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 Roland Emmerich
Mark Gordon
Written by Roland Emmerich
Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Starring Dennis Quaid
Jake Gyllenhaal
Ian Holm
Emmy Rossum
Sela Ward
Music by Harald Kloser
Cinematography Ueli Steiger
Edited by David Brenner
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • May 24, 2004 (2004-05-24) (New York City premiere)
  • May 26, 2004 (2004-05-26) (United States)
Running time
124 minutes

United States

Language English
Budget $125 million
Box office $544,272,402[1]

The Day After Tomorrow is a 2004 American climate fiction-disaster film co-written, directed, and produced by Roland Emmerich and starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum, and Sela Ward. The film depicts fictional catastrophic climatic effects in a series of extreme weather events that usher in global cooling and leads to a new ice age. The film was made in Toronto and Montreal and is the highest-grossing Hollywood film to be made in Canada (if adjusted for inflation).

Originally planned for release in the summer of 2003, The Day After Tomorrow premiered in Mexico City on May 17, 2004 and was released worldwide from May 26 to May 28 except in South Korea and Japan, where it was released June 4–5, respectively.


In Antarctica, paleoclimatologist Jack Hall and his partners Frank and Jason are drilling for ice-core samples on the Larsen Ice Shelf for the NOAA when the ice breaks apart.

Later, Jack presents his findings on global warming at a United Nations conference in New Delhi, but fails to convince diplomats or Vice President of the United States Raymond Becker. However, Professor Terry Rapson of the Hedland Climate Research Centre in Scotland believes in Jack's theories. Several buoys in the North Atlantic simultaneously show a massive drop in the ocean temperature, and Rapson concludes that melting polar ice has started to disrupt the North Atlantic current. He contacts Jack, whose paleoclimatological weather model shows how climate changes caused the first Ice Age. His team, along with NASA's meteorologist Janet Tokada, builds a forecast model.

Across the world, violent weather causes mass destruction. U.S. President Blake authorizes the FAA to suspend all air traffic due to severe turbulence after learning numerous tornadoes destroyed downtown Los Angeles. At the International Space Station (ISS), three astronauts see a huge storm system expanding through the northern hemisphere, delaying their return home. The situation worsens when the storm system develops into three massive hurricane-like superstorms with eyes holding −150 °F (−101 °C) temperatures that freezes anything it comes in contact with. The three cells are located over Northern Canada, Siberia, and Scotland.

The weather becomes increasingly violent, causing traffic-jammed Manhattan streets to become flooded knee-deep. Jack's son Sam, visiting New York City as he is participating in an academic decathlon, calls his father promising to be on the next train home, but flooding closes the subways and Grand Central Terminal. As the storm worsens, a massive wave hits Manhattan. Sam and his friends seek shelter with a large group of people in the New York Public Library, but not before his friend and love interest Laura gets injured.

President Blake orders the evacuation of the southern states of the United States, causing almost all of the refugees to head to Mexico. Jack and his team set out for Manhattan to find his son. Their truck crashes into a block of ice, just past Philadelphia so the group continues on snowshoes.

Inside the library, Sam advises everyone of his father's instruction to stay indoors. Most of the people, thinking of Sam's warnings as nonsense, refuse to adhere to his father's instructions and leave the library, leaving only Sam, Laura, and few others behind. They burn books to stay alive and break into a vending machine for food. While journeying to New York, Frank falls through the glass roof of a snow-covered shopping mall. As Jason and Jack try to pull him up, the glass under them continues cracking and Frank sacrifices himself by cutting the rope. Laura appears to have a cold, so Sam comforts her, confessing his feelings for her, and they share a kiss. In Mexico, an urgent message reaches the refugee camp where most of the United States is taking refuge. Vice President Becker hears the urgent message from the Secretary of State that President Blake's motorcade was caught in the superstorm before it could make it to Mexico causing Vice President Becker to be sworn in as the new President.

The next morning, the group determine that Laura has blood poisoning from the cut on her leg, so Sam and two others search for penicillin in a derelict Russian cargo-ship that drifted inland. The eye of the superstorm passes over the city and the three barely return to the library with the medicine in time. During the deep freeze, Jack and Jason (who fell unconscious) take shelter in an abandoned Wendy's restaurant as Jack turns on the burners at the highest temperature.

Upon reaching Manhattan, Jack and Jason discover the library buried in snow, but find Sam's group alive. New York has turned into a polar, subarctic city, completely frozen by reaching −98 °F (−72 °C). They radio this to the government-in-exile in Mexico and President Becker orders helicopters flown into New York, finding more survivors. President Becker orders search-and-rescue teams to look for other survivors as he gives his first address to the nation. The movie concludes with the astronauts looking down at Earth from the Space Station, showing most of the northern hemisphere covered in ice and snow, with one of the astronauts stating "Look at that....Have you ever seen the air so clear?"



The film was inspired by The Coming Global Superstorm, a book co-authored by Coast to Coast AM talk radio host Art Bell and Whitley Strieber.[2] Strieber also wrote the film's novelization. The book "The Sixth Winter" written by Douglas Orgill and John Gribbin and published in 1979, follows a similar theme. So does the novel Ice!, by Arnold Federbush, published in 1978.

Shortly before and during the release of the film, members of environmental and political advocacy groups distributed pamphlets to moviegoers describing what they believed to be the possible effects of global warming. Although the film depicts some 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 these events happening much more rapidly and severely than is considered scientifically plausible, and the theory that a "superstorm" will create rapid worldwide climate change does not appear in the scientific literature. When the film was playing in theaters, much criticism was directed at U.S. politicians concerning their rejection of the Kyoto Protocol and climate change. The film's scientific adviser was Dr. Michael Molitor, a leading climate change consultant who worked as a negotiator on the Kyoto Protocol.


Box office[edit]

Over its four-day Memorial Day opening, the film grossed $85,807,341; however, it still ranked #2 for the weekend, behind Shrek 2's $95,578,365 four-day tally. However, The Day After Tomorrow led the per-theater average chart with a four-day average of $25,053, compared to Shrek 2 '​s four-day average of $22,633. At the end of its box office run, the film grossed $186,740,799 domestically and $544,272,402 worldwide.[1]

The film did well at the box office, grossing $544,272,402 internationally. It is the sixth-highest grossing film not to be #1 in the United States (behind My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Alvin and the Chipmunks and its sequel, Sherlock Holmes, and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs). However worldwide, it is third behind only Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Casino Royale.

Critical reaction[edit]

The Day After Tomorrow generated mixed reviews from both the science and entertainment communities. The online entertainment guide Rotten Tomatoes rated the film at 45%, with an average rating of 5.3/10. The site's general consensus states that it was "A ludicrous popcorn flick filled with clunky dialogues, but spectacular visuals save it from being a total disaster."[3] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, praised the film's special effects, giving the film three stars out of four. Environmental activist and The Guardian columnist George Monbiot called The Day After Tomorrow "a great movie and lousy science."[4]

In a USA Today editorial by Patrick J. Michaels, who until 2007 was a Research Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia and who rejects the scientific evidence for global warming, Michaels called the film "propaganda," noting, "As a scientist, I bristle when lies dressed up as 'science' are used to influence political discourse."[5] In a Space Daily editorial by Joseph Gutheinz, a college instructor and retired NASA Office of Inspector General, Senior Special Agent, Gutheinz called the film "a cheap thrill ride, which many weak-minded people will jump on and stay on for the rest of their lives."[6]

Paleoclimatologist William Hyde of Duke University was asked on Usenet whether he would be seeing the film; he responded that he would not unless someone were to offer him $100.[7] Other readers of the newsgroup took this as a challenge, and (despite Hyde's protests) raised the necessary funds. Hyde's review criticized the film's portrayal of weather phenomena that stopped at national borders, and finished by saying that it was "to climate science as Frankenstein is to heart transplant surgery", as quoted in New Scientist.

However, Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, expert for thermohaline ocean circulation and its effects on climate, was impressed how the script writer Jeffrey Nachmanoff was well informed about the science and politics of global climate change after the talk with him at the preview of the film in Berlin. He stated: "Clearly this is a disaster movie and not a scientific documentary, 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. After all - our knowledge of the climate system is still rather limited, and we will probably see some surprises as our experiment with the atmosphere unfolds. 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 ‘super-storm’ 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. I think it would be a mistake and not do the film justice if scientists simply dismiss it as nonsense. For what it is, a blockbuster movie that has to earn back 120 M$ production cost, it is probably as good as you can get. For this type of movie for a very broad audience it is actually quite subversive and manages to slip in many thought-provoking things. I'm sure people will not confuse the film with reality, they are not stupid - they will know it is a work of fiction. But I hope that it will stir their interest for the subject, and that they might take more notice when real climate change and climate policy will be discussed in future."[8]

In 2008, Yahoo! Movies listed The Day After Tomorrow as one of Top 10 Scientifically Inaccurate Movies.[9] The film was criticized for depicting several different meteorological phenomena occurring over the course of hours, instead of the possible time frame of several decades or centuries.[10]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Subject Nominee Result
Saturn Awards Best Science Fiction Film Nominated
Best Special Effects Karen E. Goulekas, Neil Corbould, Greg Strause and Remo Balcells Nominated
BAFTA Awards Best Visual Effects Won
VES Awards Nominated
Best Single Visual Effect Nominated
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 Film Nominated
Environmental Media Awards Best Film Won
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. Jaeger Nominated


There was some controversy regarding the casting of Kenneth Welsh as the Vice-President of the United States due to his striking physical resemblance to then Vice-President Dick Cheney. Roland Emmerich later confirmed that he deliberately chose Welsh for that very reason. Emmerich stated that the characters of the President and Vice-President in the film were intended to be a not-so-subtle criticism of the environmental policies of the presidency of George W. Bush. The White House did not respond to requests for comment on the film.[11]

In response to accusations of insensitivity by including scenes of New York City being devastated less than three years after the September 11 attacks, Emmerich claims that it was necessary to depict the event as a means to showcase the increased unity people now have when facing a disaster, because of 9/11.[12][13][14]

A number of scientists were critical of the scientific aspects of the film:

  • Daniel P. Schrag, a paleoclimatologist and professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University, expressed both support and concern about the film, stating that "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."
  • Marshall Shepherd, a research meteorologist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center expressed similar sentiments, stating that "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."

Home media[edit]

The Day After Tomorrow was first released on VHS and DVD in North America on October 12, 2004, in both widescreen and full screen versions. A 2-disc "collector's edition" containing production featurettes, two documentaries (a "behind-the-scenes" and another called "The Forces of Destiny"), storyboards and concept sketches was released on May 24, 2005.

The film was released in high-definition video on Blu-ray Disc in North America on October 2, 2007, and in the United Kingdom on April 28, 2008, in full 1080p with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio track but with few bonus features.

The film made $110 million in DVD sales, bringing its total film gross to $652,771,772.[15]

See also[edit]

Historical events
Books and literature


  1. ^ a b The Day After Tomorrow (2004). Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  2. ^ Emmerich, Roland; Gordon, Mark. The Day After Tomorrow Q&A with Roland Emmerich and Mark Gordon. (Interview). 
  3. ^ "The Day After Tomorrow". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  4. ^ Monbiot, George. (May 14, 2004). "A hard rain's a-gonna fall". Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  5. ^ Patrick J. Michaels. "'Day After Tomorrow': A lot of hot air". Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  6. ^ Richard Gutheinz Jr., Joseph (May 27, 2004). "There Will Be A Day After Tomorrow". Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  7. ^ "The Day After Tomorrow". Retrieved July 11, 2012.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Top 10 Scientifically Inaccurate Movies". Yahoo7 Movies (July 28, 2008). Retrieved March 11, 2015.
  10. ^ "Disaster Flick Exaggerates Speed of Ice Age". (May 13, 2004). Retrieved April 16, 2011
  11. ^ a b Bowles, Scott (May 26, 2004). "'The Day After Tomorrow' heats up a political debate". Retrieved January 12, 2009.
  12. ^ Gilchrist, Todd (May 2004). "The Day After Tomorrow: An Interview with Roland Emmerich". Retrieved March 16, 2009. 
  13. ^ Robert Epstein, Daniel. "Roland Emmerich of The Day After Tomorrow (20th Century Fox) Interview". Retrieved March 16, 2009. 
  14. ^ Chau, Thomas (May 27, 2004). "INTERVIEW: Director Roland Emmerich on "The Day After Tomorrow"". Cinema Confidential. Retrieved March 16, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Lee's Movie Info - DVD Sales Chart - 2004 Full Year". Lee' Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  16. ^ "Ice (1998)". IMDb. Retrieved July 11, 2012.

External links[edit]