The Day After Tomorrow

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The Day After Tomorrow
Film poster of a snow-covered New York City skyline
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoland Emmerich
Screenplay by
Story byRoland Emmerich
Based onThe Coming Global Superstorm
by Art Bell and
Whitley Strieber
Produced by
CinematographyUeli Steiger
Edited byDavid Brenner
Music byHarald Kloser
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • 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 directed, co-produced, and co-written by Roland Emmerich. Based on the 1999 book The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber, the film stars Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sela Ward, Emmy Rossum, and Ian Holm. It depicts catastrophic climatic effects following the disruption of the North Atlantic Ocean circulation. A series of extreme weather events 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 ice shelf suddenly splits away. At a UN conference in New Delhi, Jack discusses his research showing that climate change could cause an ice age, 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. Jack tries to get Becker to consider evacuations in the Northern States, but Becker again refuses.

A massive tropical depression develops in the northern hemisphere. This splits into three gigantic hurricane-like superstorms above Canada, Scotland, and Siberia, that siphons 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). It is confirmed by Jack that the force of the storm is so strong and the effects are estimated to be so severe that the entire Northern Hemisphere would be in a new ice age once it ends. The weather worsens across the world: Tokyo is struck by a giant hail storm, Los Angeles is devastated by a tornado outbreak, and three helicopters sent to rescue the British Royal family from Balmoral Castle crash in Scotland after their fuel lines and crew freeze when they fly into their superstorm's eye.

In New York City, Jack's son Sam, along with his friends Brian Parks and Laura Chapman, participate in an academic decathlon, where they meet a new friend, J.D. The North American superstorm creates a massive tsunami-like storm surge that quickly inundates Manhattan, forcing Sam's group to seek shelter at the New York Public Library, but not before Laura accidentally cuts her leg. While she tries to free herself, she hears a Québécois lady and her daughter trapped in a taxi and she turned back to help them. When the tsunami was about to approach the library, the Québécois girl forgets to take her purse from the cab which contains her passports. Laura goes to retrieve it for her. While cellphone communications are down, Sam is able to contact Jack and his mother Lucy, a physician, through a working payphone. Jack advises Sam to stay inside and warm, as the storm will only get worse, and promises to rescue him. Rapson and his team perish in the European storm. 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, President Blake orders the southern states to be evacuated into Mexico as the northern half is doomed to be hit by the superstorm, but are warned by the government to seek shelter and stay warm. The Mexicans close the border until Blake agrees to cancel all Central and Latin American debt to the USA. Jack, Jason, and Frank make their way to New York against all odds. In Pennsylvania, Frank falls through the skylight of a mall that had become covered in snow and sacrifices himself by cutting his rope to prevent his friends from falling in after him.

In the library, most survivors, as well as those from other structures, decide to head south once the floodwater outside freezes, in spite of Sam's warnings. Only a few survivors end up heeding Sam's advice to stay put and burn books to stay warm as the temperatures drop. Meanwhile, Becker is informed that Blake's motorcade got caught in the superstorm and neither of them that are involved made it to Mexico.

Laura later develops blood poisoning from her injury, whereupon Sam, Brian, and J.D. scour a Russian cargo vessel that had drifted earlier into the city for penicillin, fending off a pack of escaped wolves from the Central Park Zoo, narrowly escaping back to the library as the eye of the North American superstorm shortly passes over and completely freezes Manhattan. Likewise, Jack and Jason take shelter in an abandoned restaurant.

Days later, the superstorms dissipate. After finding many civilians, including those who left the library, frozen to death, Jack and Jason successfully reach the library, finding Sam's group alive. Jack then sends a radio message to US forces in Mexico.

In his first address as the new president from the US embassy in Mexico, Becker apologizes on The Weather Channel for his ignorance, admits his mistake and sends 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 sheets extending across the entire northern hemisphere, remarking that the "air never looked so clear".




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. To choose a studio, writer Michael Wimer created an auction, with a copy of the script being sent to all major studios along with a term sheet. They had a 24-hour window to decide whether to produce the movie with Roland Emmerich directing, and Fox Studios was the only studio to accept the terms.[4]


The Day After Tomorrow was filmed predominantly in Montreal[5] and Toronto,[6] with some footage also shot in New York City[7] and Chiyoda, Tokyo.[8] Filming ran from November 7, 2002, until October 18, 2003.[9]

Special effects[edit]

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.[10] Although a miniature set was initially considered according to the behind-the-scenes documentary, for the destruction of New York, effects artists instead utilized a 13-block-sized, LIDAR-scanned 3D model of Manhattan,[11] with over 50,000 scanned photographs used for building textures.[12] Due to its overall complexity and a tight schedule, the storm surge scene required as many as three special effects vendors for certain shots, with the digital water created by either Digital Domain or small effects house Tweak Films, depending on the shot.[13]

Similarly, the opening flyover of Antarctica was also computer-generated, created by digitally scanning miniature iceberg models created out of sculpted styrofoam; the falling pieces of ice as the shelf cracks were entirely hand-animated. Created by the effects company Hydraulx, the scene is to date likely the longest all-CG shot in film history, surpassing the space zoom-out from the opening of Contact (1997).[14]


The score soundtrack for the film was composed by Harald Kloser and released by Varèse Sarabande and Fox Music.[15]


Box office[edit]

The film came in second at the US box office behind Shrek 2 over its four-day Memorial Day opening and grossed $85,807,341.[16] 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 had 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 response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, 45% of 220 critics gave the film a positive review, with an average rating of 5.30/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "The Day After Tomorrow is a ludicrous popcorn thriller filled with clunky dialogue, but spectacular visuals save it from being a total disaster."[17] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 47 out of 100 based on 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[18] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade "B" on an A+ to F scale.[19]

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.[20]


Award Subject Nominee(s) 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 Outstanding Visual Effects in an Effects Driven Motion Picture Karen Goulekas, Mike Chambers, Greg Strause, Remo Balcells Nominated
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 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

Political and scientific criticism[edit]

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.[21] 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.[22][23][24]

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."[21] 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."[21] 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."[21]

Patrick J. Michaels, a former research professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia who rejected the scientific consensus[25] 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."[26] 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.[27]

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.[28]

Environmental activist and Guardian columnist George Monbiot called The Day After Tomorrow "a great movie and lousy science".[29]

In 2008, Yahoo! Movies listed The Day After Tomorrow as one of its top-10 scientifically inaccurate films.[30] It was criticized for depicting meteorological phenomena as occurring over the course of hours, instead of decades or centuries.[31] 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 change or 0.5 degrees Celsius change over an 11-year period) due to a temporary shutdown of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation caused by global warming.[32]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on VHS and DVD by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on 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.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "The Day After Tomorrow (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  2. ^ Gillis, Justin (March 22, 2016). "Scientists Warn of Perilous Climate Shift Within Decades, Not Centuries". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  3. ^ Emmerich, Roland; Gordon, Mark. "Day After Tomorrow Q&A with Roland Emmerich and Mark Gordon". Phase9 Entertainment. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
  4. ^ Russell, Jamie (April 19, 2012). "Why the Halo Movie Failed to Launch". WIRED. Conde Nast. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  5. ^ Rocha, Robert (October 19, 2019). "Here's what we learned from 20 years of film shoots in Montreal". Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  6. ^ Rocha, Robert (September 18, 2017). "Canadian Hot Spots You May Not Realise Were In Your Favourite Movies". Huffington Post. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  7. ^ "The Day After Tomorrow (2004)". Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  8. ^ "15 Famous Movies Filmed in Tokyo (Japan)". The February 18, 2018. Retrieved October 24, 2020.
  9. ^ "Ciekawostki - Pojutrze (2004)". Filmweb (in Polish). Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  10. ^ "Story Notes for The Day After Tomorrow". AMC. July 2014. Retrieved August 7, 2017.
  11. ^ Teague, Matthew. "Hollywood, Science and the End of the World a Three-Act Screenplay". Popular Science. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  12. ^ Dirks, Tim. "Visual and Special Effects Film Milestones". AMC filmsite. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  13. ^ Restuccio, Daniel (June 1, 2004). "THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW'S PHOTOREAL EFFECTS". Post Magazine. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  14. ^ Dirks, Tim. "Visual and Special Effects Film Milestones". AMC filmsite. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  15. ^ "The Day After Tomorrow (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". AllMusic. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  16. ^ C.S.Strowbridge (June 1, 2004). "Record Breaking Weekend for Day After, but still can't top Shrek 2". The Numbers. started the weekend in first place, but by the time Saturday rolled around it's mediocre word of mouth started to adversely affect it.
  17. ^ "The Day After Tomorrow". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 1, 2021.
  18. ^ "The Day After Tomorrow". Metacritic. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  19. ^ "DAY AFTER TOMORROW, THE (2004) B". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  20. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 28, 2004). "The Day After Tomorrow Movie Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 7, 2017 – via
  21. ^ a b c d Bowles, Scott (May 26, 2004). "'The Day After Tomorrow' heats up a political debate Storm of opinion rains down on merits of disaster movie". USA Today. Retrieved January 12, 2009.
  22. ^ Gilchrist, Todd (May 2004). "The Day After Tomorrow: An Interview with Roland Emmerich". Retrieved March 16, 2009.
  23. ^ Robert Epstein, Daniel. "Roland Emmerich of The Day After Tomorrow (20th Century Fox) Interview". Archived from the original on June 13, 2004. Retrieved March 16, 2009.
  24. ^ Chau, Thomas (May 27, 2004). "INTERVIEW: Director Roland Emmerich on "The Day After Tomorrow"". Cinema Confidential. Archived from the original on June 6, 2004. Retrieved March 16, 2009.
  25. ^ "Scientific consensus: Earth's climate is warming". Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  26. ^ Michaels, Patrick J. (May 25, 2014). "'Day After Tomorrow': A lot of hot air". USA Today. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  27. ^ Richard Gutheniz, Joseph Jr. (May 27, 2004). "There Will Be A Day After Tomorrow". Space Daily. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  28. ^ Rahmstorf, Stefan. "The Day After Tomorrow—Some comments on the movie". Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Archived from the original on October 11, 2004. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  29. ^ Monbiot, George (May 14, 2004). "A hard rain's a-gonna fall". The Guardian. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  30. ^ "Top 10: Scientifically Inaccurate Movies". Yahoo7 Movies. Wayback Machine. July 28, 2008. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved August 7, 2017.
  31. ^ "Disaster Flick Exaggerates Speed Of Ice Age". Science Daily. May 13, 2004. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  32. ^ Wang, Yanan (October 12, 2015). "Model suggests possibility of a 'Little Ice Age'". Washington Post. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  33. ^ "DVD Sales Chart – 2004 Full Year". Lee's Movie Info. Retrieved April 16, 2011.

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