Independence Day classic movie review: Does it still hold up?

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Techaeris Rated 9.7/10

It’s hard to believe that Independence Day is 25 years old. It feels like yesterday that I first saw it. The movie dropped back in 1996 around the same time as Mission: Impossible, Twister, Scream, Broken Arrow, Ransom, and From Dusk Till Dawn. There were a lot of outstanding movies in the late ’90s, and Independence Day was undoubtedly right at the top.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Last year I decided to do a classic movie review of Robocop and find out if it still held up today. It does. Now we pose the same question about Independence Day, does it still hold up? Let’s analyze that together in our classic movie review.

Independence Day (1996)

Cast

  • Will Smith: as Captain Steven Hiller
  • Bill Pullman: as President Thomas J. Whitmore
  • Jeff Goldblum: as David Levinson
  • Mary McDonnell: as First Lady Marilyn Whitmore
  • Judd Hirsch: as Julius Levinson
  • Robert Loggia: as General William Grey
  • Randy Quaid: as Russell Casse
  • Margaret Colin: as Constance Spano
  • Vivica A. Fox: as Jasmine Dubrow
  • James Rebhorn: as Albert Nimzicki
  • Harvey Fierstein: as Marty Gilbert
  • Adam Baldwin: as Major Mitchell
  • Brent Spiner: as Dr. Brackish Okun
  • James Duval: as Miguel Casse
  • Bill Smitrovich: as Lt. Colonel Watson
  • Harry Connick Jr: as Marine Captain Jimmy Wilder
  • Mae Whitman: as Patricia Whitmore
  • Ross Bagley: as Dylan Dubrow
  • Lisa Jakub: as Alicia Casse
  • Giuseppe Andrews: as Troy Casse

TL;DR

Overall, I went in expecting Independence Day to hold up to today’s movies without a problem. Aside from a few CGI and green screen issues, there is no question that this movie still holds up today.

Independence Day 1996 1
Captain Steven Hiller and David Levinson question each other’s abilities before embarking into space.

The Story – A Brief Overview

The beauty of this movie is that the plot and story are straightforward. The writers didn’t waste time with sub-plots and backstories; they just got direct and to the point. July 2, 1996. A massive alien ship enters into earth’s orbit and sends down giant drone ships to take over earth’s resources and annihilate the human race. The young President of the United States, Thomas Whitmore, with help from a fighter pilot and cable repairman, leads a campaign to defeat the aliens and save the day.

I mean, that’s basically it.

So yes, Independence Day is no Gone With The Wind or even Amadeus when it comes to the story, but it never had to be. The binding factor in this story is the annihilation of the human race. President Thomas Whitmore’s speech on July 4 wraps the entire film’s essence up into a nice little package.

Good morning. In less than an hour aircrafts from here will join others from around the world and you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind.

Mankind, that word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the 4th of July and you will once again be fighting for our freedom not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution but from annihilation.

We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist, and should we win today the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday but as the day when the world declared in one voice,

“We will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish without a fight. We’re going to live on. We’re going to survive. Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”

President Thomas Whitmore (Independence Day)

That’s that. It’s simple. Let’s put aside the things that separate us and join together for the right to live. It’s something we should probably consider doing these days as well.

President Thomas Whitmore Independence Day 1996
Bill Pullman as President Whitmore was excellent.

The Actors

Speaking of President Whitmore, Bill Pullman’s performance in Independence Day is, to me, the standout of the movie. I know many people, myself included, who thought Bill Pullman was going to be horrible as POTUS. I mean, this is the same guy who played Lonestar in Spaceballs, but he brought dignity and honor to the role and was the perfect choice for it.

Jeff Goldblum, who I’m not fond of, also was perfect for his role as David Levinson. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Jeff is a good guy, but he tends to play himself in all of his roles. It just so happens that David Levinson was the perfect Jeff Goldblum part. Judd Hirsch as Julius Levinson was also the ideal choice to play off Goldblum; the characters were well written and acted.

Will Smith plays the lead “hero” in Independence Day and he knocks it out of the park. I don’t know if there could have been any other person to play Captain Steven Hiller. Smith’s humor and wit serve him well in this role, and it’s a role that helped launch more leading roles for him.

Randy Quaid’s character was a good addition to the lineup, although I felt that some of his lines reminded me too much of his Cousin Eddie character from Christmas Vacation.

There are a lot of great actors in this movie, including Adam Baldwin, who I think doesn’t get enough credit for his vast number of films, and Brent Spiner. Spiner was just perfect in Independence Day as Dr. Brackish Okun. He played the eccentric doctor bit well, and his dry humor and facial expressions were spot on for the role.

Overall, the entire cast was excellent in this film. There wasn’t a bad pick in the whole bunch. Even the Casse kids were great in this movie. My two standout performances, though, are Bill Pullman and Adam Baldwin. Not because I think they were better than Will Smith or anyone else. But because I expected the least from them and I was thoroughly surprised and pleased at what they delivered.

Verdict: Does It Still Hold Up?

Oh yes. Yes, it does hold up 100%. There were a few minor CGI and green screen fails but not anything major. The biggest flaw was when Boomer (the dog) jumped over the cars into the door in the tunnel, which really needed to be reshot. But other than that, special effects in this movie hold up strong.

Independence Day is solidified as one of the greatest films ever made. It may not win any of those fancy snooty awards, but it’s not the fancy people that matter anyway; it’s us “plebs” that make the world turn, and this movie still kicks butt.

Last Updated on February 22, 2022.

Independence Day

Prices Vary

Overall Score

9.7/10

Nailed it

  • Bill Pullman had the stand out performance of this movie
  • Will Smith was excellent in the leading role
  • The special effects still hold up
  • Jeff Goldblum was perfect in his typical Jeff Goldblum role
  • The story is simple and straightforward
  • The action is non-stop
  • Cinematography and film grading still hold up very well

Needs work

  • Some of Randy Quaid's lines felt a little too Cousin Eddie
  • There were a few CGI or Green Screen issues but not many
Independence Day Movie Review
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