Filmmaking School

8 Things We’ll Never Forget From Alien Invasion Blockbuster ‘Independence Day’

independence day
Epic adventure film
Independence Day was a very big deal when it was released in the summer of 1996, with an emphasis on big. The alien invasion film, a modern take on a classic War of the Worlds scenario, featured city-sized spaceships laying waste to famous American landmarks. One of the last mega-sized films before CGI began to dominate Hollywood special effects, the destructive use of exploding miniatures—including the White House and the Empire State Building—were perhaps the epitome of the art form. 

 

 


“Welcome to Earth” Will Smith

Rapper and Fresh Prince of Bel Air star Will Smith had a few film credits under his belt, including a lead role in Michael Bay’s Bad Boys, but it was Independence Day that made Smith a household name, putting him at the top of an A-List he still dominates to this day. His charismatic personality was perfected in the quippy, frenetic role as fighter pilot Captain Steven Hiller. The precise moment Smith became a superstar might have been when he greeted one of the invading aliens with a punch to the face and the line, “Welcome to Earth.”

“We will not vanish without a fight!”

Bill Pullman’s young President Whitmore decides to fly along with the last of his fighter pilots in a last-ditch attempt to defeat the aliens before all hope is lost, but not before giving a rousing impromptu speech as dawn breaks. That speech, simple and corny, has since become legend, played frequently by numerous media outlets every Fourth of July. Pullman has even been requested to recite the speech in full on multiple occasions.

The arrival of the ships

The design of the invading spaceships are brilliant—a colossal, ominous, 90s modern stainless steel take on the classic flying saucer UFO. When they first show up over the coastlines of several major cities, they arrive in miles of flame and smoke, violently shaking the ground underneath and resulting in millions of strained necks as innocent bystanders can do nothing but look up in fearful awe. What an entrance.

“Is this glass bulletproof?”

Midway through the film, the surviving heroes visit Area 51, where an escaped alien takes out a group of scientists and reveals the secret plan of his species behind a wall of laboratory glass. President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) hears enough and asks his military guard if the glass is bulletproof. Major Mitchell, played by Adam Baldwin, promptly replies “No, sir!” and opens fire on the creature in a hailstorm of bullets and broken glass.

Judd Hirsch

Oscar-nominated Judd Hirsch stole the show as comic relief in a film where nearly every single character provides comic relief. Only a few years off a multi-decade run as a sitcom star, Hirsch was old enough now to play the cranky father to Jeff Goldblum’s neurotic genius David Levinson. Hirsch’s character wasn’t just funny—he was smart, discovering the government’s secret base Area 51. “You don’t actually think they spend $20,000 on a hammer, $30,000 on a toilet seat, do you?” 

The canyon chase

After the massive destructive set pieces that saw Los Angeles, Washington DC, and New York City laid to waste, the United States strikes back with several fighter jets. The aliens surprisingly have smaller fighting ships themselves, defended by impenetrable shields. The pilots are quickly laid to waste, including Captain Hiller’s best friend played by Harry Connick, Jr. Hiller (Will Smith) is the last man flying, and leads one ship into the desert and a deep canyon where he’s able to out-maneuver and crash the alien ship in one of the most exciting chase sequences of the 1990s.


“Hello boys!”

In a film filled with memorable character actors, Oscar-nominated Randy Quaid (Vacation, Kingpin) makes his mark as a Vietnam vet traumatized by his previous abduction by aliens. In the end, he sacrifices his life to save his family and finally gets his revenge, but not before getting out not one but two quips before he goes. The first, and more crude of the two as he flies up the bottom of the ship to destroy it from the inside, is “Up yours!” (Remember this film came out right in the middle of the 90s.) The second, with a glorious grin on his face is: “Hello boys, I’m baaaaaaaaack.”

Jeff Goldblum

Oh yeah, and Jeff Goldblum stars in this movie right smack in the middle of transitioning from idiosyncratic and mysterious actor Jeff Goldblum to walking self-aware personality “Jeff Goldblum.” It’s glorious. He gives the aliens a cold. Need we say more?