The Day After Tomorrow

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The Day After Tomorrow
The Day After Tomorrow movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byRoland Emmerich
Based on The Coming Global Superstorm
by Art Bell and
Whitley Strieber
Music by Harald Kloser
Cinematography Ueli Steiger
Edited by David Brenner
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date
  • May 17, 2004 (2004-05-17)(Mexico City)
  • May 28, 2004 (2004-05-28)(United States)
Running time
123 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$125 million [1]
Box office$552.6 million [1]

The Day After Tomorrow is a 2004 American science fiction disaster film co-written, directed, and produced by Roland Emmerich and starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum, and Sela Ward. It is based on the book The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber. The film depicts catastrophic climatic effects following the disruption of the North Atlantic Ocean circulation in a series of extreme weather events that usher in global cooling and lead to a new ice age. [2]


Originally slated for release in the summer of 2003, The Day After Tomorrow premiered in Mexico City on May 17, 2004, and was released in the United States on May 28, 2004. A major commercial success, the film became the sixth highest-grossing film of 2004. Filmed in Toronto and Montreal, it is the highest-grossing Hollywood film made in Canada (adjusted for inflation). It received mixed reviews upon release, with critics highly praising the film's special effects but criticizing its writing and numerous scientific inaccuracies.


Jack Hall, an American paleoclimatologist, and his colleagues Frank and Jason, drill for ice-core samples in the Larsen Ice Shelf for the NOAA, when the shelf breaks apart. Jack warns of impending global warming at a UN conference in New Delhi, but US Vice President Raymond Becker dismisses his concerns. Professor Terry Rapson, an oceanographer of the Hedland Centre in Scotland befriends Jack over his views of an inevitable climate shift. When several buoys in the Atlantic Ocean show a severe ocean temperature drop, Rapson concludes Jack's theories are correct. Jack's and Rapson's teams, along with NASA meteorologist Janet Tokada, build a forecast model based on Jack's research.

A massive storm system develops in the northern hemisphere, splitting into three gigantic hurricane-like superstorms above Canada, Scotland, and Siberia. The storms pull frozen air from the upper troposphere into their center, flash-freezing anything caught in their eyes with temperatures below −150 degrees Fahrenheit (−101 degrees Celsius). Meanwhile, the weather worsens across the world; Tokyo is struck by a giant hail storm, sea levels in Nova Scotia rise 25 feet (7 meters) in seconds, the British Royal family are killed when freezing temperatures cause the helicopters transporting them to Balmoral to crash, and Los Angeles is devastated by a tornado outbreak. Following this, President Blake issues an executive order for the FAA to ground all air traffic across the country.

In New York City, Jack's son Sam, and his friends Brian Parks and Laura Chapman participate in an academic decathlon, where they meet new friend JD. New York is soon caught in the North American storm and the weather becomes progressively more violent; resulting in a massive tsunami-like storm surge flooding Manhattan. This forces Sam's group to seek shelter at the New York Public Library, but not before Laura accidentally cuts her leg. While cellphone communications are down, Sam is able to contact Jack and his mother Lucy, a physician, through a working payphone; Jack advises him to stay inside and promises to rescue him. Rapson and his team perish in the European storm, while Lucy remains in a hospital caring for bed-ridden children, where she and her patients are eventually rescued by the authorities.

Upon Jack's suggestion, Blake orders the southern states to be evacuated into Mexico, the northern half doomed to be hit by the superstorm but warned by the government to seek shelters and stay warm. With the storm having now reached Washington, Blake perishes after his motorcade is caught in it, making Becker the new President. Jack, Jason, and Frank make their way to New York against all odds. In Pennsylvania, Frank falls through the skylight of a mall, and sacrifices himself by cutting his rope to prevent his friends from falling in after him. In the library, most survivors decide to head south once the floodwater outside freezes in spite of Sam's warnings, and are later found dead from hypothermia by Jack and Jason; only a few survivors end up taking heed of Sam's advice and burn books to stay warm as the temperatures plunge.

Laura develops blood poisoning from her injury, whereupon Sam, Brian, and JD scour a Russian cargo vessel that had drifted into the city for penicillin, fending off a pack of wolves which escaped from Central Park Zoo. The eye of the North American storm arrives, freezing Manhattan solid, but Sam's group make it inside just in time. Likewise, Jack and Jason take shelter in an abandoned Wendy’s restaurant. The superstorms dissipate and Jack and Jason successfully reach the library, finding Sam's group alive.

Becker, in his first address as President from a refugee camp in Mexico, apologizes on television for his ignorance and vows to send helicopters to rescue survivors in the northern states. Jack and Sam's group are picked up in Manhattan, where many people have survived. On the International Space Station, astronauts look down in awe at Earth's transformed surface, now with ice caps extending across the northern hemisphere.



The Day After Tomorrow was inspired by Coast to Coast AM talk-radio host Art Bell and Whitley Strieber's book, The Coming Global Superstorm , [3] and Strieber wrote the film's novelization. Before and during the film's release, members of environmental and political advocacy groups distributed pamphlets to moviegoers describing the possible effects of global warming.[ citation needed ] Although the film depicts effects of global warming predicted by scientists (such as rising sea levels, more destructive storms, and disruption of ocean currents and weather patterns), it depicts their occurrence more rapidly and severely than what is considered scientifically plausible; the theory that a superstorm could create rapid worldwide climate change does not appear in the scientific literature.[ citation needed ]

To choose a studio, writer Michael Wimer created an auction. A copy of the script was sent to all major studios along with a term sheet. They had 24 hours to decide whether to produce the movie with Roland Emmerich directing. Fox Studios was the only studio to accept the terms. [4] Filming began on November 7, 2002 and took place predominantly in Toronto and Montreal.

Visual effects

The Day After Tomorrow features 416 visual effects shots, with nine effects houses, notably Industrial Light & Magic and Digital Domain, and over 1,000 artists working on the film for over a year. [5] Although a miniature set was initially considered according to the behind-the-scenes documentary, for the destruction of New York sequence effects artists instead utilized a 13 block-sized 3D model of Manhattan which was then textured with over 50,000 scanned photographs; [6] due to its overall complexity and a tight schedule, the storm surge scene required as many as three special effects vendors for certain shots. [7] Similar scanner-based techniques were used to create the opening Antarctic fly-through, with icebergs being sculpted from styrofoam and later scanned into computers; the opening sequence was deemed the longest all-CG opening scene in Hollywood, surpassing the space zoom-out from the 1997 film Contact .


The Day After Tomorrow
Film score by
ReleasedMay 18, 2004
Genre Soundtracks
Film scores
Label Varèse Sarabande
Harald Kloser soundtrack chronology
The Day After Tomorrow
Alien vs. Predator

The score soundtrack for the film was composed by Harald Kloser and released by Varèse Sarabande. [8]


Box office

The film ranked #2 at the box office (behind Shrek 2 ) over its four-day Memorial Day opening, grossing $85,807,341. It led the per-theater average, with a four-day average of $25,053 (compared to Shrek 2's four-day average of $22,633). At the end of its theatrical run, the film grossed $186,740,799 domestically and $544,272,402 worldwide. It was the second-highest opening-weekend film not to lead at the box office; Inside Out surpassed it in June 2015. [1]

Critical reaction

The Day After Tomorrow received mixed reviews from critics, who praised its visual effects and criticized its writing and scientific inaccuracy. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 44% of 219 critics reviewed the film positively, with an average rating of 5.29/10. According to the website, it is "A ludicrous popcorn flick filled with clunky dialogues, but spectacular visuals save it from being a total disaster." [9] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times described the film as "profoundly silly" but nonetheless said the film was effective and praised the special effects. He gave it three stars out of four. [10]


Saturn Awards Best Science Fiction Film Nominated
Best Special Effects Karen E. Goulekas, Neil Corbould, Greg Strause and Remo BalcellsNominated
BAFTA Awards Best Visual EffectsWon
VES Awards Outstanding Visual Effects in an Effects Driven Motion Picture Karen Goulekas, Mike Chambers, Greg Strause, Remo BalcellsNominated
Best Single Visual Effect Karen Goulekas, Mike Chambers, Chris Horvath, Matthew Butler Won
MTV Movie Awards Best Action Sequence "The destruction of Los Angeles"Won
Best Breakthrough Performance Emmy Rossum Nominated
Irish Film & Television Awards Best International Actor Jake Gyllenhaal Nominated
Golden Trailer Awards Best Action FilmNominated
Environmental Media Awards Best FilmWon
BMI Film Awards Best Music Harald Kloser Won
Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing – Effects & Foley Mark P. Stoeckinger, Larry Kemp, Glenn T. Morgan, Alan Rankin, Michael Kamper, Ann Scibelli, Randy Kelley, Harry Cohen, Bob Beher and Craig S. JaegerNominated

Political and scientific criticism

Emmerich did not deny that his casting of a weak president and the resemblance of vice-president Kenneth Welsh to Dick Cheney were intended to criticize the climate change policy of the George W. Bush administration. [11] Responding to claims of insensitivity in his inclusion of scenes of a devastated New York City less than three years after the September 11 attacks, Emmerich said that it was necessary to showcase the increased unity of people in the face of disaster because of the attacks. [12] [13] [14]

Some scientists criticized the film's scientific aspects. Paleoclimatologist and professor of earth and planetary science at Harvard University Daniel P. Schrag said, "On the one hand, I'm glad that there's a big-budget movie about something as critical as climate change. On the other, I'm concerned that people will see these over-the-top effects and think the whole thing is a joke ... We are indeed experimenting with the Earth in a way that hasn't been done for millions of years. But you're not going to see another ice age – at least not like that." [11] J. Marshall Shepherd, a research meteorologist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, expressed a similar sentiment: "I'm heartened that there's a movie addressing real climate issues. But as for the science of the movie, I'd give it a D minus or an F. And I'd be concerned if the movie was made to advance a political agenda." [11] According to University of Victoria climatologist Andrew Weaver, "It's The Towering Inferno of climate science movies, but I'm not losing any sleep over a new ice age, because it's impossible." [11]

Patrick J. Michaels, a largely oil-funded climate change denier [15] and former research professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia who rejects the scientific consensus [16] on global warming, called the film "propaganda" in a USA Today editorial: "As a scientist, I bristle when lies dressed up as 'science' are used to influence political discourse." [17] College instructor and retired NASA Office of Inspector General senior special agent Joseph Gutheinz called The Day After Tomorrow "a cheap thrill ride, which many weak-minded people will jump on and stay on for the rest of their lives" in a Space Daily editorial. [18]

When paleoclimatologist William Hyde of Duke University was asked on Usenet if he would see the film, he answered that he would not unless someone offered him $100. [19] Subscribers to the newsgroup took up the challenge and, despite Hyde's protests, raised the $100. [20] Hyde's review on Google Groups criticized the film's depiction of weather which stopped at national borders; it was "to climate science as Frankenstein is to heart transplant surgery". [21]

Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, an expert on thermohaline circulation and its effect on climate, said after a talk with scriptwriter Jeffrey Nachmanoff at the film's Berlin preview:

Clearly this is a disaster movie and not a scientific documentary, [and] the film makers have taken a lot of artistic license. But the film presents an opportunity to explain that some of the basic background is right: humans are indeed increasingly changing the climate and this is quite a dangerous experiment, including some risk of abrupt and unforeseen changes ... Luckily it is extremely unlikely that we will see major ocean circulation changes in the next couple of decades (I'd be just as surprised as Jack Hall if they did occur); at least most scientists think this will only become a more serious risk towards the end of the century. And the consequences would certainly not be as dramatic as the 'superstorm' depicted in the movie. Nevertheless, a major change in ocean circulation is a risk with serious and partly unpredictable consequences, which we should avoid. And even without events like ocean circulation changes, climate change is serious enough to demand decisive action. [22]

Environmental activist and Guardian columnist George Monbiot called The Day After Tomorrow "a great movie and lousy science". [23]

In 2008, Yahoo! Movies listed The Day After Tomorrow as one of its top-10 scientifically inaccurate films. [24] It was criticized for depicting meteorological phenomena as occurring over the course of hours, instead of decades or centuries. [25] A 2015 Washington Post article reported on a paper published in Scientific Reports which indicated that global temperatures could drop relatively rapidly (one degree Fahrenheit over an 11-year period) due to a temporary shutdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation caused by global warming. [26]

Home media

The film was released on VHS and DVD October 12, 2004 and was released in high-definition video on Blu-ray in North America on October 2, 2007 and in the United Kingdom on April 28, 2008, in 1080p with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio track and few bonus features. DVD sales were $110 million, bringing the film's gross to $652,771,772. [27]

See also

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