Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Day After Tomorrow

Go To

The Day After Tomorrow is a 2004 American climate fiction disaster film co-written, directed, and produced by Roland Emmerich, starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum, and Sela Ward. The film depicts fictional catastrophic climatic effects in a series of extreme weather events that usher in global cooling and lead to a new ice age.

At the center of the story is paleoclimatologistnote  Jack Hall (Quaid), who tries to save the world from the effects of global warming while also trying to rescue his son Sam (Gyllenhaal) and his friends, who are trapped in New York and who have managed to survive not only a massive wave but also drops in temperatures so sudden that they could be killed in seconds.

The film was made in Toronto and Montreal and is the highest-grossing Hollywood film to be made in Canada (if adjusted for inflation). It's also notable in that the "science" used in the film is so inaccurate that NASA refused to officially consult with the filmmakers.

Not to be confused with The Day After or the novel by Robert A. Heinlein.

This film provides examples of:

  • Alcohol Is Gasoline: Discussed. When the British scientists run out of fuel for their generator, one suggests using a bottle of scotch. The head scientist calls him mad for wanting to use a twelve year old scotch for fuel. He then reveals glasses suggesting they drink it instead.
  • All There in the Script: Many of the central supporting characters are never referred to by name at any point in the movie; these include...
    • Luther: the street-savvy homeless man
    • President Blake: the George W. Bush Captain Ersatz
    • Judith: the head librarian
    • Jeremy and Elsa: the bickering library pages
    • Campbell: the cop who lead many New Yorkers, including himself, to their frozen demise
    • Simon: the Hedland Centre scientist who was a new father (though his wife, who only had about one minute of screentime, was referred to by her name, Jeanette).
      • One interesting inversion of this is the Secretary of State, who not only never had her name addressed at any point in the movie, but was even listed in the credits as simple Secretary of State.
  • Alternate DVD Commentary: This has a RiffTrax.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version has an ending theme called "More Than a Million Miles" by a band called... Day After Tomorrow.
  • America Saves the Day: Played straight and averted during the film. In a deliberately allegorical scene, Americans trying to flee the disaster are seen crossing the border illegally across the Rio Grande into Mexico, rather than the other way around. Mexico closes its borders to prevent Americans from coming in. A brief snippet of news footage glimpsed during the library scene implies that at the last minute, the White House negotiated permission for all American survivors to cross over into Mexico and the rest of Latin America in exchange for all Latin American financial debt being forgiven (although how exactly said debt to the United States and other Western countries would still exist after the Northern Hemisphere has been rendered uninhabitable is not that clear). Later in the film, the new President, who had served as Obstructive Bureaucrat to the extreme throughout the entire film, gives an address from the U.S. embassy in Mexico City.
  • Apocalyptic Gag Order: Jack is ignored by the vice president, who refuses to fund research about the climate. By the time the weather changes, it's obvious to humanity at large. It all happens too fast to do anything but evacuate people down to the southern hemisphere, and lots of people die deaths of lacking in common sense because they don't take the problem as seriously as merited. The Vice President, who was inspired by Dick Cheney, had pooh-poohed the seriousness of the threat.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 0 (Regional Scale, Societal Collapse) on a worldwide scale, but on a continental scale it's at least Societal Disruption for every country that had to evacuate south. If you think about it in terms of the Earth's biosphere, it's likely a Class 4 (Planetary Scale, Multiple Species Extinction).
  • Apocalypse Wow: The movie spends a lot of time showing us the destruction of downtown LA by a super tornado and New York getting flooded by a monster tsunami wave.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: Vice President Becker, who constantly dismisses Jack's theories and proposals, does the same when Jack says they can't help the people in the northern states anymore because it's impossible to breach the ice storm now. Becker scoffs, saying how easy it is for Jack to make these decisions when he's safe in Washington, only to be told that Jack's son is stuck in Manhattan. That instantly shuts him up.
  • Artistic License – Education: As a supposedly straight-A student, Sam should know that you always show your working out.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: Twice.
    • Public telephones run off the phone company's power; while they probably would keep working when almost fully immersed in water, the switchgear upon which they depend will not. Dropping the receiver in the water then trying to talk again would also almost certainly fail.
    • If the ISS tumbled in orbit as severely as shown, it would probably tear itself apart.
  • Artistic License – Geography:
    • Jack and Jason pass under the Statue of Liberty — and then cross the Hudson from New Jersey.
    • When the wave hits New York, it comes at it from the Statue of Liberty and Battery Park. When we see it approach the library, it should be coming up Fifth Avenue, from Battery Park, but it comes from 41st Street.
    • In frozen Manhattan we can see the AT&T Building from Los Angeles.
    • When the tsunami hits Manhattan, there is no sign of Brooklyn in the representation of New York harbor. In reality, the tsunami would be unlikely to reach Manhattan without striking Long Island first. Also, the shot of water flooding the avenues means the water turned 90 degrees after it first hit Manhattan.
    • There is no way a cargo ship could fit down Fifth Avenue near the New York Public Library. The buildings there don't have enough space between them to allow it through.
  • Artistic License – Law: Under National Aeronautics and Space Act, Tokada won't be the only researcher NASA sent out.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Peter, the Littlest Cancer Patient, went through chemotherapy and lost his hair but apparently his eye lashes stayed unaffected.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Water is incompressable and has a density almost 800 times that of air. A "flood" the size and velocity of what is depicted hitting New York is called a "tsunami" and not only would have crushed the Statue of Liberty like a beer can but would have done the same to every building in its path, including the wall of the library and not just the ground floor windows.
    • Possibly justified in the case of the Library, As the speed of the water seemed to be significantly reduced by having to flow around the many buildings, perhaps the outer regions of manhattan were flattened (hence why we didn't see them in the movie), but by the time it reached the Library it had lost most of its momentum.
      • Roland Emmerich conceded that the wave would have easily toppled the Statue of Liberty, but chose to have it remain standing in order to illustrate “American values standing up to the forces.” Similarly, none of the buildings in Manhattan get destroyed by the storm surge as a sign of respect for the victims of 9/11, with Emmerich almost shelving the film and giving up on making disaster films entirely after such a tragic real-life disaster.
    • The standing flood and subsequent ocean freeze is impossible in Manhattan because it is far above sea level; any water reaching Midtown would rapidly drain back to the ocean. It's not due to a sudden permanent rise in sea level either as Florida is seen intact from orbit at the end of the movie.
    • Also, don't American scientists and universities use degrees Celcius to calculate temperature? This is a universal academic standard, even if the rest of the USA uses the Fahrenheit system.
    • The notorious “super-freeze” scene, where New York City is caught in the eye of the storm and frozen solid, is impossible for a number of reasons. The eye of a hurricane is where the storm’s low pressure center is found, and so the air there should actually be rising and not falling. Also, the average temperature in the upper reaches of the troposphere is only about -60°F (-51°C), far greater than the -150°F (-101°C) given in the movie. The temperature at which the flash-freezing effect occurs in the film is lower than anything ever recorded on Earth.
  • Artistic License – Sports:
    • Celtic are seen wearing blue shirts. As the main colour of their arch rivals Rangers, blue would never appear in any of their kits. Ever.
    • The television announcer states they are rejoining the match "63 minutes into the second half", which contains two errors:
      • Live coverage of matches do not contain commercial breaks during the action; these are saved for half-time and
      • Association football matches last 90 minutes, therefore meaning a half lasts 45 minutes. He should have said "63 minutes into the game" or "18 minutes into the second half".
    • Manchester United have never worn an all-red strip - that's the identifying uniform of arch-rivals Liverpool.
  • As You Know:
    • Brian mention to Sam that it has been raining like this for three days, which was obviously an Info Dump for the audience.
    • When Jack is looking at the satellite image of Scotland, he comments that it resembles a hurricane. Janet then adds that hurricanes don’t form over land. Any climatologist would know that.
  • Audience Murmurs: When Jack announces his theory that a change in the ocean currents could have caused the disaster, the room full of scientists is murmuring.
  • Audible Sharpness: When the frost covers the helicopters and they fall to the ground, their frozen propellers do this.
  • Big Applesauce: New York City first gets flooded by a tsunami and then gets frozen over by a ice cold superstorm.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Between Laura and Sam on the couch in front of the fireplace at the library.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: When Jack is giving his conference about the possible effects of the violent climate change, an Arabian ambassador asks him, in his native tongue, what could possibly happen. Jack talks back to him in English.
  • Bittersweet Ending: A substantial portion of the world's population has been wiped out, most of the planet's fertile farmland is coated in ice, and Europe, Russia, Canada, and the United States are uninhabitable wastelands (and by inference, Australia and New Zealand, by virtue of being in the southern hemisphere's temperate areanote , would be similarly devastated). It's bittersweet only because part of humanity survives, mostly the Third World inhabitants and refugees from the newly frozen regions.
  • Black and Nerdy: Brian, who manages to be one of the funnier characters.
    "Sir, I am president of the Electronics Club, the Math Club, and the Chess Club. Now if there's a bigger nerd in here, please... point him out."
  • Book Burning: Non-political variant of this trope. A a few survivors battling the cold hunker down in the massive New York Public library. They resort to burning books, but one of the survivors refuses to let a Bible be thrown in the mix, not because he's religious, but said Bible was the first ever printed book. He also gets into an argument over whether to burn a book by Nietzsche; the argument ends when someone else points out they've got a whole row of books on tax law they can burn instead.
  • Braving the Blizzard: Jack Hall and his colleagues Frank and Jason trek through a massive, cyclone-like blizzard that's formed over most of North America in order to rescue Jack's son, who is taking shelter at the Main Branch of the New York Public Library. Some surviving groups in New York also attempt to escape the storm by trekking out across the frozen bay for help, but all of them perish from the cold when they're caught outside as the blizzard worsens.
  • Break the Haughty: The Cheney Captain Ersatz is a lot more humble when he takes office at the end of the film. It started from the moment Jack advocated the evacuation of the South. By that point, he's only trying to obstruct Jack's plan to ignore the people in the North.
    General: Sometimes it's necessary to make difficult choices!
    Vice President: I don't accept that abandoning half of the country is necessary!
  • But What About the Astronauts?: The astronauts on the ISS survived Gaia's Vengeance just fine... they even comment on how clear the skies over North America and Europe look now that all those horrid pollution producing, Dennis Quaid ignoring humans are dead via floods, tornadoes, thunderstorms, and flash freezing.
  • The Cameo: When Sam is calling his father to say the sewer has backed up, Kirsten Dunst can be seen standing behind him.
  • Cassandra Truth: Sam tells everyone his father warns about going outside, but who's gonna listen to some high school kid?
  • Censored Child Death: To say nothing of the millions, possibly billions of people who die elsewhere in the world (which would include men, women, and children), the New York library has a number of families with kids... who all die because they decide to follow the one policeman out into subzero temperatures to look for rescue instead of staying in the library.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Laura's cut wound is not mentioned again until later in the story when her blood infection becomes a matter of life and death.
    • The pack of wolves who are shortly shown to have escaped from the zoo and later return to the plot to haunt Sam and his companions on the Russian tanker.
  • Closest Thing We Got: When Jack protests that his simulation model is a reconstruction of a prehistoric climate shift and not a forecast model, Prof. Rapson replies: "It's the closest thing we have."
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Brian announces to the room that everyone should hear this, changes the channel and the story about the FAA grounding all airplanes is just starting.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: Two library-bound survivors ask whether they should burn the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, whose "The Antichrist" states in its preface: "Only the day after tomorrow belongs to me. Some are born posthumously." Part of this line provided this movie's title.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The crevasse at the beginning just happens to go smack-dab through the camp (the camp only covers a few square metres and the crevasse is cleaving off a region the size of Rhode Island).
  • A Crack in the Ice:
    • In the first minutes, a science station has been set up on the Antarctic ice shelf. A crack in the snow appears. Moments later, a crevasse divides the camp in two.
    • Later, a sled is sucked into a hole that appears in the snow. Moments later it's revealed that it's actually not a crevasse but a hole in the glass roof of a shopping mall buried in the snow!
  • Creator Cameo: In the scene of the British helicopters crashing, producer Mark Gordon plays the pilot being instantly frozen.
  • Cut the Safety Rope: Frank falls through the snow-covered Galleria's skylight and, knowing his friends will fall as well if he doesn't relieve the burden on the rope that links them, cuts it himself and drops to save the others.
  • Deadline News: A reporter in Los Angeles is hit by a billboard. Also, a guy who's in the middle of it is in his car and gets crushed by a flying bus, and the scene is caught on video. Ironically, the commentator from the helicopter says "I hope no one was in that car!" The person who got crushed was talking to someone who happens to be watching the news.
  • Deadpan Snarker: A vast majority of the characters each manage to riff a snarky one-liner, but out of all of them, Brian is probably the biggest snarker.
  • Death from Above: In the form of massive hail in Tokyo.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Jack is the "physically present but supportively absent" type who is never around until his son is endangered in the mother of all storms.
    • J.D.'s father is the "absent personage" type who never even gets a moment on screen beyond his son mentioning him.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In one scene, where Jack questions his son about getting an "F" on his calculus test. Sam explains that his teacher Mr. Spengler thinks he cheated somehow because he didn't believe Sam could have figured out all the solutions in his head without showing his work. Outraged, Jack asks how could his teacher fail Sam for being smarter than him. Sam said the same thing to Spengler, who responded by giving him the "F".
  • Distress Ball:
    • The opening scene in which Jack risks his life to save three tubes of ice cores. A minute earlier, the interior of the tent with numerous other tubes was shown. There was no indication that the three tubes were precious enough to die for.
    • J.D., who desperately needs to leave the safety of his father's apartment to pick up his brother in Philadelphia.
    • Sam, who desperately wants to go home in the worst weather conditions.
    • Jack, who desperately needs to travel from Washington D.C. to New York and save his son.
    • The policeman in the library, who urges everybody to set out and find a rescue party that may or may not be there several miles away.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Jack and Lucy are broken up at the beginning due to Jack's work taking him away from the family. But he realizes how much he's missed and after risking his life to save his son from frozen New York, he and Lucy move toward reconciling.
  • Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud:
    • Do not follow the funnel cloud in a helicopter from one block away.
    • Also how simply being inside a structure protects you from the rapid freeze. Jack even uses a tent on the way to New York!
  • Doomed Contrarian:
    • Played straight with the big group of people that ignores Sam's warnings and leaves the safety of the library. We learn later that they froze to death.
    • It is then averted with the Dick Cheney-esque Vice President who believed that taking action to stop global warming would destroy the economy. He is seen alive at the end of the movie, giving a speech apologizing for putting short-term economic benefit ahead of the health of the planet.
  • Dope Slap: When Jason tries to flirt with the hot NASA scientist, his older colleague slaps him upside the head a few moments later.
  • Drowning Pit: Sam when talking to his parents on the library phone while the room quickly fills with ice-cold water.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In the opening scene, Jack rescues three ice cores in metal poster tubes. The team probably had lots of other ice cores to go with but the point of this scene is to show us that Jack is determined to save things.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: BIG hail. Tornadoes that join together into supertornadoes. Tsunami. Wolves. Frigid cold — Have An Ice Death!
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The black homeless man's dog is seen barking at the on-floating Russian tanker before it even comes into sight and also at the "killer frost line" approaching the upper library room. Earlier, zoo animals in NYC are shown freaking out, presumably because they're sensing the catastrophe's approach.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Prof. Rapson indignantly forbids his colleagues from using a bottle of single malt to keep the generator going, and the three of them raise a glass as the superstorm descends and the power goes out.
  • Fallen States of America: The US becomes so endangered by a climate change superstorm bringing temperatures down that Americans have to emigrate to Mexico. There is even a speech by the Vice President thanking Mexico for their hospitality.
  • False Reassurance: Professor Rapson insists that they'll be fine at their monitoring station, since it has a generator and plenty of supplies. It's clear not even he believes that.
  • Fatal Forced March: After flooded New York starts freezing over, most of the survivors make the decision to leave the relative safety of the library in an ill-advised attempt to escape the city on foot, despite being warned by Sam that the temperature is going to continue dropping. By the time we next see them, several of them have already begun dying of hypothermia despite their leader's best efforts to keep them moving; they aren't seen again until Jack Hall finally makes it to New York and stumbles upon the frozen body of the expedition leader, having presumably been caught in the apocalyptic snap-freeze.
  • Fleeing for the Fallout Shelter: The eye of the superstorm proves to be the most cataclysmic of all the apocalyptic weather phenomena witnessed in the film, capable of freezing just about anything in its path. Jack Hall is still on the way to the ruins of New York when he sees the eye overhead, forcing him to hastily dive into an abandoned kitchen and turn all the stoves on at once, barely managing to build up enough heat to survive the storm. Later, in New York itself, Sam and the others are looking for medical supplies on an abandoned Russian cargo ship when the superstorm appears overhead, forcing them to hurry back to their makeshift shelter in the library and frantically stoke the fireplace - seemingly pursued by the apocalyptic snap-freeze as they do so.
  • Flyaway Shot: The movie ends with a zoom-out from Earth.
  • Foreboding Fleeing Flock: When Sam, Brian, and Laura arrive in New York, they're puzzled to find countless flocks of squawking birds flying south. Dissolve to another scene at the zoo where all of the animals are raising ruckus, much to the zookeepers' confusion.
  • Foreshadowing: The mammoth at the museum is said to have frozen instantly while grazing. Three minutes later, a British pilot freezes instantly when opening the hatch of his crashed helicopter.
  • Free-Range Children: Just send the high school students to New York City without an adult chaperone. I'm sure they'll be fine!
  • From Bad to Worse: It's not enough that the world is plummeting into an ice age and Sam Hall's crew is trapped in a library while the rest of New York City freezes. They've got to deal with escaped wolves from the city zoo, too!
  • Gaia's Vengeance: The metaphorical flavor. Although Gaia isn't a sentient entity so much as a system able to correct imbalance when it occurs, Global Warming made by humanity is directly responsible for unleashing the Natural Disaster Cascade which ultimately renders the Earth's entire northern hemisphere uninhabitable to humans — and if Professor Hall's early prediction about the previous ice age is still accurate, the north won't become hospitable again for 200 years. At the end of the film, it's served as a lesson in humility for the obstructive Vice President who ignored all the warnings until it was too late, and for humanity at large.
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: The monster tsunami hitting Manhattan.
  • Ghost Ship: A Russian tanker in Manhattan with its crew apparently having abandoned ship.
  • Glacial Apocalypse: The world is struck by a series of disastrous cold storms as a result of the warm ocean currents shutting down, ironically due to initial manmade Global Warming melting the original polar ice sheets no less. The storms cover most of the polar and temperate latitudes in snow, forcing the people living there to either perish or emigrate south en masse, leaving the land and cities to the ice and wildlife. In the end, the main characters are able to survive and help other refugees hold out until they can be rescued and brought south, but the world is left locked in a new ice age and everything north of Florida is a frozen wasteland.
  • Global Warming: It (mainly the melting of the ice caps) is what sets off the Natural Disaster Cascade in the form of Gaia's Vengeance, intended to correct the damage done to the Earth at the price of humanity losing the entire northern hemisphere to a Glacial Apocalypse. The film even has an Expy of Dick Cheney who blatantly ignores the problem until it's too late, tying into the Green Aesop.
  • Green Aesop: Although Emmerich was not aiming for a scientifically accurate depiction of climate change, the attitude and actions of Vice President Becker (Captain Ersatz for Dick Cheney) were intended to be a criticism of the Bush Administration's policies. Giving Becker the moment to apologize to the world for being wrong at the end of the movie is likely why he avoided a Karmic Death much earlier.
  • Hellish Copter: The three British helicopters end up in the eye of the storm just as it's forming and all three go down when the fuel freezes solid. The snow cushions the fall, but the crash survivors are quickly killed by the intense cold anyway.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: When Jack and Jason are trying to pull Frank up from the mall skylight, Frank notices the glass cracking under them. Rather than risk his companions' lives knowing that all of them would die, Frank chooses to cut his cord and falls to his death.
  • Hollywood Atheist: An interesting aversion late in the movie, when one of the librarians is found clutching an antique Bible to his chest when he starts to doubt his survival. When asked about it, the man admits that he's an atheist, but says that he considers that particular book to be a valuable cultural artifact because it's a Gutenberg Bible—one of the first books ever printed. He rejects religion, but he recognizes the cultural significance of mass printing of Bibles, calling it "the dawn of the Age of Reason".
  • Hollywood Science: Known for being one of the least scientifically-accurate movies of all time, The Day After Tomorrow takes bad movie science to the extreme with its overblown and hyper-accelerated climate change scenario. Though well-intentioned and not nearly as ridiculous as something like The Core, numerous real-life climate scientists have taken the film to task for its countless scientific inaccuracies, while also begrudgingly praising it for being one of the first blockbusters to tackle the issue.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Brian snarking at the decathlon party: "Look at all those nerds."
  • Idiot Ball: Laura demonstrates after Sam almost drowns in freezing waters that she's smart enough to know how to stop Sam from suffering heart failure (excusing any artistic license, it does seem to work in the movie's setting). Which makes it all the more curious; what the hell was Laura thinking when she decided to treat a massive gash on her leg that got opened in filth-ridden brown floodwaters like it was nothing more than an arm bruise, even as it should have become increasingly obvious to her that the wound had turned septic?
  • Ignored Expert:
    • Jack Hall. After a freak disaster has just removed Los Angeles from the face of the Earth, the one scientist in the government who's even willing to venture a guess as to what's going on still has to beg for computer time in order to confirm his theory. You would think that after the vaporization of LA, the government would also be interested in confirming the only available theory as to how and why ... but they're just so unreasonable, somehow, and refuse out of nowhere.
    • On a smaller scale, Sam tries to warn the NYPD officer against leaving the relative safety of the library. While Sam is not a true expert, he still knows more than the average person about this sort of thing due to learning about it from his father. Naturally, Sam and the handful of people who listen to him and stay behind at the library survive while the cop and the much larger group who leave with him end up all freezing to death in the storm.
  • Improbable Cover: They outrun an oncoming ice storm, and escape it by closing a pair of doors.
    • Predictably, the closed doors don't really help much. They don't actually stop the ice from getting in, only managing to delay it for about a minute at the most before the door themselves freeze over.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Both The Littlest Cancer Patient and the Luther's dog Buddha survive the apocalyptic ice age unscathed, although undoubtedly millions of children must have perished offscreen.
  • Implausible Deniability: World leaders refuse to believe that anything bad is happening when it's snowing in Dubai.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Blood poisoning somehow gives Laura one of these. It's how Sam figures out she's sick.
  • Intimate Healing: Laura gets Sam out of the wet clothes after his Drowning Pit situation and then embraces him because "if the blood rushes back too fast, your heart could fail". He doesn't mind. She's his crush.
  • Intrepid Reporter: The news people covering Los Angeles are really risking it as if each expects an individual Pulitzer for this coverage.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: When talk comes to Nietzsche.
    Redhead: He was a chauvinist pig in love with his sister.
    Guy with glasses: He was not a chauvinist pig.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: The rapid temperature drop carried down by the eye of the storm are preceded by an immediate pause in snowfall and howling winds... only to to be replaced by the sucking sound of the frigid air of the upper troposphere being carried to ground level at near absolute zero.
  • I've Never Seen Anything Like This Before: One of the astronauts on the I.S.S. says this when observing the formation of the hemisphere-covering blizzard system that fuels the movie's Apocalypse Wow.
  • I Warned You: The Vice President gets this served to him after ignoring Jack Hall's warnings of global warming (and likely costing millions of lives by refusing to take any action in time).
  • I Will Find You: Jack mounts an expedition from Washington D.C. to New York during the storm to find his son.
  • Karma Houdini: The Dick Cheney Captain Ersatz Vice President tries to shut down any attempt to handle the crisis intelligently long past the point where he should have learned to shut up. See a Karmic Death coming? Nope. Instead, he gets a Field Promotion when the more reasonable president eschews his fleet of helicopters, drives south in a motorcade onto already packed roads instead, and dies in the storm. After seeing the devastation of the movie, he comes to regret his mistakes.
  • Last Of Their Kind: A downplayed example. While the wolves may not be an endangered species just yet, they are the last animals from the Central Park Zoo still alive in New York.
  • Lecture as Exposition: Jack's lecture at the conference and in front of the president.
  • Let's Get Out of Here: The Weather guy tells the reporter on the phone to "get out of there", right before his Porsche get smashed by a flying bus.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: In a Pseudo-Crisis five minutes into the movie, Jack hangs from an ice cliff, but is saved via Take My Hand!. Of course, Plot Armor demanded him to survive.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Peter.
  • Logo Joke: The 20th Century Fox logo turns blue and a storm starts to appear in the background.
  • The Load:
    • The love interest Laura. After saving the lives of a foreign couple trapped in a taxi, she goes back to retrieve their lost passports, and promptly needs to be rescued by Sam when a Giant Wall of Watery Doom comes barreling towards them at the same time, almost getting them both killed. What really cements her as this trope is that afterward, Laura for some reason decided not to do anything about treating the gash on her leg that had been exposed to filthy floodwaters in New York's streets, causing her to fall into a coma, and forcing three other members of the band of survivors to brave a lethal blizzard and almost get themselves killed twice over while trying to retrieve life-saving medication for her. If she and Sam stay together after the ending, Sam's parents are probably going to die of a heart attack from watching their son routinely knock on death's door trying to save her life due to her stupidity. Slightly downplayed in that she makes herself useful to save Sam's life during the body-warming scene, but beyond that, she doesn't contribute much to the group's survival in ways that the others can't also do in-between her brushes with death.
    • Downplayed version with Jason, who becomes part of Jack's three-man team braving the blizzard to reach New York. Whilst the incident with the sky mall's glass roof was everyone's fault and Frank was in just as much distress as Jason; afterwards, Jason just collapses and needs to be carried by Jack, who has to drag and shove Jason's unconscious body around when the deadly eye of the blizzard settles over them. That being said, Jason can handle himself fine again and make himself useful once he recovers from the initial collapse.
  • Long Last Look: The president takes one last look around the Oval Office before evacuating to Mexico.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Laura cuts her leg underwater. Let's not tell anyone, I'm sure it will be fine. Let's not dress it with the med kit they passed in the vending machine area, it's fine. Wow, I'm feeling feverish....
  • Married to the Job:
    • Jack's wife complains that he is never around but only lives for his work at some remote places.
    • Also J.D.'s dad is mentioned to be never around for him.
  • Monumental Damage: It wouldn't be a Roland Emmerich film without it. Here, the Hollywood Sign gets shredded by a tornado, and the Statue of Liberty gets frozen over.
  • Monumental Damage Resistance: Pretty much every New York City landmark survives the flooding of the city and the subsequent hard freeze. Roland Emmerich confided that the Statue of Liberty would be turned over by the force of the massive amount of water flowing around it but said he wanted to create a symbol of American values that stood up to the forces.
  • Motor Mouth: Mark Gordon in the Audio Commentary. Not only he talks fast, he also impersonates while talking fast.
  • Natural Disaster Cascade: The ice caps melting triggers this on a global scale due to increased freshwater levels disrupting the North Atlantic current. It causes snow in New Delhi, which escalates into some lovely Disaster Movie scenes involving hail the size of snowballs breaking skulls, a chain of simultaneous tornadoes tearing apart Los Angeles, and a days-long downpour on New York triggering a Giant Wall of Watery Doom as well as offscreen record-breaking storms. Ultimately, this is the prelude to a Glacial Apocalypse, culminating in three super-cell blizzards blanketing and freezing the entire northern hemisphere, creating a new ice age before the storms disperse. This instance doubles as Global Warming and Gaia's Vengeance, with the cataclysm's aftermath being a decrease in the atmosphere's CO2 emissions and a Regional Redecoration visible from the ISS.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: When Frank receives a call with news from the flooding of New York City, he turns to Jack and says "Jack ... something's happened in New York." instead of telling right away what happened.
  • News Monopoly: Every channel is covering this. It's almost like the news stations get info faster than the scientists!
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Al Gore and Dick Cheney have counterparts in this film.
  • No Mere Windmill: Type C, where the main character gets ridiculed for a prognosis that is far less lethal than the situation they are really about to face.
  • Novelization: By Whitley Streiber, of Wolfen, Communion, War Day, and The Hunger fame. Incidentally, Streiber was the co-author, with Art Bell, of the book The Coming Global Superstorm, which provided the basis for the movie.
  • Oblivious Janitor Cut: A tornado suddenly and severely damages a building. The janitor doesn't notice until the lights go out. Justified in that he is in a windowless hallway. The janitor then opens the nearest door and sees that half of the building has been sheared off by the wind, taken two lovers with them (in which the janitor saw the man running to that room).
  • Ominous Crack: Loads of examples: the Antarctic ice shelf, the Galleria roof, every window in downtown Manhattan fracturing from the frost...
  • The Oner: The opening shot was at the time the longest CGI generated one-shot, running for just over two minutes.
  • One-Woman Wail: Happens as the camera lovingly pans over scenes of meteorological destruction.
  • Outrun the Fireball: A variant, in which they outrun a tsunami and an advancing killer frost line.
  • Papa Wolf: Not even the blistering cold can stop Jack from getting to his son.
  • Plane Awful Flight: Sam Hall is on a plane ride to New York with his quiz team classmates when the plane hits some turbulence. The pilot has to switch on the seat belt sign and the plane quickly starts bouncing all over the sky. They get through it, the ride smooths out before anybody pukes... and then the oxygen masks activate, meaning the cabin has lost pressure.
  • Police Are Useless: During a city flood, where a cold tsunami is about to enter, a family is trapped inside a cab, banging on the window pleading to be let out in French. Meanwhile, an English-speaking cop stands outside the cab, telling them, "I'm sorry, I can't understand French!"
    • Of course, this makes more sense once a person who speaks French comes to the scene. It isn't that the cop can't understand they want to be let out, it's that he lacks the means to tell them they need to stop pounding on the windows and cover their eyes so he can safely break it and help them out.
    • Also, the same cop leads most of the survivors out of the safe library, in hope of being found by rescue teams. There are no rescue teams. The policeman and the other survivors' frozen bodies are found later on.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: When things get bad, the President is fully willing to listen to Jack and takes his advice. It's fairly clear that if Jack had been able to gone to the President first (and not through the Vice President), things wouldn't have gotten as bad as they had. The general who mentions the concept of "triage" also counts.
  • Regional Redecoration: The film ends on a serene note with a shot of the changed Earth visible from space: whilst the southern hemisphere is unchanged, the northern continents are entirely covered in ice, and the atmosphere is notably cleaner.
  • Romantic False Lead: J.D. is initially set up The Rival and seems to be getting in the way of Sam getting with Laura. However, this is suddenly dropped not long afterwards, and J.D. switches to being a Nice Guy Shipper on Deck for them.
  • Rule of Drama: Laura succumbs to blood poisoning just before the lethal eye of the storm is about to strike New York, and just as the eye reaches their location, Sam and the others are attacked out in the open as they're retrieving medicine and food by a pack of hungry wolves, forcing them to make a mad dash back to the safety of the library just as the temperature is dropping.
  • Run for the Border: People from the northern United States head to the Mexican border to escape the advancing ice age.
  • Savage Wolves: A pack of wolves that escaped from the zoo menace Sam and his mates on the Russian ship. They're clearly just desperately hungry and not specifically hunting people though.
  • Scenery Gorn: Emmerich pays particular attention to the destruction of Los Angeles by a tornado.
  • Script Wank: In the finale, the Vice President announces publicly how wrong humanity was to abuse petroleum.
  • Secret Stab Wound: To add drama, Laura keeps quiet about her cut wound so nobody knew she was actually suffering from blood poisoning.
  • Serendipitous Survival: Applies to the wolves of all characters. They somehow managed to escape from their enclosure during the storm, which means they weren't at the Central Park Zoo when the tsunami flooded the entirety of New York City.
  • Sex Signals Death: Weather guy and the girl he was with while the tornadoes were blowing through L.A.
  • Shout-Out: LA's destruction is reported by newsie Bart to anchor Lisa.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: The Cheney Captain Ersatz is finally put in his place when he claims Jack is suggesting sacrificing the Northern half of the country because it won't inconvenience him, only to be bluntly told that Jack is leaving his own son up there to potentially die because sending rescue would be a fool's errand.
  • Snowed-In: The entire Northern hemisphere. when the superstorms hit, as it becomes so lethally cold out that being caught away from a heat source (like a fire) is certain death.
  • Snow Means Death: Some survivors have fallen asleep outside and froze to death while sleeping. That's what you get for ignoring the expert.
  • So Much for Stealth: When Sam tries to sneak behind the wolves on the Ghost Ship, he steps on a piece of glass. The noise makes his plan go out of the window.
  • Soul Brotha: Luther, the Black beggar with the dog. Cool, wise, self-assured, never panics and also he speaks in a suspiciously cultured and polite way, like he is far better educated than the usual homeless person. This is because in a Deleted Scene, he mentions actually being a successful businessman, working in a nice office and everything. He lost his job because he was caught fooling around with various different secretaries.
  • Spreading Disaster Map Graphic:
    • In a low-tech variant, the climatologist-hero uses a map of the continental U.S. to convey the scope of the danger, drawing a horizontal line across it and proclaiming that everywhere below it must be evacuated south: there's no realistic hope of saving people north of that line.
    • Also, the weather prognostication maps that show the three superstorms expanding to cover all three northern continents.
  • Straw Character: The film features hopelessly greedy Republican strawmen in denial over the imminent climate disasters.
  • Street Smart: The homeless man is teaching J.D. to use paper to insulate himself from the cold. He also points out there is plenty of edible food in the trash.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The kids might wonder if the New Yorker among them used to throw rocks at these wolves' mother.
  • Surveillance Station Slacker: The aforementioned Scotland shack full of Brits. The "What weather? It's LA" guy, too.
  • Take My Hand!: How Jack's two fellow scientists save him from his Literal Cliffhanger in the opening scene.
  • Take That!: As the redhead and guy with glasses are arguing over what books to burn, Brian calls from the lower level to inform them that he found the section on the U.S. tax code, which is more than enough material to burn.
    • The movie goes out of it’s way to show that the Vice President is the one running the show and that the President depends entirely on him. Given that the Vice President looks suspiciously similar to Dick Cheney and the President a little like George W. Bush this is obviously an intentional jab.
  • Tempting Fate: On the way to New York, Sam's plane flies through a storm. Laura tries to assure him that everything will be fine, since the attendants are still serving drinks. Cue the attendants strapping themselves in moments before massive turbulence hits the plane. It doesn't bring it down, naturally, but she was just asking to be proven wrong.
  • Those Two Guys: A male-female version with the two assistant librarians, especially when they start to banter over certain reading material.
  • Throw-Away Country:
    • All of Europe freezes over except a part of Spain and Portugal. Maybe the old European saying "Africa starts at the Pyrenees" was right after all.
    • Don't forget Japan getting a patented Death from Above in the form of MASSIVE hail.
  • Title In: All major locations are introduced with on-screen text.
  • Token Trio: Sam (white guy), Laura (white girl as his love interest), and Brian (Black and Nerdy). Though they get joined by another white guy (a downplayed Romantic False Lead).
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • A guy in Tokyo attempts to take cover from the massive hail falling down on the city only to get hit by a pellet of hail.
    • So many people in Los Angeles stand around gawking at and taking pictures of tornadoes in their city as opposed to running for cover or driving away from them as fast as possible.
    • The people in the library ignoring the dozens and dozens of wooden tables, shelves, and doors they could burn instead of the books. Yes, some they would have to avoid in case the treated wood produced harmful vapor, but in general, they could have busted the wood furniture up and burned them to keep warm. It would last far longer than the paper burning.
    • There are a few people who die due to perfectly understandable ignorance and panic, but the one who really stands out is the policeman who leads about a hundred frightened people to their deaths. The ice is thick enough to walk on, and he decides the best thing to do is go out and wander randomly in the heavy snowstorm looking for rescue that may or may not come.
    • The three scientists in Scotland. They don't turn off everything they don't need to conserve the generator (they still have lights on in non-essential areas, and their computers are still on despite being unable to actually use them for anything) and scoff at the potential of using whiskey to maybe squeeze out a little bit more power, instead opting to take a last toast. It's not like any of them had any, you know, family they might want to try surviving for.
    • The attempted stupidly-noble sacrifice of Dr. Lucy Hall. She says several times that The Littlest Cancer Patient "can only be moved in an ambulance," yet he's not in ICU or on any kind of active life support. As a result, this just means he needs a climate-controlled, reasonably stable vehicle that can mount an IV or two and power some basic monitor hardware. Ten minutes with some duct tape and a portable monitor/defib kit and any SUV would've been more than up to the task, but no, she holds out for a first class ticket.
  • Truth in Television: Using body heat to warm someone as Laura does with Sam is exactly what you're supposed to do when someone is suffering hypothermic shock and you're nowhere near a hospital setting. A pragmatic license is taken with this though, as it's supposed to be skin-to-skin, meaning Laura should have taken off all her clothes, but that wouldn't fly as Emmy Rossum was still a minor at the time she filmed.
  • Urban Ruins: The Day After Tomorrow posits that global warming will cause the Arctic to move up to the point where cities from New York and up are turned into icy wastelands.
  • Useful Book: The characters stranded in the library begin to debate on the morality of burning rare books to keep warm and save their lives. The debate is cut short when someone points out it makes much more sense to burn the books in the Tax Law section.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Believe it or not, but in 1912, an Australian adventurer and two of his colleagues traveled to the North Pole as a part of the Australasian Expedition. One fell down a crevasse with half of their supplies, and the other one fell ill and died after Mawson personally pulled him along. Mawson was the only one to survive. In the movie, the protagonist and his two friends experience a nearly identical fate when they travel to New York (one breaks through the glass roof of a mall and falls to his death and the other one falls ill for the protagonist to carry him around). In the movie, however, casualty two actually recovers.
  • Wait Here: When Jack announces to his comrades that he plans to get to New York to save his son, his two fellow scientists won't let him go alone.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • The head librarian disappears, with no explanation in the end of the movie... unless she was the only one in the library who didn't survive. But this could be false as she was obviously seen on J.D.’s left while watching Sam hug his father and when rescued by the helicopters, it can be presumed that she obviously was there but just didn’t appear on camera.
    • J.D's little brother. They leave J.D's house to go and get him, but they get trapped in the library, and he's never mentioned again.
    • The Scottish scientists around Professor Rapson are not mentioned again after they gave their last toast, though it's highly likely they froze to death afterwards.
  • Worst Aid: Notable for depicting things that are tilted just enough to be dangerous:
    • The Intimate Healing scene could be quite a bit more intimate/awkward. Sam should lose all of his clothes (keeping wet underwear on is a poor idea) and Laura, whose clothes are also soaked from the rainstorm and splashing around, should be mostly skin-to-skin. As depicted, this wastes a lot of body heat. But this is enforced partially by the fact that Emmy Rossum (Laura) was 16 when filming, so her being stripped down was off the table.
    • Laura not checking her cut after having been jabbed in filthy storm surge water, then the others later pursuing what antibiotics might be available on the ship once it has developed a serious infection. "Lucky" doesn't begin to describe the antibiotic both working and Laura surviving with no ill effects. It did however almost get three other people killed.
    • The NYPD officer leading a large number of civilians — including sick, injured, and presumably children — off into frigid conditions with no real preparations or supplies. This would have ended poorly even without the Super Freeze of Doom. What happens when that inevitable first person cannot keep up with the move?

"Look at that... Have you ever seen the air so clear?"


Video Example(s):


New York Tsunami

The Statue of Liberty gets caught in a humongous storm surge.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / MonumentalDamage

Media sources: