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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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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?
Which characters are role models? Why? Did you notice any stereotypes in the movie?
- In theaters: July 2, 1996
- On DVD or streaming: May 11, 2004
- Cast: Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Will Smith
- Director: Roland Emmerich
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Space and Aliens
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 153 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sci-fi destruction and violence
- Last updated: December 1, 2020
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