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Film / Independence Day

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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.

On a beautiful July day in 1996, S.E.T.I. in New Mexico detects a strange signal coming in, a possible sign of alien life. Then they find out it's coming from the Moon. Unknown to them, a massive ship 1/4 the size of the Moon arrives in orbit and deploys 36 city-sized saucers, that settle over major cities worldwide. What at first is apprehension and trepidation at the confirmation of alien life turns to horror as they begin firing their Wave Motion Guns to wipe out entire cities with a single shot. What was a normal July day becomes a desperate fight for survival as humanity finds itself threatened by a vicious alien race, hell-bent on wiping them out and taking Earth for themselves.


Humans fight back, with U.S. Marine pilot Steven Hiller (Will Smith), President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) 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 of 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 
  • 0's and 1's: We see a close-up on a printout David makes from the signal, all in binary code.
  • Achilles' Heel: The open bay of an alien saucer's main cannon. Or to be more exact, the volatile plasma within the bay.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The beginning of July 3 on Air Force One. See Heroic BSoD.
  • Actor Allusion: If you think Jeff Goldblum's "must go faster, must go faster" line as David and Steve are escaping the alien mothership sounds familiar, it's because they used the dialogue loop from Jurassic Park when Goldblum says the same line.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When an article in the paper compares the president to Oliver, he only thinks that the comparison is clever. In the extended cut, Connie tells him that he's been voted in the Orange County Dispatch as one of the ten sexiest men of the year, which he remarks is "accomplishing something."
  • Aerial Canyon Chase: Steven pulls this against an alien fighter.
  • 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 Steven 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.
  • 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.
  • All There in the Script: According to a back-story established by the cast and crew, Dr. Okun was recruited by the military out of Berkeley in the 1960s, and due to the top-secret nature of his work, has been isolated at Area 51 since. Although never revealed in the film, his first name was established as Brackish, a word meaning "unappealing" or "repulsive".
  • Alternate History: Since the ARG for the sequel dates the first film as "The War of 1996" it's retroactively been made this.
  • 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 missile strapped to his old biplane.
      • When the original ending was scrapped, a brief segment was added to the news bulletin of his arrest to indicate that he was a pilot in Vietnam.
    • Played with when it comes to Steve 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.
  • Anachronism Stew: Unless the film takes place in a universe where the Soviet Union survived in a reformed state, the Russian broadcast is rife with these.
    • George Putnam opens the report by mentioning an extraordinary event taking place in the "Russian Republic." The Russian Republic was a short-lived provisional government that existed following Tsar Nicholas' abdication until the October Revolution. Following the dissolution of the USSR, Russia officially became the Russian Federation.
    • The report is broadcast from "Soviet Central News." Though this is also incorrect as the central news agency in the Soviet Union was the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union.
    • This map includes the entirety of the USSR prior to its breakup, including Ukraine and the Central Asian and Baltic countries.
    • That same map points to a city on the northwest coast. The Cyrillic gives the name Petrograd, which is what Saint Petersburg was renamed following the start of World War I. It was renamed Leningrad after Lenin's death in 1924 and restored as Saint Petersburg after the collapse of the USSR.
  • 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.
  • And Mission Control Rejoiced:
    • First happens when they nuke the destroyer ship and everyone rejoices until the visual kicks in.
    • Happens twice at the end, both in the Area 51 control room. The first when Whitmore's missile penetrates the shield and then when Russell takes down the LA City Destroyer.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Steve and Jasmine have a fight before he leaves for the army base - after Steve demands to know why she's "acting like this", she incredulously goes to the window, pulls back the curtains and gestures to the giant spaceship hovering outside.
    Jasmine: Why? THAT'S why!
  • 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. There is also looting going on according to David's father.
  • The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best in People: Faced with an hostile alien invasion who threatens to exterminate all humanity, all of the nations unite against the alien invaders. In the course of 48 hours they throw away centuries worth of bad blood and disagreements for the sake of one thing, survival. Made even better in the sequel, because it stuck.
  • Apocalypse How: The aliens' ultimate goal as Planet Looters who devour every last natural resource on a planet before moving on means that if they win, they'll likely bring a Class 5-6. According to the sequel where the aliens have a new Evil Plan, it'd probably even reach a Class X once they were done with the Earth and ready to move on. The aliens are defeated in the end, but humanity still suffers a Class 1 with most major cities around the world destroyed and human civilization at first left in a diminished state.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License: This is a Roland Emmerich film, so a lot of it is to be expected.
    • 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..."
      • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: An entity as massive as the alien mothership (said to be 1/4th the size of the moon) would be easily detectable for months prior to approach and visible with the naked eye long before it entered Earth's orbit (for example, Saturn's moon of Tethys, which is less than 1% the mass of the Moon, was discovered in 1684 and can be seen with a regular backyard telescope). It definitely strains belief nobody noticed an object that size within Earth's orbit.
    • Dates: Repeat mention is made to suggest that this takes place over a weekend. July 2 to July 4, 1996 was in the middle of the week.
    • Geography:
      • 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.
      • 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.
      • Two ships are stated to be off the East Coast of the United States, headed for Washington, DC and New York. However, the DC ship arrives over Washington from the wrong direction if it were coming from the coast, which is east of the Capitol Building.
      • Area 51's map, which is tracking the alien ships, is missing the U.K. from Europe.
      • There are no salt flats within driving distance of Area 51 (the scenes were shot in Utah; Area 51 itself is in a regular desert in Nevada).
      • The letter Steve gets from NASA has the address "El Toro, CA 50055." The zip code 50055 is actually for Collins, Iowa. Prior to its closure, the zip code for El Toro was 92609.
      • When David is explaining the countdown to Marty, he points to a TV with a map showing the arrival of alien ships. One of them is listed as being over Bombay, which changed its name to Mumbai in 1995. Before that, a reporter states that a ship has arrived over the capital of India, which is actually New Delhi. However, similar to how one of the ships is listed as being over "Germany" instead of Berlin, this could be an in-universe mistake at the network, which is trying to cover an alien invasion. Also, according to the War of 1996 site for the sequel, both Bombay and Delhi were targeted on the same day (along with Calcutta/Kolkata), which would partially explain it if both ships were over their targets.
      • When people come out to celebrate the destruction of the City Destroyers, it is simultaneously daylight at Area 51, Cairo, and Sydney. It should at the very least be night in Australia.
    • Gun Safety:
      • 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.
      • David Levinson asking Major Mitchell to fire a bullet at the alien spaceship. 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.
    • Military:
      • Air Force One is shown being escorted by two F-15C Eagles and a US Navy F-14 Tomcat during its flight from Washington, D.C. Given the nature of the situation, and the fact that several cities have just been destroyed by alien invaders, Air Force One (carrying the President) would merit a much larger escort of fighters.
      • President Whitmore's F/A-18 is explicitly shown to be equipped with four missiles (two underwing and two on the wingtips) yet fires five. He fires one underwing missile to test the shield, another underwing to confirm the shields are down, then a wingtip missile afterwards. He additionally fires another wingtip missile at an alien attacker, and a fifth wingtip mounted missile at the City Destroyer's cannon opening, somehow firing two missiles from the same hardpoint.
      • "FOX TWO" is a radio call for an infrared-guided air to air missile (for US fighters at the time, an AIM-9L/M Sidewinder). Yet the missile fired is either an active-radar-homing AMRAAM (which would be FOX 3) or semi-active-radar-homing Sparrow (which would be FOX 1). The nuclear missile shots, being mounted in Harpoon air-to-surface missiles, would be called as "BULLDOG."
      • 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. Possibly justified due to a joint operation being conducted for the counter-strike.
      • 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 Steve 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 Steve 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.
      • Whitmore addressees the army officer who announces the approach of the City Destroyers as a "commander." That is not an army rank and the officer is actually a colonel.
      • Protocol stipulates that Marine One's rotors are not activated until the President is aboard and the doors are secured. Of course, given the rather extreme nature of the emergency, it's probable that Whitmore ordered them to get ready for takeoff as soon as possible.
      • The correct name of Area 51 is Groom Lake, which is what military personnel refer to it as. "Area 51" was assigned to it in CIA classified documents.
      • The fighter that Whitmore flies during the final battle should have had the call sign "Air Force One," as it refers not just to the Boeing VC-25 that serves as the President's official transport but any US Air Force plane that the President happens to be on. Of course, using his squadron's call sign symbolically indicates that he is putting himself in the line of fire with all the other volunteers.
      • Steve steals a helicopter to go look for survivors in LA, particularly his girlfriend. By any and all accounts would be a court martial offense, but given the Alien Invasion going on and finding the President's wife in the process no mention is made of the infraction. It's acknowledged when he takes the helicopter, an opposing soldier pulls his gun on him, but when Steve sincerely questions his commitment, the soldier acquiesced.
    • Physics:
      • The Capitol Building's iconic dome is shown disintegrating as if it were made of stone. The dome is actually made of wrought-iron, and it wouldn't disintegrate like a stone structure.
      • 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, according to the Law of Inverse Recoil, just having a ship that size hovering above a city would flatten it like a pancake, since the force pushing the spaceship up would need an equal amount of force pushing down.
      • A spaceship a quarter the size of the moon would be enough to pull it out of orbit.
      • If the destroyers arriving over their target cities caused low level earthquakes, Washington, D.C. and New York should have suffered structural damage as neither city has buildings rated for earthquakes, unlike Los Angeles.
      • 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 Novelization adds to the scene and attempts to explain it: A grating was in the room, and the firewall caused a vacuum effect, drawing air from the tunnel below with enough force to make them grab onto it to keep from getting sucked/blown back into the tunnel, but also kept the heat of the fire wall from roasting them alive.
      • 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.
    • Religion: The prayer that Julius gives at the end is actually supposed to be given while standing.
    • 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. It should be noted that the featured ship was originally scripted to be an aircraft carrier.
    • Television:
      • Marilyn calls Whitmore at 2:45AM, which is 5:45AM in Washington. The McLaughlin Group did not air so early in the morning. Although this could have been a rerun.
      • One of the cable employees tells a customer that he hopes he'll get to watch The X-Files, which had already concluded its third season in May. Network channels only broadcast reruns of their main shows in the summer.
  • As You Know:
    • David's father telling him that he is divorced and should move on.
    • 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 Weak Point: The ship's cores — if you can get through the forcefield at least.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: 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.
  • Backing Away Slowly: While Jimmy demonstrates to Steve how kneeling makes it easier to kiss a superior's butt, Steve's engagement ring for Jasmine falls out of his locker and Jimmy picks it up for him. Another airman walks in just in time to see what looks like Jimmy proposing to Steve and slowly backs away.
  • Badass Boast: During Whitmore's Rousing Speech.
  • Bad Vibrations: In the opening scene, the alien mother ship erases Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's footprints from the moon with this method, and the smaller city destroyers create vibrations strong enough to be mistaken as an earthquake by the characters. There is also the diner scene where a coffee cup shakes violently on a table.
  • 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 Damn Reunion: The triumphant moment when Steve and Jasmine reunite at El Toro.
  • Big Entrance: Referenced. "You know me." "Yeah, I know, you always like to make a big entrance."
  • Big "NO!": Steve's reaction to seeing Jimmy trying to hotdog his way out from the aliens chasing him, and failing fatally. "JIMMY! NOOOO!!!"
  • Big "OMG!": How David's boss, Marty, reacts when David explains to him that that in six hours time, the aliens are going to strike with everything they've got.
    Marty: Oh my God...OH MY GOD! I've gotta call my brother! I gotta call my housekeeper! I gotta call my lawyer! [Beat] Ah, forget my lawyer.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • A Hispanic farmhand says something on the lines of "Already did that again" in Spanish, right after Miguel berates Russell for dusting the wrong field.
    • 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 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.
  • Blatant Lies: Steve takes a helicopter without asking to go to El Toro. A marine turns a weapon on him and tells him to get out. Steve says he doubts the other man really wants to shoot him. Marine lowers his weapon and Steve offers him a paper-thin excuse:
    Steve: Tell them I hit you.
    Marine: [who easily outweighs Steve by 150+ lbs] ...*"are you serious? head tilt*
    • Then again, given the fact that Steve earlier laid out one of the bio-suited aliens with just one punch...
  • 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 telepathically 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.
    • This was the scene that actually got Mae Whitman the role. She auditioned, then asked if Patricia knew her mom was dead or actually believed she was sleeping. When told that she knew but didn't want to admit it, Whitman said she would have done the scene differently in that case and asked to do it again.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece:
    • The flying saucer had been stored for decades under Area 51 when they suddenly needed it. Variation/subversion in that the vehicle is just as advanced as what the aliens are still using (and actively did not work until the mothership showed up in orbit).
    • In the novelization, several pilots show up with WWII era aircraft to join the fight. Not expecting to survive, but because for every alien shooting at them, there's one that won't be shooting at the F/A-18s.
  • Brick Joke: Before leaving for El Toro, Steve gives Dylan a packet of firecrackers. Near the end, he promises that they'll light them as soon as he gets back from the mothership. All this leads to the final line of the film, as Steve and Dylan watch the mothership's debris enter the atmosphere:
    Steve: Didn't I promise you fireworks?
  • 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: Steve basically says he can fly the ship because he's seen it fly. David does immediately point out that it's a bit unbelievable that Steve is capable of flying the spaceship, to which Steve 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. Numerous other capital cities, such as Brussels, Hanoi, Prague, Islamabad, Baghdad, Pyongyang, Buenos Aires, and Riyadh, are destroyed in subsequent attack waves.
  • Captain Obvious: During the escape from the mothership, David makes an astute observation that the alien attackers are chasing them.
    David: They're chasing us!
    Steve: Oh really, you think?!
  • Captured Super-Entity: At one point, Steve 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.
  • Catch Your Death Of Cold: Julius tells David to get off the freezing floor of the hangar so he doesn't catch cold. This remark hits David just right to inspire him to try using a virus on the aliens.
  • 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 The X-Files: 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?
    • Averted with Russell's crop-dusting biplane, which is carried behind his RV as the family evacuates. The original cut of the film (which made it to the official novelization) had Russell being denied to be part of the fighter wave, so he makes his Heroic Sacrifice by duct-taping a missile to the side of the biplane and charging into the melee.
    • 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.
    • The packet of fireworks that Steve gives Dylan with the promise of setting them off once everything is over gets used later on in the official novelization, when Jasmine uses them to scare away some looters that were about to attack her group of survivors.
  • 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?
    • Connie and Julius both mention that David, a capable electronics' engineer, settled with merely being employed by a cable company. Care to guess who not only discovered the Aliens' hidden attack signal, while working at said cable company, but also devised a way to sabotage the alien ships' computer systems?
  • Check and Mate:
    Marty: And when the countdown reaches zero, then what?
    David: ...Checkmate.
  • Citywide Evacuation: They're not mandatory evacuations, but the President tells the citizens of the US that if they feel compelled to leave a city they should do so immediately and in an orderly fashion. The citizens get the "immediately" part.
  • Civilization Destroyer: Apart from deliberately destroying the headquarters of government and religious places on Earth, no civilization would be left after all resources are looted (specially if those include oil, water and maybe even oxygen).
  • Closest Thing We Got: When the counter-attack requires someone to pilot an alien fighter, the Secretary of Defence protests that nobody on Earth is qualified to pilot the ship, at which point Steve observes that he's seen the ships in action and at least has an idea of their manoeuvring capabilities.
  • Collapsing Lair: The mothership at the film's climax.
  • 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.
    • Jasmine happens upon the First Lady, so when Steve finds her, he finds the President's wife (who everyone had given up for dead).
    • Steve'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.
  • Convection Schmonvection: A dog manages to Outrun the Fireball despite being practically inside it. Naturally, the dog should have been flash-fried.
  • Converging-Stream Weapon: The motherships' primary weapon.
  • Creator Cameo: Dean Devlin voices the pilot who says "I'm on it!" at the end and then gets promptly annihilated by a passing attacker.
  • 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.
  • Curb-Stomp 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.
  • Deadly Euphemism: As David warns Marty about the oncoming alien spaceships, he uses "Checkmate" as the deadly euphemism.
  • Dated History: "There is no Area 51", rather than "Okay, turns out there is, but no aliens. We swear."
  • Dead Guy Puppet: The captured alien pilot at Area 51 uses Okun's body to talk to the president.
  • Deadline News: In the ads, as a The War of the Worlds Shout-Out.
  • Death by Cameo: Volker Engel, who was head of the FX unit. He's the guy in the LA office building.
  • DEFCON Five: Averted. President Whitmore considers upgrading to DEFCON 3 but we are not told from where.
  • 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.
  • 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 Steve shows the alien.
    Steve: Okay. Come here. You want to see my clearance?
    [pulls back tarp to reveal the unconscious alien]
    Steve: Maybe I should just leave this with you.
    Guard: ...let 'em pass!
    • 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.
  • Die Laughing: Russell's Heroic Sacrifice has him laughing and shouting profanities at the aliens all the way.
  • Disappeared Dad: The father of Jasmine's son has been out of the picture for some time.
  • Disconnected by Death: The Air Force goes out to recon the alien ships. The pilot is so horrified by the sight of the fireball as the ship enters the atmosphere that he doesn't pull up and away in time. Back at the White House, the military officer bangs fruitlessly on the phone button before he realizes that the connection was lost because the recon plane was.
    • Happens again at the end of the film. No contact from Steve or David for 20 minutes — but then the radar tech spots something on radar...
  • Disney Death: Steve and David not quite outrunning the explosion of the mothership.
  • Divided We Fall: From the Novelization:
    ...pilots from eleven different nations, many of whom would have been shooting at one other under any other circumstances, hiding out together in the middle of nowhere. They had become reluctant allies.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: David and Connie had been divorced for three years prior to the events of the film. Despite that, he refuses to take off his wedding band.
  • Don't Celebrate Just Yet: After it becomes clear the nuclear missile had an effect, the Area 51 personnel make the mistake of celebrating when they had not yet seen if the alien destroyer had been destroyed. It hadn't.
  • 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.
  • Drone of Dread: The alien destroyers charging up their weapons is accompanied by a droning trombone sound. Also accompanied by "Psycho" Strings.
  • Dropped-in Speech Clip: As the film opens we see the Apollo 11 landing site and hear the recording of Neil Armstrong reading the plaque commemorating the first landing on the moon right before the Mothership passes overhead.
  • 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 Broadcast: Whitmore orders Connie to activate the Emergency Broadcast System to advise citizens not to panic. When the DC City Destroyer makes its final approach to the White House, he decides to switch to an emergency speech (see below).
  • 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.
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights: When the alien pilot attacks the staff during the Alien Autopsy, the room is filled with smoke and the lights flicker menacingly.
  • Establishing Character Moment: David is introduced playing chess with his father, which quickly establishes his Brilliant, but Lazy attitude.
  • "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 Car Is a Pinto:
    • Or satellite in this case. As the mothership enters orbit, an old, decrepit Russian satellite is pulled in and literally explodes against the ship's hull.
    • Averted during the city destruction scenes. Cars are shown getting thrown up and consumed in the blaze, but they don't actually explode.
  • 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.
  • Expositing the Masquerade: When they visit Area 51, it turns out The Government knew about the aliens all along. Well, some of the government. Not the President. Or the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The events of the movie take place over a weekend, July 2nd 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 Palm: Both Whitmore and Grey do this when Julius begins ranting about Area 51.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Russell's last words.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Steve and Jasmine are awakened by Dylan, and think the rumbling is an earthquake. When he turns on the television and Emergency Broadcast is on, Steve still thinks it's the quake. he goes out to get the morning paper. He begins to read it until he notices that the neighbors, all of them are packing. Only when a helicopter flies overhead and he watches its flight path does he realize it's flying toward one of the invading ships. Doubled down as Jasmine then brings Steve a cup of coffee, but she's watching it so she doesn't spill, and then looks at him, and doesn't notice the spaceship until she looks to see what he's staring at.
  • 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.
  • Fanservice: Jasmine's dance at the club.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Russell, maybe if you hadn't put that photo in your plane, you might have survived to see the end credits.
  • Feedback Rule: Before Whitmore gives his Rousing Speech, he tests the megaphone which gives off a beeping sound.
  • Finger-Twitching Revival: The first sign that the alien pilot comes back to life during the Alien Autopsy is its hand starting to move.
  • Fire-Forged Friends:
    • There's enmity between President Whitmore and David because of Connie. By the end of the film, they're friends.
      • The enmity between Whitmore and David is only mentioned briefly during their first scene together, then immediately discarded and never mentioned again once Whitmore learns that David has vital information about the aliens. They are never shown to have any issues trusting each other and working together as both men clearly recognize that the threat posed by the hostile aliens is a much bigger and more pressing concern than their personal baggage with each other.
    • Steve and David don't have enmity between them but aren't really friends until after they go on the mission together.
  • 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: Could be viewed as a Reconstruction after only existing in parodies and B-movies since the 60's note . The sheer scale of them and raw firepower make them scary instead of silly.
  • 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..
    • When Dr. Okun says that they've spent forty years trying to repair the Roswell ship, David asks if they're really hoping to fly it.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: After losing a good friend during a Dog Fight with the aliens, Hiller is quickly back to cracking jokes and never mentions the loss again.
  • Forgot to Mind Their Head: The boss at SETI who gets called at night forgets that he was sleeping in what appears to be a bunk bed and hits his head on his way up.
  • Four-Star Badass: General Grey, in contrast to the weaselly, ass-covering Secretary of Defense Nimziki. Honestly, Grey is 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.
  • From Zero to Hero: Russell Casse, after having served in the Vietnam War, has been living a marginal existence in a camper as an alcoholic crop duster. After the invading aliens have eradicated most of Earth's best fighter pilots, Russell offers his services and flies an F/A-18C Hornet at the huge alien warship. Russell actually makes a Heroic Sacrifice by flying directly into the muzzle of the Beam-O-War, which causes the alien ship to overload and destruct. Russell's heroics are remarked upon by the President.
    Russell: Hello, boys. I'm ba-a-a-ack!
  • 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.
  • Genius Burnout: Played with, David is an MIT graduate and works for a cable company diagnosing network issues. For the average person with those credentials that is a perfectly fine job but it's clear David is much more talented than he lets on and not particularly ambitious, with a couple jokes about how he is just a cable repairman. He gets drawn into the main plot because he managed to crack the alien signal before he really understood what it was.
  • Gilligan Cut: Whitmore says to leave the cities "in an orderly fashion" - cut to anarchy in the New York streets.
  • God Help Us All: After the aliens make their intentions abundantly clear, Sky News anchorman Bob Friend 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.
  • Great Offscreen War: The vast majority of the invasion is referred to passing. When the Black Knights attack the Los Angeles City Destroyer, it's mentioned that attack squadrons near New York and Washington are also going into action. British, French, German, Russian, Israeli, and other forces join in the initial counterattack, but they're just as ineffective against the invaders.
  • 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 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 Captain Hiller at first, accidentally, when trying to pilot the captured UFO. He then turns the control instructions upside down and retapes them to the dashboard.
  • Hate Sink: Secretary of Defense Nimziki is a complete jerkwad. To begin with, he had some knowledge that aliens existed way in advance (thanks to the Roswell crash) and he refused to tell the President anything about it even as aliens were settling over Earth's cities and had started to wipe them out for the sake of mainining Plausible Deniability. He also constantly advocates the use of nuclear weapons to the point that once it's proven that the City Destroyer shields can No-Sell a direct hit with a nuke, he says that they should just try with more nukes. Finally he is the only one who deems David's plan as too crazy to work and tries to convince President Whitmore to not support it by exploting the memory of his wife, who had been deceased for only a few hours at the most. This one costs Nimziki dearly as Whitmore decides to fire him right then and there.
    Nimziki: He can't do that!
    Connie: [smugly] Well, he just, um... did.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The mechanical moan-like sound of the ship destroyer as it arrives in New York. Sounds almost like a T-Rex.
  • 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, Mogadishu, Lagos and Addis Ababa were destroyed, but Cape Town survived. Jakarta, Medan and Perth were destroyed, but Sydney survived, as well.
      • 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.
    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?
    • Steve also has one when meeting with General Grey. He asks the General to be transferred back to El Toro, where he told Jasmine to go with Dylan, his stepson - only for the General to inform him that El Toro had been destroyed.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Godspeed, Mr. Casse.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Steve steals a helicopter go to El Toro.
  • Historical In-Joke: There totally was an alien vessel at Area 51 — and it was piloted by the aliens invading now.
  • 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).
  • 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).
  • Hopeless War: The events of July 3rd quickly shape up as this. The morning counterattack 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.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The Alien Invasion starts on 2 July and ends on 4 July, the American "Independence Day".
  • Ho Yay: Invoked. Steve 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 Russell 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.
  • If My Calculations Are Correct: David uses this line before announcing to his colleagues that the signal will be gone in seven hours.
  • Ignored Vital News Reports: Hiller takes a passing glance at the news and assumes it's about the "small earthquake" he and his wife felt a few minutes prior. It's only when he gets outside and notices everyone hurriedly packing their cars that he takes a good look around and finally sees the several-mile-wide spaceship.
  • I Got You Covered: At the end of the film, the President orders the rest of the fleet to cover Russell since he has the only missile left.
  • Improbable Cover: Every time there's an explosion that the heroes escape, they do so by this trope.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bomb: The nuclear missile David and Steve plant on the mothership has a countdown display with a beeping sound for each second passing.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: David goes for the bottle when he hears about the Nuclear Option being approved by Whitmore.
  • 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:
    • 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.
    • "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: Steve 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 All My Fault: After they narrowly escape Washington, Whitmore takes a moment on Air Force One to grasp the fact that millions of Americans have just died on his watch, all because he didn't plan for the possibility that the aliens were hostile.
  • 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.
    • That's from their misunderstanding of and disdain for his job (and possibly due to David thinking they wouldn't understand the true technical details). David is most likely Network Operations or something even more technical, and a literal rocket scientist, who can control the satellites that bring in the signal for cable television. This is an example of Society Marches On, as in modern times, people with this skill set earn lots of money and perform a role that is more easily understood at a glance.
  • 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. 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.
    • F-16Cs are shown on the tarmac at MCAS El Toro during the alien's attack. The F-16C is an Air Force aircraft; the Marine Corps has never operated it.
    • Two-seat F-5 Freedom Fighters can also be spied at MCAS El Toro. While the Marine Corps operates the F-5, it does not operate any twin-seat variants; the F-5T that it operates is an aggressor fighter for exercises, and is single-seat.
    • The F/A-18C, even at stall speeds, is not manoeuvrable enough to fly through 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. F/A-18s at the base are also shown with "ARMY" markings on the fuselage; the Army does not operate it, only the Navy and Marine Corps.
    • 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 Grey 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. Even Dean Devlin thought this ending was unrealistic.
  • Key Under the Doormat: Jasmine finds the keys to the fire truck above the sun visor.
  • 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, hence the 34 remaining City Destroyers plummet to the ground.
  • Killed Offscreen: The Vice President and Joint Chiefs of Staff; their deaths are reported to the President just after the failed counterattacks on July 3. The rest of the Cabinet are not mentioned, but as Whitmore ordered that they also be moved to NORAD, they were killed as well.
  • Kneel Before Frodo: At the end of the film, both President Whitmore and General Grey salute Steve after they destroy the mothership. Correct military protocol has the subordinate salute first until it's returned by the superior. Instead, both a general and the commander-in-chief recognize Steve for his extraordinary accomplishment.
  • Landmark of Lore: Area 51. The President tries to convince Julius that Area 51 is just tabloids and screw loose conspiracy theories. Turns out, not so much.
  • 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.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: When a Russian pilot says that the Americans have found a way to take down the alien shields, his commanding officer eagerly asks when they want to attack.
  • Let's Get Out of Here: Line used by Miguel Casse when their van shakes violently during the approach of the destroyer ship.
  • 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.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The work's characters sheet lists tropes for over 30 characters.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: After arriving at Area-51, Nimziki states that the facility had been kept secret from the presidential office for the sake of Plausible Deniability. General Grey, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces berates Nimziki saying:
    Grey: You should have told us about this when they first arrived! You should have warned us before we launched a counterattack that cost us the lives of hundreds of American pilots!
  • Logo Joke: Many of the TV spots had the destroyer's shadow coming over the 20th Century Fox logo, but this wasn't included in the film itself.
  • Magic Countdown: The climactic 30-second countdown to the bomb's detonation on the mothership took one minute, 33 seconds of screen time.
  • Magic Floppy: Well, magic laptop.
  • The Maiden Name Debate: In the special edition, David tries to find Constance's cell phone number by searching numerous variations of her name. Julius suggests he try searching "Levinson," even though David points out that she didn't take his name when they were married. Sure enough, "Connie Levinson" is what's listed.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": When the Destroyer's "hammer" starts to activate the people on the LA rooftop stare with increasingly alarm/horror. Presumably, even through their optimism they recognized that couldn't possibly be anything other than a weapon.
    • And of course, the reactions of the people in the streets once the weapon fires.
  • Matrix Raining Code: Can be seen on David's laptop when he tries to hack into the alien's network to upload the virus.
  • Mile-Long Ship: The saucers are 15 miles in diameter, the mothership is a Planet Spaceship.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Jimmy gets down on one knee to demonstrate how to properly kiss ass, and then a wedding ring box falls out of Steve's locker. When he shows it to Steve, 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:
    Steve: 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. Among the casualties are the Empire State Building, the White House, the U.S. Bank Tower, the Capitol Building and the Statue of Liberty. 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. The White House is doubly justified, given that its the seat of the US Government, and therefore a prime target.
    • The aliens seem to deliberately target monuments, in London it was Big Ben and in France it was the Eiffel Tower.
  • Monumental Damage Resistance: The Pyramids of Giza and the Sydney Opera House both survive, though the presence of Destroyers nearby indicates they were targets; but humanity shot down the Destroyers before that could happen.
    • When Jasmine and Dyllan emerge from the tunnels in LA, the palm trees are just about the only thing still standing, just to let you know yes this was LA.
    • The World Trade Center is also still standing, though clearly damaged.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Steve'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.
  • Mythology Gag: At least one version of the DVD has on its main menu an exterior view of the White House as the alien destroyer ship closes on it. If you leave it running long enough without clicking a button, Jeff Goldblum's "Time's up" line plays, the aliens fire on the White House, and then the movie starts automatically.

     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!
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: The SETI staff member tells his boss on the phone to "listen to this" instead of telling him straight away about the signal.
  • Newscaster Cameo:
    • George Puttnam, Jerry Dunphy, Barry Nolan, Julie Moran, Wendy Walsh, Bob Friend, and the then-cast members of The McLaughlin Group all appear as themselves.
    • Los Angeles sportscaster Gary Cruz is briefly shown as an anchorman discussing the alien ship hovering over L.A.
  • 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 Steven 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.
  • Not What It Looks Like: When Jimmy bends down on the floor to retrieve a wedding ring dropped by Steve, 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).
  • 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).
  • Office Golf: A SETI staff member plays some when he's alerted to the approaching mothership.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome:
    • The July 4th counterattack. We only see it take place at Area 51, but the RAF, the Luftwaffe, the Russian Air Force, and every other military in the world was able to do the same.
    • Steve successfully performing a crash-landing in the attacker, especially considering that its main power system likely cut out moments after the mothership was destroyed.
    • Jasmine finds a working truck to get her son out of the ruins of Los Angeles. Between there and El Toro, she picks up a whole crowd of refugees and starts coordinating first aid & food for them all. The only part of this that the audience sees is when she picks up the First Lady.
  • 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 realizes 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.
  • Ominous Multiple Screens: Compact Cable has a bank of dozens of screens showing various networks. When we first see the office, they're all showing distortions or "technical difficulties" cards. As the scene progresses, they have an increased amount of breaking news broadcasts until finally President Whitmore appears on all of them at once to give his speech about first contact.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: TV signals all over the world are distorted due to the aliens using our satellites for communication. The disrupted news broadcasts give off an eerie vibe.
  • 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!
  • One Last Smoke: 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.
  • Onscreen Chapter Titles: The movie has a title card for every day from 2 to 4 of July.
  • 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 Millennium were when a lot of former Vietnam veterans were running for public office.
  • Outrun the Fireball:
    • Air Force One does it during the first attack.
    • 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.
    • And later in a tiny spaceship after a nuclear bomb annihilates the mother ship. The fireball quickly caught up, but it survived well enough to safely crash-land on Earth.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: The movie ends with a pan up to the falling debris of the mothership in the sky.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Troy Casse hits the TV in hope to get the garbled signal working again.
  • Planar Shockwave: The explosion of the Alien Mothership spreads horizontally on the screen, eventually engulfing the camera. Might have looked like a Praxis Shockwave from another angle.
  • 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 Nimziki 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?
    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: 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.
    • The novelization reveals that modern human computers are essentially reverse engineered from the captured ship.
  • Power Walk: A variant that's not played in slow motion happens when Steve and David walk from their capsule towards the rescue team after their successful mission of destroying the mothership.
  • 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, Steve 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 5300ce (ironically, the 5300 series is considered even by die-hard Apple fanboys to be one of the worst Macs ever made, in terms of its performance relative to the model it was introduced to officially replace) to hack into the alien ship. Also, numerous Coca Cola cans, and a few vending machines.
  • Pulled from Your Day Off: Steve is given leave for the titular holiday weekend, but gets recalled when the aliens show up. Lampshaded a couple times in his rant after being shot down:
    Steve: This was supposed to be my weekend off, but nooooo...
    [Moments later...]
    Steve: I could've been at a barbecue!!!

     R - Z 
  • Random Smoking Scene: Steve 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 Steve and Jimmy (and the rest of the Black Knights) 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. 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 Steve needed the cigars before he and David left to go deliver the package, getting Julius' last two.
    Steve: 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.
    • Whitmore takes a shot with a missile as soon as the virus is uploaded to the mothership; the missile is yet again foiled by the force field. He takes a moment, then fires another, which finally breaches. The virus needed a few moments to take to the dozens of ships planetside, much like how transferring files over from one system to another, even on the same server, might be delayed to appear even after downloading is complete.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: When Steve 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.
    • They play it straight at the end, though. The President salutes Steve, who is still without headgear. Steve has to hurriedly hand Jasmine his cigar to appropriately salute back.
    • Marine One is able to travel from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base within the nine minutes left before the aliens' attack. Assuming the helicopter went close to its maximum speed, given how short on time they were, it can take about four minutes to fly the roughly ten miles as the crow flies between the two locations.
  • Really Gets Around: After inviting her and Dylan to stay with him at El Toro, Steve jokes with Jasmine that he will have to "let all [his] other girlfriends come over" and to "cancel the freaky deaky".
  • 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 Russell Casse and his family, revealing he was Miguel'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, remained 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.
  • Relationship-Salvaging Disaster: The crisis reconnects David and his ex-wife Connie.
  • Repeat What You Just Said:
    Julius: Get off of this freezing concrete floor before you catch cold. Come on.
    David: What did you just say?
    Julius: You mean about faith? Well, you see, a man can either...
    David: No, no, I don’t mean that part.
    Julius: What? I don’t want you to catch cold?
    David: Duh!
    Julius: What’s the matter with you?
    David: Genius, Dad!
    [In the next scene, David introduces a plan to disable the alien ships with a virus.]
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: The scene where the alien talks through Dr. Okun. The first time the President's entourage (and Major Mitchell) heard it, the Major thought the doctor was begging them to be let out; it was actually the alien, trying to trick them into letting it out. The speaking through the human doesn't help. Fortunately, General Grey sees through it just in time.
  • Right on the Tick: The aliens are going to attack at a precise, pre-determined time. The War of 1996 website shows the course of the alien invasion, with all ships moving to their next target within twelve hours and destroying them, then doing so again like clockwork.
  • 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!"
  • The Ruins I Caused: "Didn't I promise you fireworks?"
  • Rule of Cool
  • 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 centers 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.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: While played very straight for the most part (mainly with regards to how big the spaceships are), they acutally avert it at one point where, even after the forcefields are disabled, the fighter planes can't do enough damage to actually threaten the spaceships, which makes sense considering they are 15 miles across and the humans are just using regular (non-nuclear) missiles.
  • 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 The 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 who appears to be all but dead in the water probably never occurred to them.
  • Schmuck Bait: "Release me!" Fortunately, General Grey spots the trap.
  • 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 the atmosphere. There is also the old fashioned dogfighting.
  • Semper Fi: Marines have a strong presence in the films cast. Steven Hiller 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.
  • Sensor Suspense: When the Air Force goes out to recon the alien ships, it's all cloudy and they cannot get any kind of reading what's in front of them. Then the air clears.
  • Serendipitous Survival: Teddy, one of the survivors in Jasmine's group, says he lived because he decided to take the subway that day.
    Teddy: Thank God for the Metro Rail.
  • 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 The 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."
    • Steve 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, Steve says "Now, that's what I call a close encounter."
    • Russell Casse "picked a hell of a day to quit drinkin'.
    • Just before the ships fire, Marty is trying to call his therapist, Dr. Katz.
    • The shot of an office worker in an LA building being engulfed in flames is similar to the death of a victim of an explosion in Prophecies of Nostradamus.
    • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Whitmore's famous speech was a reworked version of the King's St Crispin's Day Speech in Henry V.
  • Silence of Sadness: Near the end, after Russell Casse had pulled a Heroic Sacrifice to destroy the Harvester's superweapon, blowing up himself with the rest of the Harvester ship in the process, the entirety of Area 51 is seen celebrating the victory over the alien invaders... except for Russell's oldest son, Miguel Casse, the only person remaining silent among the cheering crowd. The commanding officer of Area 51, Major Steven Mitchell, then comes over, pats Miguel on his shoulder, and said what Miguel's father did was very brave and he should be proud of his old man.
  • Sitting Duck: After wiping out the Black Knights, the aliens fly to El Toro and destroy the planes that were preparing for a second wave against the City Destroyer.
  • Skewed Priorities: During the city destruction scenes, people can be seen still clutching their suitcases rather than dropping them. Not that that would have helped, though.
  • 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.
  • Smoke Shield: When the nuclear missile is used against one of the Destroyers, everything goes up on smoke And Mission Control Rejoiced. Then the visuals come in and it shows the alien ship unharmed. The nuke did not penetrate the Deflector Shield.
  • Some Kind of Force Field: When the first air-to-air missiles reveal an invisible barrier surrounding the big flying saucer, Steve 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!"
  • Spit Take: Miguel Casse's response to seeing Russell being arrested on television.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Stargate.
  • Standard Alien Spaceship: The invaders' ships all look like they were carved out of black stone, and look very smooth (from a distance, at least). Their city-destroying Flying Saucers and their planetoid-sized mothership have greebles in a few spots, but otherwise they fit the bill.
  • 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.
  • Surprise Checkmate: In his Establishing Character Moment, David quickly beats his father at chess without much fanfare. Julius tries to protest but concedes shortly after his son has left. In addition, David uses a chess metaphor to explain that the aliens are going to attack, seeing the terrifying "checkmate" well before it actually happens and in time to save President Whitmore and most of his staff.
  • 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 Steve 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 Steve Hiller, a serviceman who survived a battle with the aliens, is allowed into the top secret research facility. The Casse family and the other refugees stay on the surface, until the base comes under attack and they're put in the secure laboratories.
    • Steve and David 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.
  • Take a Third Option: A behind-the-scenes version. Production designer Patrick Tatopoulos made two versions for the Harvesters' design: a larger, fearsome-looking one and a smaller, frailer one. Roland Emmerich decided to use both: the larger one became a bio-suit and the smaller one was the real Harvester under the suit.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • Russell gets revenge for his abduction years back and shows humanity how to win the war.
    • Steve and David fire the nuke as a last resort after being trapped in the mothership.
  • Television Geography:
    • The City Destroyer arriving over New York is all over the place. First, it is shown approaching from the southeast (from Brooklyn), over the Statue of Liberty. Then it is shown approaching over the Hudson River from the southwest. Then a later shot shows it emerging from the Brooklyn side of Manhattan from the southeast, then it is shown again approaching from the south.
    • The ship that arrives over Washington, D.C. is shown approaching from the direction of Arlington, Virginia (west of the city) but its shadow falls across the Lincoln Memorial from the feet going upwards, which is only possible if the ship approached from the direction of the Capitol (the Memorial faces the National Mall, the shadow should go from the top of the head down to the feet if the ship was approaching from Arlington, which subsequent shots confirm). In addition, the shadow falls across the Washington Monument, then the Capitol Building and finally the White House. The White House and Washington Monument are within sight of each other; the shadow should have covered both at roughly the same time. Lastly, the shadow covers the White House in a completely different direction (from the South Lawn going northwards). Earlier dialogue also states said ship is approaching from the Atlantic, which is east of Washington.
    • A shot of the City Destroyer over Washington, D.C. is shown in a shot when Julius and David enter the city. While the Washington Monument and Capital are visible, the ship hovering above is shown to have its center farther away from either building (the edge of the City Destroyer is plainly visible in the same shot) despite the White House (which it is hovering over) being very close to both.
    • Julius and David enter Washington, D.C. from the northeast, but then drive down Pennsylvania Avenue, past Federal Triangle towards the Capitol Building. This is the opposite direction to get to the White House, their destination.
    • The New York ship appears to just barely clear the Empire State Building, meaning it wouldn't clear the Twin Towers as they were both significantly taller. Also, the Empire State Building is not in the middle of any street; it sits on the corner of West 34th Street and 5th Avenue.
    • The New York ship is centered over the Empire State Building. A later shot shows New York with the ship over it, but the Empire State Building is shown and the ship's center is not over it.
    • Regarding the scene where they nuke Houston, a brief shot of highway exits for South Houston and the University of Houston side-by-side. Those areas are about nine miles apart. Nowhere in Houston will you see exits for those that close together.
  • That's an Order!:
    Steve: 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. You can practically hear this trope in his voice when his computer ticks to zero and he says "Time's up."
    • Jimmy's wide-eyed reaction when the LA City Destroyer begins to deploy hundreds, perhaps thousands, of small craft in response to the attack.
  • This Just In!: Following the disastrous counter attack on the Los Angeles City Destroyer, we hear this news report from a radio in the R.V. refugee convoy:
    Newscaster: Reports indicate that this battle has repeated itself all over the world, with the exact same results.
  • Those Two Guys:
    • David Levinson and Captain Steven Hiller, neither are the most important person in any scene they are in, yet keep saving the day.
    • The two USAF officers (one of whom is played by Raphael Sbarge) 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.
  • Title In: Locations are named via on-screen text accompanied by the typical sound effect.
  • 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.
    • Jimmy goes into a panic when he can't shake his bogey and tries to outrun it on pure velocity, even though all it does is make him a steady target, locks up his ship, and causes him to run short on oxygen even with an O2 mask on. Lampshaded by Steve.
    Jimmy: Check me out, Stevie, I'm gonna try something!
    Steve: Don't do nothing stupid over there!
    Jimmy: You know me!
    Steve: That's what I'm talking about!
  • Too Fast to Stop: The alien dogfighters, inexplicably, towards the end of the movie, even though they are stated to be extremely maneuverable.
  • Trailers Always Lie: More like "Taglines Always Lie". The Destroyers actually open fire the day they arrive, July 2nd. July 3rd features the human counterattack, which is an unmitigated disaster. There are subsequent alien attacks on the 3rd (the aliens track where the human fighters came from and destroy bases, the destruction of NORAD, and at least 3 more America cities are destroyed) so that part is true at least.
    • Background materials attempt to Hand Wave this by saying that the attack begins just after midnight on July 3rd. The novelization has David calculating the end of the countdown at 2:32am EST.
  • 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 David will shut down the forcefields and Steve will fire a nuke to destroy the thing from within).
  • Understatement:
    David: You don't understand, you have to leave Washington!
    Connie: In case you haven't noticed, we are having a little bit of a crisis here!
  • Universal Driver's License:
    • Steve 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 weren't helpful. Immediately after making that claim David asks him quietly if he really believes he can fly it.
    Steve: Do you really believe you can do all that bullshit you just said?
  • Unstoppable Mailman: Even with aliens invading, mail is still delivered.
  • Vice President Who?: Whitmore's VP is never named or shown onscreen, but is evacuated to NORAD before getting killed by the aliens.
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface: Whenever the Air Force launches missiles against the destroyer ships, we see them as little symbols moving across a monitor screen.
  • Villain Ball: Had the aliens not decided to attack the "Welcome Wagon" helicopters ten minutes before their main attack, David 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.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot:
    • Assumed when David is closing an airsickness bag and again when he runs off after Julius gives a particularly nauseating description of motion on a plane.
    • When Troy, 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.
  • V-Sign: Steve flashes one before firing the nuke to destroy the mothership.
  • The 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.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Before going onto his suicide mission, David's father lets him know that he is very proud of him.
  • 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.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: The Movie. Just look at the Artistic License entries.
  • You Had Us Worried There: The radio contact to David and Steve has been lost for 20 minutes, making everyone believe they didn't make it. Then something appears on the radar...
  • 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.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: When Steve attempts to steal a helicopter, the guard points a gun at him but Steve makes a reference to this trope and takes off.

"Didn't I promise you fireworks?"

Video Example(s):


ID4- Nations Learn US Plan

The US contacts different countries with their plan to attack the alien invaders.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / GondorCallsForAid

Media sources:

Main / GondorCallsForAid