The Day After Tomorrow (2004)


The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

As Paleoclimatologist Jack Hall is in Antartica, he discovers that a huge ice sheet has sheared off. But what he does not know is that this event will trigger a massive climate shift that will affect the world population. Meanwhile, his son Sam is with friends in New York City to attend an event. There, they discover that it has been raining non-stop for the past three days, and after a series of weather-related disasters begin to occur all over the world, everybody realizes the world is about to enter a new Ice Age and the world population begins trying to evacuate to the warmer climates of the south. Jack makes a daring attempt to rescue his son and his friends who are stuck in New York City and who have managed to survive not only a massive wave but also freezing cold temperatures that could possibly kill them.
IMDb   6.4 /10
Metacritic   47 %
TheMovieDb    6.5 /10
RottenTomatoes  45 %
FilmAffinity   5.6 /10
Release Date2004-05-26
Runtime2h 4mins
GenreAction, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Content RatingPG-13 (PG-13)
AwardsWon 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 5 wins & 12 nominations.
CompanyTwentieth Century Fox, Centropolis Entertainment, Lions Gate Films
LanguageEnglish, Japanese, French, Arabic
Laura Chapman
Jason Evans
Dr. Lucy Hall
Brian Parks
Janet Tokada
Terry Rapson
Saudi Delegate
Venezuelan Delegate
Vice President Becker
Saudi Translator (as Michael A. Samah)

The Day After Tomorrow

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, Ian Holm, Emmy Rossum, and Sela Ward.

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.

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 begins to split 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 storm system develops in the northern hemisphere, splitting into three gigantic hurricane-like superstorms above Canada, Scotland, and Siberia. The storms pull 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). Meanwhile, the weather worsens across the world: Tokyo is struck by a giant hail storm, Nova Scotia has a 25-foot (8-meter) storm surge in seconds, three helicopters sent to rescue the British Royal family from Balmoral Castle crash in Scotland after all their fuel lines and crew freeze, and Los Angeles is devastated by a tornado outbreak. Following this, President Blake issues an executive order for the FAA to ground all air traffic across the country, but not before at least two planes crash due to severe turbulence.

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 JD. New York is soon caught in the North American storm and the weather becomes progressively more violent, resulting in street flooding, and eventually a massive tsunami-like storm surge inundating Manhattan. This forces Sam's group to seek shelter at the New York Public Library, but not before Laura accidentally cuts her leg. While cellphone communications are down, Sam is able to contact Jack and his mother Lucy, a physician, through a working payphone; Jack advises him to stay inside and promises to rescue him. Rapson and his team perish in the European storm, while 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, Blake orders the southern states to be evacuated into Mexico; 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 initially close the border, but reopen it after Blake agrees to cancel all Central and Latin American debt to the USA. With the storm having reached Washington, Blake perishes after his motorcade is caught in it, making Becker the new President. 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, and are later found fatally frozen by Jack and Jason; only a few survivors end up heeding Sam's advice to stay put, burning books to stay warm as the temperatures plunge.

Laura develops blood poisoning from her injury, whereupon Sam, Brian, and JD scour a Russian cargo vessel that had drifted into the city for penicillin, fending off a pack of wolves which had escaped from Central Park Zoo. The eye of the North American storm arrives, freezing Manhattan solid, but Sam's group make it inside just in time. Likewise, Jack and Jason take shelter in an abandoned restaurant. Days later, the superstorms dissipate as Jack and Jason successfully reach the library, finding Sam's group alive. Jack then sends a radio message to US forces in Mexico.

Becker, in his first address as president from the US embassy in Mexico, 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 northern hemisphere.


  • Dennis Quaid as Jack Hall, a NOAA paleoclimatologist
  • Jake Gyllenhaal as Samuel "Sam" Hall, Jack's son
  • Sela Ward as Dr. Lucy Hall, a physician, Jack's wife and Sam's mother
  • Emmy Rossum as Laura Chapman, Sam's friend and love interest
  • Ian Holm as Terry Rapson, a Scottish oceanographer of Scotland's Hedland Centre
  • Arjay Smith as Brian Parks, a high school student and Sam and Laura's friend
  • Austin Nichols as J.D., a high school student of very wealthy parents who befriends Sam, Laura, and Brian
  • Dash Mihok as Jason Evans, Jack's colleague
  • Jay O. Sanders as Franklin "Frank" Harris, Jack's colleague
  • Kenneth Welsh as Raymond Becker, US Vice President for the first half of the film, and President for the second half
  • Perry King as Blake, US President
  • Nestor Serrano as Thomas "Tom" Gomez, a NOAA administrator
  • Tamlyn Tomita as Janet Tokada, a NASA meteorologist
  • Glenn Plummer as Luther, a homeless New Yorker with a dog named "Buddha".
  • Adrian Lester as Simon, Rapson's colleague
  • Richard McMillan as Dennis, Rapson's colleague
  • Sasha Roiz as Parker, an ISS astronaut
  • Christopher Britton as Vorsteen
  • Amy Sloan as Elsa, a young woman trapped with Sam and the others in the New York Public Library
  • Sheila McCarthy as Judith, a librarian at the New York Public Library
  • Tom Rooney as Jeremy, who saves a C15 Gutenberg Bible from being burned in the library
  • Christian Tessier as Aaron
  • Mimi Kuzyk as Secretary of State
  • Jason Blicker as Paul
  • Ayana O'Shun as Jama



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, 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.


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

Special effects

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. Although a miniature set was initially considered according to the behind-the-scenes documentary, for the destruction of New York sequence effects artists instead utilized a 13-block-sized 3-D model of Manhattan which was then textured with over 50,000 scanned photographs; due to its overall complexity and a tight schedule, the storm surge scene required as many as three special effects vendors for certain shots. Similarly, the opening flyover of Antarctica was entirely computer-generated—it is considered to be the longest all-CG opening scene in film history, surpassing the space zoom-out from the opening of Contact (1997).


The score soundtrack for the film was composed by Harald Kloser and released by Varèse Sarabande.


Box office

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. 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 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.

Critical response

The film received mixed reactions. On Rotten Tomatoes 45% of 221 critics were positive in their responses, with an average rating of 5.30/10. According to the website, it is "a ludicrous popcorn flick filled with clunky dialogues, but spectacular visuals save it from being a total disaster." On Metacritic the film has a score of 47% based on reviews from 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews." Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B" on scale of A to F.

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.


Saturn AwardsBest Science Fiction FilmNominated
Best Special EffectsKaren E. Goulekas, Neil Corbould, Greg Strause and Remo BalcellsNominated
BAFTA AwardsBest Visual EffectsWon
VES AwardsOutstanding Visual Effects in an Effects Driven Motion PictureKaren Goulekas, Mike Chambers, Greg Strause, Remo BalcellsNominated
Best Single Visual EffectKaren Goulekas, Mike Chambers, Chris Horvath, Matthew ButlerWon
MTV Movie AwardsBest Action Sequence"The destruction of Los Angeles"Won
Best Breakthrough PerformanceEmmy RossumNominated
Irish Film & Television AwardsBest International ActorJake GyllenhaalNominated
Golden Trailer AwardsBest Action FilmNominated
Environmental Media AwardsBest FilmWon
BMI Film AwardsBest MusicHarald KloserWon
Golden Reel AwardsBest Sound Editing – Effects & FoleyMark P. Stoeckinger, Larry Kemp, Glenn T. Morgan, Alan Rankin, Michael Kamper, Ann Scibelli, Randy Kelley, Harry Cohen, Bob Beher and Craig S. JaegerNominated

Political and scientific criticism

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. 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.

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." 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." 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."

Patrick J. Michaels, a largely oil-funded climate change denier and former research professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia who rejects the scientific consensus 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." 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.

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, 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.

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

In 2008, Yahoo! Movies listed The Day After Tomorrow as one of its top-10 scientifically inaccurate films. It was criticized for depicting meteorological phenomena as occurring over the course of hours, instead of decades or centuries. 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.

Home media

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.