Film / Independence Day
Welcome to Earth.

"On July 2nd, they arrive.
On July 3rd, they attack.
On July 4th, we fight back."

Independence Day is a 1996 movie by Roland Emmerich, known in its promotional material as ID4. At its core it is a straightforward Alien Invasion movie with a lot of elements taken from well known sources like The War of the Worlds. The archetypical Summer Blockbuster with a large cast of familiar character types, Stuff Blowing Up, fighter jets dogfighting alien craft, Rousing Speeches, Area 51 and is otherwise fairly by-the-book storywise.

President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is the recently elected U.S. President when a massive (one-fourth the size of the moon) spaceship enters the orbit of Earth. Sending out smaller (city-size) ships that scatter across the globe to all the major cities, it doesn't take long before they begin firing their Wave Motion Guns to wipe out entire cities at a time.

Humans fight back, with U.S. Marine pilot Steven Hiller (Will Smith) and computer programmer David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) pulling together a plan to save the human race.

The film is notable for being a massive success, featuring spectacular visual effects and being an original story, not based on any pre-existing property. It's one of the classic "event movies," kicking off a revival of the Disaster Movie in mid-to-late 90s. The influence of this film, which huge stakes and city-leveling destruction, can be seen even today; Roland Emmerich himself repeated a similar formula in his later films like Godzilla (1998), The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. In addition, its teaser trailer for Super Bowl XXX launched a tradition of summer films having a trailer during the big game.

A sequel entitled Independence Day: Resurgence is targeted for a 2016 release. Almost all of the main cast, including Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum are confirmed to be returning, but Will Smith will not.

The film also spawned two tie-in novels: Independence Day: Silent Zone, which is about Okun's work to study their technology before the invasion, and Independence Day: War in the Desert, which follows the RAF pilots seen in the film as they battle alien survivors in the Middle East. In anticipation for the sequel, both books were rereleased, along with the original novelization, as part of the Independence Day Omnibus, which is available as an eBook.

This film provides examples of:

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     # - E 
  • 108: According to Viral Marketing for the sequel, 108 cities are destroyed in the invasion. The 36 alien devastators attacked three times each.
  • Absent-Minded Professor: Dr. Brackish Okun, head of the alien lab at Area 51.
  • Achilles' Heel: The open bay of an alien saucer's main cannon. Or to be more exact, the volatile plasma within the bay.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When an article in the paper compares the president to Oliver, he only thinks that the comparison is clever.
  • Aerial Canyon Chase: Steven pulls this against a group of alien fighters.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The beginning of July 3 on Air Force One. See Heroic BSOD.
  • Alien Abduction: Russell... or so he claims. The viewer is left to draw their own conclusions about whether or not this was entirely a delusion brought on by alcoholism, war trauma, or just being nuts.

    The novelization has him see the alien downed by Captain Hiller, and think that's it's not the same as the ones who abducted him. Then he starts to wonder whether other aliens are visiting Earth, or if it even really happened. The same novelization strongly implies that it did happen: inside their bio-suits, the invading aliens look exactly like the ones in Russell's memories. There was a Marvel comic book that shows several events from the earlier lives of the characters, as a sort of "prequel". Russell is clearly shown to be abducted by the invaders.
  • Alien Autopsy: Dr. Okun and his colleagues at Area 51 try to surgically extract the unconscious alien brought to them by Captain Hiller from its organic suit. Unfortunately, it wakes up before they finish. Three others are said to have been autopsied after the Roswell crash; their remains are kept on display.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Nothing remotely sympathetic about 'em.
  • All There in the Manual: The novelization and deleted scenes contain details that make the widely-derided Technobabble aspects of the film more palatable, such as the widely-derided "MacBook virus" being based on the communications algorithm David decrypted earlier and an analysis of the alien craft's systems by the Area 51 staff.
  • Alternate History: Since the ARG for the sequel dates the first film as "The War of 1996" it's retroactively been made this.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The alien pilot doesn't even know what "co-exist" means.
    President Whitmore: I saw its thoughts. I saw what they're planning to do. They're like locusts. They're moving from planet to planet... their whole civilization. After they've consumed every natural resource they move on. And we're next. Nuke 'em. Let's nuke the bastards.
  • America Saves the Day: The plan to save the world was conceived by the American characters at Area 51, then broadcast via Morse code to the rest of the world. It's a Justified Trope, considering Area 51 is portrayed in the film as harboring a recovered scout craft used by the very alien race invading — implying that the U.S. has had decades to study them for forty years prior. Without that ace up its sleeve, the United States was as helpless as everyone else.
    • Notably, the Independence Day UK radio play had the British Military specifically refer to this trope after they manage to deal a decisive blow to the Aliens in their part of the world.
  • Anal Probing: Russell attests to having been abducted by aliens. Those who don't believe him crack jokes and ask if he was ever sexually abused on the flying saucer, suggesting this trope.
  • Apathetic Citizens: The few patronizing the strip club while an alien spaceship hovers over their city. On the other hand, they're not paying attention to the strippers, but the TV showing the alien ships.
  • Apocalypse How: The aliens plan to strip Earth of resources until it counts as a Class 4 Apocalypse.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism
    • Everyone makes fun of Russell for believing that he was abducted by aliens, even after the aliens show up. But it's doubtful that his acquaintances got an opportunity to compare his description of the aliens to the one taken prisoner by Captain Hiller, and in any case, he's the town drunk.
    • Even after the attacks, the President refuses to believe in Area 51, though in this regards, his disbelief stems from not being told it existed. As the leader of the nation, he assumed that something of such magnitude wouldn't have been kept from him — especially when aliens began arriving under his watch. It's the Secretary of Defense's fault for not informing him.
  • Area 51: Really is the site of a crash-landed flying saucer. More accurately, the crash took place in Roswell, New Mexico, and the remains of the saucer — and its crew — were brought to Area 51.
  • Armor Is Useless: The aliens have bio-mechanical armor, but it doesn't seem to help them very much from being punched out. The armor might have helped against being shot, if Dr. Okun and the other scientists hadn't cracked it open to vivisect the alien inside. When Major Mitchell and the other soldiers shot it, its armor is open.
  • Artistic License – Geography:
    • Despite starting on July 2, the color weather map on the back of Connie's USA Today is for midwinter in the United States.
    • In the Middle East, one of the RAF pilots says they may have reinforcements hiding in the "Golan Strait." The Golan Heights are actually a hilly region between Israel and Syria.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Besides the infamous case of firing at the ship's deflector shield, at one point a marine receives orders while pointing his pistol at his superior with his finger on the trigger.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • In 1996, US Space Command was located at Peterson Air Force Base, near NORAD, not the Pentagon. In addition, the script and novel list Marine General Grey as being head of Space Command, even though all American space operations at the time were coordinated by the US Air Force.
    • Multiple cases in Jimmy's death. He attempts to make a high-speed turn when he and Hiller were presumably supersonic, which disorients him long enough for an alien fighter to get a clear shot. Except a) no Marine pilot would do that, as they would know exactly what would happen when they bank at that speed even with a G-suit (and Hiller even tells him he can't bank at that speed), b) no fighter pilot period would then proceed to unhook their oxygen mask to try to get a clear breath of air. The O2 masks fighter pilots wear aren't just there to look cool, they supply varying amounts of oxygen so that a pilot undergoing high G-forces won't pass out.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • The gravitational pull of both the attack ships and the mothership would be enormous, and yet has no effect. The less said of the advancing wall of fire (moving at walking speed) that goes on through the tunnel without entering the room Jasmine is hidden, the better.
    • The destroyer over Sydney, Australia is shown to have plowed into the ground at a near 90 degree angle. In order for it to have impacted as such, it would have to have been hovering at an extremely high altitude and would have kicked up a significant amount of debris and dust from a ship of its mass crashing into the ground.
  • Attack Its Weakpoint: The ship's cores — if you can get through the forcefield at least.
  • Authority Equals Ass Kicking: The President was a fighter pilot and leads a raid against one of the ships, though he doesn't get the final shot to take them down.
  • Benevolent Boss: Marty (Harvey Fierstein), David's Camp Gay boss at the satellite TV company. His immediate reaction when David warns him of the potential danger is to tell everyone to stop work and get to safety now. This is a media company that is covering the event: shutting off transmission long before others even guess of any danger would cost them millions.
  • Big Damn Heroes: "It's me, Russell Casse, sir! Told you I wouldn't let you down!"
  • Big Entrance: Referenced. "You know me." "Yeah, I know, you always like to make a big entrance."
  • Big "NO!": "JIMMY NOOOO!!!"
  • Bikini Bar: Jasmine is named as a stripper in dialogue, but we only ever see her in one of these. Justified as when we see her go into her routine, she notices no one is interested due to the invasion.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Julius Levinson (father of David), who had heretofore not been "on speaking terms with" God, is seen leading a group in the sixteenth benediction of the Shemoneh Esrei near the film's climax.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The aliens are defeated, but millions (if not billions) of people are dead, most of Earth's cities are in ruins and almost every military has been destroyed. The city destroyers falling to the ground will no doubt cause some further damage on impact. On a positive note, it is strongly implied that world peace is achieved, which is confirmed in the sequel.
  • Black and White Morality: The Earthlings defend their home planet against the evil, heartless galactic locusts from outer space.
  • Black Best Friend: A rare inversion. One of the main heroes is black and his white best friend (played by Harry Connick Jr.) is the wise-cracking comic relief. He fulfills every trope related to the black best friend, right down to being one of the first named characters to die.
  • Black Dude Dies First: The first person to die to alien weapons fire is the black "Welcome Wagon" pilot.
  • Blown Across the Room: When the captured alien breaks loose in the Area 51 laboratory, several guards open fire on it through a glass window. When the bullets hit the alien it's blown backward across the laboratory.
  • Bond One-Liner: Will Smith does this over and over in this movie, to good effect.
    Steven Hiller: (to crash-surviving alien) *WHAM* Welcome to EARTH!
  • Boom, Headshot: Major Mitchell kills the captive alien who just tried to telekinetically attack the President with three of these.
  • Breaking Bad News Gently: Inverted when President Whitmore can’t bear to tell his daughter about her mom’s death. She then breaks the bad news gently to herself by sadly asking, “Is Mommy sleeping?” The President quietly responds, “Yeah,” and hugs her.
  • Bury Your Gays: Marty, a character who acts stereotypically gay (although his actual sexuality is never confirmed in the movie) dies when his car is hit by another thrown by an explosion.
  • But I Read a Book About It: Capt. Hiller basically says he can fly the ship because he's seen it fly. Although, David does immediately point out that it's a bit unbelievable that Hiller is capable of flying the spaceship. Hiller retorts that David's virus plan sounds just as unlikely.
  • California Doubling: Actually Utah Doubling; most of the movie after the first act was filmed on the Bonneville Salt Flats, near Wendover, UT.
  • Calling Your Attacks: "Eagle Twenty, Fox Two!" And for good reason. Pilots call "Fox" one through four to indicate firing of different weapons to help avoid friendlies catching one of them. At least that's what these guys say, anyway. Plus it's all dramatic and stuff. In reality, with such a massive fleet of friendlies, this wouldn't be occurring at the outset since the radio feed would get garbled by fifty pilots doing their call while firing a simultaneous opening shot.
  • The Cameo: Kurt Fuller and Vincent Schiavelli make uncredited appearances in the background news broadcasts, which are featured in full on the 20th anniversary bluray.
  • Capital Offensive: The first wave includes the destruction of Washington DC, London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Amsterdam, Tokyo, New Delhi, and Beijing.
  • The Captain: Steven Hiller.
  • Captured Super-Entity: At one point, Hiller captures an alien that crashed along with him and drags it to Area 51. The alien's telepathy and bio-mechanical suit make it a formidable force when it's found to still be alive.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Quite a few people David initially tries to warn about the alien "countdown" don't take him seriously, including his own ex-wife, who thinks he's either crazy or trying to get back at her for choosing her career over their marriage. However, his boss believes him immediately, and when he manages to meet with the President, Whitmore immediately takes his warnings seriously as well.
    • When Julius brings up Area 51, the Roswell Incident, and other alien conspiracies, the President dismisses it. It turns out Julius was entirely correct — the President just didn't know about it because the Secretary of Defense never saw fit to tell him (or, apparently, the Joint Chiefs of Staff) in the name of Plausible Deniability.
    • Russell Casse is a better example. Nobody believes that he was abducted by aliens, and thanks to his less than stable behavior, nobody takes him seriously when he warns that the alien ships are an invasion force.
  • Celebrity Paradox: One of the cable employees takes a complaint from a customer and says "Yeah, I like X-Files too." At one point in Fight The Future, Mulder takes a leak next to a poster of Independence Day.
  • Cerebus Callback: Early on in the film, when the President talks to his wife on the phone and he tells her that their daughter went to bed on time, she affectionately calls him a liar, knowing he let her stay up late. She uses the same response when he tells her that the doctors said she would be okay, as she lies dying in the hospital.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • When Russell gets inside his new fighter jet, he starts screwing around with the controls and accidentally arms a missile to be fired. Guess which missile jams at the end, forcing Russell into a heroic sacrifice?
    • Dr. Okun mentions that the captured fighter did not become active until they arrived in orbit. This hints that the aliens draw most of their energy from the mothership, which would be critical in the plan to disable the shields.
  • Chekhov's Hobby
    • A quick mention is made that President Whitmore is a former fighter pilot.
    • Similarly, a television reporter mentions in passing that much of the current information that anybody has is being passed around via amateur radio operators, given the widespread destruction of the government-run infrastructures note . Guess how the remaining military forces pass word to each other to coordinate their final counter-attack?
  • Chess Motifs: "And when the countdown reaches zero, then what?" "...Checkmate!"
  • Collapsing Lair: The mothership at the film's climax.
  • Combat Pragmatist: General Grey. He's also very Genre Savvy. When the captured alien starts to attack the President's mind telepathically, everyone is standing around completely unsure of what to do, but Grey cuts through to a solution very quickly. "Is that glass bulletproof?" "No, Sir!" Cue everyone with a gun to start emptying their magazines into the alien. The alien dies real quick.
  • Combat Tentacles: The alien's bio-mechanical suits are equipped with these.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • The only man who figures out the alien signal is a countdown happens to have an ex-wife who works for the President, thus getting him access.
    • Hiller's girlfriend in Los Angeles happens upon the First Lady, so when Hiller finds her, he finds the President's wife (who everyone had given up for dead).
    • Hiller's dogfight with the alien fighter happens to take him near enough to spot Area 51, and his crash put him close to a convoy of refugees he can point in that direction.
    • A surprisingly large number of civilians amongst those refugees turn out to be former jet-qualified combat pilots. Although the recruiter specifically says while he is hoping for people with military training, "anyone who can fly a plane would be useful". The novelization takes it a step further, mentioning that they only have so many missiles to load on the jets, and some of them, with the least-experienced pilots, are going up completely unarmed to act as decoys.
  • Converging-Stream Weapon: The motherships' primary weapon.
  • Credits Gag: When the Humane Society's credit appears during the end credits, it says "no animal or alien was harmed in the making of this film".
  • Curbstomp Battle: The aliens' assault against the humans, until the humans are able to devise a way to deal with the aliens' Deflector Shields.
  • Curbstomp Cushion: Captain Hiller manages to force down an alien ship by blinding it with his plane's dragchute. In exchange, his entire squadron was wiped out.
  • Dated History: "There is no Area 51", rather than "Okay, turns out there is, but no aliens. We swear."
  • Deadline News: In the ads, as a The War of the Worlds Shout-Out.
  • Dead Guy Puppet: "Release me! Release me... NOW!"
  • Death by Cameo: Volker Engel, who was head of the FX unit. He's the guy in the LA office building.
  • Deflector Shields: At least half of the film is spent trying to figure out how to get around the alien ship's deflector shields with the technology the humans have.
  • Delayed Explosion: Almost every explosion in the film. The most notable is the explosion of Los Angeles, which apparently moves so slowly that Jasmine has time to grab her son, break open a locked maintenance closet, and even call her dog inside before the explosion reaches her location. It also, miraculously, does not fill the open closet with fire and debris. Nor does it suck the oxygen out of the tiny space, despite the fact the "sucking oxygen" would be the primary cause of the fire shooting through the tunnel.
  • Despair Event Horizon: When even nuclear weapons, Earth's last line of defense, prove useless against the aliens' force fields.
  • Deus Ex Nukina: You can destroy the unshielded atmospheric city destroyers and fighters, but the aliens have billions of reserves on board a super mothership in orbit. The heroes have exactly one trans-orbit Space Fighter; the enemy undoubtedly has thousands just like it, and they're more skilled at flying them. Fortunately it's already going to the mothership to enable the main attack — so the heroes load it with a single "tactical nuclear missile" to cause as much damage as possible. Instead, the entire mothership blows up.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?:
    • The reaction to the guards in Area 51 when Hiller shows the alien.
    Hiller: Okay. Come here. You want to see my clearance?
    (pulls back tarp to reveal the unconscious alien)
    Hiller: Maybe I should just leave this with you?
    • Julius has this reaction to finding out that David once punched the President.
    Julius: You punched the President?
    David: He wasn't the President then.
  • Disappeared Dad: The father of Jasmine's son has been out of the picture for some time.
  • Disney Death: Hiller and Levinson not quite outrunning the explosion of the mothership.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: David and Constance had been divorced for three years prior to the events of the film. Despite that, he refuses to take off his wedding band.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Jimmy bends down on the floor to retrieve a wedding ring dropped by Hiller, another Marine passing by thinks he's proposing to his best friend. The other guy helpfully leaves immediately, not wanting to spoil the moment (or not wanting to get his friends kicked out of the military in the "don't ask, don't tell" era).
  • Dramatic Irony: Tiffany's welcome party sign says "Welcome! Make yourselves at home!" Which is exactly what the aliens want to do. Just gotta kill the current tenants first.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Russell Casse, who gets his revenge on the aliens by suicide bombing the destruction laser with an F-16 before it can fire. "Hello boys! I'm baaaaaaaack!" Taken Up to Eleven in the novelization — he flies his old biplane with a missile strapped to it.
  • Earth Is a Battlefield: Featuring some pretty impressive set pieces when the humans fight over recognizable landmarks.
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: It takes a simple computer virus (and, a large nuclear warhead) to take down spaceships 1/4th the size of the moon and kill millions of aliens. Gotta love that universal Operating System!
  • Emergency Presidential Address: The President delivers an address to urge caution to the public as the alien ships enter the Earth's atmosphere and approach major cities. This is later followed by his "We will not go quietly into the night" speech once the aliens plans are revealed.
  • Enemy Mine: Israeli, Egyptian, Iraqi and British air forces are shown working alongside each other during the scene where the global counter-offensive is planned, seemingly having agreed to a mutual détente in the face of the alien threat. They also mention a Belgian contingent which was lost in the Sinai Peninsula.
  • Eureka Moment: David's idea to create a computer virus, coming from a simple reminder by his father to take care of himself lest he catch cold.
  • Every Helicopter Is a Huey: Though most of the aircraft used are period — and setting-appropriate, a Huey still shows up to escort the doomed S-64 Skycrane "Welcome Wagon". It explodes moments later.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Except aliens although they break the code pretty quick: first thing they did after the message was to send a Wave Motion Gun to Area 51. Then again, they don't even need to read the message to deduce that a sudden rise in communications from a previously silent location means the enemy has activated a backup command center.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The events of the movie take place over a weekend, July 1st to the 4th. In that time period aliens show up, decimate the first wave of cities, humans lead the first disastrous counterattack, regroup, decide to use the Nuclear Option, then put into play their Last Stand.
  • Eye Awaken: When the alien is being removed from its bio-mechanical suit. Major Mitchell later puts a few more bullets in it until it finally gives out a death cry, obviously aware of the trope.

     F - M 
  • Face Death with Dignity: Trapped on the mothership and realizing there's no way they'll get out alive, Steve and David decide to light up their "victory dance" cigars and launch the nuke. However, launching it ends up releasing the dock mechanism, allowing them to make a beeline for the main entrance.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Russell's last words.
  • Famous Last Words:
    • "It's so pretty..." Tiffany, Jasmine's friend, looking up at the LA ship's insides moments before the latter disintegrates her and the skyscraper she's standing on.
    • "Oh, crap." Marty, David's boss, when he's stuck in NYC's completely jammed streets and he sees the wall of fire advancing towards him.
    • "Hello, boys! I'm baaaaack!" Russell, as he's flying his fighter jet into one of the alien's ships to destroy it.
  • Fanfare: The movie opens with it and plays it constantly.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Russell, maybe if you hadn't put that photo in your plane, you might have survived to see the end credits.
  • Finger Twitching Revival: See Eye Awaken.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: An initial assault with conventional weapons ends in a massacre as the Deflector Shield prevents their weapons from piercing the ships. However, once the forcefields are dealt with, they are susceptible to conventional weapons in their weak spot.
  • Flying Saucer: Played perfectly straight. And for once, actually scary instead of cheesy.
  • Foreshadowing: The first song we hear playing at the SETI station? "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)," by R.E.M..
  • Four-Star Badass: General Grey, as contrast to the mousy, ass-covering Secretary of Defense Nimziki. Honestly, Gen. Grey's the only person in the government who manages to keep a cool head throughout the crisis, besides President Whitmore, who himself is a badass from the Gulf War. It's really no surprise that in the movie's second act — by which point the Vice President has been killed off-screen by the alien invaders — General Grey becomes the President's de facto second-in-command and closest adviser. It's likely that in the movie's universe, General Grey emerges from the crisis with a George Marshall or Dwight Eisenhower-like level of respect, and it's likely that he's either going to be Whitmore's new VP or Secretary of Defense... and the most likely candidate to be Whitmore's immediate successor once his term of office is up.
  • Frontline General: The Commander-in-Chief personally leads the final battle against the aliens.
  • Funny Background Event: As Whitmore is giving his address about the alien arrivals, you can see Connie mouthing his speech.
  • Gatling Good: The F/A-18's feature a 20mm Vulcan cannon mounted in the nose. The fighters fall back on this weapon after their missiles are used up.
  • Genre Savvy: The characters figure out what the Deflector Shield does just from being aware of them from science fiction. Hiller declares "they must have some kind of protective shield over the hull". Yes, he picked the term "shield" which matches the sci-fi standard, but there's easily enough context for the non-savvy to understand just fine.
  • Gilligan Cut: The president says to leave the cities in an orderly fashion — cut to anarchy in the streets.
  • God Help Us All: After the aliens make their intentions abundantly clear, one of the reporters gives a very resigned look to the camera and says "Indeed, God help us all."
  • Godzilla Threshold: President Whitmore is cognizant of the fact that if the Nuke 'em strategy works the cure could be worse than the disease.
    Whitmore: May our children forgive us.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: The aliens, in keeping with their Horde of Alien Locusts nature, have no issues wiping out entire cities full of people. Humanity has no issues returning the favor for the alien mother ship. The US President actually does probe for peace even after they destroy every major city on Earth, with an alien that had just slaughtered a team of scientists no less; the response was a Mind Rape that would have killed him if the alien wasn't shot, and it showed him that their entire civilization is based upon this, moving from one world to another, wiping out the natives, using up all the resources, and then moving on to the next planet to repeat.
  • Hacked by a Pirate: Oh yes. Also a Crowning Moment of Funny and Pre-Asskicking One-Liner. One must wonder how the alien civilization viewed the chuckling skull-and-crossbones — would it be too culturally specific to understand, or would it be something universal in ominous meaning? However, since the skull is obviously human, it would probably be more shocking. Humans posed about zero threat to them up to that point.
  • Hemisphere Bias: Anything South of the Equator isn't worth concern. Though we get to see crashed UFOs in Sydney and right against Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. There's even a news report with the subtitle "Southern Hemisphere Unaffected" under a map showing where the city killers are appearing (do note that the Southern Hemisphere is home to one of the ten biggest cities in the world - São Paulo, in Brazil — so in the context it's a wonder that the aliens have passed it up). Possibly justified, in that the aliens initially seem to be targeting the Earth's major military and industrial nation-states. It's also possible that at the time of that news report, no confirmed sightings had taken place in the Southern Hemisphere. Possibly a later report may have featured cities such as Sao Paulo, Buenos Aries or Johannesburg.
    • The War of 1996 website for Resurgence confirms that a destroyer was deployed to South America, and attacked Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Buenos Aries before being intercepted over Caracas. In Africa, Cape Town survived.
      • Fitting, as Brazil started to rise to great market prominence and prestige in aviation and aerospace industries in the late '80s, and has pretty-much gained market-supremacy in regional commercial airliner sales.
  • Heroic BSOD
    • Not quite as severe as normal uses of this trope, but it's made clear that David hits bottom after a nuclear weapon is used against the aliens against his protests and doesn't work. He gets drunk and lashes out in despair, throwing a rather violent tantrum before his dad inadvertently gives him an idea on how to defeat the aliens.
    • The President has one, lamenting of all the death and destruction caused by his indecision to prepare if the aliens indeed turned out to be hostile.
    President Whitmore: We could have evacuated the cities hours ago...A lot of people died today. How many didn't have to?
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Godspeed, Mr. Casse.
  • Historical In-Joke: There totally was an alien vessel at Area 51 — and it was piloted by the aliens invading now.
  • Hollywood Tactics: The jets sent to fight the aliens that had just wiped out some major cities are kind of underarmed... (the nukes being employed only as a last resort is justified, at least)
  • Hoist by His Own Petard
    • First, the aliens' signal, that they used to synchronize their attack on the planet provided humans with a way to interface and access their systems (it's stated in the expanded edition that the same frequency is used for their communications) using a Mac of all things.
    • Second, the "Hammer". This is a nice one: If you look at the L.A. destruction scene, you'll see that the beam turns into a chain-reaction/explosion the moment it hits solid matter, and just keeps going until there's no significant obstacle left. Therefore, the denser the target, the worse the explosion (like the Mothership from Command & Conquer 3, which was inspired by this movie), making it perfect for leveling cities. When Russell crashed his plane into the generator, he did it at the very moment the beam started, and at the very "tip" of the gun, therefore setting off the chain reaction inside the alien's ship (which is likely to be just as densely packed as a city, if not more so).
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: They're even directly compared to locusts.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday
  • Ho Yay: Invoked. Hiller and Jimmy have more than a bit of this going on ("Hold me!") although it's all Played for Laughs and purely justified considering that they're Hetero Sexual Life Partners.
  • Humans Are Warriors: Sky-warriors to be exact, even their President.
  • I Come in Peace: Playing with. The military sends a chopper to one of the huge spaceships with a lit sign displaying greetings in all the languages of the world, and civilians in every major city hold up signs of greetings to said ships. The chopper gets blown out of the sky, and the cities (and associated welcoming parties) get cratered, with very little discussion. Later on, one of the aliens, through Dr. Okun, says, "No peace."
  • If I Do Not Return: When Casse realizes he has the only missile left and it's jammed, he says, "Tell my children... I love them very much," and flies his plane into the alien ship's weak point.
  • Ignored Expert: When the the City Destroyers arrive, it's a toss-up: many people are trying to get out of the city, but there's still a great deal of people who are partying and trying to greet the aliens.
  • I Got You Covered: At the end of the film, the President orders the rest of the fleet to cover Casse since he has the only missile left.
  • Immune to Bullets: The aliens, until you disable their force fields, take them out of their ships, and strip off their bio-mechanical suits.
  • Implacable Man: The aliens are this as a whole: throughout the film, they never attempt to make contact with the humans; not to make demands or threats, not to pretend to be friendly not even to taunt us. They don't target our military strongholds as an utmost priority. They simply show up, position themselves over the most populated cities, and begin firing away as if this is just another workday for them. The one alien captive only communicates after it has killed everyone in the room and wants to demand its release. The only expression seen on an alien face is right at the end when the mothership controller realizes it's about to get nuked.
  • Infant Immortality: Played straight for all of the named kids. Completely averted for several million other kids, some of which are seen being carried away by their panicked parents during the city destruction scenes.
  • Inscrutable Aliens: The aliens just show up and blow up cities, the only time they communicate with humans is when one is taken prisoner and takes telepathic control of a scientist in order to demand its release.
  • Instant Expert:
    • The civilian pilots conscripted for the final battle learn how to fly an F16 in combat in just a few hours.
    • Likewise, Captain Hiller's F16 experience somehow enables him to learn how to fly an alien spacecraft in a few hours.
  • In Working Order: The crashed alien ship from Roswell still works. To be fair, though, they have quite obviously patched huge sections of the hull with Earth-made metal plates, and they've had decades to work on it.
  • Ironic Echo
    • "Oops."
    • "Checkmate" takes this to ridiculously lampshaded lengths.
    • And the First Lady lovingly calling her husband "Liar."
    • Right before the attack begins, David realizes that the strange signal the aliens are using is a count-down to attack. The virus at the end gives David the chance to do the same to the mothership, doing a count-down to the nuclear explosion that takes the ship out.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Hiller and David have a moment of this at the end of the film when it appears they're not going to survive bombing the alien mothership.
  • It's Going Down: The alien mothership, and the Los Angeles city destroyer over Area 51.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: David is berated by his father, and later Connie, for spending eight years at MIT to become a cable repairman.
  • Iwo Jima Pose: A statue of the marines from the original WWII photograph is briefly seen in Washington.
  • Jews Love to Argue: David and his father, who use a lot of Yiddish while bickering, and Marty, who's implied to be Jewish.
  • Jump Scare: Only two, but they're memorable ones:
    • The captive alien's biological suit suddenly bursting open during the autopsy.
    • The same alien suddenly slamming Dr. Okun against the glass. In the DVD Commentary, the writers comment on this. "It's all about stretching the moment. Everyone already knows something is going to happen."
  • Just Before the End
  • Just Plane Wrong: Several notable examples.
    • The F/A-18C is shown to have a deployable braking parachute. The F/A-18, being a carrier based aircraft does not actually possess a braking parachute, relying on its arrestor hook to slow it down when landing on carriers. It is also shown being capable of maneuvering through a canyon, something it is definitely not able to do in a canyon of the size shown in the film.
    • Area 51 is (officially) an Air Force base, it would not have Marine F/A-18s on station unless they were conducting test flights of some sort. It also officially does not conduct combat sorties, so it would not have its own deployed squadron of fighters.
    • The RAF (Royal Air Force) is shown operating F-16C Fighting Falcons, whilst the Israeli Air Force is shown operating F/A-18C Hornets. Neither air force has ever operated, or intends to operate those fighters.
    • Following the devastating alien attack, F-14 Tomcats are seen on the tarmac at MCAS El Toro. The F-14 is not operated by the Marine Corps, it is a Navy aircraft and is thus meant for carrier operations.
    • A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is shown deploying a nuclear missile at close range to its target. The B-2's low speed and maneuverability would mean it wouldn't escape the ensuing blast and EMP. Realistically it would deploy its payload at BVR (Beyond Visual Range).
  • Keystone Army: The Mothership for the aliens. All their power and shield energy, not to mention coordination, originates from the ship. Once David uploads his virus, all alien craft lose their shields, and the novelization confirms that once it's destroyed, they also lose their power.
  • Lampshade Hanging
  • Landmark of Lore: Area 51
  • Lemming Cops: The three spacecraft chasing the humans out of the mother ship run right into the door.
  • Lifesaving Misfortune:
    • Tiffany may have not gotten that job in Las Vegas, and subsequently lost all her money gambling, but at least she wasn't in LA for the 1994 Northridge quake.
    • One of the survivors in Jasmine's group says he lived because he decided to take the subway that day. "Thank God for the Metro Rail."
  • Magic Countdown: The nuclear missile used to destroy the alien mothership.
  • Magic Floppy: Well, magic laptop.
  • Match Cut/Tempting Fate: One of the president's speeches, being witnessed in the deserted office building by Levinson and his boss, ends with a close-up of his face as he encourages the nation "If you feel the need to evacuate, please do so in an orderly fashion". Cue mass pandemonium in the streets, riots and looting spreading like wildfire.
  • Meaningful Name: Russ T. Casse. (That would be "Rusty Case" if you didn't know).
  • Mile-Long Ship: The saucers are 15 miles in diameter, the mothership is a Planet Spaceship.
  • Missing Mom: David Levinson. The Casse kids. The President's daughter, presumably, after the events of the movie.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Hiller's wingman gets down on one knee to demonstrate how to properly kiss ass, and then a wedding ring box falls out of Hiller's locker. When he shows it to Hiller, another pilot walks by, sees the scene and quickly excuses himself. "Don't ask, don't tell," of course.
  • Mistaken for Quake: When the alien ships arrive at Earth:
    Steven: Is it an earthquake?
    Jasmine: Not even a four-pointer, go back to sleep.
  • Monumental Damage: It's taken to an extreme, which shouldn't be surprising since this is a Roland Emmerich film. Amongst the casualties are the Empire State Building, the White House, the U.S. Bank Tower, and the pyramids of Giza. The trailers spoiled this one big-time. The first thing you see is the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty, after the alien attack.
    • The targeted buildings such as the Empire State Building and the White House is actually justified. They are located in or near the center of large cities, which the aliens target in order to kill as many humans in their first wave as possible.
  • Mood Whiplash: Hiller's line that he's always dreamed of flying in space accompanied with majestic music and the image of the craft flying triumphantly away from Earth... only for the music to suddenly turn dark and ominous as the camera pans to show them heading towards the Mothership.
    • Another example comes at the beginning of the final battle. President Whitmore fires a single missile at the alien ship advancing on Area 51 in the belief the virus has taken effect. The missile impacts harmlessly against the shield and everyone in the air and on the ground slumps in despair. General Grey orders the fighter pilots to disengage and save themselves but Whitmore, against advice, moves in for another shot. As everyone watches with bated breath the missile...sails through the point on radar where the shield should be and slams into the ship's hull. The atmosphere immediately changes from one of despairing belief that this is the end to delight that the plan has worked and they can finally hit back against the invaders. Small wonder in some theatres the audience were cheering at this point along with the characters on screen.
  • More Dakka:
    • When the alien at Area 51 telepathically attacks the President, everybody present unloads their weapons into it, followed by Major Mitchell finishing him off.
    • When the President orders his men in the final battle to "Plow the Road". Although, for F/A-18s, that was actually quite insufficient Dakka. The Vulcan Cannons carried by American fighter jets fire at a rate of about 6,000 rounds per minute in Real Life. Also in Real Life, the F/A-18 only carries 578 rounds. There's a reason its only mode is burst fire.
  • The Mothership: The big ship, obviously.
  • The Mountains of Illinois

     N - P 
  • Nations of the World Montage: We're treated to scenes of air forces in the Middle East, Russia, and Japan getting America's instructions for the counterattack.
  • Nerds Are Sexy
    • Jeff Goldblum is in this film, after all.
    • Averted however with Brent Spiner, who can be sexy but played the very unkempt and awkward Dr. Okun in this movie. That hair!
  • Newscaster Cameo: Los Angeles sportscaster Gary Cruz is briefly shown as an anchorman discussing the alien ship hovering over L.A. John McLaughlin is also featured prominently in the first act.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Dozens of ships that size hitting the ground would throw up enough dust to blot out the sun. And that's not even considering blowing up something as big as the mothership in Earth's orbit like that.

    The novelization mitigates a bit by putting the Moon between the Earth and the mothership. This makes sense if you consider that something that big would have to have a huge angular velocity to maintain Low Earth Orbit. However, the movie shows an enormous amount of debris racing the delivery fighter back into the atmosphere, and later burning as "fireworks" overhead. If it was actually out beyond the moon when it detonated, the number, implied velocity (a good chunk of the speed of light) and size of those fragments would have been a rather incredible bombardment all on their own.
  • No Peripheral Vision: Captain Hillard, a U.S. Marine pilot whose job depends on having excellent vision, steps outside to get the paper, looks left and right and above and only notices a gigantic 15-mile-wide, black saucer hovering over Los Angeles when he looks directly at it?
  • No Sell: The aliens' force fields are effectively impenetrable as far as earth's defensive forces are concerned. At one point, they shrug off a direct nuclear attack. They seem to hardly notice counterattacks- until, that is, their shields are disabled, and then things start going the other way.
  • Nuclear Option: Nuclear weapons are used only once, over Houston (a city that's about to fall victim to one of the leviathans), and after significant consideration (primarily over the fact that, whether it works or not, the city is about to get razed to the ground anyway). When the first one doesn't work (read: didn't even get through the target's shields), the rest are immediately called off.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Secretary of Defense Albert Nimziki. Before he became the Secretary of Defense job he was the CIA Director. They had evidence of a hostile alien race, they KNEW what they were capable of, and yet they DIDN'T. TELL. THE GOVERNMENT. This results in the initial counterattack against the aliens being utterly annihilated due to the shields and the US losing hundreds of pilots that could have been more useful if they actually had a way to beat them. The guy eventually tries to talk Whitmore out of attacking the aliens before the end battle, claiming it would be a mistake. Whitmore replies:
    Whitmore: The only mistake I made was appointing a sniveling little weasel like you as my Secretary of Defense. Fortunately, that's a mistake I'm glad to say that I don't have to live with. Mr. Nimziki... you're fired.
  • Oh Crap!
    • David's face as one of the destroyers moves into position above Manhattan and he realises the signal he's been trying to decipher is a countdown before they launch their attack.
    • "They're using our own satellites against us...and the clock is ticking".
    • These are Harvey Fierstein's character's last words.
    • An amusing example occurs when Steven Hiller is reading the paper on his front lawn. He looks left and right, bewildered at all his neighbors apparently moving out at once. Then he looks straight ahead and sees the miles-wide spacecraft hovering over the city.
    • The Air Force flies out to engage one of the giant flying saucers, they fire their missiles at it, and... the missiles hit a Deflector Shield.
    • Most of the Air Force pilots look like this after first realising their weapons are useless against the aliens...and then seeing thousands of alien fighter craft emerging from the main ship to do battle.
    • At El Toro Air Base, the base learns they've got incoming. The colonel in charge of the base asks if it's friendly; a nearby sergeant grimly remarks "I don't think so". The colonel looks out the window...and his face is this trope perfectly as he catches sight of an armada of alien fighters descending to raze the base to the ground.
    • While performing an Alien Autopsy, the alien opens its eyes.
    • The president finally authorizes the use of nuclear weapons, a B-2 bomber launches a Tomahawk cruise missile at a giant flying saucer while it's over an evacuated city, the bomb explodes, the air clears, and... the flying saucer is undamaged. Humanity's final line of defense, and it's proven useless.
    • Connie asks Major Mitchell what happens if the aliens get there before they plant the computer virus. He mentions that the mountain should afford them some protection. She then asks him about the people on the surface. Aahh.
    • The point where Steven and David pass over a staging ground aboard the mothership with thousands, if not millions of alien soldiers waiting to board transport ships; the look they exchange as they realise they're looking at forces for a ground invasion of the planet screams this trope.
    • They've finally brought down the flying saucer's shields, they're hammering away at it with missiles that just aren't taking big enough chunks out of it, and then, right when it's over their base... it opens its city-incinerating gun port. The background music at this moment plays the most Oh Crap!-ified version of the alien motif in the movie.
    • Moments after, Whitmore fires his last missile in a bid to destroy the weapon, only to have it impact harmlessly against the side. One of his fellow pilots begins to move into position, but is shot out of the sky before he can fire. And then it comes in over the radio that every last missile has been fired.
    • "It's jammed! It won't fire!" Not what you want to hear from the guy whose got your entire squadron's last missile. Until, of course, he decides to personally jam it up their ass, plane and all.
    • Two alien controllers aboard the mothership get one: one when it sees the nuclear missile coming straight at it (it even gives a scream of terror at the sight of it) and then when the other crawls through the rubble of its control room to reach the missile and sees the timer reading 00:01.
  • Old-School Dogfight: Two dogfighting scenes: the first where the alien ships are invulnerable due to their shields, and the second at the end where they aren't.
  • Ominous Floating Spaceship: You'd better believe it.
  • One Bullet Left:
    Russell: Sorry I'm late, Mister President! Kinda got hung up back there!
    Whitmore: Pilot, you armed?!
    Russell: Armed and ready, sir! I'm packing!
  • Organic Technology: The alien's suits are more like a second organism that they ride inside of. Word of God states that most of their technology is at least partly biological as well, though In-Universe, Okun specifically states that the suits are "biomechanical", indicating that the suits are either fully organic technology, or a mix of organic and manufactured technology. In fact, the whole design aesthetic of the alien race implies that biology is a major influence on their "look".
  • Our Presidents Are Different: Our presidents are ace jet fighter pilots. This one is actually Truth in Television in that the 1990s and the Turn Of The Millenium were when a lot of former Vietnam veterans were running for public office.
  • Outrun the Fireball:
  • Patriotic Fervor
  • Planar Shockwave
  • Planet Looters: "I saw... his thoughts. I saw what they're planning to do. They're like locusts. They're moving from planet to planet, their whole civilization. After they've consumed every natural resource, they move on. And we're next."
  • Planet Spaceship: The alien mothership was estimated to be several hundred kilometers in diameter, or nearly a quarter the size of Earth's (very large) moon.
  • Plausible Deniability:
    • Played straight and directly mentioned, as the Secretary of Defense kept the President in the dark, and also the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by judging his reaction to learning this.
    President Whitmore: My God... Why wasn't I told about this place?
    Secretary Nimziki: Two words, Mr. President: Plausible Deniability.
    • Also more indirectly:
    President Whitmore: I don't understand, where does all this come from? How do you get funding for something like this?
    Julius Levinson: You don't actually think they'd spend $20,000 on a hammer, $30,000 on a toilet seat, do you?
  • Plug 'n' Play Technology: See above. How could we have known they would have a weakness to a computer virus? Fridge Brilliance: The scientists at Area 51 had been studying the craft for years. Odds are they had some idea of how its systems work. (Granted one scientist states things switched on since the invaders arrived. This has no qualifiers, however, for if the ship runs on electricity, there is no reason the scientists couldn't jury-rig a generator to run parts of the ship during their research.) If the scientists knew the basics of how the aliens' computers operate, they could write a virus for them. What if they are not compatible? Fridge Brilliance covers this as well. If they know how the software works they could write an emulator to operate on a terrestrial computer for the specific task of uploading the virus. This would even explain the Hollywood Hacking where a window pops up saying "Uploading Virus" rather than a more generic "Uploading File".
  • Power Armor: Bio-Mechanical in nature, and offers little protection from a punch to the face (which doesn't actually line up with the real head), but with several built-in weapons and decent protection from bullets.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner:
    • Russell Casse, before he proceeds to shove his F/A-18 up the alien ship's ass and completely annihilate it in a glorious (and, for him, quite satisfying) Heroic Sacrifice.
    • The President moments prior: "All right, boys, let's give Mr. Casse some cover. GENTLEMEN! LET'S PLOW THE ROAD!"
    • Deep in the mothership and not expecting to get out, Hiller makes a V-sign to the alien in charge of the hangar, shouts "PEACE!" and fires the nuke. And just beforehand, David activates a special option in his virus causing all the alien display screens to show an animated laughing skull and crossbones, complete with demonic-sounding digital laughter.
    • After the captured alien launches a mental assault on Whitmore and shows him their plans, we get this:
    Grey: Is that glass bulletproof?
    Mitchell: No, sir.
    (Mitchell, Grey, and the President's Secret Service pull out handguns and open fire)
  • Product Placement: The best-known example is David using a PowerBook 5300 (ironically considered even by die-hard Apple fanboys to be one of the worst Macs ever made) to hack into the alien ship. Also, numerous Coca Cola cans, and a few vending machines.

     R - Z 
  • Ramming Always Works: Well done, Mr. Casse. Rest in peace.
  • Random Smoking Scene: Captain Hiller and David both take cigars along with them when they plan to defeat the aliens for once and for all. And they do smoke them after all the aliens are dead. This seems to be standard for Capts. Hiller and Wilder as they both take cigars along without any prior conversation and they both take waiting until "the fat lady sings" to smoke it very seriously and it appeared to be a tradition with the Black Knight squadron. They would take a cigar along on the flight and smoke it after a successful (and they are Marines so all are) missions. That's why when Hiller needed the cigars before he and David left to go deliver the package, getting Julius' last two.
    Hiller: Almost put a hex on the whole thing.
  • Reality Ensues: Once they figure a way to get around the alien force fields, they realize that they are still trying to take down city-sized spaceships with regular aircraft missiles, roughly the equivalent of using BB guns to take out a tank. It isn't until they find the Achilles' Heel that they stood a chance short of nuclear weaponry.
  • Red Sky, Take Warning: The giant fireballs in the sky caused by the city destroyers entering Earth's atmosphere.
  • Right on the Tick: The aliens are going to attack at a precise, pre-determined time.
  • Risking The King: President Whitmore takes up a fighter and leads the final battle against the aliens. Justified, as he's one of the few men around who can fly a plane (and has combat experience) and if they lose, he won't have a country to lead anyway.
  • Rock Beats Laser:
    • Played with as the aliens used Earth's satellite system to coordinate their attack, giving David a chance to study their signal system and turn their own trick back on them.
    • A bit more direct at the climax of the film when Russell makes his heroic sacrifice toward the aliens city busting laser with a Jet Fighter and missile causing the entire thing to backfire and blow the ship up.
  • Rousing Speech: "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!"
  • Rule of Cool
  • Rule of Perception: Steven and later Jasmine walk out onto their front lawn with a view over Los Angeles and don't notice the alien ship hovering silently over the city — until the camera shows it.
  • Save Sat: The sudden cut in the satellite communications network helps tip off the earthlings that the aliens are coming.
  • Scare Chord: Two of these can be heard within the timespan of a few minutes.
    • The first one occurs when Dr. Brackish Okun and a few medical assistants at Area 51 are attempting to remove the biomechanical suit from the unconscious alien and it suddenly rips open.
    • The second one occurs after the alien wakes up, kills the medical assistants plus Dr. Okun, and destroys most of the containment laboratory. With most of the room in a dense fog, President Whitmore gets near the glass separating the rooms when Dr. Okun's lifeless body abruptly appears from out of the fog right up against the glass.
  • Scenery Gorn: This film revels in the wholesale destruction of the populated centres of the world. (Emmerich returned to make similarly spectacular carnage in The Day After Tomorrow and 2012). Love of this trope must be the reason that a movie which features the destruction of the White House is shown on American television every year on the Fourth of July.
  • Schizo Tech: For the aliens. They have the space travel, laser beams, indestructible forcefields... but their computer security technology is so primitive a guy with a laptop can hack it; they didn't even think about the possibility of a security breach, even though they were interfacing with the Earth's satellite network. It wouldn't be the first time an alien race of invaders had some technological deficiency that lead to them being defeated (it goes all the way back to War of the Worlds) but this one is particularly egregious.
  • Scrap Heap Hero: Russell Casse.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
    • The reaction of many people in the targeted cities is to get the hell out once the aliens arrive.
    • A number of LAPD helicopters fly over the welcome parties on the Los Angeles high-rises, telling them to get the hell out of there. You can hear their voices becoming annoyed when the people are not heeding their warning. After several minutes of this, the helicopters break off and fly away just before the ship opens up.
  • See the Whites of Their Eyes
  • Semper Fi: Marines have a strong presence in the films cast. Will Smith is a cigar chomping Marine Corps F-18 pilot. William Grey, the President's most trusted right hand man throughout the film, is a Marine Corps General. Also, Grey is alluded to (if not outright referred to) as the President's former commander, which strongly suggests that President Whitmore is a Marine as well.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The news report on Russell claims he got this as a result of being a fighter pilot in Vietnam, but he claims it's from his abduction.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Jurassic Park; Jeff Goldblum's character says, "Must go faster. Must go faster. Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go!" in the same way as he does in one scene in Jurassic Park. Exactly the same way.
    • There are also shout-outs and Easter Eggs to classic sci-fi shows and films dating all the way back to the 1940s. Most specific among these is the bomber sent to deliver the nuke - the Northrop B-2 Stealth bomber is the direct descendant of the Flying Wing tasked with the same mission in George Pal's version of War of the Worlds, which was a real Northrop XB-49 and not a Hollywood prop.
    • The strategy to defeat the aliens mirrors the defeat of the aliens in The War of the Worlds, with a different interpretation of the word "virus".
    • 3001: The Final Odyssey (which came out the year after ID4; presumably Clarke had decided on or even penned the ending before ID4 came out) has the heroes dispatch the aliens with the exact same strategy. Arthur C. Clarke writes in the ending notes that he doesn't know "whether to congratulate them for their one stroke of originality or accuse them of retroactive plagiarism". (not exact quote)
    • David's Mac boots up with a picture of HAL-9000 and the greeting "Good Morning, Dave."
    • Hiller having the darn thing in reverse.
    • The hangar housing the alien craft has "R2" painted in large letters of the wall.
    • After punching the alien, Hiller says "Now, that's what I call a close encounter.".
    • Russell Casse, "I picked a hell of a day to quit drinkin'."
  • Single Mom Stripper: Jasmine. She's not at all ashamed of her line of work, declaring simply that her son is worth it.
  • Slow Doors: The exit to the mother ship.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Julius and David Levinson are shown playing chess together early on, with David winning easily. He spends much of the rest of the movie talking in Chess Motifs.
  • Some Kind of Force Field: When the first air-to-air missiles reveal a invisible barrier surrounding the big flying saucer, Hiller declares, "They must have some kind of protective shield over the hull!"
  • Someone Has to Die
  • Soul Brotha
  • Sound to Screen Adaptation: Inverted with Independence Day UK, a BBC radio drama based on the movie, but set in the UK with original characters. The one stipulation Fox placed on the BBC was that the Brits couldn't substantially contribute to the Americans' victory. This leads to one character muttering, "I bet the Yanks are going to take all the credit!"
  • Spiritual Successor: To Stargate.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: A whole lot, to be exact. The line of fire even blows up Congress!
  • Sucking-In Lines: The Hammer when it's about to fire.
  • Surprisingly Super Tough Thing: The government attempts to nuke one of the alien spaceships. They fail.
  • Surveillance Station Slacker: The guy in S.E.T.I. playing Office Golf near the start.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: The Area 51 guard lets Steven and his huge convoy into the base without so much as a phone call. Justified though, as the alien invasion has made the secret of housing an alien craft moot, and no one would be willing to turn away a few thousand scared refugees while the President is there on an inspection.
    • Not to mention that only Hiller, a serviceman who survived a battle with the aliens, is allowed into the top secret research facility. All the refugees stay on the surface, until the base comes under attack and they're put in the secure laboratories.
    • Hiller and Levinson fly a 50-year old captured Alien spacefighter to the Alien mothership in orbit. The mothership allows the craft to land without attempting to contact the crew on board or determine what mission they were returning from. They also don't send anyone to meet with the crew once it docks.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • Russell gets revenge for his abduction years back and shows humanity how to win the war.
    • Steven and David fire the nuke as a last resort after being trapped in the mothership.
  • Telepathy / Telepathic Spacemen: The alien's natural means of communication. It also seems to work across species in a limited manner: the captured alien is able to control Dr. Okun's body to speak for it, and can even attack President Whitmore telepathically. Supplemental material states that the aliens are designed to reflect their telepathic ability, having their huge heads shaped a bit like antennae.
  • Television Geography:
    • A few examples, the most blatant being the Empire State Building (which is located in the middle of a block in real life, and yet in the movie has a nearby street).
    • Also, the shadow of the alien ship over Washington, which starts from Lincoln Memorial (on the western end of the National Mall) to the Capitol Building, and then the White House. The White House is located roughly halfway between these two buildings. In addition, the ship was mentioned to be approaching from the Atlantic, meaning it should have been coming in from the east.
  • That's an Order: "Put your mask back on! That's an order, Marine!"
  • This Is Gonna Suck: David when the city destroyers show up and he realizes that the mysterious signal he found in the satellites is actually a countdown to a global alien attack.
  • Those Two Guys:
    • David Levinson and Captain Hiller, neither are the most important person in any scene they are in, yet keep saving the day.
    • The two USAF officers who work side-by-side from Air Force One to Area 51.
  • Throw-Away Country: Especially when the aliens are arriving, with mention of destroyers over the capitals of India, England, Germany, and Russia.
  • Title Drop: "Today we celebrate our Independence Day!" And to make it more awesome? Bill Pullman ad-libbed that line.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The people that were waiting to the aliens in the rooftop of a building in Los Angeles. Including Tiffany, who promised Jasmine she wouldn't. At first, these people had no explicit reason to believe the aliens were hostile, so they were more optimistic than foolish. It's only when they ignored police loudspeakers urging them to evacuate that they became idiots.
    • Also those "scientists" that were diagnosing the alien without any security nearby despite the fact that they knew the alien wanted to kill them.
    • While he doesn't show much stupidity anywhere else, David Levinson asking Major Mitchell to fire a bullet at the alien spaceship definitely qualifies. Has the man never heard of gun safety? The bullet ricochets dangerously around the room containing what's left of the American administration and the only scientists on Earth with knowledge of the aliens' technology. He's a scientist with either little or no knowledge of guns, and he probably assumed that the bullet would just flatten against the shields instead of ricocheting.
  • Too Fast to Stop: The alien dogfighters, inexplicably, towards the end of the movie, even though they are stated to be extremely maneuverable.
  • Trojan Horse: The alien fighter that crashed in Roswell (and the Area 51 scientists repurposed for humans to pilot) is used to invade the mothership (where Dave will shut down the forcefields and Hiller fire a nuke to destroy the thing from within).
  • Tropes Are Not Bad: There's a reason this movie spawned the "Big Willy Weekend" tradition.
  • Universal Driver's License:
    • Hiller claims that he is one of the few fully aware of the alien fighter capabilities and that being a pilot he can figure out how it works. Parodied in that his first attempt in the cockpit ends with him going in reverse. Although admittedly the controls seem fairly intuitive, using dual joysticks. The movement directions being labled wrong by the scientists wasn't helpful.
    • Lampshaded earlier, when David asks him quietly if he really believes he can fly it.
    Hiller: Do you really believe you can do all that bullshit you just said?
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Assumed when David Levinson is closing an airsickness bag and again when he runs off after Julius Levinson gives a particularly nauseating description of motion on a plane.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: Variant, as Hiller is flying the ship towards the closing blast doors to escape.
  • Wartime Wedding: Steve and Jasmine tie the knot just before the final battle.
  • We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill: In one of many shout-outs to War of the Worlds, a trio of helicopters attempt to make contact with the aliens through light glyphs. The aliens vaporize the helicopters without a second thought.
    • In the novelization, Dr. Isaacs explains that Okun's predecessor, who performed the original autopsy, actually communicated with the alien survivor before it died and received images suggesting that they were peaceful.
  • We Have Been Researching Phlebotinum for Years: When they visit Area 51, it turns out The Government knew about the aliens all along.
  • Wiper Start: A jet fighter version — as Vietnam War-era pilot (gone to seed) Russell Casse tries to ready his F/A-18, he almost fires a missile.
  • You Have to Believe Me: David tries to call Connie shortly after the aliens' arrival and tell her that they're going to attack. She brushes him off as paranoid, causing him to drive all the way to Washington to convince her in person.
    • A more classic example comes when Russell is arrested for dropping leaflets from his plane, saying the aliens are going to kill them all even as he's hauled into a police car.

"Didn't I promise you fireworks?"