This came out in July of 1996. I'm fairly sure I didn't see it in a theater, though I can't recall if I saw it later that year or not. I must have seen it sometime in the 90s, anyway. Probably. Whatever, um... I watched it for the second time in 2013, on the Fourth of July (well, I started on the Fourth; it was the fifth by the time I finished it). I suppose I should talk about the movie sort of ushering in a new era of blockbusters, or of its popularizing blowing up the White House in movies, or of its making sci-fi movies more mainstream than ever before (I mean, excepting movies based in already popular franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars). Of course, I could be wrong about all that; my memory isn't very good. But I think it did some of that stuff. I also need to mention that the movie's title was abbreviated "ID4," which pretty much everyone in the world agreed was really weird. But it was a fun movie with a great cast. Oh, and I guess I should say the movie barely qualifies as science fiction; really it's more of an action movie, but I'll call it sci-fi because it's got aliens.
So... on July 2, this incredibly huge spaceship shows up near the Moon. SETI receives a signal, so the government starts getting interested in what exactly is going on. This includes President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman) and a Marine general named William Grey (Robert Loggia) and White House communications director Constance Spano (Margaret Colin) and of course plenty of other people. Meanwhile, satellite signals are being disrupted to some degree, which leads a brilliant scientist named David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), who for some reason works for a cable company in New York, to uncover a signal embedded in the satellite signal, which is coming from the ship, and he figures out that it's a countdown. A bunch of city-sized ships break off from the mothership and position themselves over various cities around the world. In the U.S., this includes Washington, New York, and Los Angeles. David figures out that when the countdown is over, the ships will fire on those cities. So he goes to Washington to warn President Whitmore, along with his father, Julius (Judd Hirsch). This is made possible by the fact that Constance is David's ex-wife. Also there's a pilot in the Marines, Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith), who has to report for duty even though he was supposed to be on leave for the upcoming holiday. He's been staying in L.A. with his girlfriend, Jasmine, and her young son. Also, I guess the President's wife, Marilyn (Mary McDonnell), was in L.A. for publicity reasons. She now has to evacuate from the city, just like everyone else (including Jasmine and her son and their dog). Actually, most people in all three cities are evacuating, though some people choose to stay because they think the alien ships showing up is cool, or whatever. Whitmore originally planned to stay in the White House, as like a symbol to the American people to avoid panic, but after the warning from Levinson, he and everyone else evacuated. (Including his young daughter, played by Mae Whitman.) Also there's... somewhere or other... an alcoholic crop duster named Russell Casse, who believes that he was abducted by aliens ten years ago. So now he's a laughing stock. And he has some kids, though I think maybe just the youngest, Troy, is actually his; the older kids are actually his stepchildren, but their mother isn't around anymore. The eldest of them is named Miguel, and he fairly reasonably has no respect for Russell, at first. The middle child was a cute girl whose name I didn't catch. But honestly, none of them are really that important. Anyway, sometime on the evening of the second, the countdown reaches zero, and the ships all around the world start destroying cities.
On July 3, an attack is launched against the L.A. ship; it seems Hiller is the only pilot to survive, and he manages to take down an alien fighter aircraft. He meets up with a convoy of people evacuating from wherever, including Russell and his family. And they transport an alien to a facility Hiller had seen while flying his mission. Meanwhile, Julius thinks Area 51 exists, which of course the President denies, but it turns out it does exist, so they go there. And meet Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner), the kinda nutty head of the facility. And of course, it turns out to be the facility Hiller had seen. And um... Jasmine and her son find an abandoned truck, and she drives a bunch of people out of L.A. And along the way they find Marilyn Whitmore, who has been badly injured. And eventually Hiller reunites with Jasmine. And um... other stuff happens, I guess. On July 4, Levinson comes up with a plan to defeat the aliens. Which requires the help of Captain Hiller. And people all over the world. Including Russell.
And I feel like I've said way too much about the plot. But I also feel like it was necessary. Hopefully I've left some stuff out, and I won't say how it all ends. Of course there were things that seemed... improbable. But I already said the movie was fun, and so it was. There was a fair bit of humor, and plenty of drama and badassery and whatnot. And of course the women were easy on the eyes. And um, you know... there's just always something exciting and uplifting about seeing people overcome seemingly impossible odds. And stuff.