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 action-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 huge lost treasure of precious metals, jewelry, artwork, statues, and many other historic artifacts accumulated over time, becoming a massive stockpile. All of it was eventually hidden away by American Freemasons during the American Revolutionary War. A coded, unseen map, placed on the back of the Declaration of Independence points to the secret location of this "national treasure", but Gates is not alone in his quest: Whoever can steal the Declaration, find the map, and decode it first, will discover the greatest treasure ever accumulated in history.

National Treasure was released worldwide on November 19, 2004. The film grossed $347 million worldwide and received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the action scenes, entertainment value, and acting performances, but criticized the premise and screenplay. A sequel, titled National Treasure: Book of Secrets, was released in December 2007.


In 1974, John Adams Gates tells his grandson, Benjamin Franklin Gates, a story in which Charles Carroll of Carrollton passed on a secret to their ancestor, Thomas Gates, 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, Patrick, dismisses it as nonsense.

Thirty years later, Ben has grown to become a historian, cryptologist, and treasure hunter. He leads an expedition with his colleague Ian Howe, and Riley Poole, a computer expert, to find the Charlotte, a ship lost in the Arctic, which holds the first clue to finding the treasure. Inside the ship 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 splits 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, DC, and report the potential theft of the Declaration to Homeland Security, the FBI, and Dr. Abigail Chase of the National Archives, but all 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 steals the Declaration but is spotted by Ian's group just as they break in to steal it. Ben briefly hides in the gift shop but has to pay for the Declaration when the clerk mistakes it for a souvenir copy; with not enough cash, Ben pays with a credit card. Abigail, suspecting something is amiss, 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 the Declaration. FBI Agent Sadusky begins tracking Ben down, using Ben's credit card information.

Unable to return to Ben’s lab, the trio go to Patrick's house to look at the Silence Dogood letters written by Benjamin Franklin and owned by Patrick. Patrick again tries to convince Ben that the treasure is a myth, which Ben dismisses. The trio then study the back of the Declaration and, with the help of lemon juice and heat from a hair dryer, discover an Ottendorf cipher written in invisible ink. Ben realizes the cypher refers to the Silence Dogood letters, but Patrick tells them he has donated them to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

Arriving in Philadelphia, and paying a schoolboy to acquire the letters' key words, Ben, Riley, and Abigail interpret a clue pointing to the bell tower of Independence Hall, where the Liberty Bell once resided. Ian and his men intercept and question the schoolboy and decipher the clue. Ben uses the time on the clock depicted on the back of the $100 bill and locates the point on the exterior of the bell house cast by the steeple’s shadow, where he finds a hidden cache containing a pair of glasses with multiple colored lenses invented by Benjamin Franklin. He and Abigail use the glasses to inspect the back of the Declaration, revealing a clue referencing the location of Trinity Church in New York City.

The group is chased by Ian's associates. Ben is arrested by the FBI, and 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 on the flightdeck of the USS Intrepid, where they help Ben escape the FBI’s custody.

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 (along with Patrick, Abigail, and Riley), where they sit and study the back of the Declaration of Independence by using the different lenses, whose next clue leads the party to an underground passage behind and beneath a tomb in the basement. The passage appears to lead to a dead end, lit by a lone lantern. Patrick claims it is a reference to the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, pointing Ian to the Old North Church in Boston. Ian and his team leave Ben, Patrick, Abigail, and Riley trapped to die under the church, and head for Boston.

Patrick reveals that his clue was a fake, and the group discovers a small, hidden treasure room, but it appears looted. After a heart-to-heart between Ben and Patrick, Ben finds notches that the meerschaum pipe and stem fit into, and he opens a large chamber containing the treasure and a secondary exit tunnel. Ben meets with Sadusky and figures him to be a modern Freemason by the signet on his ring, and willingly gives him the Declaration and the treasure's location. In exchange, Ben eventually receives clemency and credit for discovery for him and his team. Ian and his men are later arrested in Boston when Ben tips off the FBI.

Later, Ben and Abigail have started a relationship. Riley is upset that Ben turned down the 10% finder's fee for the treasure to accept a smaller amount of 1%, which still has netted them all significant wealth. In his Ferrari, Riley drives away from Ben and Abigail's newly bought house. Abigail gives Ben a treasure map, and when Ben asks her where the map leads, Abigail suggestively 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]
  • Diane Kruger as Dr. Abigail Chase:
    An archivist at the National Archives who aids Benjamin Gates in treasure hunting.
  • Justin Bartha as Riley Poole:
    A sarcastic computer expert and friend of Benjamin Gates.
  • Jon Voight as Patrick Henry Gates:
    A former treasure hunter and the father of Benjamin Gates.
  • Harvey Keitel as Agent Peter Sadusky:
    An FBI Special Agent in charge of the theft of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Christopher Plummer as John Adams Gates:
    The father of Patrick Gates and the grandfather of Benjamin Gates.

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



By early 1999, it was revealed that Jon Turteltaub was developing National Treasure based upon an idea developed by Oren Aviv and Charles Segars in 1997, 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 are 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
Total length:38:45

Portrayal of Declaration of Independence[edit]

The film's suggestion that the original Declaration of Independence still has clearly visible ink is inaccurate. The document's ink would dry over time due to exposure to damaging lighting, with little ink still existing by 1876.[10][11]


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).[12][13] 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.[14][15][16][17] 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.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 46% based on 179 reviews, and an average rating of 5.30/10. 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."[18] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 39 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews."[19] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[20][21]

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."[22][dead link] Academic David Bordwell has expressed a liking for the film, placing it in the tradition of 1950s Disney children's adventure movies,[23] and using it as the basis for an essay on scene transitions in classical Hollywood cinema.[24]


Year 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 media[edit]

National Treasure was released on Disney DVD in May 2005. In keeping with the theme of the movie, the DVD contains a "Bonus Treasure Hunt": viewers who watch the Special Features on the disc are rewarded with puzzles and codes that unlock more features.

Collector's Edition DVD[edit]

To help promote Book of Secrets, a special collector's edition, two-disc DVD set of the movie was released on December 18, 2007. The set features a bonus disc containing additional deleted scenes and documentaries.[25]

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.[26]


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 would take its time on another National Treasure sequel.[27] 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."[28] In May 2016, Nicolas Cage confirmed the film was still in the writing process,[29] and in July 2018, Turtletaub reiterated that a script for a possible third film was "close," but Disney still was not completely sold by the idea.[30] In January 2020, it was announced that Chris Bremner, the writer of Bad Boys for Life, would write a new script for it.[31]

In May 2020, Jerry Bruckheimer had confirmed that, not only was there a third film in development with the original cast returning, but also that a Disney+ series was in the works with the series having the same premise as the original, but focusing on a much younger cast.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "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. ^
  11. ^ Ruane, Michael E. (October 21, 2016). "Was the Declaration of Independence 'defaced'? Experts say yes". Washington Post.
  12. ^ "Daily Box Office for Friday, November 19, 2004". Box Office Mojo. 2004.
  13. ^ Duong, Senh (November 20, 2004). "BOX OFFICE: Friday Estimates - 1. ?Treasure? $11M, 2. ?Square pants? $9.4M". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  14. ^ "November 19-21, 2004 Weekend". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  15. ^ Gray, Brandon (November 22, 2004). "'National Treasure,' 'SpongeBob' Clean Up". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  16. ^ "SpongeBob squeezed at box office". BBC. November 22, 2004. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  17. ^ Peterson, Todd (November 22, 2004). "Treasure Makes Bank at the Box Office". People. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  18. ^ "National Treasure". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  19. ^ "National Treasure". Metacritic. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  20. ^ Mark Hofmeyer (November 19, 2019). "5 Reasons National Treasure Is Still a Fan Favorite". Rotten Tomatoes.
  21. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  22. ^ Ebert, Roger. "National Treasure". Chicago Sun-Times.
  23. ^ Bordwell, David (January 5, 2008). "Your trash, my Treasure". Retrieved January 30, 2010.
  24. ^ Bordwell, David (January 2008). "The Hook: Scene Transitions in Classical Cinema". Retrieved January 30, 2010.
  25. ^ "Collectors Edition". Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  26. ^ "Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Announces the Disney Blu-Ray Title Wave Coming 2008". High-Def Digest. August 17, 2007. Retrieved September 27, 2007.
  27. ^ Kirkland, Bruce (May 30, 2008). "'National Treasure 3' in works". Jam!. CA: Canoe. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012.
  28. ^ Franklin, Garth (October 22, 2013). "A "National Treasure 3" Is On The Way?". Dark Horizons. Archived from the original on March 31, 2014. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  29. ^ "'National Treasure 3': Nic Cage Says the Writers Are Still Fact-Checking". May 25, 2016.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ Kit, Borys (January 17, 2020). "'Bad Boys 4' in the Works (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  32. ^ Mancuso, Vinnie (May 7, 2020). "Exclusive: 'National Treasure' Disney+ Series In Development". Collider. Retrieved May 7, 2020.

External links[edit]