Independence Day

Independence Day

Of all the Hollywood-inspired alien invaders over the years, none were quite as bold and ruthless as those seeking to conquer the planet in the 1996 blockbuster Independence Day. Moviegoers lined up in droves to watch us defend our humble home from their destructive forces and, by proxy, ushered in a whole new era of disaster films.

Two days before America is to celebrate its independence, an enormous alien craft arrives. Unlike the typical visitors to our planet, this one isn’t filled with cuddly little critters looking for Reese’s Pieces. The ship immediately dispatches a number of smaller, but still very intimidating spacecrafts, which each take a strategic position over various major cities around the world.

All of mankind is stunned, but hopeful that their intentions are friendly. Meanwhile, an MIT-trained underachiever named David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) who just so happens to be working for a cable company, begins to notice something strange about some recent satellite transmissions and the news is not good. The signals are a coordinated countdown, once that is set to conclude on July 4th, Independence Day.

Most of the Earth is oblivious to the dangers, staging welcoming parties and such, but David and his dad Julius (Judd Hirsch) suspect the worst. They race to Washington to get his findings to the President – via David’s ex wife, who now works for the White House. Realizing the potential for impending catastrophe, the President orders the major cities evacuated. Unfortunately his warning comes a tad too late, as the alien ships proceed to annihilate their targets, creating mass destruction and widespread panic the world over.

The military is horribly outmatched, and a coordinated counterstrike proves futile, but one brave pilot named Capt. Steven Hiller (Wil Smith) scores a small victory by shooting down an alien craft during a dogfight over the desert. He captures the enemy pilot, then meets up with a group of refugees traveling in a motor home, the inhabitants of which include ex-pilot Russell Casse (Randy Quaid). Russell knows all about little green men, having once been abducted, and the group heads to where else the secretive and legendary Roswell base to deliver their captive.

Upon investigation, the scientists learn that the aliens won’t settle for anything less than utter annihilation. Despite our inferior firepower, however, the earth has one weapon that just might put an end to these invaders once and for all, a computer virus. The only problem is, they have to get aboard the alien mothership to unleash its destructive forces and save the world.

Released in theaters two days before the Fourth of July, Independence Day immediately began raking in the box office dollars, and in its opening weekend broke records by earning $50 million. All told, it would eventually earn over $800 million making it one of the most successful films of all time. Hollywood learned that the public’s affection for the disaster film was alive and well, leading to a marked resurgence of the genre.

But what the film really taught us is that, although we love to see mysterious lights in the sky and speculate that they might belong to a craft filled with friendly, chocolate-loving extraterrestrials, perhaps we should be careful what we wish for, at least until we develop some better weaponry.

If you count yourself as a fan of this film destined to become a classic, we hope you’ll share all of your Independence Day memories with us in our comments section below.

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