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 by Roland Emmerich
Produced by Roland Emmerich
Mark Gordon
Screenplay by Roland Emmerich
Story by Roland Emmerich
Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Based on The Coming Global Superstorm
1999 novel
by Art Bell
Whitley Strieber
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 date
  • May 24, 2004 (2004-05-24) (New York City premiere)
  • May 28, 2004 (2004-05-28) (United States)
Running time
124 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $125 million
Box office $544.3 million[1]

The Day After Tomorrow is a 2004 American climate 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. 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] Filmed in Toronto and Montreal, it is the highest-grossing Hollywood film made in Canada (adjusted for inflation).

Originally planned for release in the summer of 2003, The Day After Tomorrow opened 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 on June 4 and 5). A major commercial success, the film became the sixth highest-grossing film of 2004 despite receiving mixed reviews upon release.


Paleoclimatologist Jack Hall and his colleagues, Frank and Jason, are drilling for ice-core samples on the Larsen Ice Shelf for NOAA when the shelf breaks apart. When Jack later presents his findings on global warming at a United Nations conference in New Delhi, he fails to convince diplomats or US Vice President Raymond Becker. However, Professor Terry Rapson of the Hedland Climate Research Centre in Scotland believes in Jack's theories. Shortly after, several buoys in the North Atlantic simultaneously register a sharp drop in ocean temperature, and Rapson concludes that melting polar ice has begun to disrupt the North Atlantic Current. He contacts Jack, whose paleoclimatologic weather model demonstrates how climate changes caused the first ice age. His team, including NASA meteorologist Janet Tokada, builds a forecast model based on Jack's findings.

Around the world, violent weather causes widespread destruction; US President Blake authorizes the FAA to halt air traffic due to severe turbulence. On the International Space Station, three astronauts see a storm system spanning the Northern Hemisphere, which soon develops into three hurricane-like superstorms. The temperature of the eyes of the storms is −150 °F (−101 °C), instantly freezing anything in their paths. The cells, located over Canada, Scotland, and Siberia, will affect all of their respective continents within days. During this time, tornadoes destroy Los Angeles.

In Manhattan, Jack's son Sam learns about the worsening weather when he participates in an academic decathlon. Although Sam promises to be on the next train home, flooding quickly closes the subway and Grand Central Terminal, before a gigantic storm surge strikes New York City, inundating Manhattan. Sam and a large group of people seek shelter in the New York Public Library, and his teammate and love interest, Laura Chapman, accidentally cuts her leg while wading through the waist-deep water to higher ground. In Scotland, Rapson and his colleagues at the Hedland Centre die in the European superstorm.

As suggested by Jack, President Blake orders the evacuation of the southern United States (with most refugees heading for Mexico) and warns the northern half of the country to seek shelter. Jack and his team set out for Manhattan to find Sam, but when their truck crashes into a vehicle north of Philadelphia, the group is forced to continue their journey on snowshoes. En route, 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; Frank sacrifices himself by cutting the rope. Most of the group sheltered in the library leave (despite Sam's warning), when the water outside freezes, leaving Sam, his friends, and a few others who trust him. They burn books to stay warm and break into a vending machine for food. Sam admits his feelings for Laura (who has apparently caught a cold), and she reciprocates. At the US refugee camp in Mexico, Becker learns that President Blake died when his motorcade was enveloped by the superstorm, and he is now the president.

The next morning, Sam's group determines that Laura has blood poisoning from the cut on her leg. Sam and two others search for penicillin in a derelict Russian cargo ship that drifted into Manhattan. Although they find food and supplies, they also encounter a pack of escaped wolves from a city zoo. The eye of the North American superstorm passes over the city, freezing it solid, and the three barely return to the library in time. Jack, also caught out in the eye with an unconscious Jason, narrowly escapes the deep freeze himself by taking shelter in an abandoned fast-food restaurant.

Days later, as the superstorms dissipate, Jack and Jason reach New York City and find Sam's group alive. They radio the news to the US government in exile in Mexico, and Becker orders rescue teams to search for other survivors in the northern states in his first address as president. On the ISS, astronauts look down in amazement at an Earth whose northern hemisphere is now mostly covered by ice and snow.



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. Arnold Federbush's 1978 novel, Ice!, and Douglas Orgill and John Gribbin's The Sixth Winter (published in 1979) have similar themes. 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. 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]


Box office[edit]

The film ranked #2 at the box office (behind Shrek 2) over its four-day Memorial Day opening, grossing $85,807,341. 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]

The Day After Tomorrow is the sixth-highest-grossing film which did not lead the United States box office its opening weekend, behind My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Alvin and the Chipmunks and its sequel, Sherlock Holmes, and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. It is third worldwide in that category, behind Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Casino Royale.

Critical reaction[edit]

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 rated the film at 45%, with an average rating of 5.3 out of 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."[5] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised the film's special effects, giving it three stars out of four. Environmental activist and Guardian columnist George Monbiot called The Day After Tomorrow "a great movie and lousy science".[6]

Patrick J. Michaels, a former research professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia who rejects the scientific consensus [7] 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."[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] Subscribers to the newsgroup took up the challenge and, despite Hyde's protests, raised the $100.[11] 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".[12]

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."[13]

In 2008, Yahoo! Movies listed The Day After Tomorrow as one of its top-10 scientifically-inaccurate films.[14] It was criticized for depicting meteorological phenomena as occurring over the course of hours, instead of decades or centuries.[15] A 2015 Washington Post article reported on a paper published in Nature Scientific Reports which indicated that global temperatures could drop relatively rapidly due to a temporary shutdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation caused by global warming.[16]

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


Roland 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.[17] 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.[18][19][20]

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."[17] 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."[17] According to University of Victoria climatologist Andrew J. 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."[17]

Home media[edit]

The film 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.[21] The Day After Tomorrow Was Released on VHS And DVD on October 12, 2004

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. ^ Scientists Warn of Perilous Climate Shift Within Decades, Not Centuries March 22, 2016
  3. ^ Emmerich, Roland; Gordon, Mark. "The Day After Tomorrow Q&A with Roland Emmerich and Mark Gordon" (Interview). 
  4. ^ Russell, Jamie. "Why the halo movie failed". Conde Nast. Retrieved 9 February 2017. 
  5. ^ "The Day After Tomorrow". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  6. ^ Monbiot, George. (May 14, 2004). "A hard rain's a-gonna fall". Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  7. ^ "NASA - Vital Signs of the Planet". 97% publishing scientists agree warming due to humanity's influence. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  8. ^ Patrick J. Michaels. "'Day After Tomorrow': A lot of hot air". Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  9. ^ Richard Gutheinz Jr., Joseph (May 27, 2004). "There Will Be A Day After Tomorrow". Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  10. ^ "The Day After Tomorrow". Retrieved July 11, 2012.
  11. ^ "RASW Charity Marathon reaches Goal!". Retrieved August 7, 2016. 
  12. ^ "Google Groups". Retrieved August 7, 2016. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ "Top 10 Scientifically Inaccurate Movies". Yahoo7 Movies (July 28, 2008). Retrieved March 11, 2015.
  15. ^ "Disaster Flick Exaggerates Speed of Ice Age". (May 13, 2004). Retrieved April 16, 2011
  16. ^ Wang, Yanan (October 12, 2015). "Model suggests possibility of a 'Little Ice Age'". Washington Post. Retrieved August 7, 2016. 
  17. ^ a b c d Bowles, Scott (May 26, 2004). "'The Day After Tomorrow' heats up a political debate". Retrieved January 12, 2009.
  18. ^ Gilchrist, Todd (May 2004). "The Day After Tomorrow: An Interview with Roland Emmerich". Retrieved March 16, 2009. 
  19. ^ Robert Epstein, Daniel. "Roland Emmerich of The Day After Tomorrow (20th Century Fox) Interview". Retrieved March 16, 2009. [dead link]
  20. ^ Chau, Thomas (May 27, 2004). "INTERVIEW: Director Roland Emmerich on "The Day After Tomorrow"". Cinema Confidential. Retrieved March 16, 2009. [dead link]
  21. ^ "Lee's Movie Info - DVD Sales Chart - 2004 Full Year". Lee' Retrieved April 16, 2011.
  22. ^ "Ice (1998)". IMDb. Retrieved July 11, 2012.

External links[edit]