Independence Day

Movie review by
Ken Feil, Common Sense Media
Independence Day Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Nonstop over-the-top fun for teens and up.
  • PG-13
  • 1996
  • 153 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 62 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It's clearly stated that the people of Earth, divided into nations, religions, etc., have the ability to put away their differences and unite for their common interests. In this case, all the leaders of the world come together to fight for the right of the planet to exist. Also promotes teamwork and self-sacrifice for the greater good.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes -- lots of ethnic, cultural, and age diversity. The government, the military, and individuals put their lives on the line to save the Earth. That said, with one exception (a brave mother saving her child and her dog), the female characters serve basically as emotional support for the male leads. And two very stereotypical Jewish men hover around the plot, mostly for comic relief.


Buildings, major landmarks, and citizens are destroyed by fireballs; cars careen through the air; airplanes explode; spacecraft, both large and small, wreak jet-ray havoc on the hapless Earth. Then, the aliens appear: tentacled, huge, slimy, and powerful. Scientists perform an autopsy on one that morphs into an even more grotesque creature. There are multiple aerial firefights, one-on-one serpent attacks, and an alien-speaking-through-a-human moment that's truly spooky.


A stripper passes some dancers onstage, then finds some strippers backstage in very little clothing. A man who claims to have been abducted by aliens is teased with comments like "Did they do any sexual things?" Unmarried couple shown in bed; teens talk about virginity.


Language includes "hell," "butt," "s--t and bulls--t," "ass," "son-of-a-bitch," "bastards," "goddamn, "schmuck," "Jesus," "Holy God," "booty."



Coors, Arrowhead water, Minute Maid, Wells Fargo bank, IMB, Reebok, HBO, and heavy on the Coca-Cola.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character, a father of young kids, is a slurring, self-pitying drunk through most of the film, constantly swigging from a bottle. Cigars are passed out and smoked as a means of celebrating victory over the attackers, though one character does say, "Smoking is not healthy."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Independence Day is an action-packed science-fiction film filled with scenes of the fiery destruction of entire cities and the people who live in them, along with smaller scale personal fatalities and some pretty grisly aliens. The filmmakers take pains to introduce some very likeable characters, only to explode them soon afterward. This movie was the gold standard of sci-fi effects and air battles when it was released in 1996, and older kids and teens that have a firm understanding of the difference between fantasy and reality will enjoy the ride. There's some swearing (i.e. "hell," "schmuck," "ass," "s--t," "bastard," "goddamn"), and one scene takes place in a strip club with scanty costumes. A man who claims to have been abducted by aliens is teased with comments like "Did they do any sexual things?" There's an unmarried couple in bed; teens talk about virginity.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13-year-old Written byTsion May 30, 2009

Fun, But NOT for Kids...

INDEPENDENCE DAY is corny, unrealistic, and completely far-fetched. It's also fun and exciting, but not for kids. The film is very violent, and there are... Continue reading
Parent of a 13 and 15-year-old Written byjrenee56 May 23, 2009

Global Swarming gives new meaning to July 4th

It took many heroes to save the world in this movie, and some of them were unlikely heroes that ranged from the President of the United States to a delusional a... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old June 15, 2012


Will Smith stops aliens from destroying the world.
Probably the basis for MIB.
Kid, 11 years old February 16, 2011

fun movie for 8 and up

This movie is pretty hard to take seriously, which makes it actually pretty funny. There is a lot of bad language and one guy gets drunk. The special effects... Continue reading

What's the story?

INDEPENDENCE DAY follows the plotline of several previous Hollywood sci-fi disaster movies. The story features a wide variety of social types reacting to the arrival of aliens and the aliens' eventual attack on the planet Earth, which include: The President (Bill Pullman) and Press Secretary (Margaret Colin) in D.C.; the First Lady (Mary McDonnell) on a publicity junket; a marine pilot (Will Smith) and his stripper girlfriend (Vivica A. Fox) in Los Angeles; a cable technician (Jeff Goldblum), his father (Judd Hirsch) and boss (Harvey Fierstein) in New York City; and an alcoholic crop duster (Randy Quaid) and his family in rural California. After the initial spectacular deluge, in which the alien attackers lay waste to L.A. and New York City, a majority of this diverse crew collaborates to survive and eventually vanquish the invaders.

Is it any good?

This is the film that sky-rocketed Smith to blockbuster action-hero status; it's clever, intensely thrilling, and, if you can recognize the stock stereotypes and movie plots, very funny.

Independence Day harks back to the classic alien-invasion movies of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the disaster movies of the 1970s. These sources provide campy material for the film to quote from as well as advanced special-effects technology. References to The War of the Worlds (1953), The Day the Earth Stood Still, and imagery from Earthquake and The Towering Inferno provide chuckles to knowing audiences. Overblown performances by Smith, Brent Spiner (as an addled scientist from Area 54), Hirsch, and Fierstein will no doubt tease a few guffaws, as well.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stereotypes associated with action-disaster movies, as well as how race, class, and gender are represented in Independence Day.

  • How does the violence in this movie compare to what you've seen in other sci-fi/action movies? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How do the characters demonstrate teamwork? Why is that an important character strength?

  • Which characters are role models? Why? Did you notice any stereotypes in the movie?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

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