Roland Emmerich’s 1996 alien invasion movie Independence Day (aka ID4) basically served as the prototype for the modern-day sci-fi popcorn flick — and it took out most of the world’s biggest monuments to do it.


The main draw behind ID4 was the impressive array of visual and special effects on display. Jurassic Park had demonstrated a couple of years earlier what was possible with photo-realistic CGI, Emmerich took advantage of that development, but preserves a heavy in-camera miniature element.

Many of the buildings and cities erupting in spectacular explosions are scale models and pyrotechnics, and they still are as breathtaking as they were back in the day. The White House’s destruction even became an indelible cultural image, thanks to the saturation of the moment in the film’s marketing. The visual effects earned an Academy Award in 1997.

Though dozens and dozens of films have destroyed New York and London in the years since. Independence Day was one of the first films to show off this world-destroying havoc on the big screen. It was a perfect storm of filmmaking and the evolution of effects work in science fiction.