Movie #101: Independence Day (1996)

Director: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnall, Randy Quaid, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Robert Loggia, Vivica A. Fox, Margaret Colin, and Adam Baldwin

Academy Awards (1997):

Best Effects, Visual Effects: Volker Engel, Douglas Smith, Clay Pinney, Joe Viskocil

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Sound: Chris Carpenter, Bill W. Benton, Bob Beemer, Jeff Wexler



“I saw what they’re planning to do. They’re like locusts. They’re moving from planet to planet… their whole civilization. After they’ve consumed every natural resource they move on… and we’re next.” ~ President Thomas Whitmore

A seemingly indestructible alien race attacks Earth on July 2nd.  As they destroy every major city in the world, President Thomas Whitmore (Pullman), Captain Steven Hiller (Smith), computer genius David Levinson (Goldblum), and many others lead the counterattack in hopes of saving life as we know it.

Independence Day has a lot of things that work in its favor.  Public interest in the extra terrestrial, exemplified with the popularity of The X-Files, and Emmerich’s well-balanced ensemble cast and entertaining story made this film larger than life.  Released the same year that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, this film launched Will Smith’s highly successful film career.  I was fairly young when this film was released, and though I’ve seen it many times, I still find it highly entertaining.

This is the type of film that though it has its fair share of dark moments, it still has an inspiring resolution without being completely dark as many of the newer summer blockbusters are.

Though the special effects have clearly become dated, Independence Day does a great job of destroying a lot of the world’s major landmarks in a convincing way.  Specifically, the White House getting destroyed, from a visual effects standpoint, was probably one of my favorites.  The worst of the effects was probably when the aliens were chasing Hiller and Wilder (Harry Connick Jr.).  At times, the effects with the alien spacecrafts weren’t up to par.

There is a good balance of comedy, action, and drama between the various cast members.  Smith has it all, Goldblum is perfect as the paranoid computer genius, Pullman is a serviceable president.  Randy Quaid does great being Randy Quaid.  The various relationships throughout the film, Hiller and David Levinson, Whitmore and General Grey (Loggia), Hiller and Jasmine (Fox), David and Julius Levinson (Hirsch).

Judd Hirsch gives one of the greatest supporting comic relief performances.  He has a few shining moments where he brings order to the immediate chaos, but for the most part he does a great job at lightening the mood in the scenes he’s in.


Though this film has a wide range of major cast members, Will Smith is the true star of this film.  He’s got great stage presence, his quick wit makes his both funny, relatable, and likeable for audience members.  He also has to deal with a lot throughout the film.  I guess everyone does, but his relationship with Jasmine, losing his squad, his desire to be an astronaut and eventually seeing that dream come true.   It’s just enjoyable to see him showcase his acting talent and range.  My only critique of Smith’s performance is that I think some of his smack talk runs a little too long.  His monologue while dragging the unconscious alien through the desert got a little old.

I like to call this the type-cast lineup, at least with Robert Loggia (middle) and Adam Baldwin (right). Sorry other guy.


“In the words of my generation: UP YOURS!”

Randy Quaid, though annoying and insufferable at times, delivers some of the greatest lines in the film.  His abducted by aliens bit got really old, but though they tied his character in perfectly by the end.


“Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and this movie is called Independence Day.”


“Yes Will Smith, I did just shoot that green shit at you.”

Independence Day has everything a summer blockbuster should have: entertaining story, likeable characters, balance in comedy action and drama, and a happy ending.  The right balance in cast members chemistry make this far out concept more down to earth.  The story has just the right amount of comic relief without it being too over-the-top and ridiculous.  Watching this film won’t become an Independence Day tradition for me, but I’ll definitely revisit this film every once in a while.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.


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