100 Greatest Scenes Number 21: “Welcome to Earth.”

Views from the Sofa’s 100 Greatest Scenes is a list of the 100 greatest moments in the movies. This could be long introductions, moments of action or great dialogue between characters. The scenes are in no particular order and come from many different types of movies.

There are at least two more iconic scenes in Independence Day which most others would choose but this is the one that wins it. The White House blowing-up and the excellent speech by the President which inspires the world are good but there is something about this scene which not just epitomises the movie but managed to launch a star’s career as well. It also has two great one-liners in a matter of minutes.

Greatest Scene Number 21: Independence Day – “Welcome to Earth.”

Up to this point Will Smith had been known for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, minor action movie role in Bad Boys and a handful of other movie, almost cameo appearances. He hadn’t really been on the large Hollywood scale but the character of Captain Steven Hiller would change that. This was a character who was brave, cool, in some respects vulnerable and added a great thread of humour through the whole film: all of which is demonstrated in this scene.

The scene that precedes this is an exciting one. It is the end of a fire-fight between the planes and the alien spaceships and it resulted in the death of Smith’s best friend (played by a quite charming Harry Connick Jr) and the pilot almost crashing his plane into a cliff-face just to lose the enemy on his tail. He does manage to though and what comes next is one of the better moments of the movie.

The anger after he lands begins the scene well

It begins the moment Smith lands, covered in his parachute. He conveys his relief, joy and anger all in one moment, bouncing on his heels, shouting at the alien ship and trying desperately to unhook himself from his chute. It’s that idea of the cocky but vulnerable that makes the audience like Smith as an actor so much, something he would play off for years to come.

What follows is the best moment of the scene and one of the highlights of the film. It is easy to forget but up to this point the audience hasn’t seen the alien yet. Independence Day doesn’t rely too much on the individual aliens as characters, focusing more on the wider threat from the ships, so you’d expect this moment to be quite a momentous one.

The tentacles are like something out of War of the Worlds

The design of the aliens doesn’t disappoint and the tentacles wriggling out of the ship when Smith opens the hatch almost conveys the descriptions of HG Well’s in War of the Worlds. When you see the alien, that is also a well-designed effect, both scary and intricate in equal measure. It emerges from the smoke with a guttural growl…

…and is easily dispatched by Will Smith with a single punch. It is a perfect moment in the movie, undercutting the tension of the scene and showing that these creatures are just as vulnerable as us. That Smith delivers the line “welcome to Earth” straight afterwards shows the fearlessness.

It is the first look at the alien and it is a great design

Not content with one killer line, the scene then ends with Smith, removing the casing from his cigar and looking as cool as anyone could look in a jumpsuit, proclaiming “now that’s what I call a close encounter.” It is also the moment Will Smith becomes a mega-star.

Overall, Will Smith’s first interaction with the alien is a perfect introduction to the creatures on-screen and the cool, cocky Hollywood star that the Fresh Prince would become. It is an example of how to summarise a character in one moment, and make an audience laugh with a great one-liner (or two).

And a star is born…

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