Director: Roland Emmerich
Stars: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum
Plot: The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy Earth. Fighting superior technology, mankind's best weapon is the will to survive.
According to producer/co-writer Dean Devlin, the U.S. military had agreed to support the film by allowing the crew to film at military bases, consulting the actors who have military roles, etc. However, after learning of the Area 51 references in the script, they withdrew their support.
The scene in which Will Smith drags the unconscious alien across the desert was filmed on the salt flats near Great Salt Lake in Utah. Smith's line, "And what the hell is that *smell*?" was unscripted. Great Salt Lake is home to tiny crustaceans called brine shrimp. When they die, the bodies sink to the bottom of the lake (which isn't very deep) and decompose. When the wind kicks up just right, the bottom mud is disturbed and the smell of millions of decaying brine shrimp can be very very bad. Apparently, nobody warned Will.
Director Roland Emmerich was notified one day that Robert Loggia who played General Grey was very upset and refusing to leave his trailer. Several days earlier, producer Dean Devlin accidentally suggested to Loggia that he watch Airplane! (1980) for inspiration when he actually intended to suggest Airport (1970). Not familiar with either film, Loggia rented Airplane! and after watching it thought that he had unknowingly been participating in the production of a "spoof" movie.
Production designer Patrick Tatopoulos presented director Roland Emmerich with two concepts for the aliens. Emmerich liked both designs so much, he came up with the idea to use one design as the actual alien and the other to be a bio-mechanical suit the aliens could wear. Both of Tatopoulos's concepts appear in the film.
In the briefing room scene at Area 51 behind Hiller and Grey there is a night vision pan of the base. What you are seeing are actual shots of the real Area 51 taken by a conspiracy theorist from a place called "Freedom Ridge". The ridge was commandeered by the U.S. government in the late 90s and is no longer accessible to the public.
Bill Pullman used the memory of a decayed tooth which was pulled from his mouth in order to come up with a terrified expression when speaking with the alien invaders.
Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin got the idea for the film while fielding a question about the existence of alien life during promotion for Stargate (1994). A reporter asked Emmerich why he made a film with content like that if he did not believe in aliens. Emmerich stated he was still fascinated by the idea of an alien arrival, and further explained his response by asking the reporter to imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning and discover fifteen mile-wide spaceships were hovering over the world's largest cities. Emmerich then turned to Devlin and said, "I think I have an idea for our next film."
During the aliens' initial attack, the shots of cars landing on other cars was achieved by using cranes that released actual hollowed-out cars onto cars loaded with explosives.
Most of the cast and crew, including Will Smith, were unpleasantly surprised to suffer severe sunburn on their legs during the filming in Utah of the Grand Canyon duel/crash scenes. Cast and crew wearing long pants still managed to get sunburns on their legs; the white salty surface reflected the sunlight up their pant legs.
Jada Pinkett Smith turned down the role of Jasmine Dubrow because of scheduling conflicts with The Nutty Professor (1996). She would later marry Will Smith.
To give the aliens a slimy appearance, K-Y Jelly was used. It had to be applied to the alien prop several times during outdoor scenes because the intense heat in the Utah desert caused the jelly to evaporate in just a few minutes.
Fox first wanted to open the film on Memorial Day and change the name to 'Doomsday' to avoid the fierce competition on July 4th.
Just prior to the "atmospheric phenomenon" appearing above northern Iraq, the nomads seen standing still in the background are mannequins.
The climactic 30 second countdown to the bomb's detonation took one minute, 33 seconds of screen time.
Holds the record for most miniature model work to appear in one film. Model shop supervisor Michael Joyce estimated that more miniatures were used for this film than in any other two films combined. Due to the advances in digital technology since this film's release, most experts believe this record may stand forever.
The destruction of The White House had to happen in one take. The crew built a giant miniature and placed minor explosives around it. The White House model covered 10 feet (3.0 m) by 5 feet (1.5 m)
Originally Russell Casse (Randy Quaid) flew his crop duster in the final battle, because the military had rejected him as a pilot. He appeared with a missile attached to the crop duster, then flew the crop duster into the alien ship. But when it was screened to test audiences, they felt it was too comedic, so they re-filmed the scene.
Roland Emmerich admitted that during the movie's premiere at the White House, he gave his seat next to President Bill Clinton to Bill Pullman, fearing Clinton's reaction to the on-screen destruction of the White House.
The scene where Major Mitchell approaches a wounded alien and shoots him in the head at point blank range was not in the script and added at the last minute. This was done after one of the few complaints test audiences had was that the aliens weren't suffering enough.
The plot device by which the aliens were defeated is lifted from the original storyline of H.G. Wells's novel War Of The Worlds. In WOTW they were beaten by bacteria and viruses; in this film they were beaten because of a computer virus.