Action movies had destroyed national landmarks before — think, most famously, of the conclusion to 1968’s Planet of the Apes. Yet when the original Independence Day debuted its first commercial during the Super Bowl on Jan. 28, 1996, it was a whole new era of Hollywood carnage. Watch it below:
It looked like your typical alien-invasion movie — right up until the moment the White House gets blown to kingdom come.
More than anything else — more than its importance to Will Smith’s career, more than its excellent grasp of computer science — ID4 remains most influential for its wanton detonation of famous buildings and structures. Such devastation helped entice viewers in massive numbers — at the time of its release, its final $306.1 million tally was the second-largest haul in domestic box-office history. Moreover, it initiated two decades’ worth of monument destruction, which will continue again this Friday courtesy of its long-awaited follow-up, Independence Day: Resurgence. Here’s a rundown of its explosive legacy.
When the film premiered on July 2, 1996, it delivered a smorgasbord of monument wreckage beyond just the White House, including the ends of Big Ben, Capitol Records, the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Manhattan Bridge, St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the U.S. Bank Tower, and the U.S. Capitol Building. In the process, it turned director Roland Emmerich into cinema’s preeminent purveyor of catastrophe.
The lesson Hollywood took away from ID4 was simple: blow up stuff people recognize. Two years later, Mimi Leder’s Deep Impact would ruin large swatches of America (including the Statue of Liberty) courtesy of an unstoppable meteor and resulted tsunami. And that same summer, Michael Bay indulged in his own asteroid-obliteration impulses, targeting NYC’s Grand Central Station and Chrysler Building in particular with Armageddon. Watch the trailer:
Emmerich would revert to city-smashing form with 1998’s Godzilla, in which NYC takes a beating courtesy of Japan’s famous radioactive monster. And proving that he was anything but finished with large-scale mayhem, the director would make civilization suffer even more in 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow, with tornadoes and tidal waves prefacing a new ice age that puts the planet — including the Statue of Liberty again — in a deep freeze. Watch below:
Moviegoers would soon be battered with likeminded imagery. Evil mutant Magneto opted to relocate San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge at the conclusion of 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, and Lady Liberty would again suffer an ignominious fate in 2008’s Cloverfield, which saw a Godzilla-like creature decapitate her. In 2009′s Knowing, the end of the world is ushered in by giant cascading solar-flare fire that unfurls through Times Square, among other places, much to star Nicolas Cage’s chagrin.
Meanwhile, serial monument offender Emmerich went global for 2012, in which the apocalypse strikes everywhere from the Vegas Strip and the Sistine Chapel to the Taj Mahal and — most hilariously — all of Los Angeles. Watch below:
Though the Eiffel Tower was decimated in 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, its 2013 sequel Retaliation went even further, taking out both Big Ben and the London Eye. And apparently figuring the third time was the charm, Emmerich - following on the heels of 2013′s exceedingly similar Olympus Has Fallen — laid waste to the American commander-in-chief’s home once more in 2013’s White House Down.
Both 2012’s The Avengers and 2013’s Man of Steel brought superhero-cinema urban ruin to new heights (lows?). And after rampaging through Manhattan via Emmerich in 1998, Godzilla returned to American shores to demolish the Golden Gate Bridge in 2014’s reboot. Even The Rock couldn’t stop a titanic earthquake from razing significant portions of the West Coast in San Andreas.
Now Resurgence is set to resume what its 20-year-old predecessor started, complete with deadly UFOs so large, they seem to cover entire oceans. Although no matter its landmark-annihilating action-movie excess, it’ll have a tough time topping the absurd majesty of its monument-destroying subgenre’s finest member: Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s genre parody Team America: World Police. Watch below: