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Film / War of the Worlds

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"No one would have believed in the early years of the 21st century that our world was being watched by intelligences greater than our own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns, *they* observed and studied, the way a man with a microscope might scrutinize the creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency, men went to and fro about the globe, confident of our empire over this world. Yet across the gulf of space, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our planet with envious eyes and slowly, and surely, drew their plans against us."

Note: This is about the 2005 adaptation. For the 1953 one, see The War of the Worlds.

A 2005 science fiction disaster film directed by Steven Spielberg, written for the screen by David Koepp and Josh Friedman, and starring Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Tim Robbins and Miranda Otto, narrated by Morgan Freeman and very loosely based on the classic H.G. Wells novel of that name.

Ray Ferrier (Cruise), a dockworker living in New Jersey, is gearing up to spend some time with his estranged kids, teenage Robbie (Chatwin) and 10-year old Rachel (Fanning), while their mother and her boyfriend visit her parents in Boston. After about twenty minutes or so showing the rather strained relationship between them, metal tripods start rising up from underground annihilating everything in their path and strange red weeds begin to grow in abundance on the Earth's surface. Soon, a war between mysterious alien lifeforms and humanity breaks out, and Ray does everything he can to keep his kids and himself safe while they head to Boston in the hopes of regrouping with their family.


The film is the second collaboration between Spielberg and Cruise after Minority Report. Not to be confused with two separate films released the same year, both titled H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. Directed by Timothy Hines and David Michael Latt, both were released directly to video and were overshadowed by Spielberg's production. The David Michael Latt film even received a sequel, named War of the Worlds 2: The Next Wave.

Now has a character sheet.



  • Action Survivor: Ray Ferrier is a New Jersey dock worker with no military experience and no other skills that might possibly be applicable in a crisis. All he really has to go on are Papa Wolf tendencies, sheer determination to stay alive, and the ability to pitch a baseball fairly well (which later works admirably for the purposes of distracting a Tripod).
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Action, mayhem and chaos ensue between attempted moments of heartwarming and tearjerking.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Harlan Ogilvy shares the name of Ogilvy the astronomer in the book, who isn't around for long but is portrayed as a more sympathetic and amiable character. This is because the character was combined with those of the artillery soldier (who rambles about an underground resistance but is inept and lazy) and the curate (who acts as The Load and goes insane, after which he is killed by the aliens).
  • Adaptation Inspiration: As with all of the movie adaptations of the book, this one updates the setting and time period, and frames it in the tensions of the day. It also draws down the focus to a single family and takes on something of a war documentary feel. An allegory of the original 1898 novel was imperialism and colonialism (the Martians representing the British Empire), while the 1953 film paralleled the Cold War and the Red Scare and the 2005 version comments on 9/11invoked and the War on Terror.
  • Admiring the Abomination: When the aliens are looking around the basement, Rachel seems intrigued by them and spends several moments watching what they're up to.
  • Adult Fear: Everything Ray goes through trying to protect his kids.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Ray calls Rachel "Rach" at times.
  • Aliens in New Jersey: Done intentionally to avert the whole cliche about New York City being an alien magnet. It also refers to Orson Welles' infamous radio adaptation, set in New Jersey.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Rachel likes horses, and has a ribbon from a recent horse show, where she won third place.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: The Aliens simply show up one rainy day and begin blasting Humans to ash, before going on a planet-wide genocide. They also suck our blood for nutrition, and spray what's left over the Earth to create an Alien Landmass. Fortunately, we have germs...
  • Alien Abduction: Humans are captured by the Invaders and their Blood is sucked from their body to be consumed. It's also assumed they use it to create the infamous 'Red Weed'.
  • Alien Invasion: A fairly faithful adaptation of what is likely the Trope Maker. In this version, aliens travel from some unknown (but likely very distant) planet, drop off their war machines, and then return years later to rise up and conquer the planet.
  • Alien Kudzu: The Red Weed, a spreading vine (or at least something that looks a lot like one) that the Invaders bring with them. They seem to be spreading it intentionally, since they drain and spray human blood specifically to help it grow.
  • Alien Landmass: Doubles as Alien Sky. Ray leaves the farmhouse looking for his daughter and finds that a large portion of the surrounding countryside has been rendered red and unrecognizable by the Invader's terraforming abilities.
  • Alien Sky: Doubles as Alien Landmass. Ray ventures out looking for Rachel, and finds that the land, and Sky, has been turned a blood red by the Aliens.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Ray starts to have this reaction as he realizes how unstable Ogilvy is.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Rachel shows signs of this. Her way of speaking is a bit strange for a 10-year old, and when there's no danger present, she speaks in a rather emotionless voice. When the danger starts, though, she comes off as rather less mature than her age. It's also stated that she has claustrophobia.
  • Ambiguously Evil: The Aliens themselves. To us, they may certainly seem evil, but their activities suggest that they are simply there to colonize Earth for themselves. Ogilvy believes that these are only the first, suggesting that the 'Invaders' seen in the film are simply pest control, clearing the Planet out for its new inhabitants to move in. Either way, they've been planning their attack for a long time...
  • Amicably Divorced: Ray and his ex seem on fairly good terms, despite things obviously not working out between them.
  • Ancient Evil: The Invaders first came here many Millennia ago, possibly long before mankind had evolved. They buried their war machines deep beneath the Earth, and when they perceived the time to be right, they return for the attack. If they truly had buried them "before there were any people here" then it can be believed that they were possibly put there for insurance, in case any dominant species evolved on Earth.
  • Apocalypse How: On the lower end of the scale, but still an example.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Two examples, one overt, one (slightly) less so:
    • This is the track on infinite replay in Robbie's head. Whether it's being confrontational with everybody but his sister, rebelling against authority, or wanting to attack the aliens head-on with no consideration for feasibility, risk, effectiveness, or what it might mean for anybody else, Robbie's entire motivation at all times seems to be to go on the attack.
    • Invoked practically verbatim by a Marine lieutenant, ordering the forces under his command to hit an (offsceen) tripod at the battle at the hill. In this case, though, it's not due to one of the usual underlying causes of the trope, but as a Heroic Sacrifice to try and buy any time he can for the refugees trying to get clear of the aliens.
  • Ax-Crazy: Ogilvy descends into this, and Ray has to kill him to prevent him from attracting the aliens' attention.
  • Badass Bystander: The soldier who saves Ray's life by grabbing his hand when the tripod is sucking him up and yells at everyone else in the cage to pull with him to bring Ray back down.
  • Berserk Button: Don't threaten Ray's kids.
  • Beyond Redemption: When Ogilvy states that he doesn't care if Ray and Rachel perish because of him, and attacks Ray with a shovel for trying to reason with him, Ray decides he's too far gone and has to be killed.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The aliens are made three-legged, suggesting that they built their machines in their own image.
  • Bizarre Alien Limbs: The tripedal aliens from the film provide the image for the trope page. On top of having three legs, which they use both to get around and to interact with the world, they also have two small arms that stick our from their underside and can be used when they require a bit more finesse.
  • Broken Glass Penalty: Ray Farrier is playing catch with his son Robbie. In a heated moment of tension between the two, Ray throws the ball especially hard. Robbie, in an act of spite, allows the ball to zip past his head and break the window behind him.
  • Book-Ends: The film begins where it zooms out of some microbes being shown on a leaf, then it ends zooming in those same microbes, the ones that are responsible for the aliens' defeat. Morgan Freeman's narration is provided at both times.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: Even in a time of crisis, Ray does not like being called "Ray" by his children, so he makes them choose between either Dad or Mr. Ferrier.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: From Robbie just before he tries to run off with the soldiers (first time around); he calls Ray out on the fact that he's probably only taking the kids to Boston so they'll be with their mother...and less of a worry for him. This basically sums up their relationship for most of the movie; neither of the kids pays any attention to what he tells them to do, he knows barely anything about them and he clearly has hardly any real relationship with either of them.
  • Cassandra Truth: When Ogilvy goes mad, one of the things he says during his rant is that the Martians won't be able to survive on Earth, because "they weren't built for it." Ray ignores this, since it doesn't change the fact that he has to kill him, but it turns out to be true at the end.
  • Chain Reaction Destruction: When Ray destroys a tripod with a grenade.
  • Character Development: Ray becomes less self-absorbed as the film progresses, Rachel learns to rely more on her dad, and Robbie learns to regain trust towards him.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Rachel asking Ray to sing her "Hushabye Mountain." Ray tells Rachel to sing it to herself while he goes to kill Ogilvy.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Early in the film, Ray is shown to be a baseball fan and plays catch with his son. Later in the movie, after Ray's daughter is abducted by aliens, his throwing skills allow him to toss a frag grenade a long distance at the tripod, grabbing its attention and abducting him so he can bring it down from within.
  • Combat Tentacles: The Tripods, like their counterparts in Wells' novel, mostly use their heat rays to fight. However, the tentacles that they use to capture human beings are more than capable of being weaponized. We see them used to scour the countryside for survivors, then to pick up and throw a truck with a person inside.
  • Composite Character: Harlan Ogilvy is the artilleryman combined with the curate. And, for some reason, he is given the name of a third completely unrelated character (the astronomer).
  • Contrived Coincidence: It's a good thing the tripods repeatedly vaporize the several dozen people running next to Ray instead of aiming a few inches to the left, or there wouldn't be a movie.
  • Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: Ray blindfolds Rachel, claps her hands over her ears, and has her sing her favorite lullaby to herself so she won't see or hear as he kills Ogilvy.
    • Earlier, after a plane crashes into the house where they were staying, Ray directs Rachel to keep her eyes on him as he carries her out.
    • When Rachel sees a river full of dead bodies, Ray covers her eyes and gets her out of there, but only after she sees it.
    • In the basement, Ray quickly cleans his hands of the blood being sprayed by the tripods when he sees his daughter looking.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Robbie starts out as your typical lazy and delinquent teenager, but when aliens invade Earth, he fearlessly (or stupidly, depending on your view) insists on fighting them rather than escaping.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The aliens seem to favor only two methods of extermination, simply vaporizing the humans into dust, and harvesting the survivors of their blood.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Simply put, the US military (probably like all armed forces throughout the world) is absolutely helpless to stop the aliens even as they fire damn near everything they have at them. So much so that it becomes a matter of simply getting the survivors away from the creatures until a weakness presents itself. But that doesn't stop them from fighting to the death to stop them.
    • When Ray decides to kill Ogilvy, the latter doesn't stand much of a chance. It's over by the time Rachel finishes her song, and Ray only has a cut on his cheek.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Rachel. Also on a meta-level, Dakota Fanning's scream when she sees the alien probe reportedly forced several sound technicians to rip off their headphones.
  • Cyborg: The tripods are a very unusual example, being machines with living parts (that even need to be fed). This turns out to be a heavy disadvantage, as they get sick right alongside their alien pilots.
  • Deadline News: While rummaging for food in the destroyed jetliner, the newscaster tells Ray she and her TV crew were barely able to escape when a tripod wiped out the National Guard unit they were following.
    Reporter: Once the tripods start to move, no more news comes out of that area.
  • Death Ray: In a film based on the novel that popularized Alien Invasions and Death Rays, this is to be expected. The Invaders use a special kind of Heat Ray that targets the water in our body and microwaves a Human, instantly turning them into ash, while leaving anything else near intact. Don't worry, they have a sort of Wave-Motion Gun to destroy everything else.
  • Deer in the Headlights:
    • When Rachel runs off to find a place to use the bathroom, she comes across a river with countless dead bodies floating downstream. At the sight of this, she completely forgets what she was doing and just stares.
    • When the tripods appear at the ferry, Ray and family freeze and stare. The other people around them have a similarly delayed reaction, taking at least a few seconds to start running.
    • A more literal example comes when Rachel is stuck out in the open under the search light of a Tripod. Not that there's anywhere to flee to in that scenario. She spends the next few minutes nearly catatonic in the Tripod's basket, until Ray finally snaps her out of it.
  • Deflector Shields: Although without them, the tripods will go down to hand grenades and LAWs.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: When Ray is about to kill Ogilvy, he tells Rachel to sing so she won't hear anything, then claps her hands over her ears for good measure. Justified, since he wanted to be absolutely sure she wouldn't hear anything.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Rachel hits this when she's captured in the tripod basket. When Ray finds her, she's just sitting in shock, clearly thinking she's about to die.
  • Deus ex Machina: Even more so than in the novel, since the aliens' vulnerability to terrestrial microbes isn't mentioned until the closing narration.
  • Disney Death: We are led to believe Robbie dies during one of the alien attacks, but hooray, he resurfaces for a happy ending.
  • Disintegrator Ray: As mentioned in Death Ray above, the Aliens possess powerful Heat based weaponry that instantly turns Humans into ash.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The alien invasion has many deliberate similarities to 9/11. The shot of the vaporized victims' clothes floating down recalls the paper falling from the sky after the towers went down, the shot of Ray covered head-to-toe in grey ash after escaping the first tripod, and there's a pretty deliberate shot of a wall covered by pictures of missing people. When she sees the heat ray, Rachel even asks "Is it the terrorists?"
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Ferrier family get hit with this pretty hard, with Ray coming off as more a crappy babysitter than the kids father, who seem to do their best to ignore or straight up disobey Ray most times, Robbie stands out for constantly trying to jump into the fight against the aliens, despite having neither weapons nor training in weapon use which would make him a risk to soldiers having to pull him out of the fire, Rachel gets mostly a pass because she is a young girl, but makes several mistakes that do cost them some breathing room, Ray himself seems to have been a poor father to the kids, with it taking a full blown alien invasion for him to even try to step up, and while things with his ex seem amicble enough, it seems they don't fully get along.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Miraculously, the whole family is reunited at the end, against a backdrop of dead and dying Tripods.
  • EMP: The aliens subject urban areas to a terrifying EMP weapon disguised as a lightning storm. It is designed to wreck our technological society before the tripod assault: an instrument of total war. It works, but cars can be repaired with the right know-how.
  • Empty Fridge, Empty Life: Divorcee Ray Ferrier's fridge is this.
  • Empty Piles of Clothing: The tripods' weapons vaporize humans, leaving only clothing behind.
  • Fanservice: Tom Cruise takes his shirt off when going to bed.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Manny, the mechanic who orders Ray and his family to get out of their stolen car does not notice a tripod destroying everything and ultimately gets vaporized.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: "No effect!" "Keep firing!" Justified since they're only trying to delay the invaders until the civilians are evacuated.
  • Foreshadowing: Rachel gets a splinter in her finger early in the movie, and she explains to Ray that her body will eventually push it out on its own. At the end of the movie, the aliens are defeated by Earth's own organisms infecting them with diseases.
  • Freudian Trio: Ray, Rachel and Robbie. Ray being the adult is the most mature and is the Superego, Rachel being an easily frightened girl always screaming and panicking is the Id, while Robbie being the bravest and most eager to join the war against the Martians is the Ego. When Robbie decides to go help out the US Army at the same time an elderly girl tries running off with Rachel, Ray is forced to choose between which one of his two children and so he chooses Rachel. Thus, Oglivy takes Robbie's place then as the Ego.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Ogilvy, when he finds out about the tripods harvesting humans.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Used to frightening effect with the blood harvesting scene. A flailing man is pinned down behind a tractor by one of a tripod's tendrils as a second spiked one lunges down and drains his blood just out of sight enough that you can tell what's happening. Ray's horrified reaction tells us all we need to know.
  • Hell Is That Noise: In-Universe. The loud, foghorn-like cry that the tripods occasionally give out makes them sound as much like a living creature as a machine (and it's obvious they do have a biological component to them). It's immediately terrifying and a signal that something really bad thing is happening or going to happen if you hear one in the distance. Think of it as a combination Oh, Crap! in one convenient package.
    • The arrhythmic, alien whirring sound the tripods' huge servos make once they go on the move. It sounds like nothing remotely human, and if you're close enough to hear them, nothing good is about to happen.
  • Heroic BSoD: A lot. Ray has a severe one after seeing the attack start, to the point that he collapses on the floor in front of his children, and takes a minute to shake himself out of it.
    • Ray briefly has one when he realizes Ogilvy is beyond reason. He quickly gets over it when he realizes he has to kill him.
    • Rachel has a lot of these, such as when she sees the dead bodies in the river and when she's captured in the tripod basket.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The military attempts to defend the civilian refugees, which include Ray and the kids, by throwing everything they've got at the aliens. When that doesn't work, they throw themselves directly at the enemy in a last-ditch effort to buy time and save as many lives as possible.
    • The sacrifice is largely in vain since the IDPs decide to stick around and gawk rather than get the heck out of there.
  • Hollywood Tactics: The military's straight-on charge against the already-proven-to-be-invulnerable-to-conventional-weaponry alien machines in order to save the civilian refugees. Justified in that they know their tactics are useless; they're just buying time for others to get away.
  • Hope Spot: For a while, Ray and Ogilvy seem to be bonding. Then Ray slowly starts to realize how unhinged he is, and ultimately has to kill him to keep him from drawing the aliens to them.
  • Human Resources: The aliens use ground-up human pulp as seed fertilizer/germination agent for their homeworld's fauna (the red weed). Before the movie is over, a good portion of New England is covered in it.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Subverted and Invoked. People do some very desperate things in the face of an incomprehensible disaster, like the mob that forces Ray and his kids out of the car, but it's made clear they're just scared and doing everything they can to survive, and occasionally, humanity steps up to the plate, like when Ray gets grabbed by the tentacle inside the "people cage" and every single person overcomes their fear of the alien tentacle and grabs on to pull him out of its grasp.
  • Humans Are Morons: On the walk to the Hudson Ferry, the camera pans over a group of people discussing what's going on in the world and who the invaders might be. They all toss about rumors that the fighting machines are products of the European Union. Nobody seems to catch on that the Invaders are using weaponry way beyond anything Humans are capable of creating.
    • Possibly justified, as in this scenario, information on our enemy would be pretty lax.
  • Humongous Mecha: The aliens' tripods are modeled after their own body structure (3 legs, 3 fingers on each leg, wide-plated head), just like any Mecha humans would build would be humanoid.
  • Idiot Ball: An armed civilian forces Ray at gunpoint to drop his gun and hand over his car. You'd expect that gunman to force Ray to give him the gun, not simply drop it onto the ground. When that gunman commandeers the car, another civilian picks up Ray's gun and a gunfight ensues.
  • Intrepid Reporter: The journalist Ray speaks to by the crashed plane. Not only is she already so well-informed to be Miss Exposition, but stops to ask Ray if he was on the crashed plane because "It would have been a great story."
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Rachel singing "Hushabye Mountain."
  • It's All About Me:
    • A mob of civilians without any power or working transportation all fight amongst each other over Ray's car.
    • Ogilvy casually tells Rachel that he'll take care of her if Ray dies, despite this being very inappropriate to bring up. He's also so obsessed with beating the aliens that he doesn't care if Ray and Rachel are killed because of the noise he's making, and says as much during his rant.
  • I Want My Mommy!: Rachel screams for her mother as the alien invasion begins.
  • Jump Scare: When Rachel wakes up in the basement to find an alien probe right in front of her face.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: Had the aliens stayed away from Earth, they wouldn't have gotten sick and died.
  • Kick the Dog: When Ray is blindfolding Rachel before he kills Ogilvy, Ogilvy can be heard ranting in the background that he doesn't care if Ray and Rachel die as a result of the noise he's making. Ray would have had to kill him anyway, but it certainly makes the deed even more sympathetic.
  • Kid Amid the Chaos: Played with when Ray is distracted by an argument with Robbie and doesn't realize that Rachel has wandered off. An elderly couple try to take her with them, assuming her parents are dead. Fortunately Ray realizes what's happening and stops them in time.
  • Lack of Empathy: Ogilvy telling Rachel that he'll take care of her if Ray dies, given how terrified she must be of something happening to her father. Ray is understandably furious when he overhears this. Later, when Ogilvy snaps, he says during his rant that he doesn't care if the aliens kill Ray and his daughter.
  • Large Ham: Tim Robbins, usually a pretty understated actor, as Ogilvy.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Robbie's attempts to join the military to fight the aliens tends to come across as this.
  • Little Miss Snarker: 10-year old Rachel has quite a few snarky lines (it helps that she's played by Dakota Fanning).
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Rachel becomes this to Ray after Robbie leaves. It's clear at that point that protecting her is the only thing keeping him going.
  • Living Ship: The Tripods have an organic component, seen when Ray is taken by one and almost consumed.
  • The Load: Rachel is this for the most part- granted, she's a helpless 10-year old child. However, there are times where she's the first one to notice signs of danger. In the ferry scene, she's the only one who realizes an attack is coming and manages to alert everyone else to this.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: Unlike the 1953 movie, it follows the book in centering around an Action Survivor, instead of the military and cutting to other places where the aliens are invading.
  • Made of Iron: Even without the shields up, it still takes no less than FIVE Javelin Missiles, and 2-3 Carl Gustav shots to bring down just ONE Tripod.
  • Made of Plasticine: Funnily enough, the tripods turn out to be this. Without their nigh-unbreakable Deflector Shields they can be brought down by anti-tank launchers, or even a few grenades if they're deposited into the feeding port. Considering that the shields can shrug off aircraft fire it's probably justified that not many resources would go into making the tripods more heavily armored.
  • Madness Mantra: "Not my blood!"
  • Magic Pants: The heat ray disintegrates people in an instant, but doesn't work as well on their pants and jackets.note  The heat ray was an explicitly antipersonnel/terror weapon. For structures and armored targets, they use a Wave-Motion Gun, which shreds everything in front of it.
  • Militaries Are Useless: In addition to being outnumbered and the technology gap, the U.S. Army's weapons cannot break through the Martians' energy barrier that deflects whatever is thrown at them.
  • Monumental Damage: Mostly averted, thanks to a conscious decision (described in a later interview) to avoid the sort of huge, flashy destruction this tropes revels in. The Bayonne Bridge is still torn to ribbons on camera by the aliens' wave motion guns, and we can assume New York City didn't fare much better.
  • Mood Whiplash: One of the few moments of levity after the film's first act, a scene where Rachel argues with her father about where she's going to use the bathroom during a short rest-stop, immediately precedes Rachel's discovery of a river full of corpses.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The military's Curb-Stomp Battle against the invaders is called 'Operation Thunderchild'.
    • Ray and Rachel meet a deranged survivor living in a farmhouse basement; His name is Ogilvy.
    • "Once the tripods start to move, no more news comes out of that area".
    • The scene where the invaders use a probe to explore the house (and the protagonists subsequently hack it apart after being discovered) mirrors the 1953 version of the movie.
    • The aliens' rampage abruptly halted in front of a church in the 1953 film. Here, their rampage commences in front of one.
    • The arriving roar of the tripods also seems to be a more tonally appropriate update of the "Ooh-Laaa!" sound effects the Jeff Wayne version of the Tripods make, only much more terrifying.
    • The film starts in Bayonne, New Jersey, which is only about 50 miles from the setting of the 1938 radio play of Grover's Mill.
    • A dying alien comes out of the hatch of a tripod, similar to the end of the 1953 film where the arm of a dying alien came out of the open hatch.
    • The film's poster image of an alien's hand symbolically grasping planet Earth is like the title and credit sequences from the 1988-90 television series.
    • Ogilvy's hoodie. A nod to where the Martians are described to be in their tripods.
  • No Time to Explain: Ray says this to the mechanic who's asking him to get out of the car.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • Whenever you hear the 'horn' of a tripod, it means you need to get the hell out of there!
    • We don't see how Ray kills Ogilvy. We just hear a few grunts while Rachel sings to herself so she won't hear anything.
    • When Ray and Ogilvy witness a Tripod harvesting blood from one of its human captives, the scene is mostly blocked by a tractor. All they or the audience ever see is the man being lowered to the ground and pinned, his legs flailing, and finally the massive war machine stabbing him with a needle and siphoning his blood through a hose. It's more likely than not that the man was killed almost instantly from the needle piercing his heart or some other vital organ, given that his legs stop moving immediately. The Gory Discretion Shot, though, leaves open the possibility that the Invaders drain people alive.
  • Not So Invincible After All: Throughout most of the movie, the tripods are assumed to be untouchable. However, once their shields are down, they fall easily to grenades and the like.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Spielberg says the aliens are never referred to onscreen as Martians due to Science Marching On and proving that Mars has no intelligent life.
  • Oh, Crap!: There's a very emotive close-up of Rachel with this expression when witnessing the start of the aliens' attack.
    • Ray when he realizes there's more than one tripod, and that the first attack wasn't an isolated incident.
    • Ray briefly has this expression when he realizes Ogilvy isn't going to quiet down, and realizes that he's going to have to kill him.
    • The soldier who rallies the other prisoners in the cage has a brief look of this on his face when he sees the man he just rescued spit out the pins of two hand grenades.
  • Only Sane Man: Ray, especially in his interactions with Robbie.
    • Quite a comedic example occurs for anyone eagle-eyed enough to spot it; just after the first tripod appears, one guy in the crowd turns tail and runs away, instead of standing around to watch.
  • Parental Neglect: Ray is a divorced crane operator in New Jersey, who hardly sees his two kids; the eldest doesn't respect him or even call him 'Dad' and the younger clearly loves her mother more. However, it becomes obvious that Ray loves his two children very much and will go to great lengths to protect them.
  • Papa Wolf: Ray pulls a gun on a mob of crazed people after Robbie disappears. He also hurls a grenade at a Tripod that's just captured Rachel.
    • And don't forget he's willing to kill Ogilvy rather than let him endanger Rachel's safety.
  • Pineapple Surprise: Ray somehow managing to pull some pins out of the grenades while he was being sucked into one of the tripods.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Ray spits out the pins of a couple of M67 grenades he uses to destroy a tripod. Of course, this was his only option.
  • Playing Catch With The Old Man: Ray has a catch with Robbie. Inverted in that Ray acts like an immature jerk by throwing it harder and harder to his son, causing Robbie to intentionally let a ball pass so Ray shatters his own window, priming the audience to know they are in conflict and Ray's not a great dad at the start of the film.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The movie follows the plot of the novel, only updating the setting from late 19th-century England to early 21st-century New Jersey (but one of the screenwriters decided to "take the modern world back to the 1800s" with the EMP frying most technology), and having the protagonist accompanied by his children (the unnamed one from the book only had a wife, which he drops with her relatives).
  • Promotion to Parent: Robbie seems to have become a semi-father-figure to Rachel, since Ray knows nothing about being a father to them both (at least before the events of the movie). By the end, Ray finally is cordially accepted by his children on the account that he helped them survive the alien invasion.
  • Reality Ensues: For both the humans AND the invaders. First and foremost, any alien race capable of interstellar travel, coming here to exterminate us before we can have our own Cool Starship, is going to just roll right over us. But, they quickly discover that our planet is actually not suitable for their needs, and they start getting killed by microbes and germs we humans are immune to once the crews start exiting their war machines to explore.
    • Happens again in the span of two minutes towards the end when one Tripod is caught in an urban environment, with its shields down, by infantry packing heavy anti-tank weapons. But while the military is very quick to haul their carcasses away from the tripod the moment one of their missiles delivers the killing blow note ... several civilians who stay and watch the Curb-Stomp Battle find out that where they are standing is where a 100-ton mech is about to fall like a tree, and get smashed because they couldn't run away fast enough.
      • Tripods are somewhat analagous to human tanks. In urban environments, tanks require infantry escort otherwise they're very vulnerable to man-portable anti-tank weaponry, as seen in the film, where the tripods didn't have any alien troops on foot escorting them and were swiftly dispatched when the shields gave way.
    • When it becomes clear that Ogilvy is a threat to Rachel's life, Ray makes the decision to kill him very easily. Ray will do anything to protect Rachel, and Ogilvy is someone he just met, has repeatedly antagonized and endangered the two of them, and even says he doesn't care if he draws the aliens to them. It's not much of a decision from Ray's perspective.
  • Reduced to Dust: In this version, the alien rays blast people into clouds of dust with their clothes torn off.
  • Remake Cameo: Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, who played the lead roles in the 1953 film, appear as Robbie's and Rachel's grandparents.
  • Ride the Lightning: The aliens ride lightning into their tripods which are buried beneath the ground.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Rachel's first reaction to the heat ray is "Is it the terrorists?"
    • Ogilvy's line about how "Occupations never work," a less-than-subtle Take That! at the situation in Iraq at the time.
  • Rule of Symbolism: At first, Rachel is wearing three layers of clothing, which she gradually loses as the film goes on, until she's just wearing her shirt. Word of God is that this was meant to reflect how she's opening up more to her father throughout the film.
  • Sanity Has Advantages: The reason Ray wins his fight with Ogilvy. He also has greater motivation, as he's fighting for his daughter's life.
  • Sanity Slippage: Ogilvy after allegedly seeing his family killed by the Invaders a while before he meets Ray and Rachel.
  • Sensory Tentacles: A mechanical tentacle probes the basement where Ray and his daughter are hiding in advance of the aliens who are investigating the area.
  • Setting Update: From the original novel's late 19th-century England to the early 21st-century New Jersey.
  • Shoot the Dog: Ray has to kill Ogilvy to stop him from attracting the aliens' attention.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The probing scene can be seen as one to the more famous (and infamous) scene of the kitchen in Jurassic Park.
    • Rachel is flipping through the channels and the first thing you hear is "Moon Gorgeous Meditation!" According to Steven Spielberg, one of his daughters is a huge Sailor Moon fan, so she gave the idea for the reference.
    • The use of hand grenades may well be one to The Tripods, a trilogy of novels inspired by (and would be considered a sort of Spiritual Successor to) the original novel.
    • Ray's posture just after Rachel is reunited with her mother at the film's end, is the posture taken by Ethan Edwards just after he reunites the abducted girl with her family at the end of The Searchers.
  • Shovel Strike: Ogilvy hits Ray in the head with a shovel when he tries to reason with him. It ends fatally for him, as it's what convinces Ray that he has to kill him.
  • Shown Their Work: Ray drives a 1960s Ford Mustang. When the aliens attack and he escapes with his kids, supplies are put into an empty box of 10W-30 motor oil. 10W-30 motor oil is the oil used in 1960s Ford Mustangs for cold climates, like New Jersey where Ray lives.
    • The U.S. Army units seen in the film are largely from the 10th Mountain Division, which is based in New York, near where the film is set. If an alien invasion were to happen in New England, it's possible one would encounter the 10th Mountain Division out and about.
  • Single Tear: Ray when he sings a lullaby (namely, "Little Deuce Coupe") to Rachel.
  • Sinister Silhouettes: When Ray is about to kill Ogilvy, he stands in the doorway for a few seconds, seen only in shadow.
  • Small Universe After All: In the behind the scenes features in the DVD, Spielberg says the aliens don't come from Mars and probably come from as far away as ET The Extraterrestrial. The novelization and movie tagline say that E.T. is 3 million lightyears from home. Well outside our galaxy.
  • Sound-Only Death: This happens to the driver who takes Ray's car. A few seconds after Ray surrenders the car and enters a diner with his family, we hear shots fired and the car passing by the window, with one of them shooting inside with Ray's dropped gun.
    • Ray killing Ogilvy. Rachel sings with her eyes closed so she won't hear the murder sounds.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Major example. Rachel sings a calming lullaby to herself as Ray murders Ogilvy in another room.
  • Spiritual Successor: Though they're very different in theme, Spielberg considers this film to be part of a loose "alien trilogy" with Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. All of them detail the very different ways that an encounter with extraterrestrials could turn out, and Spielberg has saidinvoked that he believes that all three species could very well exist in the same universe.
    • Spielberg was quoted behind-the-scenes as saying "For the first time in my life I'm making an alien picture where there is no love and no attempt at communication."
  • Tanks for Nothing: Not even tanks are a match for the aliens at least when their shields are up.
  • Tears of Fear: Rachel often cries when something upsetting is happening.
  • Tentacled Terror: The Tripods have long tendrils that they can use to seize individual humans, lift and throw objects as large as vehicles, search for humans hidden underground, and drain people of their blood to feed the Red Weed.
  • Time Abyss: The Tripods were planted on Earth at some point in the very distant past. Characters speculate that they may have come down before there were any humans at all. At the very least, though, they definitely predate both recorded history and the oral traditions of any civilization that has surviving descendants, setting a minimum age in the tens of thousands of years.
  • The "The" Title Confusion: Unlike the novel and the 1953 film, it dropped the article to be only War of the Worlds.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Rachel has this expression when she's captured and put in the tripod basket.
  • Tranquil Fury: When Ray overhears Ogilvy telling Rachel that he'll take care of her in the event of his death, he calmly orders Rachel over to him, then tells Ogilvy in a furious whisper that he's forbidden from speaking to her. He is also chillingly calm when he decides to kill Ogilvy. As he blindfolds Rachel and tells her to sing, he speaks in a calming whisper, but is clearly preparing himself for what he's about to do.
  • Tripod Terror: Naturally. The aliens attack in tripod machines which efficiently lay waste to much of the world.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The crowd of people in the first attack just stand there in awe of the tripod when it's clearly giving some rather ominous signals that it's about to lay waste to them. However, several people are seen running away a while before the Tripod fires on them.
      • Somewhat justified, since nobody had encountered one of the tripods before that point. However, later in the film, when the military is battling the tripods, the civilians, knowing full well that the aliens are bad and dangerous, decide to stick around and gawk rather than get the heck away from there.
    • Robbie has an obsessive interest in going to fight the aliens, despite Ray's repeated attempts to tell him exactly how stupid this is. Even after seeing the explosions occurring from over the hill and the military forces clearly losing the battle, Robbie is insistent he still wants to go.
    • Rachel generally has more sense, but she plays this completely straight when she's so scared by the alien probe that she runs out of the relatively sheltered basement into the open, where she's easily captured.
    • The aliens themselves. They get out of their tripod in an alien planet, wearing no protective gear, rummaging through dirty stuff in a damp basement, and one of them even drinks water from a broken pipe. No wonder they all got sick.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The tripods have them and use them against artificial structures and against the military, with devastating results.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Perhaps one of the most infamous examples: Germs. Yes, you read that correctly; our planet's germs are what ultimately kill them. The aliens never evolved on Earth to develop natural immunity to the planet's bacteria and so they became violently ill and just died off in a rather short period of time. Though many viewers criticized this was a hugely anti-climactic cop-out, this actually is how the original novel ends.
  • Wham Line: In-universe, for Rachel: "Get in, Manny, or you're going to die!"
  • Wham Shot: When Ray realizes that Ogilvy's not going to calm down, Ray slowly backs out of the basement, goes to Rachel, and hugs her tight. We then cut to a shot of Ray wrapping a blindfold around Rachel's head, which makes it clear to the audience exactly what he's about to do...
  • Would Hurt a Child: It's clear that the aliens would kill any child in their path, including 10-year old Rachel.
    • Ogilvy as well, albeit indirectly. After learning that the Invaders are harvesting blood from their human captives to use as fertilizer for the Red Weed, he makes it clear that he doesn't care if his behavior results in Rachel suffering this fate, as long as they aren't using his blood.

"From the moment the Invaders arrived, breathed our air, ate and drank, they were doomed. They were undone, destroyed, after all of Man's weapons and devices had failed, by the tiniest creatures that God in His wisdom put upon this Earth. By the toll of a billion deaths, Man had earned his immunity; his right to survive among this planet's infinite organisms. And that right is ours against all challenges for neither do men live...nor vain."


Video Example(s):


Little Deuce Coupe

In the midst of an alien invasion, Ray bonds with his daughter.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / ActionFilmQuietDramaScene

Media sources:

Main / ActionFilmQuietDramaScene