American president Bill Pullman, boffin Jeff Goldblum and fighter pilot Will Smith battle to save the day when nasty extraterrestrials pitch up, leaving grim calling cards in Europe before moving onto America. Director Roland Emmerich pushes the detonator on the biggest blockbuster of the 90s, uniting the people of Earth whilst gleefully levelling their greatest landmarks in a blitzkrieg of gung-ho action and Oscar-winning special effects.
Back in the mid-90s, few people realised quite what the world of Computer Generated Imagery was capable of.
Sure, Cameron's Terminator, rising from the ashes of a lorry crash in shiny liquid metal was a hint, and Spielberg's resurrection of the dinosaurs was a clue, but when Roland Emmerich got a budget, he blew up everything he could think of, and no disaster movie was ever the same again.
With Independence Day, Emmerich took a well-worn plot, threw in a bunch of classic science fiction references (and rip-offs) and then blew them all up in a fireball larger than Hollywood had ever seen before.
It all starts with the - rather stunning - arrival of a fleet of gigantic alien ships. Bursting through the Earth's atmosphere, the intruders stop and hover directly above a selection of Earth's greatest landmarks.
The world comes to a standstill as the human race figures out what it all means, but only one man has figured it out - Jeff Goldblum's exposition-spouting scientist - and his efforts to spread the word are a little too late.
That's when it happens - the CGI goes into overdrive, and for the first of many times, we get to see what the end of the world as we know it looks like, as depicted by the brain of Roland Emmerich.
Along with Goldblum, Will Smith's plucky fighter pilot and Randy Quaid's former alien test subject are the guides through the caranage, coming together under Bill Pullman's President who himself jumps behind the controls of an F-16 to fight the aliens head on.
Smith's lines are regularly met by cheering audiences, while the alien autopsy scene STILL has the power to shock. Emmerich himself would admit it's ridiculous stuff, but when it's exectuted so well it's hard to argue against it.