Three-dozen alien saucers descend from space and take up positions over cities around the globe.
US President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman), a former jet pilot in Operation Desert Storm, initially advises calm, but new intelligence suggests the alien ships have initiated a countdown and are preparing a coordinated attack.
Sure enough, the alien ships destroy Los Angeles, Washington DC, New York and other major populated cities.
President Whitmore escapes the attack on the Oval Office and promptly orders a retaliatory strike. Top Gun pilot and would-be astronaut Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) shoots down a smaller alien ship during a dogfight and captures one of the aliens for study.
Nuclear weapons prove ineffective against the aliens, and with humanity on the edge of extinction, President Whitmore visits the secret military base at Area 51 and learns that scientists there have been experimenting with an alien spacecraft for fifty years.
Scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) believes he can take the captured alien ship from Area 51 to the Alien mother ship and upload a computer virus there, bringing down alien shields long enough for human fighter jets to attack and destroy the ships.
Steven volunteers to fly the risky mission and the President himself leads a coordinated global aerial attack against the alien invaders.
Technologically naive aliens invaders, it has to be said. Even at the risk of it slowing down their plans for universal domination by making their systems clunkingly slow they still should have had Norton or McAfee installed on their computers!
Oh, by the way, the climactic 30-second countdown to the bomb’s detonation took one minute, 33 seconds of screen time.
Captain Steven Hiller
President Thomas J. Whitmore
General William Grey
Dr Brakish Okun
Vivica A. Fox
Captain Jimmy Wilder
Harry Connick Jr