Mars Attacks! (1996) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Earth is invaded by Martians with unbeatable weapons and a cruel sense of humor.

  • It is a normal day for everyone, until President of the United States James Dale (Jack Nicholson) announces Martians have been spotted circling Earth. The Martians land and a meeting is arranged, but not everything goes to plan, and the Martians seem to have other plans for Earth. Are they just misunderstood beings or do they really want to destroy all of humanity?

  • The Martians decide to attack our planet and devastate everything. Why? Because it's fun. They enjoy killing people and destroy buildings. They even play bowling with the statues at Easter Isles and pose for photos in front of temples as they are blowing up. Will somebody find a way to stop them or will everyone die in the war with these short, big-brained aliens?

  • When U.S. satellites photograph many flying saucers coming to Earth, President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) has a meeting with his advisers. He is convinced by Professor Donald Kessler (Pierce Brosnan) that Martians would be a developed culture and therefore peaceful by nature, in spite of the warnings of General Decker (Rod Steiger). The authorities, some civilians, and the press prepare a welcome committee for the aliens, but they realize that Mars is actually attacking Earth.

  • When Martians begin to attack the Earth, several groups of people must try to survive. These groups include a reporter and his girlfriend, a top scientist, the President and his family (and aides), a Kansas boy and his grandma, and Sir Tom Jones and people from a casino in Las Vegas.

  • U.S. President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) and his right-hand man, Press Secretary Jerry Ross (Martin Short) discover that an army of Martian U.F.O.s are hovering around the Earth, and everyone has a different response. Some, like Texan alcohol dealer Art Land (Jack Nicholson) and slimy newsman Jason Stone (Michael J. Fox), just want to make a profit out of it. Others, such as television hostess Nathalie Lake (Sarah Jessica Parker), Land's spiritualist wife Barbara (Annette Bening), and the Southern-like Norris family, are excited, and some, like Dale's wife, Marsha (Glenn Close), and daughter, Taffy (Natalie Portman), don't care. Richie Norris (Lukas Haas) is extremely intelligent, but is only respected by his insane grandmother (Sylvia Sidney), while his older brother Billy (Jack Black) is favored for joining the Army. General Decker (Rod Steiger) doesn't trust the Martians and insist they fight, but General Casey (Paul Winfield) is more optimistic. The Martians appear to come in peace but suddenly begin to use their super-powerful and technologically advanced weapons to wipe out the population and great structures. Soon, they attack Las Vegas, where the Norrises are living, where former heavyweight champion Byron Williams (Jim Brown) is visiting, where an obnoxious lawyer is gambling, and where Sir Tom Jones is performing in concerts.



The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The President of the United States, James Dale (Jack Nicholson), is alerted when a number of spacecraft have been reported launched from the planet Mars, and are on a course to Earth. While General Decker (Rod Steiger) demands immediate Military deployment, Professor Donald Kessler (Pierce Brosnan) suggests that the General's protestations are uncalled for, claiming that they know very little about these aliens, and that this could be a new chapter for humanity.

    The President eventually has a newscast televised, in which the world is made aware of the Martian's impending arrival. Professor Kessler is even brought onto a daytime news show, in which he is interviewed by newscaster Nathalie Lake (Sarah Jessica Parker). Nathalie's boyfriend Jason Stone (Michael J Fox) notes that she seems to be flirting with the Professor, when the news transmission goes out completely, and all television signals are blocked by a transmission from the Martians.

    In the wake of this transmission, The President, Kessler, and several Generals hold a meeting in their war room to analyze what they know about the Martians. A scientist also brings a machine that he claims has translated the Martians' speech patterns...but the translations barely make any sense.

    Eventually, it is indicated that the Martians will first land near the Nevada town of Pahrump. A military escort is headed up by General Casey (Paul Winfield), a more quiet and docile general than the more outspoken General Decker. A number of spectators show up as well, as a ship lands. Emerging from the ship, are 2 armed martians, and one in a sparkling red cloak. After it is translated that he is the Martian Ambassador, and General Casey gives a greeting, a new sentence from the Martians claims they 'come in peace.'

    This causes a group of hippies to release a dove...which is quickly shot down by the Martians. The scene then dissolves into chaos as the Martians vaporize and kill almost everyone. The end up taking Nathalie Lake, her little chihuahua Poppy, and her handbag onto their ship, before leaving the massacre behind.

    Back in Washington D.C., General Decker demands that immediate action be taken, but Professor Kessler feels that what they witnessed could have been a cultural misunderstanding, due in part to the dove. A message is sent out to the Martians, and a response is soon received. The Martian Ambassador claims to feel remorse, and would like to appear before Congress.

    The request is granted, and one of the Martian's ships lands in front of the United States Capitol. The ambassador and two armed Martians appear in Congress, and approach the podium. After reading what appears to be a speech, the Martian Ambassador draws a gun that vaporizes two branches of the government. Professor Kessler pleads for the ambassador to stop, but is quickly subdued, and eventually taken aboard the ship.

    In the aftermath of the attack, General Decker once again demands that affirmative action be taken, but the President still chooses to go about the situation with no action taken against the martians...further infuriating the General.

    Aboard the Ambassador's ship, the Martians have also conducted medical experiments on Nathalie, Poppy, and the Professor. Nathalie and Poppy's heads have been switched, with Nathalie's head now transplanted onto her chihuahua's body. The Professor's body has been removed, with his vital organs still functioning, causing his head to remain alive. The Professor's disembodied head and Nathalie converse, and even in their strange bodily state, they both profess their love for each other.

    Meanwhile, back on Earth, a Martian has taken on the form of a beautiful woman, and seduces her way into the White House through Press Secretary Jerry Ross (Martin Short). Jerry is soon incapacitated by the Martian, who then attempts to kill the President and his wife (Glenn Close). The Secret Service manage to kill the Martian. This attack causes the Martian Leader to finally declare all-out war on the Earthlings, and Martian ships soon show up across the country, wrecking havoc everywhere. The Military is finally called out to try and stop them, but even they do not seem to have the firepower to stop the Martians.

    After invading Washington, the Martian leader and two of his soldiers enter the war room. They are first attacked by General Decker, who starts firing on the Martians, before the Martian Leader uses a shrinking gun, that reduces the General to a few inches tall, before stepping on him. The Martians then shoot the remaining people, before the President gives a speech, hoping to quell the violence. This seems to work, and the Martian Leader extends his hand...which turns out to be a mechanical spider, that impales the President.

    It is during a Martian attack on a small nursing home, that a young man named Richie Norris (Lukas Haas), discovers his Grandmother's favorite record, Slim Whitman's "Indian Love Call," is the key to defeating the invasion. The high-pitched yodeling causes the Martians' heads to explode, and Richie employs the help of the remaining military to play the amplified music live and via satellite. The Martians explode, their ships crash and the planet is safe. The President's daughter presents the Congressional Medal of Honor to Richie and his Grandmother while the people of Earth rebuild.

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