Independence Day (1996): Captain Hiller’s Long Walk

In the 1996 film Independence Day, one scene stood out to us as particularly unbelievable. Was it the bit where a guy uses a MacBook to upload a virus to an alien spaceship? No, we don’t know enough about alien technology to dispute that. How about the bit where the same guy triangulates a cell phone’s position using a single antenna? No, not that either!

It was a different part that bothered us. A part in which Captain Hiller (Will Smith) gets into a dogfight near Los Angeles that takes him on a flight to the Grand Canyon, a walk to the Bonneville Salt Flats, and finally a pickup truck ride to Area 51.

Those places aren’t close together!

While we agree, those are all great locations to shoot your movie, if you sit down and think about how Hiller could connect all those dots in a single day, you start to question the choices of the filmmaker.

The locations

  • Marine Corps Air Station El Toro—Orange County, Southern California
  • Grand Canyon National Park—Northern Arizona
  • Bonneville Salt Flats—Northwest Utah
  • Area 51—Groom Lake, Southern Nevada

Let’s look at the map!


Can you fly a F-18 271 miles? Yes. And with a top speed of nearly 1,200 mph, it could do it pretty fast. It’s the walking to the Bonneville Salt Flats while dragging an unconscious alien that will get you. We’re not saying it can’t be done. We’re just saying it will take more than an afternoon.

Another possibility

Perhaps we weren’t supposed to identify the Bonneville Salt Flats at all! Maybe, we were supposed to think that’s just what the land looks like between the Grand Canyon and Area 51. If you were to walk a straight line between those two, (ignoring there are some big ass hills you don’t want to drag an alien up) it’s only about 130 miles. More believable, we guess. Especially if the RV picks him up quickly. Maybe we should let this one go.