"Look at us! Take a look at the Earthlings! Goodbyeee!"
The canyon chase. After his entire squadron is slaughtered in a failed counter-attack, Captain Hiller, his plane depleted of weaponry, leads a pursuing alien attacker into a chase through the Grand Canyon, maneuvering an F/A-18 through extremely tight openings at high speed while the alien attacker continuously tries to hit him with it's weapons, no doubt growing increasingly frustrated at being unable to hit Hiller's plane. The chase finally ends when Hiller, his plane rapidly running out of fuel, deploys his braking parachute and detaches it right into the face of the pursuing attacker. Using that to his advantage, Hiller ejects while his plane flies right into a canyon wall. The parachute finally flies off the attacker, which is then greeted with the explosion of the plane and the rapidly approaching canyon wall. The alien pilot is barely able to pull up and clips the canyon wall, crashlanding not too far away.
Will Smith taking an alien ship down using his jet's parachute, which leads to him opening the ship and punching the alien in the face. "Welcome to Earth!"
"Now that's what I call a close encounter."
His badass (and hilarious) explanation of how he's more than willing to repeat that tactic against the aliens:
Capt. Steven Hiller: Wait 'til I get another plane! I'm gonna line ALL your friends up RIGHT beside you!
The immense catharsis of watching the aliens city-destroyer cannon, that had destroyed so many landmarks and cities worldwide, blow itself up (exactly like the targets it laid waste to) all because one brave pilot rammed his jet right up the cannon's barrel.
Russell's crowning moment after realizing that his final missile has jammed, says good bye to his children before flying into the alien ship's primary weapon, gleefully screaming "Hello boys! I'm baaaaaaaaaaack!!" And the aliens promptly learn they fucked with the wrong race.
As well as this, moments before: "In the words of my generation - UP...YOURS!" Most. Badass. Sacrifice. Ever.
The awesomeness of that sequence started as soon as the President shouted "Doesn't anyone have any missiles left?!"
The original script was even better, with Russell in his crop duster with a missile tied on. Note that this means he took off intending to sacrifice himself.
"Must go faster! Must go faster!" —— "Elvis has left the building!" —— "Didn't I promise you fireworks??"
Adam Baldwin gets one too.
General Gray: Is that glass bulletproof?
Major Mitchell: No, sir! (he and several others pull out their guns and start blowing the shit out of the lab window and the alien behind it)
And then Major Mitchell walks up to the alien, all intent and calm, looks it square in the eye, and then empties his gun into its head. The expression on Major Mitchell's face...
Even more awesome if you imagine that it's John Casey shooting the alien dead. Or Jayne Cobb. Or Kal'Reegar. Let's just say that Adam Baldwin has been gloriously type-cast as a gun-toting badass.
Finally being able to hit the aliens. A moment summed up nicely in one line:
Russell: Payback's a bitch ain't it!
In some theaters, the first missile to penetrate the shields and detonate against the hull elicited an ovation.
That entire scene is a Crowning Moment of Awesome; Whitmore is the first to launch a missile once the virus is planted , and when his missile impacts against the shield, the entire attack is called off and despair fills the control room. All of the planes break off and retreat, but Whitmore instead accelerates towards the City Destroyer and launches another missile. The entire control room watches as the missile soars towards the saucer, passes the point where the shields should have stopped it...and impacts against the hull. What moments ago was sheer hopelessness is replaced with sheer jubilation and Whitmore's plane is rejoined by his squadron, who then proceed to absolutely unload on the City Destroyer with multiple missiles.
President Whitmore's entire Independence Day speech. It is on a great many blogs and lists as one of the top 5-10 (depending on the blogger/writer's scale) greatest movie speeches of all time.
President Whitmore: Perhaps it's fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom. Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution...but from annihilation. We're fighting for our right to live - to exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!
In addition to his epic speech, Whitmore deserves another mention for the "release me" scene. Even after the aliens have destroyed 72 cities, are poised to destroy dozens more, and killed countless millions, he looks one of the invaders directly in the eye and tries to probe for peace, all without flinching or a hint of fear in his voice.
The President's firing of the Secretary of Defense:
Albert Nimzicki: I understand you are upset over the death of your wife, but that's no excuse for making another fatal mistake. President Whitmore: No, the only mistake I ever made was to appoint a sniveling little weasel like you as Secretary of Defense! Albert Nimzicki: I don't think you understand — President Whitmore: However, that is one mistake, I am thankful to say, that I don't have to live with. Albert Nimzicki: Mr. President — President Whitmore: Mr. Nimzicki...you're fired.
Will Smith's character again, when he flashes the V-Sign, shouts "Peace!" and launches a tactical nuke into the alien mothership's hangar control room.
That entire sequence where they launch their attack; the two decide they aren't getting out of this alive, and light up the cigars before setting off the virus and the nuke one after another, standing up to smile and wave at the aliens for good measure, all while three alien attackers hover behind them. The kicker is that the alien controller had no idea what was going on when it saw them. The confused and shocked reaction to the Jolly Roger virus appearing on the screens just sells the whole moment. Then the nuclear missile flies out of its launcher and streaks towards the alien controller's booth and even though it has no mouth, the controller does the closest thing to screaming "shit!" it can as a nuke flies right through it's workspace, and keeps going, finally embedding itself further in the mothership.
Steve: Do you think they have any clue what's about to happen to 'em?
David: Oh, not a chance in Hell! Good night!
Julius telling Nimziki off for chewing David out, reminding him that his son's the only reason they're still breathing.
"Awesome" is still the best word that can describe the scene where people are trying to outrun the ginormous fireballs created by the alien ships. The audience in theaters were screaming for the people to escape. When the sequence ended with the screen's abrupt switch to black immediately followed by the date showing up with the imposing doom sound, the audience in a number of theaters cheered, a true compliment in how the film had gripped them to the edge of their seats.
Let's just face it, the whole movie was and still is a Crowning Momentof Awesome for Roland Emmerich, the actors, and the film itself. Not to mention nearly every TV channel airs it mostly every month. ESPECIALLY the Visual Effects, HOLY freakin' SHIT!
This film has held the world record for most miniature models used for effects, and will most likely continue to hold this record for some time, given the increasing amount of CGI effects since 1996.
The part when the aliens blew up the cities was absolutely mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, and amazing up to this day.
The White House Destruction is the movie's trope! Seriously, it is the reason why people watch this movie because of the iconic scene.
The movie also won an Oscar for VFX, and was nominated for "Best Sound Mixing".
Also worth mentioning is the shot when Boomer leaps to safety, right as fireball passes behind him.
The aliens in this movie are badass. They show up out of nowhere, set up their pieces, and utterly demolish every major city they can find with methodical precision. They stand undeterred behind shields, and they only talk to Puny Humans via otherPuny Humans to tell them they're going to die. They're very satisfying bad guys for all those reasons and more.
A major shout-out to the Royal Air Force, the Armée de l'air, the Luftwaffe, the Israeli Defense Forces, the JASDF, the VVS, the KLu, the RSAF, the People's Liberarion Army Air Force, the FiAF, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and every other air force who managed to hold their ground against the attackers and take down the city destroyers.
A small one for Whitmore: when David demonstrates the virus, Major Mitchell's first shot hits the shield and bounces all around the hangar, causing everyone to duck for cover...except Whitmore, who just stands there calmly watching the demonstration.
General Grey seconds after City Destroyer is taken out.
General Grey: Get onto the wire with every squadron around the world, tell em out to bring those sons of bitches down
The dog outrunning the fireball.
All of humanity uniting against the Alien invaders. In the course of 48 hours they throw away centuries worth of bad blood and disagreements for the sake of one thing, survival.
Made even better in the sequel, because it stuck.
In the special edition, Julius gets distracted when David shows him a database of phonebooks, when the police start directing traffic into the empty southbound lane. Fortunately, Julius is able to evade the desperate motorists and makes it safely into DC.