War of the Worlds is a 2005 Academy Award-nominated science fiction film based on H. G. Wells' original novel of the same name. It was directed by Steven Spielberg from a script by Josh Friedman and David Koepp and stars Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, and Justin Chatwin. It is one of four film adaptations of the novel, preceded by two straight-to-video versions released in the same year, as well as the original 1953 film version, The War of the Worlds.


This film draws elements not only from the H. G. Wells novel, but also the 1938 radio play and the 1953 film. Hence, to place this film in proper historical context as an adaptation requires some knowledge of all three previous incarnations of Wells' story.

As in the original novel, which takes place in and around London, the narrative is told from the point of view of civilians caught up in the conflict. Whereas the novel portrayed the experience of a solitary British journalist early in the twentieth century, this film is, according to Spielberg, purported to show the war "through the eyes of one American family fighting to survive it". It is set in the early twenty-first century, and as in the radio play, begins the action in New Jersey, rather than London at first.


Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

The Invaders arrive

The film opens with the voice of an unnamed narrator (voiced by Morgan Freeman) who informs us, retrospectively, that Earth was being observed by extraterrestrials with immense intelligence and no compassion. As man dominated the world without doubt, much in the way microorganisms swarm in a drop of water, these beings plotted to take it all from us.

The story begins on any other average day in New Jersey. Ray Ferrier comes home from a shift at the docks, where he is left to take care of his young daughter Rachel, and his teenage son Robbie while his ex-wife Mary Anne is visiting her parents in Boston. It isn't long before Robbie undermines Ray's authority by taking his car without his permission. However, Ray's attention is soon occupied by the presence of a rather large storm cloud, so dark that the streetlights automatically turn on. Following its arrival is a strong wind blowing towards the ambiguous storm, which then suddenly and inexplicably ceases. Then, without the accompaniment of rain nor thunder, the cloud begins unleashing lightning. The earth is struck again and again in the same location, seemingly relentless. It then simply stops, surprisingly.

Assessing the aftermath, Ray finds that the power is out; lights, the phone, and even his watch are all dead. He goes outside to see that vehicles are also paralyzed. Not too far from his house, he finds Robbie. Telling him where he saw the lightning strike, Ray has him stay with Rachel and leaves to investigate.

The first strike

Ray comes to a crowd surrounding a small hole in the middle of an intersection, punched by the repeated lightning strikes, though the rubble at ground zero is mysteriously freezing cold to the touch. Everyone is then taken aback when they hear a rumbling below their feet. They are forced to move back as the street cracks open. Buildings are then torn apart, and a round portion of the ground begins to shift in a circular motion. This selected patch of concrete heaves and then sinks, making a vast pit in its absence. Then something mammoth emerges, a large tripod machine. The towering giant simply stands where it rose, before letting out a monstrous trumpet, followed by the furnishing of two appendages, the ends glowing a bluish-white. From them, multicolor rays of heat are emitted and target the crowd. Everyone runs for safety, many in futility. As people are turned to ash and buildings are blown to rubble around him, Ray dashes and maneuvers to avoid being struck down himself. Finally, he finds sanctuary off the path of this now moving tripod. When Ray returns home he has Robbie box food and Rachel pack her things while he takes a flashlight and a revolver. His children, still oblivious as to what is going on, are taken from the seeming safety of the house and to a parked minivan. Earlier, the minivan's electrical systems were broken and Ray suggested to Manny the mechanic to replace the solenoid. Ray can only hope it works. Ray tries to get Manny to join them, but he is too stubborn to listen and as the tripod nears their block, Ray has no choice but to leave him to die. They speed off as the block and everyone in it is laid to waste.

Flight from destruction

Racing down the highway, they are clear of the danger, but Ray refuses to stop until they are assuredly out of harm's path. By nightfall they come to Mary Anne's empty suburban home, completely unaffected by everything that happened in Ray's neighborhood. Ray has them all take shelter in the basement for the night, but something happens while they sleep, and they are awakened by flashes of light and strange noises. As the house shakes and an unearthly screeching sound drops down on them, they take further refuge in a sub-basement room.

In the morning, Ray ventures upstairs to find the scattered remains of a Boeing 747 that has destroyed most everything in sight. Scavenging its food and water are three members of a news crew. From them Ray learns that there is not one but many machines all over the world, each being piloted by whatever came down in the lightning storms. They are also equipped with an impenetrable shield, leaving military forces to fight a losing battle.

The family drive on in the direction of Boston. Approaching the Hudson River, they pass countless refugees, many pleading to be taken along, but Ray can't stop. Inevitably, it turns into a mob, and Ray is forced to give up the minivan.

Trekking now on foot, they come to the Hudson docks, which while crowded, are relatively under control. However, when tripods appear, a panicked stampede erupts. With the stampede getting out of control and tripods approaching, the captain orders the ramp up and stations soldiers to keep more people from getting on, though there is still space. Ray and his children sneak onboard before the ferry is pulled recklessly out of the docks. But soon it is no longer a haven, as another machine rises from the river, overturning the vessel and dropping everyone into the cold water. After escaping the tripods and the boat's propellers, the three reach a nearby shore as they watch tripods harvest survivors out of the water.

Continuing onward among more refugees, they come across military forces fighting an unseen battle just over a hill, and Robbie, instead of fleeing with the other refugees, is determined to fight the machines. Ray pleads with him to come back, but Robbie refuses and Ray relents to save Rachel who is being taken by an over caring person, reluctantly leaving his son behind. The military are unrelenting in their assault, but even their might isn't strong enough to hold back the invaders, and soon the fighting-machines, clad in flames, come up over the hill and descend on the remaining refugees in their path, Robbie seeming to be sucked into the fire.

Days of imprisonment

Fleeing for safety, Ray and Rachel are called over to a nearby cellar by a man wielding a shotgun. Having taken them in, the stranger introduces himself as Harlan Ogilvy, and shows Ray what's going on just outside: tripods are settling down, making an encampment. It is then that Ogilvy reveals his true agenda for bringing them in. He plots to build a new world, one that will one day strike back at the invaders when they least expect it, right from under their own feet. Ray realizes that he is trapped with a maniac.

Outside there is a constant sound of work emanating from the invaders and their machines. Coinciding with this is the presence of foreign crimson coloured vines that begin growing from outside. Without notice, the machines silence their sounds, and those made recklessly by Ogilvy are a call to their presence. Following on this, a probe is sent into the basement, a snake-like device with an electronic eye that scans its surroundings. They all elude it as it sweeps the cellar. But once it is retracted, a few of the invaders enter. These tripedal creatures begin studying various things before the trumpet of the tripods calls them back outside. They are safe for the time being, but Ogilvy came dangerously close to attempting to shoot them, almost letting the invaders know they exist.

The alien red plant continues to grow rapidly, and soon Ray and Ogilvy learn the horrifying origin of this strange vegetation; the machines are draining the blood of captured human beings, and spraying it over the land like fertiliser for the red weed.

Soon Ogilvy madly begins digging a hole he had begun in the root cellar, planning to tunnel into the city to house an army in the subways and begin anew. When Ray tries to get him to be quiet, Ogilvy strikes him with the shovel. Ogilvy is now clearly too unbalanced, and Ray must protect his daughter. He has Rachel blindfolded, covering her ears and singing "Hushabye Mountain" aloud while he proceeds into the root cellar and shuts the door behind him. After an audible struggle, Ray presumably kills Ogilvy and emerges and slumps down on the stairs. Rachel sits in his lap and wraps his arms around her.


Sometime later, the probe comes back while they are asleep, catching them off-guard. As Ray assaults the electronic eye, Rachel runs out of the basement. Looking for her outside, Ray sees that the earth is red as far as his eyes can see. But the machines have not left and one abducts Rachel before Ray can get to her. Taking a belt of grenades from an abandoned Humvee, he throws one at the machine to get its attention. It turns and takes Ray, reuniting him with Rachel in one of two baskets it carries full of other victims.

Though the Earth belongs now to the invaders, they still need human blood. And when a tendril reaches in, Ray covers Rachel to protect her, but it grabs him and attempts to pull him into an orifice-like opening over the basket. He resists, but then surrenders, taking the grenade belt with him. A soldier, however, grabs Ray and with the help of other captives, he is pulled back, with the grenades set to blow inside the tripod. The explosion rips through the machine, dropping at least one of the baskets, freeing Ray and Rachel before it collapses to the ground.


With only one possible aim and direction, Ray and Rachel continue to move on into Boston. The city is also covered in the red weed, but stopping to take a closer look, they see that it's dying. They stray only a few steps before they see one of the mighty machines, immobile, smashed against a building. It seems to be dead as well, but the soldiers admit to no help in its demise. Moving onward, they happen upon soldiers ushering the refugees past an open area with another machine, noticeably weak, but alive. Noticing several birds landing on its head, Ray realises that its shield is down and informs the soldiers. Soldiers quickly take advantage of this and shoot the machine down. Once it's crashed, a hatch opens and one of the creatures inside weakly crawls partly out. It goes limp and visibly dies.

The torment now over, Ray brings Rachel further into an abandoned but otherwise intact Boston neighbourhood. There to greet them is Mary Anne, Tim, and her parents, and in her company is none other than Robbie. He and the man he now calls dad share a relieved hug.

Displayed now before us is the destruction brought on by the invaders, their once powerful machines, now among the ruins. We are then taken back to the sight of swarming microorganisms. It was not any weapon of man, the narrator tells us, that defeated the menace; it was instead these small things in nature that God created that were their undoing. The very bacteria that have plagued man, and to which he had long since been immune, attacked the invaders upon their arrival, sealing their inevitable doom.

All spoilers have been stated and have ended here.

Quotes from Spielberg

On the web site Dark Horizons,[1] Spielberg described his preferences for long takes in special effect-heavy movies:

"I'm more interested in concept shots and money shots than I am in tons of MTV coverage, which certainly takes a lot of time. But if I can put something on the screen that is sustained where you get to study it and you get to say, 'How did they do that?' That's happening before my eyes and the shot's not over yet, it's still going and it's still going and my God, it's an effects shot and it's lasting seemingly forever. I enjoy that more than creating illusion with sixteen different camera angles, where no shot lasts longer than six seconds on the screen. To pull a rabbit out of a hat, because you are really a smart audience and you're in the fastest media, the fastest growing new media today and you know the difference between sleight of hand visually and the real thing. I think what makes War of the Worlds, at least the version that we're making, really exciting, is you get to really see what's happening. There's not a lot of visual tricks. We tell it like it is, we show it to you, and we put you inside the experience."

He described the story as follows:

"It's nothing you can really describe. The whole thing is very experiential. The point of view is very personal — everybody, I think, in the world will be able to relate to the point of view, because it's about a family trying to survive and stay together, and they're surrounded by the most epically horrendous events you could possibly imagine."

Box office

Despite the controversies detailed below, the movie received positive reviews and made an impressive box-office performance. As of November 22, 2005, (the last day it was at the box office) it has earned $234.3 million domestically and $357.1 million overseas, making the total $591.4 million. It is the 4th highest grossing movie of 2005 (after Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).

This is considered to be good news for both Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise. First of all, Spielberg has not seen such a massive success since Saving Private Ryan (1998) — another Paramount/DreamWorks co-production — and the $100-million Minority Report (2002) — his first collaboration with Cruise — earned a reasonable $132 million. In the case of Cruise (whose 43rd birthday coincided with the movie's release), this movie is the biggest blockbuster of his career, since the movie opened its first weekend with $65 million (which is a record-high for Paramount Pictures), beating Mission: Impossible II's nearly $58 million (also from Paramount). By July 31, it had surpassed Mission: Impossible II in terms of total domestic box office receipts, a movie that earned $215.4 million.


In August of 2004, the Internet Movie Database reported that the film was "poised to make history in Hollywood as the most expensive film ever made — surpassing Titanic's $198 million budget." The report quoted an unnamed source that said, "No expense will be spared. Spielberg wants to make it the film of the decade." The New York Times, the original source for this number, ran a correction a few days later that the budget is actually $128 million. The final budget, however, has been confirmed to be $132 million. According to Entertainment Weekly, Tom Cruise earned $10,000,000 for his role in the film, making him one of the highest paid actors ever for a movie.</ref>

Critical reaction

The film garnered a positive box office response, with reviews being generally positive. Rotten Tomatoes currently has the movie rated at 75% “Certified Fresh”. Some thought otherwise. Critic Roger Ebert regarded it: "...a big, clunky movie containing some sensational sights but lacking the zest and joyous energy we expect from Steven Spielberg."

Reactions to the film though have been heavily polarized, with critics such as Glenn Whip (LA Daily News) and Bruce Westbrook (Houston Chronicle) calling it a near masterpiece. Reviews have praised the film for it's special effects and the direction of Steven Speilberg, but have criticized the film for gaps in logic and holes and inconsistencies in the storyline.

The film has been attacked by some literary experts, arguing that the film has little in common with the original H.G. Wells novel and could be viewed as just a star vehicle for Tom Cruise.

Criticism and controversy

Tom Cruise, Scientology and the film

Press coverage in May and June 2005 leading up to the film's release focused on Tom Cruise's proselytizing for Scientology. Around this time, Cruise had changed publicists, from Pat Kingsley to his sister, Lee Anne DeVette, and spoke to interviewers more frequently about Scientology — and his sudden engagement to actress Katie Holmes — than about the film itself. Some press coverage noted [1] the similarity between the film's promotional poster and the front cover of The Invaders Plan (volume one of Mission Earth) by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology. This similarity is not singular to the film, however, as the image of a hand grasping the Earth is a recurring one in science-fiction: it was used, for example, for the 1975 movie Rollerball. Moreover, the image used to promote the 2005 film is very similar to the image that was often used in advertising Paramount's War of the Worlds TV-series during its first season.

Press coverage and anti-piracy controversy

The press preview of the movie raised severe criticism, as every journalist who wanted to take a look at the movie before it premiered had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This NDA stated that the undersigned could not publish a review of the movie before its world-wide release on 29 June 2005. Many people have argued that the movie might not be able to catch up with the great expectations that might have been postulated by such reviewers.

Furthermore, at the New York premiere of the film at the Ziegfeld Theatre, all members of the press were required to check all electronic equipment — including cell phones — at the door, as part of a larger sweeping anti-piracy campaign by the film's producers hoping to keep the film from leaking on the Internet.

Among other efforts to curb piracy, the producers also prevented theatres from screening the movie at midnight the night of June 29, despite the recent success of midnight screenings of such films as Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The producers also chose not to screen the film in any DLP-equipped theatres. Some viewers saw these efforts as overreactions, especially the movie fans who enjoy seeing blockbusters such as War of the Worlds as early as possible.

Awards and nominations

2006 Academy Awards

Three nominations:

Central Ohio Film Critics

  • Best Sound Design

M.P.S.E. Golden Reel Awards

  • Best Sound Editing in Feature Film - Sound Effects & Foley

2005 Golden Raspberry Awards

One nomination:

  • Worst Actor (Tom Cruise)




War of the Worlds - Caillou Pettis Movie Review

Caillou Pettis reviews War of the Worlds.


Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.
  • Ray is a New York Yankees fan. Robbie, like his stepfather, is a Boston Red Sox fan; this is seemingly a form of defiance towards his father.
  • The plane in the crash scene is an All Nippon Airways (Japan) Boeing 747. The plane-crash set was built on the Universal Studios backlot, right next to the famous Bates house from Psycho. Despite great demand for the location, the studio has decided to keep the crash set intact as a permanent installation on the backlot tour.
  • The plane's tail fin was repainted in a flat grey tone because it originally bore the colors and logo of a real airline. Pilots flying over the Universal backlot apparently saw the staged wreckage, recognized the colors and symbol on the tail and began calling in plane crash reports to the FAA. The plane parts were then repainted and disguised in order to discourage further false alarms.
  • In the movie, Ray Ferrier's house is located in Bayonne, New Jersey right near the Bayonne Bridge. The shot of the first tripod coming out of the ground was filmed in the Five corners intersection in the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey. The two places are about 8 miles (13 km) away but in the movie they are a couple of blocks away from each other.
  • In Ray's house, Rachel watches SpongeBob SquarePants. The audio (which is from the episode "The Secret Box") does not match up to the video, but is rather a piece of audio layered over various clips from the show.
  • Right before the Hudson Ferry scene, Ray and his children watch in horror as a locomotive speeds by on fire, and out of control. The train is part of the MTA Metro-North Railroad, which runs in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. It can be identified by the paint scheme on the side (what's left of it, anyway).
  • This is the first major motion picture to feature real M1 Abrams tanks, not other tanks dressed up to resemble them as in Courage Under Fire.
  • The film was a co-production of Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks, which became sister studios after the parent of Paramount, Viacom, purchased DreamWorks in late 2005. The live-action DreamWorks library was sold to a George Soros-led group, but Paramount will retain distribution rights. Since the US DVD was originally released by DreamWorks, Paramount will hold the rights to any reissues.
  • The film pays a tribute the film Koyaanisqatsi in the introduction, when describing how the world was before the alien arrival. A series of 6 consecutive shots mimic Koyaanisqatsi shots.

Source material



  • The film's most obvious difference is that it takes place in the early 21st century northeastern United States rather than southern England "early in the twentieth century."
  • The film's aliens do not land on Earth in giant cylinders before unleashing their war machines. Instead, the machines have already been buried underground, and the aliens arrive in capsules transported via lightning bolts.
  • The aliens' tripods are more formidable in combat than their novel counterparts: the latter, although deadly, are still susceptible conventional weapons and can be defeated in combat. The film counterparts are fitted with a 'shield' that makes them impervious to attack. The idea of the shields stems from the 1953 film version.
  • The film omits a prominent element from the novel: the Black Smoke, which was a part of the Martians' deadly arsenal. Writer David Koepp has explained that this was dropped more or less due to lack of time and didn't make it past his first draft, so any sightings of a similar substance are purely coincidence and can be attributed to other sources. The film also does not include the Thunder Child, whose symbol of power but ultimate failure to stop the invaders was represented in the 1953 film by the atomic bomb; however, there is a vaguely similar scene taking place on land in which military forces fight valiantly in an effort to hold back the tripods until refugees make it to safety.
  • The film's aliens are drastically different in various designs, featuring more humanoid mouths and also being tripedal, where Wells' Martians have lipless v-shaped mouths and tentacles. Also, the Martians of Wells' book, as well as in the movie, feast on the blood of humans (Wells described the clean skeletons of humans and other animals) but the aliens in the book apparently don't use human blood as fertilizer for their xenoforming project. In the movie the invaders also are uninterested in animals (rats, birds). The alien's design has been the subject of some criticism, considered too cute and humanlike, as opposed to the novel's entirely non-human and rather repulsive aliens.
  • In the film, Tim Robbins's character, Harlan Ogilvy, plays a synthesized dual role of curate and artilleryman from the novel, while sharing the name of the novel's narrator's friend. The film's Ogilvy has the qualities of the novel's increasingly mad curate, who drives the narrator to fight with him frequently. In the book, the character named Ogilvy is one of the first people killed by the aliens' Heat-Ray. The film's Ogilvy has the qualities of the novel's artilleryman in that he is digging a tunnel for an underground city with the goal of resistance. The novel's curate is taken, and presumably "eaten", by the aliens after being struck in the head and left for dead by the narrator. In both versions, the story does not state outright that the main character killed the man, but the novel narrator does say "the killing of the curate" was "a thing done, a memory infinitely disagreeable but quite without the quality of remorse."
  • The film never says where the aliens are from, unlike the book, where its declaired that the aliens are from Mars; in 1898, when the book was written, the possibility of life on Mars was considered realistic. This difference in origin shrouds the motive for the attacks on the Earth. In the book, the Martians are escaping from their dissipated planet, searching for a place to continue their brutal civilization, rather than the "extermination" explanation given by a character in the film. It may or may not be coincidence that the red weed produced by the invaders would, if multiplied on a large scale, duplicate an environment of much the same red hue of Mars. Additionally, the prologue makes a few visual references, once while an image of Earth shifts into that of a red stoplight and later when the camera leaves the edge of an outer neighbouring planet of Earth. In Koepp's script, there is a brief shot in the prologue depicting the invaders' homeworld. However, it remains unnamed, referred to only as a "barren planet."
  • H.G. Wells never had the narrator play the hero. In fact, the story is told as a recount of the war, thus eliminating any doubts about the welfare of the narrator. In the film, the main character, Ray, succeeds in blowing up an alien tripod, creating the idea that heroes can be made in the face of an unbeatable foe, an idea Wells believed was inappropriate for the tone of his story, abandoning an early idea, similar to the film, in which the narrator plans to suicide bomb a tripod (though even in this early idea, the character is not allowed to carry it out). The narrator was not meant to be a hero, but merely a survivor. However, Ray's idea of giving himself over to the invaders is still similar to the novel's narrator after he had lost all hope.
  • Much like in the 1953 film, the unnamed narrator and main character is not the same as he is in the novel. He is not divorced (although Ray shares a very similar goal of reuniting with his ex-wife), nor does he have a son or daughter to look after.
  • While Ray has a brother much like the book's narrator, the film does not touch upon anything from this character's point-of-view, as the narrator recites some of what the brother witnessed during the invasion.
  • In the novel, the narrator becomes trapped in an abandoned house when an alien cylinder lands close by. In the film, Ray, Rachel and Ogilvy are trapped in the house because the tripods are still outside. However, the scene in which the airplane crashes into Mary-Anne's house is similar to the scene in the book when the cylinder lands.
  • No matter the location, virtually every version of the story tells of an arrival and then assault by what are the first aliens to land on Earth. However, in this version, it is established that the invasion has already begun in other parts of the world, though the main character is oblivious to this until much later in the story. Additionally this scene also gives both the character and the audience their first image of the invaders, something that only happens later in both this and the 1953 film.
  • The design of the tripods is not the same as their description in the novel. Wells describes the machines as "Walking engines of glittering metal...pieces of intricate rope dangling from gas squirting from its joints...its motion was like a head moving about..." There are also no references to the invaders having any other machines than the known tripods - in the novel, the Martians also had a Handling-Machine (a five-legged machine with three tentacles used to build the tripods), a Digging Machine (an automated tripod-excavator) and a Flying Machine.


Although there are very many differences from the book, there are also various similarities. Some are obvious, and others are noted by the naming of certain scenes in the DVD chapters.

  • The lines spoken in the bookends of the film by the narrator are almost verbatim from those written in the novel.
  • The fighting machines are tripods.
  • The tripods are armed with Heat-Rays.
  • A speeding train runs by with every carriage aflame.
  • The tripods emit a deafening call like a foghorn that is similar to that in the novel.
  • Tripods are equipped with long tentacles that grab humans and put them into metal carriers or cages, just as in the book, where eventually these human prisoners will be drained of their blood for the use of food for the invaders.
  • The red weed is spread everywhere the eye can see.
  • Harlan Ogilvy is a mixture of the artilleryman and the curate.
  • There is a scene where the characters are trapped in a farmhouse because of the invaders being outside.
  • Ray's van is taken from them just like in the novel, where the narrator's brother and his two female companion's horse is taken. Ray also uses a revolver just as Miss Elphinstone does to scare off robbers in the novel.
  • There is a scene where refugees take a ferry to get to safety.
  • Manny is similar to the Landlord of the Spotted Dog, from whom the main character takes a means of transportion and is then later killed by the invaders. The difference being that Ray steals Manny's car while the narrator plans only to borrow the Landlord's.
  • The storm in which the invaders arrive is based on the storm in the novel in which the narrator gets his first frightening image of the tripods.
  • Throughout the film, a flock of birds seem to follow the invaders in their machines, and help give away their inoperative shields. In the novel, birds are seen picking and eating the remains of the dead Martians.
  • The unearthing of the first seen tripod mirrors the arrival of the first Martian cylinder. From the crowd formed around the "landing" spot to the rotation of the ground, as if to mimick an unscrewing.
  • The police in the intersection say "something's down there, and it's movin'" just like in the novel when a person declares the Martian cylinder to be moving.
  • Robbie is thought to be dead, only to return to the main character in the end, similar to the novel's narrator and his wife.
  • Ray has a brother. However, as mentioned above, no account of what the brother witnesses is included in the film.
  • The tripods are seen smashing aside pine trees before an attack, as they are seen doing in the novel in their first appearance.
  • There is a reference to the original novel when a couple of aliens explore the basement that Ferrier and Ogilvy are hiding in, and one of them pauses to spin the wheel of a bicycle hanging on the wall — as if wondering what it is. In H.G. Wells' novel, the narrator discovers that in the alien technology, "the wheel is absent; among all the things they brought to earth there is no trace or suggestion of their use of wheels." The alien's technology is based on elastic organic musculature.

1938 radio program

Several lines of dialogue, especially those spoken by Tim Robbins' character, are taken directly from Orson Welles' infamous radio adaptation of the novel. In addition, the film is set primarily in New Jersey as is the radio play.

1953 movie

Although not considered a remake of the 1953 version of The War of the Worlds, there are several instances where Steven Spielberg makes homage to the original film.

  • Gene Barry and Ann Robinson from the 1953 original film make a cameo appearance as the grandparents.
  • In the cellar, note the multi-colored lights just prior to the probe entering. This references the red, blue and green lights from the probe in the 1953 version of the film, though no part of the probe in this film emits any of those colors.
  • When Ray (Tom Cruise) first encounters the aliens, there is a street sign behind him displaying "Van Buren", the surname of one of the two major characters in the 1953 film.
  • The news reporter's line, "Once they begin to move, no more news comes out of that area," is taken directly from the original film.
  • The scenes with the probe examining the basement followed by the inquisitive aliens. Tom Cruise chops the head off the probe with an ax just as Gene Barry did in the original film.
  • The shot of the dying alien's arm coming down the ramp is a reference to a similar shot in the original film.
  • The 1953 film ends with the characters taking refuge in a church just before the aliens' attack abruptly stops. In the 2005 film, a church is the first building seen destroyed as the tripod emerges.

Television series

  • The film's posters feature a symbolic image of the aliens' three-fingered hand grasping planet Earth. This is very similar to images used for the series' first season, both in the opening and closing of the episodes, as well as promotional material.
  • The plot device that the aliens had been to Earth before and left behind their tripods is reminiscent of a revelation in War of the Worlds TV series in which a tripod (an "older model" of the war machines in the 1953 film) is unearthed, having been left behind for hundreds to thousands of years.

Other movie references

There are several references to other movies, mostly movies directed or produced by Steven Spielberg. For example, the bicycle falling from a hook is similar to a scene in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind also uses a low reverberating note, although both movies may have gotten the idea originally from the novel. In The Day the Earth Stood Still there is also a universal electrical outage. Quatermass and the Pit features extraterrestrial machines buried underground since prehistoric times. Some also find that the diner scene, where Ferrier and the kids take refuge after the mob captures the minivan, evoke memories of the diner in the original The Blob. Besides the general tone of the film, the extended shot following the family car explicitly evokes Jean-luc Godard's Week End, as does the motif of cannibalism.

Other possible sources

Ray's successful destroying of a tripod by using grenades, might have been taken from The White Mountains, the first book of The Tripods trilogy of science-fiction novels, which were inspired from H.G. Wells' original novel.


DVD info

  • Revisiting the Invasion: Introduction with Steven Spielberg
  • The H. G. Wells Legacy
  • Production Diary: Part I — Filming on the East Coast
  • Production Diary: Part II — Filming on the West Coast
  • Pre-Visualization
  • Designing the Enemy: Tripods and Aliens

See also

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations from or about:
  • Red weed
  • Tripod
  • Heat-Ray


  1. On-Set Interview: Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg


  1. Note: Josh Friedman's name is absent in early trailers, and his credit is most likely for legal reasons. In an interview with Creative Screenwriting magazine, David Koepp says that Friedman wrote a draft before Spielberg brought Koepp on board and that he (Koepp) wrote his script from scratch.

External links