‘Independence Day’ Had the Lamest Title Until Bill Pullman’s Most Iconic Scene

Back in the late 1990s, disaster movies were all the rage. Yet, while movies like Twister turned a profit, few have become as beloved as Independence Day. The 1996 alien invasion movie was a phenomenon when it hit theaters. But it was almost released with a very different, far less engaging title.

Bill Pullman and Brent Spiner at the 'Independence Day: Resurgence' premiere
Bill Pullman and Brent Spiner at the ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ premiere | Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Bill Pullman delivers an iconic presidential speech in the movie

Independence Day features an undeniable star turn for Will Smith chief as well as plenty of destructive set pieces (most notably, the White House explosion). But ironically, it’s most memorable scene features neither any action nor Smith.

Rather, the moment that most fans remember the most is the rousing speech delivered by President Whitmore (Bill Pullman). As the military prepares to take on the alien forces, Whitmore inspires the troops and notes how the battle fittingly takes place on the Fourth of July.

The scene is so thrilling, in fact, that Donald Trump recently retweeted a fan-made video superimposing his own face over Pullman’s. The actor, for his part, reclaimed ownership of his performance. If not for this scene, Independence Day would have been called something completely different.

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‘Independence Day’ almost carried a bland disaster movie title

Pullman’s speech is the only instance in Independence Day where the film’s title is mentioned by name. And the power in that scene saved director Roland Emmerich’s movie from a much less interesting title. Pullman recently explained the story behind the movie’s title to CinemaBlend.

[That scene] got moved into the schedule early because Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich were in contention right then with Fox about the title. I think it was gonna be Doomsday. It’s what Fox wanted, and it was a title that was typical of the time [for a] disaster movie. They really wanted Independence Day, so we had to make the speech really good. And then they cut it together, and … I went “Holy Mother, they have got to name this movie Independence Day.” And they did.

Considering how integral the movie’s title is, it’s hard to imagine Independence Day being called anything else. For instance, would the movie have been as successful if it had been called Doomsday? After all, even the movie’s sequel couldn’t connect with audiences. All things considered, it’s probably for the best Independence Day went with its chosen title. It both fits the story and lends Emmerich’s movie a distinctive symbolic quality.

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Instead, ‘Doomsday’ was the title of a 2008 ‘Mad Max’-esque action film

A little more than a decade later, another major action movie would take the title Doomsday. The 2008 sci-fi film stars Rhona Mitra and centers on a team attempting to thwart the end of humanity. Directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent), the movie draws clear inspiration from directors John Carpenter and George Miller, especially the latter’s Mad Max franchise.

It’s a testament to just how nondescript Doomsday is as a title that it could be so easily applied to such a different film. After all, so many sci-fi, action, or thrillers put the fate of the human race at stake. More to the point, its title likely didn’t do any favors for Doomsday either. The movie earned just $11 million at the domestic box office.