Independence Day

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

On July 2nd, they arrive.
On July 3rd, they strike.
On July 4th, we fight back.

Independence Day is a 1996 movie by Roland Emmerich, known in its promotional material as ID4. At its core it is a straightforward Alien Invasion movie with a lot of elements taken from well known sources like The War of the Worlds. The archetypical Summer Blockbuster with a large cast of familiar character types, Stuff Blowing Up, fighter jets dogfighting alien craft, Rousing Speeches, Area 51 and is otherwise fairly by-the-book story-wise.

President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is the recently elected U.S. President when a massive (one-fourth the size of the moon) spaceship enters the orbit of Earth. Sending out smaller (city-size) ships that scatter across the globe to all the major cities, it doesn't take long before they begin firing their Wave Motion Guns to wipe out entire cities at a time.

Humans fight back, with U. S. Marine pilot Steven Hiller (Will Smith) and computer programmer David Levinson (uh... Jeff Goldblum) pulling together a Plan to save the human race.

The film's success also kicked off a revival of the Disaster Movie in mid-to-late 90s. The influence of this film can be seen even today, with Roland Emmerich himself repeating a similar formula in his later films like Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012.

Apparently not one, but two, sequels were planned as of 2009. Independence Day: Resurgence was released in 2016.

Tropes used in Independence Day include:
  • Absent-Minded Professor: Dr. Brackish Okun, head of the alien lab at Area 51.
  • Achilles' Heel: The open bay of an alien saucer's main cannon. Or to be more exact, the volatile plasma within the bay.
  • Aerial Canyon Chase: Steven pulls this against a minor fleet of aliens.
  • Air Force One: The President's F/A-18 fighter is designated "Eagle One", but technically any USAF airplane that is carrying the POTUS is automatically designated "Air Force One". Even if the President himself is piloting it and dogfighting aliens. If, however, it was a Marine jet, then technically it should have been "Marine One". Then again, Whitmore is the President.... Also, Air Force One becomes the de facto capital of the United States for a portion of the movie, as the President oversees the first counterstrike operation from aboard the plane. After that, Area 51 apparently becomes the de facto capital.
    • Fridge Brilliance: 'Eagle One' would be the call sign used by Eagle squadron's commander, so the President would actually use that if he was speaking in the role of a commander of a fighter squadron (or air wing) than as, well, President. Even if 'Eagle Squadron' was an ad hoc designation for a loosely organized pickup force.
  • The Alcoholic: Russell.
  • Alien Abduction: Russell... or so he claims. The viewer is left to their own devices about whether or not this was entirely a delusion brought on by alcoholism, war trauma, or just being nuts. The novelization has him see the alien downed by Captain Hiller, and think that's it's not the same as the ones who abducted him. Then he starts to wonder whether other aliens are visiting Earth, or if it even really happened. The same novelization strongly implies that it did happen: inside their bio-suits, the invading aliens look exactly like the ones in Russel's memories.
    • There was a Marvel comic book that shows several events from the earlier lives of the characters, as a sort of "prequel". Russel is clearly shown to be abducted by the invaders.
  • Alien Autopsy: Dr. Okun and his colleagues at Area 51 try to surgically extract the unconscious alien brought to them by Captain Hiller from its organic suit. Unfortunately, it wakes up before they finish. Three others are said to have been autopsied after the Roswell crash; their remains are kept on display.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Nothing remotely sympathetic about 'em.
  • America Saves the Day: And how. The entire plan to save the world was conceived by the American characters at Area 51, then broadcast via Morse code to the rest of the world. It's a Justified Trope, though, considering Area 51 is portrayed in the film as harboring a recovered scout craft used by the very alien race invading—implying that the U.S. has had decades to study them for forty years prior. Without that ace up its sleeve, the United States was as helpless as everyone else. The producers of a British radio Spin-Off were even given strict instructions not to portray the British as in any way contributing to America's victory, likely as a preemptive move due to fears that perceived British distaste for the US military and distaste for this trope in general would lead the producers to attempt to downplay the US role in the victory strategy. Amusingly, the British radio version hangs a lampshade on this by having one of the characters remark, "What do you want to bet the Americans take all the credit for this?" The movie itself features a British commander making a similar Take That: "It's about bloody time!" His tone of voice has all the Subtext of "Those bloody Yanks are Late to the Party again!" Most snarkers instead interpret the line as playing the trope straight, though.
  • Anal Probing: Russell attests to having been abducted by aliens. Those who don't believe him crack jokes and ask if he was ever sexually abused on the flying saucer, suggesting this trope.
  • Apocalypse How: The aliens plan to strip Earth of resources until it counts as a Class 4 Apocalypse.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism
    • Everyone makes fun of Russell for believing that he was abducted by aliens. Even after the aliens show up. But it's doubtful that his acquaintances got an opportunity to compare his description of the aliens to the one taken prisoner by Captain Hiller, and in any case he's the town drunk.
    • Even after the attacks the president refuses to believe in Area 51, though in this regards, his disbelief stems from not being told it existed. As the leader of the nation, he assumed that something of such magnitude wouldn't have been kept from him—especially when aliens began arriving under his watch. It's pretty much the Secretary of Defense's fault for not informing him.
  • Area 51: Really is the site of a crash-landed flying saucer.
  • Armor Is Useless: The aliens have biomechanical armor but it doesn't seem to help them very much from being punched out. The armor might have helped against being shot, if Dr. Okun and the other scientists hadn't cracked it open to vivisect the alien inside. When Major Mitchell and the other soldiers shot it, its armor is open.
    • Also it does only get punched out after already surviving smashing its spacecraft through a cliff face at extreme speeds, so the armor probably saved its life and kept it barely conscious in the first place. Getting punched in the head probably just took out the last little bit of its endurance.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: The ship's cores—if you can get through the force-field at least.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: The president was a fighter pilot and leads a raid against one of the ships, though he doesn't get the final shot to take them down.
  • Big Damn Heroes: "It's me, Russel Casse, sir! Told you I wouldn't let you down!"
  • Big Entrance: Referenced. "You know me." "Yeah, I know, you always like to make a big entrance."
  • Big No: "JIMMY NOOOO!!!"
  • Bikini Bar: Jasmine is named as a stripper in dialogue, but we only ever see her in one of these.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Julius Levinson (father of David), who had heretofore not been "on speaking terms with" God, is seen leading a group in the sixteenth benediction of the Shemoneh Esrei near the film's climax.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The aliens are defeated, but humanity faces an uncertain future.
  • Black and White Morality: The Earthlings defend their home planet against the evil, heartless galactic locusts from the outer space.
  • Black Best Friend: A rare inversion. One of the main heroes is black and his white best friend is the wise-cracking comic relief. He fulfills almost every trope related to the black best friend, right down to being the first named character to die.
  • Black Dude Dies First: The first guy to be killed is still a black guy, albeit an unnamed one.
  • Bond One-Liner: Will Smith does this over and over in this movie, to good effect.

Steven Hiller: (to crash-surviving alien) *WHAM* Welcome to EARTH!

  • But I Read a Book About It: Capt. Hiller basically says he can fly the ship because he's seen it fly.
    • By which he means, he's flown against them in combat and seen how they maneuver. Which, while not exactly firsthand experience, is still more than anyone else they've got has.
  • Butt Monkey: Jasmine has some of her moments. Her friend, Tiff, had this mention with the other alien supporters. Marty and David in an individual matter, but Marty dies. So on so forth.
  • California Doubling: Actually Utah Doubling; most of the movie after the first act was filmed on the Bonneville Salt Flats, near Wendover, UT.
  • Calling Your Attacks: "Eagle Twenty, Fox Two!" And for good reason. Pilots call "Fox" one through four to indicate firing of different weapons to help avoid friendlies catching one of them. At least that's what these guys say, anyway. Plus it's all dramatic and stuff. In reality, with such a massive fleet of friendlies, this wouldn't be occurring at the outset since the radio feed would get garbled by fifty pilots doing their call while firing a simultaneous opening shot.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': The alien greeters, even Tiffany, would be the first ones dead. Other people who have seen the green light as well have this share.
  • The Captain: Steven Hiller.
  • Captured Super Entity: At one point, Hiller captures an alien that crashed along with him and drags it to Area 51. The alien's telepathy and bio-mechanical suit make it a formidable force when it's found to still be alive.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Played straight at first when David tries to warn people about the countdown signal in the satellite network. Even his ex-wife refuses to believe him, thinking he's crazy or manipulating her. However, it's finally averted when the President finally hears him out and evacuates the area immediately. People seem to have a hard time taking Russell seriously, even after the aliens show up. Being that he's an alcoholic, it's not surprising.
    • The President also acts in a condescending way when David's father begins to talk about Area 51, the Roswell Incident, and other alien conspiracies (as he was not told about Area 51 earlier, apparently not even telling the rest of the staff, either, or at least not the Joint Chiefs of Staff, viewing it as better to hold up Plausible Deniability instead). It turns out, he was right.
    • Speaking of David's father, he wasn't too sure about David's theories, either. People have a hard time believing each other in this world.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When Russell gets inside his new fighter jet, he starts screwing around with the controls and accidentally arms a missile to be fired. Guess which missile jams at the end, forcing Russell into a heroic sacrifice?
  • Chekhov's Hobby:
    • A quick mention is made that President Whitmore is a former fighter pilot.
    • Similarly, a television reporter mentions in passing that much of the current information that anybody has is being passed around via amateur radio operators, given the widespread destruction of the government-run infrastructures.[1] Guess how the remaining military forces pass word to each other to coordinate their final counter-attack?
  • Chess Motifs: "And when the countdown reaches zero, then what?" "...Checkmate!"
  • Collapsing Lair: The mothership at the film's climax.
  • Combat Tentacles: The alien's bio-mechanical suits are equipped with these.
  • Contrived Coincidence: An absurd number of them.
    • The only man who figures out the alien signal is a countdown happens to have an ex-wife who works for the President, thus getting him access.
    • Hiller's girlfriend in Los Angeles happens upon the First Lady, so when Hiller finds her, he finds the President's wife (who everyone had pretty much given up for dead).
    • Hiller, the only known survivor of his unit, is an astronaut wannabe.
    • Hiller's dogfight with the alien fighter happens to take him near enough to spot Area 51, and his crash put him close to a convoy of refugees he can point in that direction.
    • A surprisingly large number of civilians amongst those refugees turn out to be former jet-qualified combat pilots. Although the recruiter specifically says while he is hoping for people with military training, "anyone who can fly a plane would be useful." The novelization takes it a step further, mentioning that they only have so many missiles to load on the jets, and some of them, with the least-experienced pilots, are going up completely unarmed to act as decoys.
      • Retired military people often buy houses near military bases so they can enjoy continued access to base facilities, such as government-subsidized medical care and the PX. Polling the crowd of refugees from the residential areas near the base will get you a statistical disproportion of ex-anything.
  • Converging Stream Weapon: The motherships' primary weapon.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: The aliens' assault against the humans, until the humans are able to devise a way to deal with the aliens' Deflector Shields.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: Captain Hiller manages to force down an alien ship by blinding it with his plane's dragchute. In exchange, his entire squadron was wiped out.
  • Dead Line News: In the ads, as a War of the Worlds Shout-Out.
  • Dead Guy Puppet: "Release me! Release me... NOW!"
  • Death by Cameo: Volker Engel, who was head of the FX unit.
  • Deflector Shields: At least half of the film is spent trying to figure out how to get around the alien ship's deflector shields with the technology the humans have.
  • Delayed Explosion: Almost every explosion in the film. The most notable is the explosion of Los Angeles, which apparently moves so slowly that Jasmine has time to grab her son, break open a locked maintenance closet, and even call her dog inside before the explosion reaches her location. It also, miraculously, does not fill the open closet with fire and debris. Nor does it suck the oxygen out of the tiny space, despite the fact the "sucking oxygen" would be the primary cause of the fire shooting through the tunnel.
    • Both issues are mentioned in the novelization: it spends a whole paragraph describing the Mind Screw effect of seeing an inescapable wall of fire slowly advancing towards you, and another paragraph to explain why Jasmine, Dylan and Boomer weren't deep-fried contrary to all those who hid in cellars (though the explanation is a bit shaky).
  • Deus Ex Nukina: A particularly Egregious example. You can destroy the unshielded atmospheric city destroyers and fighters, but the aliens have billions of reserves on board a super mothership in orbit. You have exactly one transorbit Space Fighter; the enemy undoubtedly has thousands just like it which they are better at flying than you. Fortunately it's already going to the mothership to enable the main attack. So you load a single "tactical nuclear missile" that apparently has many times the yield required to, oh, mass-scatter Ceres. The only way this could even remotely have had a chance of working was for the nuke explosion to have set off some kind of chain reaction in the alien mothership's own interstellar drive/fuel store/ammunition depot which then blew up the ship. As when a single fighter-carried bomb detonates an entire battleship or carrier. Even Captain Hiller and David Levinson weren't expecting this to happen; the looks on their faces when the mothership blew up in a spectacular Michael Bay fashion is telling. The nuke was meant to cripple the mothership to buy time, not to destroy the whole shebang.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?:
    • The reaction to the guards in Area 51 when Hiller shows the alien.

Hiller: Okay. Come here. You want to see my clearance?
(pulls back tarp to reveal the unconscious alien)
Hiller: Maybe I should just leave this with you?

    • Julius has this reaction to finding out that David once punched the President.

Julius: You punched the President?
David: He wasn't the President then.

  • Disappeared Dad: The father of Jasmine's son has been out of the picture for some time.
  • Disney Death: Hiller and Levinson not quite outrunning the explosion of the mothership.
  • Divorce Is Temporary
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Jimmy bends down on the floor to retrieve a wedding ring dropped by Hiller, another Marine passing by thinks he's proposing to his best friend. The other guy helpfully leaves immediately, not wanting to spoil the moment.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Russell Casse. "Hello boys! I'm baaaaaaaack!"
  • Earth Is a Battlefield: Featuring some pretty impressive set pieces when the humans fight over recognizable landmarks.
  • Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Not completely straight, but somehow the Earthlings managed to stop the alien advance when they've stripped God knows how many planets before them.
  • Easily-Thwarted Alien Invasion: It takes a simple computer |virus (and, y'know, a large nuclear warhead) to take down spaceships 1/4th the size of the moon and kill millions of aliens. Gotta love that universal Operating System!
  • Emergency Presidential Address: The President delivers an address to urge caution to the public as the alien ships enter the Earth's atmosphere and approach major cities. This is later followed by his "We will not go quietly into the night" speech once the aliens plans are revealed.
  • Enemy Mine: Israeli, Egyptian, Iraqi and English air forces are shown working alongside each other during the scene where the global counter-offensive is planned, seemingly having agreed to a mutual détente in the face of the alien threat.
  • The Eternal Churchill: The entire premise of the film.
  • Eureka Moment: David's idea to create a computer virus, coming from a simple reminder by his father to take care of himself lest he catch cold.
  • Every Helicopter Is a Huey: Though most of the aircraft used are period- and setting-appropriate, a Huey still shows up to escort the doomed S-64 Skycrane "Welcome Wagon". It explodes moments later.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Except aliens apparently. Although they seemed to break the code pretty quick: first thing they did after the message was to send a Wave Motion Gun to Area 51.
  • Exclusively Evil: The aliens.

President Whitmore: I saw its thoughts. 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. Nuke 'em. Let's nuke the bastards.

  • Eye Awaken: When the alien is being removed from its bio-mechanical suit. Major Mitchell later puts a few more bullets in it until it finally gives out a death cry, obviously aware of the trope.
  • Facing the Bullets One-Liner: Russell's last words.
  • Fanfare: The movie opens with it and plays it constantly.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Russell, maybe if you hadn't put that photo in your plane, you might have survived to see the end credits.
  • Finger-Twitching Revival: See Eye Awaken above.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: An initial assault with conventional weapons ends in a massacre as the Deflector Shield prevents their weapons from piercing the ships. However, once the force-fields are dealt with, they are susceptible to conventional weapons in their weak spot.
  • Flying Saucer: Played perfectly straight. And for once, actually scary instead of cheesy.
  • Four-Star Badass: General Grey, as contrast to the mousy, ass-covering Secretary of Defense. Honestly, Gen. Grey's pretty much the only person in the government who manages to keep a cool head throughout the crisis, besides President Whitmore, who himself is a badass from the Gulf War. It's really no surprise that in the movie's second act—by which point the Vice President has been killed off-screen by the alien invaders—General Grey becomes the President's de facto second-in-command and closest adviser. It's likely that in the movie's universe, General Grey emerges from the crisis with a Patton or Eisenhower-like level of respect, and it's likely that he's either going to be Whitmore's new VP or Secretary of Defense... and the most likely candidate to be Whitmore's immediate successor once his term of office is up.
    • In fact, General Grey can become the Vice-President simply on President Whitmore's say-so. Since the Senate has adjourned (due to so many Senators being dead that a quorum no longer exists), the President has the authority to make recess appointments without Senate confirmation. It's reasonable to presume that he was in fact acting in the role of Vice-President throughout the latter part of the movie.
  • Genre Savvy: The characters figure out what the Deflector Shield does just from being aware of them from science fiction. Hiller declares "they must have some kind of protective shield over the hull." Yes, he picked the term "shield" which matches the sci-fi standard, but there's easily enough context for the non-savvy to understand just fine.
  • Gilligan Cut: The president says to leave the cities in an orderly fashion—cut to anarchy in the streets.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: The aliens, in keeping with their Horde of Alien Locusts nature, have no issues whipping out entire cities full of people. Humanity has no issues returning the favor for the alien mother ship.
  • Hacked by a Pirate: Oh God yes. Also a Crowning Moment of Funny and Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner.
  • Hemisphere Bias: Pretty much anything South of the Equator isn't worth concern. Though we get to see crashed UFOs in Sydney and right against Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. There's even a news report with the subtitle "Southern Hemisphere Unaffected" under a map showing where the city killers are appearing.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • Not quite as severe as normal uses of this trope, but it was made quite clear that Jeff Goldblum's character was not too happy about the circumstances of what happened, eventually causing him to lash out, even litter the whole place quite violently before his dad inadvertently gives him an idea on how to defeat the aliens.
    • The President has one, lamenting of all the death and destruction caused by his indecision to prepare if the aliens indeed turned out to be hostile.

President Whitmore: We could have evacuated the cities hours ago!

  • Heroic Sacrifice: Godspeed, Mr. Casse.
  • Historical In-Joke: There totally was an alien vessel at Area 51—and it was piloted by the aliens invading now.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • First, the aliens' signal, that they used to synchronize their attack on the planet provided humans with a way to interface and access their systems (it's stated in the expanded edition that the same frequency is used for their communications) using a Mac of all things.
    • Second, the "Hammer". This is a nice one: If you look a at the L.A. destruction scene, you'll see that the beam turns into a chain-reaction/explosion the moment it hits solid matter, and just keeps going until there's no significant obstacle left. Therefore, the denser the target, the worse the explosion (like the mothership from Command & Conquer 3, which was inspired by this movie), making it perfect for leveling cities. When Russell crashed his plane into the generator, he did it at the very moment the beam started, and at the very "tip" of the gun, therefore setting off the chain reaction inside the alien's ship (which is likely to be just as densely packed as a city, if not more so).
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: They're even directly compared to locusts.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday
  • How to Invade An Alien Planet: The aliens in this film would have succeeded if they'd read this list in the first place.
  • Ho Yay: Invoked. Hiller and Jimmy have more than a bit of this going on ("Hold me!") although it's all Played for Laughs and purely justified considering that they're Heterosexual Life Partners.]
  • I Come in Peace: Used straight and subverted. The military sends a chopper to one of the huge spaceships with a lit sign displaying greetings in all the languages of the world, and civilians in every major city hold up signs of greetings to said ships. The chopper gets blown out of the sky, and the cities (and associated welcoming parties) get cratered, with very little discussion. Later on, one of the aliens, through Dr. Okun, says, "No peace."
  • If I Do Not Return: When Casse realizes he has the only missile left and it's jammed, he says, "Tell my kids... I love them very much," and flies his plane into the alien ship's weak point.
  • Ignored Expert
  • I Got You Covered: At the end of the film, the President orders the rest of the fleet to cover Caase since he has the only missile left.
  • Immune to Bullets: The aliens, until you disable their force-fields, take them out of their ships, and strip off their bio-mechanical suits.
  • Infant Immortality: Yep, the (onscreen) kids all survive the movie.
  • In Working Order: The crashed alien ship from Roswell still works. To be fair, though, they have quite obviously patched huge sections of the hull with Earth-made metal plates, and they've had decades to work on it.
  • Ironic Echo
    • "Oops."
    • "Checkmate" takes this to ridiculously Lampshaded lengths.
    • And the First Lady lovingly calling her husband "Liar."
  • Israelis With Infrared Missiles: The Israeli military appears in a brief scene and is more than capable of taking out the alien ship in its part of the world. It's also an Enemy Mine scene as it shows they have set up camp inside Iraq alongside British and Iraqi forces.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Hiller and David have a moment of this at the end of the film when it appears they're not going to survive bombing the alien mothership.
  • It's Going Down
  • Iwo Jima Pose: A statue of the marines from the original WWII photograph is briefly seen in Washington.
  • Jews Love to Argue: David and his father, who use a lot of Yiddish while bickering.
  • Jump Scare: Only one, but it's a memorable one.
  • Just Before the End
  • Lampshade Hanging
  • Landmark of Lore: Area 51.
  • Lemming Cops: The three spacecraft chasing the humans out of the mother ship run right into the door.
  • Magic Countdown
  • Magic Floppy: Well, magic laptop.
  • Meaningful Name: Russ T. Casse (that would be "Rusty Case" if you didn't know).
  • Missing Mom: David Levinson. The Casse kids. The President's daughter, presumably, after the events of the movie.
  • Monumental Damage: It's taken to an extreme, which shouldn't be surprising since this is a Roland Emmerich film. Amongst the casualties are the Empire State Building, the White House, The Capitol Records Building and the pyramids of Giza. The trailers spoiled this one big-time. The first thing you see is the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty, after the alien attack.
  • Mood Whiplash: Hiller's line that he's always dreamed of flying in space accompanied with majestic music and the image of the craft flying triumphantly away from Earth... only for the music to suddenly turn dark and ominous as the camera pans to show them heading towards the mothership.
  • More Dakka:
    • When the alien at Area 51 telepathically attacks the President, pretty much everybody present unloads their weapons into him, followed by Major Mitchell finishing him off.
    • When the President orders his men in the final battle to "Plow the Road". Although, for F/A-18s, that was actually quite insufficient Dakka. The Vulcan Cannons carried by American fighter jets fire at a rate of about 6,000 rounds per minute in Real Life.
  • The Mothership: The big ship, obviously.
  • The Mountains of Illinois
  • Nerds Are Sexy:
    • Jeff Goldblum is in this film, after all.
    • Averted however with Brent Spiner, who can be sexy but played the very unkempt and awkward Dr. Okun in this movie. That hair!
  • Nations of the World Montage
  • No Endor Holocaust: Dozens of ships that size hitting the ground would throw up enough dust to blot out the sun. And that's not even considering blowing up something as big as the mother ship in Earth's orbit like that.
    • The novelization mitigates a bit by putting the Moon between the Earth and the mothership. This makes sense if you consider that something that big would have to have a huge angular velocity to maintain Low Earth Orbit. However, the movie shows an enormous amount of debris racing the delivery fighter back into the atmosphere, and later burning as "fireworks" overhead. If it was actually out beyond the moon when it detonated, the number, implied velocity (a good chunk of the speed of light) and size of those fragments would have been a rather incredible bombardment all on their own.
  • Nuclear Option: Nuclear weapons are used only once, over a city that's about to fall victim to one of the leviathans, and after significant consideration (primarily over the fact that, whether it works or not, the city is about to get razed to the ground anyway). When the first one doesn't work (read: didn't even get through the target's shields), the rest are immediately called off.
    • Darker and Edgier in the novelization: this is only briefly mentioned in the movie, but not only is Houston still completely intact at the time of the attack, it hasn't been fully evacuated yet.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Secretary of Defense Albert Nimziki. Before he became the Secretary of Defense job he was the CIA Director. They had evidence of a hostile alien race, they KNEW what they were capable of, and yet they DIDN'T. TELL. THE GOVERNMENT. This results in the initial counterattack against the aliens being utterly annihilated due to the shields and the US losing hundreds of pilots that could have been more useful if they actually had a way to beat them. The guy eventually tries to talk Whitmore out of attacking the aliens before the end battle, claiming it would be a mistake. Whitmore replies:

Whitmore: The only mistake I made was appointing a sniveling little weasel like you as my Secretary of Defense. Fortunately, that's a mistake I'm glad to say that I don't have to live with. Mr. Nimziki, you're fired.

  • Oh Crap:
    • It's hard to read expressions on an alien face but it's easy to imagine that's what it was thinking when it found itself staring at a countdown on a nuclear missile that just ticked to zero...
    • These are Harvey Fierstein's character's last words.
    • An amusing example occurs when Steven Hiller is reading the paper on his front lawn. He looks left and right, bewildered at all his neighbors apparently moving out at once. Then he looks straight ahead and sees the miles-wide spacecraft hovering over the city.
    • The Air Force flies out to engage one of the giant flying saucers, they fire their missiles at it, and... the missiles hit a Deflector Shield.
    • While performing an Alien Autopsy, the alien opens its eyes.
    • The president finally authorizes the use of nuclear weapons, a B-2 bomber launches a Tomahawk cruise missile at a giant flying saucer while it's over an evacuated city, the bomb explodes, the air clears, and... the flying saucer is undamaged.
    • They've finally brought down the flying saucer's shields, they're hammering away at it with missiles that just aren't taking big enough chunks out of it, and then, right when it's over their base... it opens its city-incinerating gun port. The background music at this moment plays the most Oh Crap-ified version of the alien motif in the movie.
  • Old School Dogfighting: Two dogfighting scenes: the first where the alien ships are invulnerable due to their shields, and the second at the end where they aren't.
  • Ominous Floating Spaceship: You'd better believe it.
  • One Bullet Left:

Russell: Sorry I'm late, Mister President!

Whitmore: Where does all this come from? How do you get funding for this?
Julius: You don't actually think they'd spend $20,000 on a hammer, $30,000 on a toilet seat, do you?

  • Plug N Play Technology: See above. How could we have known they would have a weakness to a computer |virus?
  • Power Armor: Bio-Mechanical in nature, and offers little protection from a punch to the face (which doesn't actually line up with the real head), but with several built-in weapons and decent protection from bullets.
  • Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner
    • Russel Casse, before he proceeds to shove his F/A-18 up the alien ship's ass and completely annihilate it in a glorious (and, for him, quite satisfying) Heroic Sacrifice.


    • The President moments prior: "All right, boys, let's give Mr. Casse some cover. GENTLEMEN! LET'S PLOW THE ROAD!"
    • Deep in the mothership and not expecting to get out, Hiller makes a V-sign to the alien in charge of the hangar, shouts "PEACE!" and fires the nuke. And just beforehand, David activates a special option in his virus causing all the alien display screens to show an animated laughing skull and crossbones, complete with demonic-sounding digital laughter.
    • After the captured alien launches a mental assault on Whitmore and shows him their plans, we get this:

Grey: Is that glass bulletproof?
Mitchell: No, sir.
(all observing military personnel pull out handguns and open fire)

  • Product Placement: The best-known example is Jeff Goldblum using a PowerBook 5300 (ironically considered even by die-hard Apple fanboys to be one of the worst Macs ever made) to hack into the alien ship.
  • Ramming Always Works: Well done, Mr. Casse. Rest in peace.
  • Random Smoking Scene: Will Smith's character and his comrade both take cigars along with them when they plan to defeat the aliens for once and for all. And they do smoke them after all the aliens are dead.
  • Red Sky, Take Warning
  • Right on the Tick: The aliens are going to attack at a precise, predetermined time.
  • Rock Beats Laser
  • Rousing Speech: "We will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish, without a fight. We're going to live on. We're going to survive. Today... we celebrate... our Independence Day!"
  • Rule of Cool
  • Rule of Perception: Steven and later Jasmine walk out onto their front lawn with a view over Los Angeles and don't notice the alien ship hovering silently over the city until the camera shows it.
  • Scenery Gorn: This film revels in the wholesale destruction of the populated centers of the world (Emmerich returned to make similarly spectacular carnage in The Day After Tomorrow and Twenty Twelve). Love of this trope must be the reason that a movie which features the destruction of the White House is shown on American television every year on the Fourth of July.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them: President Whitmore, finally fed up with Secretary of Defense Nimzicki tells him he's fired, to which Nimzicki grumbles "He can't do that," to which the President's assistant notes that he just did anyway. In fact, the President can fire any member of his cabinet at any time, no reason even needed. It's not even a screw the rules, as the rules say the President can. In fact, when Congress passed a law in 1867 (Tenure of Office Act) prohibiting the President from removing certain office-holders without the approval of the Senate, the Supreme Court later stated it would be unconstitutional to restrict the right of the President to fire them.
    • Even the TV Show The West Wing points out that Presidential appointees serve at the pleasure of the President, meaning he can fire them any time he wants.
  • Schizo-Tech: For the aliens. They have the space travel, laser beams, indestructible force-fields... but their computer security technology is so primitive a guy with a laptop can hack it; they didn't even think about the possibility of a security breach, even though they were interfacing with the Earth's satellite network. It wouldn't be the first time an alien race of invaders had some technological deficiency that lead to them being defeated (it goes all the way back to War of the Worlds) but this one is particularly egregious.
  • Scrap Heap Hero: Russel.
  • See the Whites of Their Eyes
  • Semper Fi: Marines have a strong presence in the films cast. Will Smith is a cigar chomping Marine Corps F-18 pilot. William Grey, the President's most trusted right hand man throughout the film, is a Marine Corps General.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The news report on Russell claims he got this as a result of being a fighter-pilot in Vietnam, but he claims it's from his abduction.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Jurassic Park; Jeff Goldblum's character says, "Must go faster. Must go faster. Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go!" in the same way as he does in one scene in Jurassic Park. Exactly the same way, in fact: the audio was cut directly from Jurassic Park and pasted into this movie.
    • There are also shout-outs and Easter Eggs to classic sci-fi shows and films dating all the way back to the 1940's.
    • The strategy to defeat the aliens mirrors the defeat of the aliens in The War of the Worlds, with a different interpretation of the word "virus".
      • 3001: The Final Odyssey (which came out the year after ID4; presumably Clarke had decided on or even penned the ending before ID4 came out) has the heroes dispatch the aliens with the exact same strategy. Arthur C. Clarke writes in the ending notes that he doesn't know "whether to congratulate them for their one stroke of originality or accuse them of retroactive plagiarism". (not exact quote)
    • David's Mac boots up with a picture of HAL-9000 and the greeting "Good Morning, Dave."
    • Hiller having the darn thing in reverse.
    • The hangar housing the alien craft has "R2" painted in large letters of the wall.
    • After punching the alien, Hiller says "Now, that's what I call a close encounter."
  • Single Mom Stripper: Jasmine. Slight subversion in that she doesn't mind doing it because it pays well.
  • Slow Doors: The exit to the mother ship.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Julius and David Levinson are shown playing chess together early on, with David winning easily. He spends much of the rest of the movie talking in Chess Motifs.
  • Some Kind of Force Field: When the first air-to-air missiles reveal a invisible barrier surrounding the big flying saucer, Hiller declares, "They must have some kind of protective shield over the hull!"
  • Someone Has to Die
  • Sorting Algorithm of Mortality: The characters who got killed were the stereotypically gay boss, the dumb stripper (a case of Too Dumb to Live), the First Lady who didn't get out in time (a sympathetic character to give the impression that Anyone Can Die), and the alcoholic father (seems like the alcoholic made a Heroic Sacrifice of redemption so...).
    • Ignoring Hiller's best friend, Doctor Okun, the various other pilots, and several million other people.
  • Soul Brotha
  • Sound to Screen Adaptation: Inverted with Independence Day UK, a BBC radio drama based on the movie, but set in the UK with original characters. The one stipulation Fox placed on the BBC was that the Brits couldn't substantially contribute to the Americans' victory. This leads to one character muttering, "I bet the Yanks are going to take all the credit!"
  • Stuff Blowing Up
  • Sucking-In Lines
  • Surveillance Station Slacker: The guy in S.E.T.I. playing Office Golf near the start.
  • Taking You with Me: Russel gets revenge for his abduction years back and shows humanity how to win the war.
  • Telepathy/Telepathic Spacemen: The alien's natural means of communication. It also seems to work across species in a limited manner: the captured alien is able to control Dr. Okun's body to speak for it, and can even attack President Whitmore telepathically. Supplemental material states that the aliens are designed to reflect their telepathic ability, having their huge heads shaped a bit like antennae.
  • Television Geography
  • Those Two Guys: David Levinson and Captain Hiller, neither are the most important person in any scene they are in, yet keep saving the day.
  • Throwaway Country
  • Title Drop: "Today we celebrate our Independence Day!" And to make it more awesome? Bill Pullman ad-libbed that line.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The people that were waiting to the aliens in the rooftop of a building in Los Angeles. Including Tiffany who promised Jasmine she wouldn't.
    • Also those "scientists" that were diagnosing the alien without any security nearby despite the fact that they knew the alien wanted to kill them.
    • While he doesn't show much stupidity anywhere else, David Levinson asking Major Mitchell to fire a bullet at the alien spaceship definitely qualifies. Has the man never heard of gun safety? The bullet ricochets dangerously around the room containing what's left of the American administration and the only scientists on Earth with knowledge of the aliens' technology. He's a scientist with either little or no knowledge of guns, and he probably assumed that the bullet would just flatten against the shields instead of ricocheting.
      • He's from Brooklyn. New York was the first city in America to ban handguns (the Sullivan Act of 1911). Unless he joined the military or the cops, or hung out with criminals, his experience with firearms would be zero point zero.
  • Too Fast to Stop: The alien dogfighters, inexplicably, towards the end of the movie, even though they are stated to be extremely maneuverable.
    • Being fair, there is a difference between 'maneuverable' and 'not subject to the laws of physics'. Many real-world aircraft are also ridiculously maneuverable but they're still subject to limitations on acceleration and inertia.
  • Tropes Are Not Bad: There's a reason this movie spawned the "Big Willy Weekend" tradition.
  • Universal Driver's License:
    • Hiller claims that he is one of the few fully aware of the alien fighter capabilities and that being a pilot he can figure out how it works. Parodied in that his first attempt in the cockpit ends with him going in reverse. Although admittedly the controls seem fairly intuitive, using dual joysticks. The movement directions being labled wrong by the scientists wasn't helpful.
    • Lampshaded earlier, when David asks him quietly if he really believes he can fly it.

Hiller: Do you really believe you can do all that bullshit you just said?

    • Becomes a bit of a Funny Aneurysm when you realize that was probably the missile that failed to fire, meaning he had to die instead of just firing it and going home to his kids.
  1. Which is actually a role that amateur radio fills in Real Life.