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.

A sequel entitled Independence Day: Resurgence was released on June 24, 2016. Almost all of the main cast, including Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum returned to reprise their roles, but Will Smith did 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 (on average).
  • 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 an alien fighter.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The beginning of July 3 on Air Force One. See Heroic B.S.O.D..
  • 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.
  • Almighty Janitor: David went to MIT and is extremely overqualified as a "cable repairman." He was able to decipher the signal almost casually, and didn't realize what he figured out until the destroyers settled over the first wave of cities. He was later able to triangulate Constance's exact position in the white house from her cell signal, joking that all cable repairman can do that.
  • 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 "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.
  • Always Know A Pilot:
    • Whitmore is a former combat pilot, and brings up his combat experience at several points throughout the film. When it comes time for the final battle, he suits up himself and joins the fight, and ends up being one of only three known pilots shown to have survived the battle and subsequent destruction of the ship over Area 51.
    • The military is so devastated that there is literally a call for anyone with prior piloting experience. Emphasized later, when Whitmore points out to Grey that the pilots they've assembled for the final battle look very young.
    • Russell has experience with crop dusting, but seems to be able to pilot a fighter plane just fine. Played With in the novelization and original — Major Mitchell refuses to allow Russell to pilot a fighter jet because he's drunk, so the latter eventually shows up during the fight with a nuclear missile strapped to his old biplane.
    • Played with when it comes to Hiller flying the alien spacecraft. He is a combat pilot who always dreamed of being an astronaut and had close-range first-hand experience on how the alien spacecraft maneuver. But still none of that really explains how he would know how to fly the spacecraft.
  • 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 patrons at 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 Anarchy: A quite extensive range of reactions to the alien ships. People try to flee the cities almost immediately while others try to welcome the invaders.
  • 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.
  • Arc Words:
    • "We don't light up til the fat lady sings!"
    • "Checkmate."
  • 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 – Astronomy: The Apollo 11 landing site. The American flag was actually blown over by the lunar module ascent (later missions would place the flag farther away); moreover, by now, the flag is all white due to the cosmic rays. In addition, the "We came in peace for all mankind" plaque was placed at the foot of the LEM rather than the nearby soil. The trivia commentary on the anniversary edition had some fun with this, pointing out that this scene is inaccurate "...unless...someone else moved it..."
  • 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.
    • The New York ship appears to just barely clear the Empire State Building, meaning it wouldn't clear the Twin Towers. Also, the Empire State Building is not in the middle of the street.
    • Imperial Valley and Los Angeles are some 200 miles away from each other. While it can be explained that the ship passed over the Gulf of California on its way to LA, it definitely wouldn't have been visible from the trailer park after stopping over the city.
    • Area 51's map, which is tracking the alien ships, is missing the U.K. from Europe.
  • 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.
    • A piece of wreckage at Area 51 bears the shield of the Tactical Air Command, which had become the Air Combat Command in 1992. The Air Combat Command, however, inherited its shield from TAC, with only the text on the scroll at the bottom of the shield having changed.
    • El Toro has F-14 Tomcats and F-16 Fighting Falcons on the flight line. Although the Navy does have F-16s, they're used as wargame aggressors.
    • All of the planes launching from Area 51, an Air Force installation, are Navy and Marine Corps ones: F-14s, F/A-18s, and even A/V-8 Harriers.
    • 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.
    • USS Georgia notifies Atlantic Command of the ship over Iraq. Since 1983, the Middle East is under the theater area of authority for Central Command.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • The gravitational pull of both the attack ships and the mothership would be enormous just from their presence in orbit, with earthquakes and tidal waves around the world. The only acknowledgement of this is a low level earthquake as a destroyer settles over Los Angeles, but being it is California Steve and Jasmine shrug it off. In fact, the mother ship being one-fifth the size of the moon that close to the Earth would not only yank the Moon out of orbit sending it hurtling towards the planet, but cause mountain-sized tides - not just of water but of rock.
    • 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.
    • Let's just say that multiple city-sized ships suddenly crashing to the ground should have caused much more trouble than they did, especially the ones that were nuked.
  • Artistic License – Ships: Multiple with the submarine USS Georgia, which reports on the alien ship coming in over Iraq.
    • The real Georgia is an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine. The submarine shown is a Los Angeles-class attack submarine.
    • No submarine would be surfaced while operating in enemy waters. In fact, the Persian Gulf is only ninety meters at its deepest point, nowhere near deep enough for a US submarine to operate.
  • As You Know: One of the people working at SETI says the distance from the source of the noise at the start means that it's coming from the Moon. As the initials stand for "Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence", they would have all known how far away the Moon is from Earth.
  • 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.
  • Badass Boast: During Whitmore's Rousing Speech.
  • 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.
    • On the other hand, a deleted scene shows Marty taking much glee with the fact that David has hacked through the aliens' signal and cleared the reception up for the station, making them the only broadcaster in town with a working transponder.
  • The Big Board: There are multiple maps and displays in the Area 51 control room tracking the alien ships and plotting which cities have been destroyed.
    Whitmore: Atlanta, Chicago, and Philadelphia...destroyed...
  • 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."
  • 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. However, the first actual casualties are the crew of the exploratory plane, who are consumed by the fires surrounding the ship as it enters the atmosphere.
  • 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.
  • Brick Joke: At the start of the film, David berates his father for smoking, saying it's unhealthy. At the end, after helping save the world, David smokes a cigar and Julius asks if it's now healthy.
  • 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.
  • 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 Blu-ray.
  • Capital Offensive: The first wave includes the destruction of Washington DC, London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Amsterdam, Tokyo, New Delhi, Jerusalem, Tehran, Seoul, 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.
    • This is expanded on even more in the novelization. The President, a military veteran and fighter pilot, is already very uneasy about the alien's approach, with their ships entering the atmosphere and then spreading out to different points of the compass, etc. He understands about tactics and maximizing an initial attack for shock value, so David's information merely confirms what his gut was already telling him, which is why he stopped thinking politically and started looking at it from a military viewpoint.
    • 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.
    • Another one of the cable employees has a Mr. Spock mug on her desk. Brent Spiner, who plays Dr. Okun, had already appeared with Spock on TNG.
  • 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:
    • In the extended cut, there's a scene where David finds the alien signal and tells Marty he'll be able to calculate a reversal, thus clearing their television broadcasts. This later becomes the basis for his "computer virus."
    • 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. 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. Additionally, it's stated in dialogue that David knew Whitmore before the latter became President, and they already have a degree of familiarity with each other.
    • Not only was the Roswell legend true in-universe about a ship crashing in 1947 New Mexico, it happens to be of the same origin as the fighters attacking Earth in 1996, and even contains the same aliens attacking Earth.
    • 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 humans' assault against the aliens, 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.
  • Darkest Hour: The destroyers No Sell a direct nuclear attack. Until David develops an alternative they were at a loss at how to continue.
  • 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.
  • DEFCON Five: President Whitmore considers upgrading to DEFCON 3. In the special edition, after hearing about the ships heading towards Earth, he orders them to go to DEFCON 3.
  • 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/A-18 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.
  • The End Is Nigh: In the special edition, Jasmine and her survivor group come across a man preaching from the rubble that the end has come.
  • 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.
  • Face Palm: Both Whitmore and Grey do this when Julius begins ranting about Area 51.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Russell's last words.
  • Family-Friendly Stripper: Jasmine is named as a stripper in dialogue, but we only ever see her dancing in a bikini. Justified as when we see her go into her routine, she notices no one is interested due to the invasion.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Had the Silly Thing in Reverse: Will Smith's character at first, accidentally, when trying to pilot the captured UFO. He then turns the control instructions upside down and retapes them to the dashboard.
  • 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.
    • 36 saucers had been launched from the mothership. In that broadcast, the reporter says that only 10 to 15 ships have been sighted, leaving the 21 others not yet accounted for.
    • 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 B.S.O.D.:
    • 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.
    Julius: [seeing David smashing things in a drunken rage] David, what the hell are you doing?!
    David: I'm making a mess!
    Julius: Yeah, this I can see.
    David: We've got to burn down the rainforest, dump toxic waste, pollute the air and rip up the ozone good! Because maybe if we screw this planet up enough, they won't want it anymore!
    • 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)
    • The novel clarifies that the Black Knight assault was meant as a probing strike in order to assess the ship's weaknesses, while the second wave would provide heavier firepower. However, the shields put a halt to that.
    • The final battle is also justified, as they were flying with whatever they had available (which was little to begin with).
  • 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).
  • Hopeless War: The events of July 3rd quickly shape up as this. The morning cointerattack is an utter failure due to the aliens' shields. They destroy an additional 36 cities, and are poised to destroy all remaining cities within a day and a half. In the evening, Whitmore learns that the aliens will not settle for anything less than mankind's extermination and orders a nuclear strike, which fails. As the aliens destroy the third wave of cities, Whitmore realizes that humanity is truly lost.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: They're even directly compared to locusts.
  • 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, we don't get a look at their actual appearance until well past the halfway point of the film. 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 F/A-18 in combat in just a few hours.
    • Likewise, Captain Hiller's F/A-18 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. It's also said that the ship started booting up since the mothership came into orbit, indicating the alien technology is heavily interconnected.
  • 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: July 2, 1996 starts as just an ordinary day in America. Only weird thing is satellite disruptions on every TV channel.
  • 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).
    • General Gray refers to a single AWACS as an AWAC. The "s" is not to pluralise it, as the acronym stands for "Airborne Warning And Control System".
    • The original ending had a rejected Russell Casse stealing a missile, strapping it to his biplane and flying that into the alien ship. Had that happened in reality, the plane would have stalled and fallen when attempting to reach the ship's cannon.
  • 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.
  • Last Kiss: President Whitmore and the First Lady in the hospital, just before she passes away.
  • 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.
  • Moment Killer: David and Steve have just bid their loved ones goodbye and are striding down the ramp towards their waiting ship...and Steve abruptly realizes he doesn't have any cigars.
  • 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. It looks almost like a moon had been sawed in half.
  • The Mountains of Illinois:
    • The Russian fireball is said to be "clearing the mountains" near Novosibirsk. There are no mountains in the area, as the city is located on the Western Siberian Plain.
    • El Toro base is depicted surrounded by flat desert, even though it's actually surrounded by hilly Orange County.
  • Must Not Die a Virgin: The Trope Namer (the original title of this trope was a line from the film itself, "You Don't Want to Die a Virgin, Do You?"). Alicia's boyfriend tries to pressure her to lose her virginity when the alien ships are first sighted, until her brother pulls her out of the car and says they're leaving. In a deleted subplot, Alicia meets a boy in the refugee convoy and later asks him the same thing during the Area 51 battle, but this trope is subverted when he says that they can both die as virgins together.

     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.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Had the aliens not decided to attack the "Welcome Wagon" helicopters ten minutes before their main attack, Levinson would not have had the proof he needed to show that the aliens had hostile intentions, thus causing the President to order mass evacuations and successfully escape the destruction of Washington D.C., and simultaneously providing a story newscasters are able to use to convince the populace of the alien threat. It's too late to stop countless deaths, of course, but the aliens could have crippled human resistance in one fell swoop had they not been so trigger happy.
    • Of course, David had already convinced Whitmore that the aliens were hostile before they destroyed the helicopters. They were getting ready to evacuate when they saw the ship's hangar door opening; this just provided total confirmation. In addition, the cities were heavily congested with evacuees.
  • 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 Hiller, 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?
    • When Will Smith takes a day off, he takes a day off.
  • 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.
  • Oblivious Astronomers: The massive alien mothership and its attendant fleet are only detected when they start broadcasting their signal, by which point they've passed the lunar orbit. Though once Earth knows the alien ships are around, they have no trouble tracking them (even behind the moon).
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Secretary of Defense Albert Nimziki. Throughout the film, he continues to pressure Whitmore to take drastic and unprecedented retaliatory attacks as soon as possible. The morning after the attack, he is the first to suggest unloading a full nuclear arsenal against the invaders over American cities. Later, he reveals that he and certain government officials had full knowledge of the aliens for decades and knew what they were capable of, but didn't tell any of the past administrations or the general populace. Arguably, his refusal to reveal this information until his hand is forced results in the initial counterattack failing and hundreds of pilots dying as a result. Nimziki eventually tries to talk Whitmore out of attacking the aliens before the final 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!: Due to this being a Disaster Movie, this reaction is very common throughout the film. It's easier to say that someone reacts this way every few minutes.
    • Most notable of all comes during the climax, when the alien controller in the mothership hangar realises a nuke is about to go off five feet in front of his face.
  • 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:
  • 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: David's Macintosh laptop is somehow able to directly interface with the alien mothership and upload the virus to their systems (complete with a helpful "Uploading Virus" indicator). It's possible that this framework was set up by David and the lab technicians at Area 51 in the interim between the former's idea and his reveal to Whitmore and the others, but this isn't explicitly stated.
  • 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.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Sure, we beat the aliens. But, in the process, it caused the death of about half the world's population and has seen most of the world's most important cities reduced to rubble.

     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.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: When Hiller first meets the President, they only shake hands. This is correct, as he's uncovered (not wearing headgear) and thus he's not required to salute.
  • Red Sky, Take Warning: The giant fireballs in the sky caused by the city destroyers entering Earth's atmosphere.
  • Re Cut: An extended cut of the film is often included with the original film. It's mostly bit and pieces, longer versions of the same scenes. Much of it clarifies Russel Case and his family, revealing he was Miquel's step-father, his wife died from an unspecified illness and his actual son Troy was also ill, remnants of that implied to be car sickness in the theatrical cut. There is also further explanation of the virus, as David is shown the cockpit of the crashed ship and reveals that their basic computer programming is similar to the signal David cracked.
  • 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 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.
    • May be justified though as it appears that these aliens have curbstomped the living crap out of everything they've come across prior to Earth, and nobody else ever came up with the idea, or if they did, never had the sheer balls to try it. As such, electronic counteroffensives by a race whom appears to be all but dead in the water probably never occurred to them.
  • 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: The city buster laser apparently required the destroyers to be immediately above the cities and well in atmosphere. There is also the old fashioned dogfighting.
  • 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 real aircraft was itself a shout-out to the older one, the B-2's wingspan was designed to be exactly the same as the XB-49's, to the inch.
    • 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'."
    • Just before the ships fire, Marty is trying to call his therapist, Dr. Katz.
    • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Whitmore's famous speech was a reworked version of the King's St Crispin's Day Speech in Henry V.
  • 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 mothership. Justified, as said exit is huge.
  • 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!"
  • 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!"
  • 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 aware of the alien fighter capabilities and that makes him the best chance with flying the Roswell ship. Being a pilot he already has a background in adjusting to different control schemes, but the controls seem fairly intuitive using dual joysticks. His first attempt in the cockpit ends with him going in reverse, although the movement directions being labeled wrong by the scientists wasn't helpful. Immediately after making that claim 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.
    • When Russell's youngest son begins to feel sick and asks for him to stop the RV. He proceeds to get out and vomit (offscreen) in the background while Russell points out the convoy to Miguel.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: Variant, as Hiller is flying the ship towards the closing blast doors to escape.
  • War Room: Air Force One has one, where Whitmore, Grey, and Nimzicki observe the initial counterattack. Later, the command center of Area 51 is converted into one for the final battle.
  • 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?"