Independence Day
Independence day movieposter
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.


July 2

On July 2, a giant alien mothership, over 340 miles in diameter (550 km) passes over Earth's moon and enters orbit around the planet.

The arrival of the mothership is first detected by SETI in New Mexico and notified of their discovery to The Pentagon, where General William Grey is briefed on the situation. After realizing the situation, Grey immediately calls the Secretary of Defense Albert Nimziki.

At the White House, President Thomas Whitmore has been come under attack by public opinion for being politically weak and indecisive despite being a war hero of the Persian Gulf War. While talking with Constance Spano, his communications director, over his prestige Whitmore soon received a call from Nimziki.

In New York City, MIT graduate and satellite technician David Levinson is enjoying a game of chess in a Brooklyn riverside park with his widowed father Julius Levinson, a retired Rabbi. David's father want to discuss with his son about his divorce as David has been wearing his wedding ring for three years after the divorce; Julius finds it unhealthy and tells him to move on. After beating his father in chess, David realizes that his boss has been paging him over and over to come to the office. David. Once he arrives at the office of Compact Cable, it's utter chaos. Everyone is on the phones, taking calls from angry customers. David is quickly accosted by his boss, Marty Gilbert, who informs him of the problem: every television signal is being disrupted, with each broadcast filled with everything from static to distortions. None of their standard troubleshooting has worked. Moreover, this isn't just affecting New York City, it is affecting the entire northern hemisphere. David eventually found the cause of the problem to be some kind of binary code that's been embedded into the satellite feed.

Back at the White House, Whitmore and his staff (Albert Nimziki, General Grey, and Chief of Staff Glenn Parness) are being briefed on the situation. Parness suggests that the object might pass them by, but Nimzicki quickly tries to take charge by recommending a preemptive nuclear strike on it and telling Grey to upgrade to DEFCON 3 (a gross overstepping of his authority). But since it is only two days away from the Fourth of July, it is impossible to recall their vacationing military personnel. They are then informed by Space Command that the mothership has deployed several dozen saucer-shaped "destroyer" spacecraft, each 15 miles (24 km) across. Unsure of what to do next in the face of meeting an alien civilization with unknown intentions, Whitmore relents and orders DEFCON 3.

Across the world, numerous sightings of fireballs are being spotted in the skies from Iraq to Russia. An AWACS plane is diverted to investigate one such phenomena over the Pacific Ocean while providing updates to the President of their progress. But when they reach a clearing, they come across a vast airborne fire in which the plane is quickly engulfed and everyone on board are incinerated. Atlantic Command then gets a call indicating that one's heading towards New York and another is heading right towards the capital. Wanting to maintain a working form of government, and to avoid the same frenzy they saw in Russia, Whitmore orders the Vice President, the rest of the cabinet, and the Joint Chiefs to evacuate to NORAD while he himself stays at the White House to maintain a communication between the American people.

Back in Compact Cable, the rest of the employees, including Marty, are watching a broadcast of the strange phenomenon. David, on the other hand, is busy cracking the code that's interfering with their broadcasts. He's got it and says that while they can block it, the signal is somehow recycling itself; he theorizes that once the signal goes away the broadcast should be clear. But it falls on deaf ears and David is told by Marty of what is happening. After hearing about the approaching the ship heading for New York, David heads upstairs to see it for himself.

The cities of New York, Washington, and Los Angeles are enveloped in a shadow by the city-sized ships. Civilians from all walks of life watch in stunned amazement at this sight before being overwhelmed by fear and panic. As the arrival of the ships appears over the world's major cities, David realized in horror of the implications. While packing his belongings, David explains to cowering Marty that the transmission he discovered is a timer counting down to a coordinated attack by the aliens. David then tries to calls his ex-wife, who is reveal to Constance, to leave Washington. But due to David's exhausted and terrified mood, he comes across as extremely paranoid in which Constance hangs up on him.

In Los Angeles, USMC Captain Steven Hiller is being recalled to El Toro. Despite of his girlfriend's, Jasmine's, fear of the ship, he smoothly reassures her that there's nothing to be scared of, and invites her and her son Dylan to stay with him at the base. Whitmore, meanwhile, calls Marilyn and asks her to leave from her campaign fundraiser in Los Angeles, which she promises to do. After being informed of the world's situation, attempts to establish radio contact with the aliens have failed to gain a response. General Grey explains that Atlantic Command is working on a means to visually communicate with the ship hovering over Washington. This is being carried out at Andrews Air Force Base, where army engineers have retrofitted a Skycrane helicopter, named "Welcome Wagon," with a massive light display, which will provide glyphs that they hope can establish communications

Meanwhile, David takes his father and drives to Washington. After finally arriving safely at the White House, which is surrounded by the National Guard and protestors who are condemning the involvement of the military in first contact, David calls Connie, using a device to triangulate her position to have her come to the window and see him for herself. By then Welcome Wagon and its escorts has taken off to the ship as it is being tracked on news cameras.

David explains to Constance about the countdown, which has less than an hour remaining, but rather than leave with him she insists that he should tell the President and convince him to leave as well. Unfortunately, the last time David met then-Senator Whitmore, he thought he was having an affair with Connie and thus punched him in the face, making him less optimistic that the President will trust him. Regardless, Constance requests Whitmore to talk to her ex-husband and Julius politely urges him to listen. Whitmore listened to David and learning that the aliens are using Earth's satellites to communicate and coordinate a global attack in less than thirty minutes, using mankind's own technology against them. Whitmore orders General Grey to coordinate an immediate mass evacuation from the targeted cities. He then demands the Welcome Wagon group to move away from the ship. But it's too late as they finally get a response, which the helicopters are destroyed by energy fire.

Whitmore, his daughter Patricia, his staff, and the Levinsons are flown to Andrews to be evacuate on Air Force One. By the time the countdown reaches zero, the ships opens fire with directed energy weapons, completely obliterating the targeted cities and leaving millions dead. Whitmore's entourage barely escaped from D.C. Outside of LA, Jasmine is stuck in a traffic tunnel she quickly grabs Dylan amidst the panicking crowd until they sought shelter in a utility closet.

July 3

In the American southwest, the Casse family hear a report on the radio about the devastation, with news slowly trickling in from around the world. They pull and find hundreds of American motor homes across the Mojave Desert, fleeing from the aliens.

Air Force One is en route to NORAD. Whitmore reflects to Constance on his indecision, how he could have had the cities evacuated hours ago. General Grey sadly reports to him that the First Lady's helicopter never made it to safety.

Whitmore later organized a counterattack against the ships over DC, New York, and LA. The VMFA-314 "Black Knights" are to assault the LA ship. However, their weapons fail to penetrate the craft's force field, and it responds by releasing scores of smaller "attacker" ships which are similarly shielded and armed with high-energy torpedoes. The Black Knights are massacred in a one-sided dogfight. Soon the aliens manage to track the military bases and destroy them, including El Toro. Captain Hiller and his wingman Jimmy Wilder are the only fighters left over LA and makes a retreat, but are followed by two attackers. Jimmy is subsequently shot down. Steve takes his single pursuer on a chase through the Grand Canyon, where he causes it to crash and then subdues the alien pilot.

In the ruins of LA, Jasmine emerges from the wreckage with Dylan and Boomer. They come across a working utility vehicle and being looking for survivors. Among the survivors they are found is Marilyn Whitmore.

On board Air Force One, President Whitmore consults his staff, who report that NORAD has been destroyed by the invaders and the Vice President, Whitmore's Cabinet and the Joint Chief have all perished in the attack. Nimzicki bluntly recommends a nuclear strike, which Whitmore rejects because it will only harm American civilians. Overhearing this, David comes in and loudly denounces the idea of using nukes, almost resulting in a brawl between himself and Nimzicki. Julius quickly comes to the defense of his son, pointing out that each and every of them would have been dead if it hadn't been for David. He also derides them for doing nothing to prepare for the invasion and ranting that the American government knew about the invaders in regards to the Roswell incident and Area 51. Whitmore is humored by this and tries to tell Levinson that Area 51 doesn't exist. However, Nimzicki very reluctantly tells the president this is not entirely accurate.

In the desert of Nevada, Hiller is using his parachute to drag the knocked out body of the alien. He laments to the alien how this was supposed to be his weekend off, but instead he's dragging it through the burning desert. He then explodes in anger after catching a whiff of the alien and kicks it. After calming down, he then sees the convoy of refugee RVs driving towards him, and among them is Russell Casse who offers a lift to Steve.

Air Force One arrives in Area 51, commanded by Major Mitchell. The President and the others are then taken into the heart of the long-secret facility, where they are given a tour by head scientist Dr. Brackish Okun. It is reveal that facility holds a repaired alien attacker ship and three dead alien bodies. Okun explained that the aliens' biochemistry is similar to humans. They don't seem to use sound to communicate, however; the Area 51 staff believes they communicate telepathically. Attempts have been under way since the late 1960's to repair the attacker ship and with the arrival of the mothership, the systems in the attacker have reactivated. After Okun explained what he knows about the aliens, Whitmore tasked David to work with Okun to try and figure out what hasn't been thought of yet. Outside of Area 51, the RV convoy arrive at the perimeter gate in which Steve presents the alien as his "clearance" and the refugees are allowed in. The alien is then wheeled to medical containment.

Area 51 is soon converted into the U.S. government's new command headquarters, reestablishing their communications links along with processing all the available information from the outside world. Whitmore is then informed that the situation is growing more worse: Atlanta, Chicago, and Philadelphia have been confirmed destroyed in the second attack wave, along with 33 other cities around the world. NATO headquarters in Brussels and countless Western Allied bases have also been taken out, with America's forces taking a tremendous hit. Across the world, humanity is being routed and the aliens are expected to systematically destroy every major city within 36 hours. Hiller is brought in and congratulated by Whitmore. The alien has been moved to isolation, and Whitmore asks to see it. As the executive staff heads out, Hiller requests to be taken back to El Toro. General Grey solemnly informs him that the base was destroyed during the counterattack.

Meanwhile, Jasmine leads the survivors to what remains of El Toro. Seeing the devastated base makes her realize that Steve is likely dead. Nevertheless, they all make camp and Jasmine and the First Lady gets to know each other.

Back at Area 51, Dr. Okun leads a medical team to remove the alien's biomechanical armor. The creature regains consciousness and kills most of the examining crew. It then takes control of Okun to communicate with President Whitmore, demanding to be release. Whitmore poses a question to the alien, asking if the people of Earth and their invaders can live in peace. The creature says "No peace." When the president asks the creature what it wants them to do, it responds, "Die." It uses its telepathic powers to invade president's mind, which briefly incapacitates him. Whitmore's security detail guns down the alien. Okun is left in a coma. Whitmore takes a moment to recover and then explains to Grey what he saw in the alien's thoughts: the aliens attack planets, kill off any indigenous life, use up the resources, then move on. Fuming with disgust at the callousness of the invaders, Whitmore finally orders a nuclear strike, as they have no further alternative.

Word of Whitmore's decision quickly spread across the base. In a break room overlooking the spaceship hangar, David finds the local supply of alcohol and starts drinking it. Constance tries to console him, but he directs the conversation back to their failed marriage. Part of her problem was his lack of ambition, how he could have had any job in the world. However, David was happy where he was, working for the cable company at his home city of New York close to his father. Constance asks if he wanted to be part of something special, to which David says "I was part of something special." As she leaves, she tells him that she never actually stopped loving him.

B-2 Spirit bombers are deployed, with the first heading for the destroyer that destroyed Washington, which is currently hovering over the now deserted Houston. Other nuclear states agree to keep their assets in reserve until the effectiveness over Houston is determined. After a few seconds of hesitation, Whitmore gives the go for nuclear launch. The weapon explodes, but proves ineffective at penetrating the craft's force field and destroys the city instead; as a result, the President orders the remaining bombers called back despite of Nimzicki's insistence to continue the attack.

Meanwhile, Hiller commandeered a helicopter from the base and heads off to El Toro to look for Jasmine. He finds her and her survivor group, bringing them back to Area 51. Whitmore is overjoy of being reunited with his wife. But he is sadly informed by Dr. Milton Isaacs that Marilyn's injuries are too severe and she dies later that night, after getting to see her daughter and husband one more time.

July 4

In the middle of the night, David is found by his father, drunk and furiously making a mess in the hanger, yelling that humanity should make the earth so dirty that the aliens won't want the planet anymore. Julius quickly calms his son down, talking about how everyone loses faith at some point; he himself has been lax in his faith since David's mother died. David gives a drunken laugh while his father tells him to get off the freezing floor before he catches a cold. David then suddenly has a epiphany and instantly snaps out of his drunken stupor, calling his father a genius.

David has everyone gather in the hanger and demonstrates to the crowd how the attacker ship's shield works. He then activates a program on his laptop, that deactivates the ship's shield, making it effortless for Major Mitchell to shoot a soda can he placed on it. David suggests a plan that involves using the newly operable alien attacker to gain access to the interior of the alien mothership in order to introduce a computer virus into its system that will disable the force fields around the destroyers and attackers on Earth. Once the computer virus takes effect, the alien vessels will be left vulnerable.

While nearly everyone is intrigued, a very skeptical Nimzicki begins to point out the flaws in David's plans. First, the ship was a wrecked that no one on Earth is qualified to fly it. Second, humanity's armed forces are scattered, and they have no idea how long the shields will be down; once the aliens identify the virus, their window of opportunity could be a matter of minutes. Nevertheless, General Grey says that they've reestablished their communications link to Europe and Asia, so they should be able to get instructions to allied forces via Morse code in order to coordinate the attack without raising the aliens' suspicions. Hiller immediately volunteers to fly the ship, which proves to be capable of flying as it hovers in place. Whitmore gives the plan his blessing. Nimzicki continues to dissuade from making David's plan to work, but only to be fired by Whitmore.

In the early hours of July 4th, Area 51 is preparing all pilots to report to their stations. Volunteers with combat flight experience are recruited from the RV refugees. Among them Russell and Whitmore himself, who wants to lead his men into battle. The Roswell craft is fitted with a tactical nuclear warhead that they will launch once the virus is uploaded. Hiller and Jasmine consummate their marriage in the base chapel, with Dylan as ringbearer and David and Constance as witnesses. During the service, David and Constance reconcile. After saying their goodbyes, Steve and David get ready to board the alien ship. They are then given victory cigars by Julius. In return, David gives his father a yarmulke and prayer book.

Steve and David takes off into space and sets a course for the mothership. Inside, they find millions of aliens assembled on a large parade ground, preparing a large ground invasion force. Their ship finally comes to a stop within the enormous docking tower in which David begins transferring the virus.

Back on Earth, Whitmore and his squadron take off, heading for the Los Angeles City Destroyer which has shifted its course away from San Diego to Area 51. After getting confirmation that the virus has been uploaded, Whitmore fires a missile, but it impacts off the shield. General Grey orders a withdrawal, but Whitmore persists and fires another. This time, it flies past the shield perimeter and explodes against the ship's hull. A massive volley follows, causing noticeable damage to the destroyer. Realizing the sudden threat the humans pose, the aliens launch their attackers to defend the ship, but this time, it's an even fight. However, the squadron's supply of missiles is quickly exhausted against the colossal craft and its large complement of assault ships.

The underside of the alien craft opens up as its directed energy weapon prepares to fire on the base. Whitmore fires a missile at the cannon but it connects and explodes on a protective hatch. Just as the squadron is informed that all their missiles have been fired, Russell radios in saying he has one final missile. Whitmore and his wingmen clear the way for Russell, destroying any alien fighters in their path. As Russell prepares to launch his missile, his firing mechanism suddenly jams. Unable to fire his missile, Russell makes a fateful decision to fly his jet into the alien weapon in a suicide attack. The explosion causes a chain reaction which annihilates the ship. General Grey quickly gets on the radio, instructing forces throughout the world on how to take down the remaining 35 City Destroyers.

Back on the mothership, David and Steve are unable to disconnect their ship from a docking clamp, and the aliens override the craft's controls to see who has their ship. Cornered by the aliens, the men believed they have no chance of escaping and decide to fire the tactical warhead. The warhead flies into an alien dock controller and embedding itself deep within the main command center. Unexpectedly the launch also releases the dock mechanism, allowing David and Steve to make a harrowing escape to the exit while being pursued by alien attackers. The aliens attempt to trap them by closing the blast doors, but they make it out, while their pursuers crash into the barrier. Just as they escaped, the warhead detonates, instantly destroying the mothership. Hiller and Levinson are caught up in the shockwave and debris of the mothership's explosion.

Around the world, the City Destroyers are brought down one by one, along with their vast complement of attackers. Civilians come out of hiding to celebrate the great victory, cheering at the sight of the ships burning next to their attempted targets. Whitmore is informed of the campaign's worldwide success and asks Grey what's become of David and Steve, to which he learns that the destruction of the mothership cut off their link. But a technician detect something incoming outside of Area 51.

Whitmore, Patricia, Jasmine, Dylan Constance, and Julius drive out into the desert and find Steve and David, sauntering across the sands with their spaceship safely crash landed in the background. They are happily reunited with their wives, and congratulated by both General Grey and President Whitmore. Everyone look on at the still-burning wreck of the Los Angeles City Destroyer. Steve reminds his step-son that he had promised fireworks, and he certainly delivered. They watch as debris from the mothership burns up in the atmosphere.


  • 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,[1] and specifically wanted Smith after seeing his performance in Six Degrees of Separation.[2]
  • 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.[3]
  • 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.[4]
  • 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,[5] 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.[6]
  • 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.[7] The character's eventual firing lampoons Joe Nimziki,[8] MGM's head of advertising and reportedly accounted for unpleasant experiences for Devlin and Emmerich when studio executives forced recuts of Stargate.[9]
  • 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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12]
  • 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.[13]
  • 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."[6][14][15]

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."[16] Emmerich agreed by asking Devlin if arriving from across the galaxy, "would you hide on a farm or would you make a big entrance?"[16] The two wrote the script during a month-long vacation in Mexico,[14] and just one day after they sent it out for consideration, 20th Century Fox chairman Peter Chernin greenlit the screenplay.[9] Pre-production began just three days later in February 1995.[6][14] 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.[6]

A then-record 3,001-plus special effects shots would ultimately be required for the film.[15] 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.[6] 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.[17] The crew also built miniatures for several of the spaceships featured in the movie, including a 30-foot (9.1 m) destroyer model[18] and a version of the mother ship spanning 12 ft.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21] The detonation took a week to plan[9] and required 40 explosive charges.[21]

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".[22] 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".[23]

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.[23] 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.[24] The production then moved to Wendover, Utah and West Wendover, Nevada,[25] where the deserts doubled for Imperial Valley and the Wendover Airport doubled for the El Toro and Area 51 exteriors.[26] 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.[6] The right to use the title was eventually won two weeks later.[9]

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".[27] The attacker hangar set contained an attacker mock-up 65ft wide[17] that took four months to build.[9] The White House interior sets used had already been built for The American President and had previously been used for Nixon.[21] Principal photography completed on November 3, 1995.[9]

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.[6] 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,[6] and seeing the biplane keeping pace and flying amongst F-18s was "just not believable".[28] The film was officially completed on June 20, 1996.[9]

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.


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.[29] 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.[30][31]

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.[32] Trendmasters entered a merchandising deal with the film's producers to create a line of tie-in toys.[33] In exchange for product placement, Fox also entered into co-promotional deals with Molson Coors Brewing Company and Coca-Cola.[34]

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".[35]

The film had its official premiere held at the now-defunct Mann Plaza Theater in Los Angeles on June 25, 1996.[36] It was then screened privately at the White House for President Bill Clinton and his family[37] before receiving a nationwide release in the United States on July 2, 1996, a day earlier than its previously scheduled opening.[38]

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.[39] The novel is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and details the early career of Dr. Brackish Okun.[40] 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.[41] 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.[41] 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.[41]

An Independence Day video game was released in February 1997 for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and PC, each version receiving mostly tepid reviews.[42][43] 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.[44] 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.[45] 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.[46] Independence Day became available on Blu-ray discs in the United Kingdom on December 24, 2007,[47] and in North America on March 11, 2008.[48]




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, beating Twister, Mission: Impossible and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.[49] In the United States, Independence Day earned $104.3 million in its first full week,[50] including $96.1 million during its five-day holiday opening, and $50.2 million during its opening weekend.[51] All three figures broke records set by Jurassic Park three years earlier.[50] 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[49] and $510,800,000 in foreign markets during its theatrical run.[49] The combined total of $816,969,268 once trailed only the worldwide earnings of Jurassic Park as the highest of all-time.[52] 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,[53] and the already rising interest in science fiction-related media was further increased by the film's popularity.[37]

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.[54]


Independence Day is ranked as "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes with a 61% positive rating, with 33 out of 54 critics giving it positive reviews.[55] It has a metascore of 59 (based on 18 reviews) on Metacritic.[56] Critics acknowledged the film had "cardboard" and "stereotypical" characters,[1][38][57][58][59] and weak dialogue.[53][59][60][61] 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.[62][63]

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film his highest rating, declaring it the "apotheosis" of Star Wars.[38] 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."[58] Eight years later, Entertainment Weekly would rate the movie as one of the best disaster movies of all-time.[53] 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".[1]

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."[64] 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.[65] 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".[66] Conversely, Empire critic Kim Newman gave the film a five-star rating in the magazine's original review of the film.[56]

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.[59] 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.[36] Roger Ebert cited a lack of imagination in the spaceship and creature designs as one of the reasons for his marginally negative review,[67] and Gene Siskel expressed the same sentiments in their on-air review of the movie.[35]

Despite this, the movie won the Academy Award for Visual Effects,[68] beating Twister and Dragonheart. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound but lost to The English Patient.[69] Composer David Arnold won a Grammy Award for his work on the film.[70] The movie also won an Amanda Award for Best Foreign Feature Film.[68] Viewers voted for Independence Day to receive an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss,[71] a People's Choice Award for Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture,[72] 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.[73] 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.[68]


The possibility of a sequel had long been discussed,[74] and Devlin once stated the world's reaction to the September 11th attacks influenced him to strongly consider making a sequel to the film.[75][76] Devlin began writing an outline for a script with Emmerich,[77] 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.[78]

In October 2009, Emmerich said he once again had plans for a sequel,[79] and has since considered the idea of making two sequels to form a trilogy.[80][81]

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.

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