Devlin began writing an outline for a script with Emmerich,[79] but in May 2004, Emmerich said he and Devlin had attempted to "figure out a way how to continue the story", but that this ultimately did not work, and the pair abandoned the idea.[80]

In October 2009, Emmerich said he once again had plans for a sequel,[81] and has since considered the idea of making two sequels to form a trilogy.[82][83]

In June 22, 2015, Emmerich announced the official title, "Independence Day: Resurgence".


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  • Aberly, Rachel and Volker Engel. The Making of Independence Day. New York: HarperPaperbacks, 1996. ISBN 0-06-105359-7.

External links


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