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  • Acceptable Professional Targets: "Oh, my God. I gotta call my brother, my housekeeper, my lawyer. Nah, forget my lawyer."
  • Americans Hate Tingle: Irony about the trope name aside. In the United States the film is definitely divisive, but it's hard to deny it has a pretty devoted fanbase. Outside of the US, however, finding devoted fans is challenging to say the least. That said, its sequel earned nearly triple its domestic gross overseas despite getting awful reviews, suggesting there is still a fanbase for the original outside the U.S. that was willing to check it out regardless. (Not to mention the original was a smash hit both inside and outside the U.S..)
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  • Angst? What Angst?: In typical Emmerich fashion; one particularly jarring example though is when Steve Hiller is leading the first strike against the City Destroyer over Los Angeles, or rather what's left of it. What does Jimmy and the other pilots do as Steve mulls the fate of his loved ones? Crack cheap jokes as they're gliding over the annihilated city. They quickly shut up once they pass a wall of clouds and see the sheer size of their target.
  • Awesome Music: This is the movie that put composer David Arnold on Hollywood's It List. To quote producer Dean Devlin, "Leave it to a Brit to compose the most patriotic music I've ever heard."
  • Cliché Storm: Certainly enough from every other alien invasion movie to go around.
  • Critic-Proof: Despite how much of a financial success this film was (with a worldwide gross of $816,969,268, the second-highest gross for a movie of all time back when it was released), the film has attracted a lot of criticism and the reviews even at the time called it okay at best. Many criticized the film's plot note  and characters in favor of its special effects, and Non-Americans criticizing the film in how nationalistic it is in its tone.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Arguably the only reason Okun appears in the sequel and having A larger role.
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    • Julius is well liked for providing some of the best lines in the movie not just comical, but also for the moment where He stood up for his son against The Freaking President and his Staff No Less!
    • Similarly, General Grey is this for being A Reasonable Authority Figure who manages to keep A Cool Head, Him willing to call out Nimzicki for keeping his mouth shut about Area 51 adds to his popularity.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: 9/11 was often compared to this film. It doesn't help that when they're fleeing the White House, David checks the countdown and "9:11:01" is clearly visible on it. It is a complete coincidence, but still.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Thanks to the now disturbing images of the destruction of the Empire State Building and the White House, this movie wasn't aired for a long time after 9/11. But since 2009, it came back on TV.
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    • Particular the image of the shadow crossing over the Twin Towers. And the fact that after the attack, the Twin Towers have been sheared in half.
    • And the wall of fire spreading through the streets of NYC, much like the real-life wall of dust produced by the collapsing twin towers.
    • David mentions that all cable repair guys can trace a cell phone signal. Now, with the stingray controversy in America, that sounds a lot worse.
    • Russell Casse's PTSD falls under this as in the time since the movie's release, Randy Quaid has been hiding out in Canada over charges of animal abuse. When the sequel's crew went through their massive effort to get back as many cast members as they could, it was noted that it ended up being quite lucky that Russell was killed in the first film, or this would put them in quite an awkward position.
    • Also, The War on Terror that came up in the wake of 9/11, in tandem with increasing socio-political polarization and "othering" in the U.S. and elsewhere in the 20+ years since the film's release, makes the whole story's outlook on humanity's ability to set aside differences of race, creed, nationality, etc. and come together in the face of calamity seem poignantly optimistic now.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • Inferred Holocaust: With most of the world's major population centers blown up and massive chunks of alien debris crushing landmasses and plunging into the ocean (no doubt creating tidal waves), the world does not look positive in the wake of the attack. Then again, since the alternative was total annihilation, there's only so much room to complain.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "Welcome to Earf!" Even though in the movie he clearly says "Earth".
    • "Oh, shit. Um...hide."
    • "We will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish, without a fight." Really, that whole speech entered pop culture and hung on for dear life. Even many people who have never seen the movie can quote parts of it.
    • "Peace? No peace." was known to be quoted a lot when the film first came out. It's has been used to mock people or groups that are seen as unreasonable or can't be negotiated with.
  • Money-Making Shot: The alien ship blasting the White House is the emblematic shot of the movie. After that, it's the shadows falling over major landmarks, and their destruction that was the basis of the trailers. Also, the aliens' strike on El Toro base was featured prominently in advertising for home video.
  • Moral Event Horizon: The aliens' blowing up several cities at once is terrible, but what truly cements the aliens' status as unforgivable, especially in-universe, is when the captive alien reveals that they want to annihilate humanity, and they have done this to countless other worlds in order to steal their resources. Simply put, they're Planet Looters!
  • Narm: The sound design doesn't make sense. Expect to hear distorted cat yowls when aliens die, for example.
  • Narm Charm: As previously mentioned, the Rousing Speech.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The RAF pilots were a good joke for British audiences: "The Americans are planning a counter-strike!" "Well, it's about bloody time!" Tally-ho, chaps!
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: The Angry Video Game Nerd ripped the Playstation game of ID4 apart for clunky controls and pop-up issues (as well as a terrible password screen), and when he played the Katina level in Star Fox 64, Clement J 642 called ID4 "Complete ass" and said that that one Star Fox level was better at being ID4 than the ID4 game was.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Signature Line:
  • Snark Bait: Considered this internationally in no small part to how patriotic it is.
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • A blink-and-you'll-miss-it-example: One of the Huey choppers escorting the Skycrane explodes before being hit. Worse still, the tail rotor of one of the choppers seems to stay suspended in place instead of falling out of the sky as it would otherwise do.
    • When the shutters raise on the "museum" of alien corpses stored at Area 51 during the President's initial tour, the shutter can be briefly seen shaking around loose just before disappearing off-screen.
    • Some of the effects used to simulate the city destruction sequence have not aged well since 1996.
    • Several of the explosion effects on the City Destroyer when it explodes at the end are very clearly 2-dimensional and superimposed on the shot.
    • Very subtle, yet noticeable is the destruction of the Empire State Building, as for a few seconds it looks like, rather than high speed footage slowed to regular speed, it looks more like a VHS tape at slow-mo.
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • Nimziki gets two. We're supposed to be against his suggestion of using nuclear weapons but considering what we've seen so far that would be closest thing to a reasonable chance of success. Later he's supposed to be showing incompetence and cowardice for being against the plan to infect the mothership but the plan relies on a lot of luck, a human pilot managing to use an alien vessel, the aliens not getting suspicious and if it failed it would probably mean the end of all organized human resistance.
    • The sequel suggests that Nimziki might have been on to something with the nukes: in 'Resurgence,' it's implied that alien shields do have a limit as to how much damage they can take, such as how the Queen's shields are depleted after taking a cold fusion blast at point blank range and a few minutes of sustained laser fire. If more nukes had been launched against the ships as Nimziki wanted, they may have eventually destroyed the shields and the ships themselves... but the resulting fallout and nuclear winter would have made it a moot point.
  • Toy Ship: The President's daughter and Hiller's stepson. Sunk in Resurgence, where the two are friends but Patricia is engaged to another character.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: It still holds up well and the scope of the movie is awe inspiring. The sense of size and scale has not been matched by any movie since.
    • A lot of why it holds up is that most of the effects were practical effects and models, with just a bit of CGI for laser blasts and other things that don't have to look "real" to fool the eye. Shortly after this came out, these techniques were largely abandoned in favor of all-CGI effects.
  • What an Idiot!:
    • Tiffany ignores Jasmine's warnings of getting out of Los Angeles and instead heads directly to the gathering on the US Bank Tower's roof, right under the City Destroyer. Guess what happens?
    • Albert Nimzicki is a complicated example. He is the Secretary of Defense and an entire fleet of alien spaceships shows up and float ominously over the world's major cities. As the former head of the CIA, he becomes privy to the fact that Area 51 has indeed been housing a crashed flying saucer and alien corpses and been studying them and their tech for decades. Does he choose to immediately inform the President about everything the research had discovered in order to better inform his decision-making? While he makes (in retrospect) bad choices, his working assumption that launching nuclear weapons will defeat the invaders remain untested for long, and it isn't exactly unreasonable (at least before the first counterstrike with fighter planes fails) that it could work. If nuclear weapons would've worked, there would be no need to reveal Area 51. The Novelization is more of a straight example of this - his plan is to make the President look far weaker for political reasons... while the human race is being annihilated.
    • Everyone involved in deciding that air-to-air missiles should be deployed as the main attack against miles-across ships. Even if the alien ships hadn't been shielded they would have been useless, as demonstrated in the finale when the shields are down. Possibly justified as that's all they had; it's hard enough to mount a massive counterstrike with depleted manpower; doubly so if the base that's launching the fighters is mainly for aircraft testing, not a dedicated airbase.
  • Woolseyism:
    • Will Smith's "Elvis has left the building!" was changed to "Last train to Mikkeli has just left!" in the Finnish DVD.
    • The German dub corrects a reference to the Golan Heights, which are referred to in the film as the "Golan Strait."
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