July 2nd, they arrive.
July 3rd, they attack.
On January 28, 1996, there America sat, stuffed with pizza and beer, happily watching the Cowboys play the Steelers in the Super Bowl, when -- HOLY SH*T! A GIANT SPACESHIP JUST BLEW UP THE WHITE HOUSE!
The 'Independence Day' trailer is probably the most influential of the last 15 years, and for good reason. Clocking in at a brief 30 seconds, everyone who watched it didn't soon forget what they saw. These days, with trailers appearing well over a year before the film itself is released, it seems odd to point out that waiting from late January to early July -- a mere five months -- felt like an absolute eternity. On top of that, we knew next to nothing about it. The commercial gave us practically no information -- it didn't tell us who was in it, nor the director, not even a release date. Just a tantalizing "Coming this summer ..." (Check out the ad here.)
When 'ID4,' as it came to be called, finally did arrive in theaters on July 3 (or July 2, if you were lucky enough to live near certain canny theaters), it became an instant box office smash and a cultural touchstone. It launched the a film career of a somewhat obscure TV actor / sometime-rapper named Will Smith and made its director/producer team of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin the kings of Hollywood.
In honor of this alien-invasion classic's 15th birthday (Has it been that long? Sigh ...), we at Moviefone thought it'd be fun to reminisce on when we went to see it that summer. After you read our recollections, be sure to let us know your story too.
Hit the jump to revisit a dog who barely escapes certain fiery death, a movie screen set ablaze seemingly by the magic of movies, and one of the all-time most inspirational movie speeches.
"I was 9 years old when I saw 'Independence Day' in a jam-packed theater on July 5 because the only way my dad was getting us a ticket for opening night was if he found one in a Wonka Bar. I remember the crowd going NUTS when Vivica A. Fox's dog barely escaped getting roasted in that tunnel. I remember closing my eyes till it hurt when the alien killed all the doctors in the operating room. And I remember feeling really bad for the poor stripper on top of that building who got lasered right in the freakin' face. Even a day late, it was a most excellent experience of the highest order. I still wonder why Bill Pullman hasn't run for president." -- Aiden Redmond
"I saw 'Independence Day' in theaters with my rabbi's kids when I was around 8 years old. I hadn't been seeing movies in theaters for that long, so it was still a big treat for me. No one believes me when I say this, but right when the aliens blew up the White House, the screen actually caught on fire in the theater. None of us moved at first because we thought it was just awesome special effects. Eventually an usher came in and cleared the theater, and we all got our money back. It took me years to understand that the movie hadn't set the screen on fire." -- Gabrielle Dunn
"I insisted on seeing the movie on the biggest screen in town: a 40-foot behemoth at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C. When the alien ship hovered over the White House, I knew I'd made the right decision. As the beam of light came bursting through 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., my jaw dropped -- at 11 years old, I'd never seen anything like it, and I felt slightly ashamed when I thought to myself, Blow it up again! That was cool! I also remember my entire family (mom, dad, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins) going to see it as a group. Something about aliens exploding national monuments really brings people together." -- Alex Suskind
"I was 13 at the time of 'Independence Day''s release -- the exact formative age when you and your peers could recognize pop culture hype and let it whip you into an even crazier frenzy. Between the commercials, magazine covers and fast-food tie-ins, it was readily apparent that this wasn't about simply seeing a movie -- this was about being part of a phenomenon. And you knew that when you returned to school in the fall, the very first topic out of people's mouths would be 'Independence Day.' This was the movie everyone wanted to see, and with each glowing audience review, I went more insane with the anticipation of finally seeing the blockbuster spectacle on a big screen. Then came the Saturday afternoon when my parents treated me to a matinee screening of a movie of my choice ... and I opted to see 'Jack' instead. The hype of 'ID4' may have been memorable, but I was always a sucker for Robin Williams. (I was also kind of an idiot.) I ended up renting 'ID4' when it came out on VHS that winter. Yeah, it was pretty good." -- Eric Larnick
"I was in high school when 'Independence Day' came out, so I had no money, but I was an expert at sneaking into a second movie after the first. Two for the price of one! Surely it was that level of devious criminal mastermindery that attracted my girlfriend to me, as I was somehow able to convince her that a great date for us was to go see 'ID4' and 'The Rock' back-to-back. We saw 'ID4' first and she and I both loved it, even though we both were curious why the only thing Will Smith found strange about piloting a super-advanced alien spacecraft was that the controls on the steering wheel -- which is a thing that these telepathic aliens from many light years away still needed to fly their ship -- operated in reverse to how a Buick's does. (Good thing those aliens were missing mouths instead of hands!) It's always bothered me that, rather than the steering-wheel thing, everyone complains that Jeff Goldblum destroys the aliens by uploading a computer virus from his Mac. If that's your problem with 'ID4,' then clearly you've never owned an iPhone. Also, my girlfriend and I both hated 'The Rock,' which seemed utterly implausible after 'Independence Day.'" -- Chris Chaberski