National Treasure (film)

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National Treasure
Movie national treasure.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJon Turteltaub
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
Music byTrevor Rabin
CinematographyCaleb Deschanel
Edited byWilliam Goldenberg
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
November 19, 2004 (2004-11-19)
Running time
131 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$100 million[1]
Box office$347.5 million[1]

National Treasure is a 2004 American adventure film released by Walt Disney Pictures. It was written by Jim Kouf and the Wibberleys, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Jon Turteltaub. It is the first film in the National Treasure film series and stars Nicolas Cage, Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger, Sean Bean, Justin Bartha and Christopher Plummer.

Cage plays Benjamin Franklin Gates, a historian and amateur cryptologist searching for a lost treasure of precious metals, jewelry, artwork and other artifacts that was accumulated into a single massive stockpile by looters and warriors over many millennia starting in Ancient Egypt, later rediscovered by warriors who form themselves into the Knights Templar to protect the treasure, eventually hidden by American Freemasons during the American Revolutionary War. A coded map on the back of the Declaration of Independence points to the location of the "national treasure," but Gates is not alone in his quest. Whoever can steal the Declaration and decode it first will find the greatest treasure in history.

National Treasure was released worldwide on November 19, 2004. The film received mixed reviews from critics, but was a box office success, grossing over $347 million worldwide.

A sequel, titled National Treasure: Book of Secrets, was released in December 2007.


Benjamin Franklin Gates is an American historian, cryptologist, and treasure hunter. As a child, his grandfather, John Adams Gates, told him of a story that Charles Carroll of Carrollton passed on a secret to their ancestor in 1832 of a fabled treasure taken from ancient empires throughout history that was discovered by the Knights Templar and later protected by the Freemasons. The treasure would eventually be hidden in America by the Founding Fathers. The clue leading to the treasure is the phrase "The secret lies with Charlotte". While Ben is convinced by the story, his skeptical father dismisses it as nonsense.

Thirty years later, Ben leads an expedition with Ian Howe, and his friend, Riley Poole, a computer expert, to find the Charlotte, a ship lost in the Arctic, which holds the first clue to finding the national treasure. After hard fought efforts, they find a meerschaum pipe, which has a clue in the form of a riddle, implying that the next clue is on the Declaration of Independence. When Ian suggests they steal it, Ben opposes, causing a fight to ensue, resulting in a massive fire fueled by gunpowder, and the group split in two. Ian and his men escape the ship while Ben and Riley take cover just before the ship explodes.

Ben and Riley return to Washington D.C. and report the potential theft of the Declaration to the FBI and Dr. Abigail Chase of the National Archives, but both dismiss their claim. Ben decides to steal the document himself from the Archives' preservation room during a gala event. Obtaining Abigail's fingerprints, Ben successfully obtains the Declaration, but is spotted by Ian's group just as they break in to steal it. Ben tries to leave via the gift shop, but has to buy the Declaration when the clerk mistakes it for a souvenir copy; having not enough cash in hand at the time, Ben pays for it with a credit card. Abigail, suspecting something is astray, pursues Ben and takes back the document. Ian kidnaps her, but Ben and Riley rescue Abigail, tricking Ian by leaving behind a souvenir copy of Declaration. FBI Agent Sadusky begins tracking Ben down, using Ben's credit card information.

Unable to return home, the trio go to Ben's father, Patrick Gates's house. Patrick tries to convince Ben that the treasure is a myth, but Ben dismisses this. The trio then study the Declaration and discover an Ottendorf cipher written in invisible ink. With the help of lemon juice and some heat from the hair dryer, they find out that the hidden cypher refers to the Silence Dogood letters written by Benjamin Franklin. Patrick formerly owned them, but donated them to the Franklin Institute. Using a school boy to acquire the letters' key words, Ben, Riley, and Abigail discover a message pointing to the bell tower of Independence Hall, where the Liberty Bell once stood. Unfortunately, Ian and his men question the school boy and pursue the new lead. Following the point on the opposite wall of the bell house where the shadow cast at exactly 2:22 pm on the same day, Ben finds a hidden cache containing a pair of glasses with multiple colored lenses invented by Benjamin Franklin, which, when used to read the back of the Declaration, reveals a clue pointing to the symbol of Trinity Church which is located on Wall Street and Broadway in New York City.

The group is chased by Ian's associates. Ben is arrested by the FBI, while Abigail and Riley lose the Declaration to Ian. However, Abigail convinces Ian to help them rescue Ben in exchange for the next clue. Ian agrees, arranging a meeting at the USS Intrepid, where they help Ben evade the FBI.

Ian returns the Declaration and asks for the next clue, but when Ben remains coy, Ian reveals he has kidnapped Patrick as a hostage. They go inside Trinity Church where they sit and study the back of the Declaration of Independence using the different lenses resulting in the discovery of an underground passage known as Parkington Lane but it appears to lead to a dead end lit by a lone lantern. Patrick claims it is referencing the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, pointing Ian to the Old North Church in Boston. Ian leaves Gates trapped in the chamber to die, heading for Boston. Patrick reveals the clue was a fake, then enters the treasure room using the clues they gathered on their journey, but it seems looted. After a heart to heart between Ben and Patrick, they find a notch which the meerschaum pipe fits into, opening a large chamber containing the treasure, then escape through a back exit. Ben contacts Sadusky, who Ben figures to be a modern Freemason by the signet on his ring, surrendering the Declaration and the treasure's location in exchange for clemency. Ian and his men are later arrested when Ben tips the FBI off.

Later, Ben and Abigail have started a relationship. Meanwhile, Riley is somewhat upset that Ben turned down the 10% finder's fee for the treasure but accepted a much smaller amount of only 1%, which still has netted them all significant wealth. As Riley drives away in a Ferrari from Ben and Abigail's newly bought house, Abigail gives Ben a treasure map. When Ben asks her what the map leads to, Abigail simply replies "You'll figure it out."


A caucasian man with short brown hair. He is looking towards the right and has a microphone in front of him.
A caucasian man with short dirty blonde hair. He is looking towards the left and is wearing a suit.
Nicolas Cage in 2011 (top) and Sean Bean in 2015
  • Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates:[2]
    An American treasure hunter and cryptologist.
  • Sean Bean as Ian Howe:
    An entrepreneur and treasure hunter who is a former friend of Benjamin Gates.[3]
  • Harvey Keitel as Agent Peter Sadusky:
    A FBI Special Agent in charge of the theft of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Jon Voight as Patrick Henry Gates:
    A former treasure hunter and the father of Benjamin Gates.
  • Justin Bartha as Riley Poole:
    A sarcastic computer expert and best friend of Benjamin Gates.
  • Diane Kruger as Dr. Abigail Chase:
    An archivist at the National Archives who aids Benjamin Gates in treasure hunting.
  • Christopher Plummer as John Adams Gates:
    The father of Patrick Gates and the grandfather of Benjamin Gates.
  • Hunter Gomez as young Benjamin Gates
  • Jack Koenig as young Charles Carroll

Additionally, David Dayan Fisher appears as Shaw, Stewart Finlay-McLennan as Powell, Oleg Taktarov as Victor Shippen, and Stephen Pope as Phil McGregor (all four being Ian's henchmen); Annie Parisse, Mark Pellegrino, Armando Riesco, and Erik King play agents Johnson, Dawes, Hendricks, and Colfax, respectively. Jason Earles portrays Thomas Gates.



Early 1999, it was revealed that Jon Turteltaub was developing National Treasure based upon an idea developed by Oren Aviv and Charles Segars two years earlier, with the script penned by Jim Kouf.[4] By 2001, the project was relocated to Touchstone Pictures.[5]

Film set for the underground chambers beneath Trinity Church

In May 2003, Nicolas Cage was cast as lead in the film.[6] New drafts were written by nine scribers, including Cormac and Marianne Wibberley,[6] E. Max Frye and Jon Turteltaub.[7] By October, Sean Bean was cast.[3]

Filming locations[edit]

National Treasure was filmed primarily in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Utah. Most scenes were filmed on location, with the exceptions of the Independence Hall scene, which was filmed at the replica of Independence Hall at Knott's Berry Farm, and the Arctic scene, which was filmed in Utah.[8]


National Treasure (Original Score)
Film score by
ReleasedNovember 16, 2004
GenreStage & screen
ProducerTrevor Rabin
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars[9]

All tracks written by Trevor Rabin.

1."National Treasure Suite"3:17
3."Finding Charlotte"1:04
4."Library of Congress"2:27
5."Preparation Montage"4:53
6."Arrival at National Archives"1:54
7."The Chase"4:22
8."Declaration of Independence"1:43
9."Foot Chase"3:34
10."Spectacle Discovery"3:18


Box office[edit]

National Treasure earned $11 million on its opening day in the United States, ahead of Paramount & Nickelodeon's The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (which earned $9,559,752).[10][11] It grossed a combined total of $35,142,554 during its opening weekend, on 4,300 screens at 3,243 theaters, averaging $11,648 per venue, again ahead of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.[12][13][14][15] The film had the best opening weekend for a Disney film released in November, until it was surpassed by Chicken Little in 2005. It held on to the No. 1 spot for three weekends. In Japan National Treasure bested out the double-billing MegaMan NT Warrior: Program of Light and Dark and Duel Masters: Curse of the Deathphoenix by grossing $11,666,763 in its first week. The film closed on June 2, 2005 with its domestic gross being $173,008,894 while earning $174,503,424 internationally. Worldwide, National Treasure grossed over $347,512,318, against a budget of $100 million.

Critical reception[edit]

National Treasure received mixed reviews from critics, some of whom lauded it as a fun, straightforward family adventure, while others ridiculed its numerous implausibilities and unbelievable plot twists. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 44%, based on 169 reviews, with an average rating of 5.3/10. The site's consensus reads, "National Treasure is no treasure, but it's a fun ride for those who can forgive its highly improbable plot."[16] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 39 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews."[17] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[18]

Roger Ebert gave the film 2/4 stars, calling it "so silly that the Monty Python version could use the same screenplay, line for line."[19] Academic David Bordwell has expressed a liking for the film, placing it in the tradition of 1950s Disney children's adventure movies,[20] and using it as the basis for an essay on scene transitions in classical Hollywood cinema.[21]


Year Association Award Category Notes Result
2005 BMI Film & TV Awards BMI Film Music Award BMI Film Music Award for Trevor Rabin Won
2005 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA Saturn Award for Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film Nominated
2005 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress Diane Kruger Nominated
2005 Teen Choice Awards Movie: Action/Adventure Nominated
2005 Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Motion Picture Matthew Gratzner, Forest Fischer, Scott Beverly,
and Leigh-Alexandra Jacob, for the treasure room
2005 World Stunt Awards Taurus Award for Best Overall Stunt by a Stunt Woman Lisa Hoyle Nominated
2005 Young Artist Awards Best Family Feature Film: Drama Nominated
2005 Young Artist Awards Best Performance in a Feature Film, Supporting Young Actor Hunter Gomez Nominated

Home video releases[edit]

Collector's Edition DVD[edit]

A special collector's edition, two-disc DVD set of the movie was released on December 18, 2007. The set features deleted scenes and bonus content.[22]

Blu-ray Disc[edit]

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released Blu-ray Disc versions of National Treasure and its sequel, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, on May 20, 2008.[23]


Although the DVD commentary stated that there were no plans for a sequel, the film's box office gross of an unexpected $347.5 million worldwide warranted a second film, which was given the green light in 2005. National Treasure: Book of Secrets was released on December 21, 2007.

In 2008, director Jon Turteltaub said that the filmmaking team will take its time on another National Treasure sequel.[24] In October 2013, Turteltaub confirmed that the studio, himself, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the actors all want to do the third film, saying: "We want to do the movie, Disney wants to do the movie. We're just having the damnedest time writing it. I'll bet that within two years, we'll be shooting that movie. I'd say we're about half-way there."[25] In May 2016, Nicolas Cage confirmed the film was still in the writing process,[26] and in July 2018, Turtletaub reiterated that a script for a possible third film was "close" but Disney still wasn't completely sold by the idea.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Box office statistics for National Treasure (2004), Box Office Mojo, retrieved April 10, 2007.
  2. ^ Vitale, Simona. "Il mistero dei Templari - National Treasure, trama e cast del primo film con Nicolas Cage". Mondo Fox (in Italian). Fox Networks Group. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Feiwell, Jill; Harris, Dana (October 13, 2003). "Sean Bean". Variety. Archived from the original on October 5, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  4. ^ Cox, Dan; Carver, Benedict (February 22, 1999). "'Treasure' found". Variety. Archived from the original on October 5, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  5. ^ Fleming, Michael (July 31, 2001). "Helmer digs for 'Treasure'". Variety. Archived from the original on October 5, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Fleming, Michael (May 27, 2003). "Cage unearths 'Treasure'". Variety. Archived from the original on October 5, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  7. ^ The Wibberley's (April 9, 2003). "National Treasure Draft" (PDF). Patriot Resource. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 5, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  8. ^ "Locations for National Treasure". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  9. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Trevor Rabin, National Treasure (Original Score)". Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  10. ^ "Daily Box Office for Friday, November 19, 2004". Box Office Mojo. 2004.
  11. ^ Duong, Senh (November 20, 2004). "BOX OFFICE: Friday Estimates - 1. ?Treasure? $11M, 2. ?Square pants? $9.4M". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  12. ^ "November 19-21, 2004 Weekend". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  13. ^ Gray, Brandon (November 22, 2004). "'National Treasure,' 'SpongeBob' Clean Up". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  14. ^ "SpongeBob squeezed at box office". BBC. November 22, 2004. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  15. ^ Peterson, Todd (November 22, 2004). "Treasure Makes Bank at the Box Office". People. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  16. ^ "National Treasure". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  17. ^ "National Treasure". Metacritic. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  18. ^ "CinemaScore".
  19. ^ Ebert, Roger. "National Treasure". Chicago Sun-Times.
  20. ^ Bordwell, David (January 5, 2008). "Your trash, my Treasure". Retrieved January 30, 2010.
  21. ^ Bordwell, David (January 2008). "The Hook: Scene Transitions in Classical Cinema". Retrieved January 30, 2010.
  22. ^ "Collectors Edition". Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  23. ^ "Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Announces the Disney Blu-Ray Title Wave Coming 2008". High-Def Digest. August 17, 2007. Retrieved September 27, 2007.
  24. ^ Kirkland, Bruce (May 30, 2008). "'National Treasure 3' in works". Jam!. CA: Canoe. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012.
  25. ^ Franklin, Garth (October 22, 2013). "A "National Treasure 3" Is On The Way?". Dark Horizons.
  26. ^ "'National Treasure 3': Nic Cage Says the Writers Are Still Fact-Checking". May 25, 2016.
  27. ^ Alyssa Fikse (July 30, 2018). "The Director Of 'National Treasure' Explains Why We Haven't Gotten A Third Movie Yet". Uproxx. Retrieved July 30, 2018.

External links[edit]