Stargate (film)

This article is about the original 1994 film that started the franchise. For other franchise films, see Stargate (disambiguation).

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Produced by Dean Devlin
Oliver Eberle
Joel B. Michaels
Written by Roland Emmerich
Dean Devlin
Music by David Arnold
Cinematography Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Edited by Derek Brechin
Michael J. Duthie
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • October 28, 1994 (1994-10-28)
Running time
128 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $55 million[4]
Box office $196.6 million[4]

Stargate is a 1994 adventure science fiction film[5] released through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Carolco Pictures. Created by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, the film is the first release in the Stargate franchise. Directed by Roland Emmerich, the film stars Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson, Alexis Cruz, Mili Avital, and Viveca Lindfors. The plot centers on the premise of a "Stargate", an ancient ring-shaped device that creates a wormhole enabling travel to a similar device elsewhere in the universe. The film's central plot explores the theory of extraterrestrial beings having an influence upon human civilization.

The film had a mixed initial critical reception, earning both praise and criticism for its atmosphere, story, characters, and graphic content. Nevertheless, Stargate became a commercial success worldwide. Devlin and Emmerich gave the rights to the franchise to MGM when they were working on their 1996 film Independence Day, and MGM retains the domestic television rights. The rights to the Stargate film are owned by StudioCanal, with Lions Gate Entertainment handling most distribution in international theatrical and worldwide home video releases, although Rialto Pictures handles domestic distribution under license from StudioCanal.


Egyptologist and linguist Daniel Jackson, Ph.D. (James Spader) is invited by Catherine Langford (Viveca Lindfors) to translate Egyptian hieroglyphs on cover stones that her father had unearthed in Giza, Egypt in 1928. Jackson is taken to a U.S. Air Force installation, and told the project is classified information by its commander Special Operations Colonel Jack O'Neil (Kurt Russell). Jackson determines that the hieroglyphs refer to a "stargate" which uses constellations as spatial coordinates. On this revelation, Jackson is shown that the base has this Stargate, also discovered by Langford's father. They use Jackson's coordinates to align the Stargate's metal ring with markings along its outside, and once all seven are locked in, a wormhole opens, connecting the Stargate with a distant planet. Jackson joins O'Neil and other soldiers as they pass through the wormhole, though expresses concern at a nuclear bomb they brought as a last resort.

On the arid desert planet, they find themselves in a pyramid-like structure. Jackson locates the Stargate and its controls, but lacks the coordinates to return home. O'Neil orders some men to stay behind to guard the Stargate. Nearby, they discover a tribe of humans working to mine a strange mineral from the planet. Jackson is able to communicate with them as they speak a variation of Ancient Egyptian, and finds the tribe sees them as emissaries of their god Ra (Jaye Davidson). The tribe's chieftain Kasuf (Eric Avari) presents Jackson with his daughter Sha'uri (Mili Avital) as a gift, and though Jackson initially refuses her, he becomes romantically attached to her. O'Neil befriends the teenaged boy Skaara (Alexis Cruz) and his friends, in part because Skaara reminds him of his long-deceased son. Through hidden markings and discussions with the tribe, Jackson learns that Ra is an alien being who had come to Earth during the Ancient Egyptian period, looking to possess human bodies to extend his own life. Ra enslaved these humans and brought some to this planet through the Stargate to mine the mineral that is used in the alien technology. The humans on Earth revolted, overthrew Ra's overseers, and buried the Stargate to prevent its use. Ra forbade the humans in the tribe from becoming literate, fearing another revolt. During this investigation, Jackson comes across a cartouche containing six of the seven symbols for the Stargate, but the seventh has been broken off.

That night, Ra's ship lands atop the pyramid structure, and O'Neil's men there are captured or killed by Ra's soldiers. When Jackson, O'Neil, and the other men return, they end up in a firefight against Ra's soldiers. Jackson is killed and the others captured. Ra places Jackson's body in a sarcophagus-like device that regenerates him. Ra then explains to Jackson that he has found the nuclear bomb the humans brought and has used his alien technology to increase its explosive power a hundred-fold, and threatens to send it back through the Stargate. Ra orders the human tribe to watch as he prepares to execute Jackson and the others to demonstrate his power, but Skaara and his friends create a diversion that allows Jackson, O'Neil, and the others to escape. They flee to nearby caves to hide from Ra. Skaara and his friends celebrate, and Skaara draws out a sign of victory in the sand, which Jackson recognizes as the final symbol.

O'Neil and his men aid Skaara in overthrowing the remaining overseers, and then launch an attack on Ra. Ra sends out fighter ships against the humans while he orders his ship to take off. The humans outside are forced to surrender to the fighter ships' pilots when they run out of ammo, but the rest of the tribe, having finally learned of their false gods, rebel against the pilots and overthrow them. Sha'uri is killed, but Jackson takes her body and sneaks aboard Ra's ship, using a teleportation system, leaving O'Neil to fight Ra's lead soldier. After Jackson places Sha'uri in the regeneration device. Ra discovers them, but O'Neil activates the teleportation system, killing Ra's lead soldier, and allowing Jackson and Sha'uri to escape. O'Neil realizes that Ra had rigged the bomb to prevent him from disarming it. O'Neil and Jackson decide to use the teleportation system to transport the bomb to Ra's ship. The ensuing blast destroys the ship in space. With the humans freed, the remaining team prepares to return to Earth, but Jackson tells O'Neil he plans to stay behind with Sha'uri and the others. O'Neil acknowledges Jackson's request and, with the others, enters the Stargate to return home.

Director's cut

The Director's cut had several scenes which were cut from the theatrical film version. The first such scene took place immediately after the excavation of the Stargate in 1928 and showed petrified Horus guards near the cover stones; the producers had tried to introduce the idea that beings had attempted to come through the Stargate after its burial, but they cut the scene for time concerns.[6]

Cast and characters


Hieroglyphic script on the coverstone and its chalkboard translation

(including original translation and later modification by Daniel Jackson)

rnp t
Z1 Z1 Z1
b H w W15 N1
p w r
C1 m i t

time year million sky Ra sun god

m x m t S20 Aa18 n
s T19 A24 Q6
D&t tA
G21 H H ra

sealed + buried coffin forever to eternity for all time

s sbA b O32 n
Z1 Z1 Z1
s b A sbA
Z1 Z1 Z1

his door to heaven stargate

literal translation of the text:

years million in sky this Ra as Aten(=sun disk)
sealed buried forever eternity
door his to stars

Jackson's final translation:

million years into the sky is Ra Sun God
sealed and buried for all time
his Stargate


The film was originally planned to play out in a chronological order, but when Devlin and Emmerich edited the film to tighten the narrative, they decided to change the first scene of the film into a flashback to show who the human host of Ra was before the aliens took him. Only Jaye Davidson's upper torso was filmed because Davidson had refused to take out his nipple rings.[6] The first scene was a combination of model shots and a set in Yuma, Arizona where Rambo: First Blood Part II had been filmed. The scene of the excavation of the Stargate was also filmed in three days in Arizona. A golden look was achieved by filming near the time of sunset.[8] To keep within the limit of the budget, the producers put stick figures with cloth in the distant desert to appear as humans. The original Stargate was painted black, but it looked like a giant tire so it was repainted silver at the last moment.[6]

Daniel Jackson's lecture on his theories was filmed in a hotel in Los Angeles.[8] The scene was originally much longer and delved more into the theories that aliens had built the Egyptian pyramids, but the scene was trimmed for time concerns for the release.[6] The scenes with O'Neil at his house were the first scenes filmed with Kurt Russell; his hair was cut short afterwards. Russell requested his hair color to be brightened a little for the film.[8] The fictional facility housing the Stargate was the largest set for the film, located in Long Beach, California.[8] Egyptologist Stuart Tyson Smith joined production to make all Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and spoken language as accurate as possible.[6]


The mask of the pharaoh in the opening credits was made out of fiber glass and modeled in the workshop. The sequence used a motion-control camera to give better depth of field.[8] The score of Stargate was composer David Arnold's first work on an American feature film. When Devlin and Emmerich first flew to London to meet with Arnold, they had not yet heard the score; hearing it, they felt "he had elevated the film to a whole other level".[6] Arnold later interviewed the actors during principal photography, using the information to improve his score.[6]

Visual effects

Jeff Kleiser and Kleiser-Walczak Construction Co.'s visual effects team of 40 people created the look of the Stargate. They used self-written image-creation and compositing software, as well as commercial digital packages to create the Stargate, the morphing helmets worn by Ra and the Horus guards, and the cityscape of Nagada. Footprints in the sand were often digitally removed. The creation of the wormhole, which was fully digital, was one of the biggest challenges in the making of the film. The ripples had to be digitally composited to appear accurate and realistic. Scanning lasers were lined up parallel to the gate to illustrate the amount of body that passed the surface of the Stargate plane. Afterwards, the parts of the body that had or had not yet gone through the gate (depending of the side of filming) were obliterated with a digital matte - a process that removes unwanted components from an individual frame or sequence of frames.[9] The use of computers generating a big 3D storyboard allowed Emmerich to try out different shooting angles before settling on one angle.[9]

Music and soundtrack

Main article: Stargate (soundtrack)

The soundtrack was composed by David Arnold, played by the Sinfonia of London and conducted by Nicholas Dodd.[10] It was the second motion picture Arnold had composed and the first major motion picture. At the time of Stargate's production, David Arnold had recently started to work in a local video store in London. Once Arnold got the job, he spent several months in a hotel room working on the soundtrack, spending more time rewriting the music and improving it as delays were being created due to film companies trying to get the rights to release the film.[11] According to Arnold "when I first read the script for StarGate, I knew what approach to take, which was to be as big and bold as possible," he kept on saying:[12] "Every time there was an amazing sight, the characters would stand back and say, 'Oh my God!' But James would just smile and walk towards it. That was the basis for the Stargate score, moving forward with a sense of majesty instead of being frightened by what's around the corner."


The film was released on October 28, 1994 in the United States and released internationally in December of the same year. In 1995 the film was released on VHS and as a Dolby Digital encoded laserdisc spanning two discs (three sides).[13] The first DVD release was on June 18, 1997. The DVD format was re-released in October 1999 under the title Stargate Special Edition, and again in 2003 on VHS and a 2-disc DVD set with remastered picture of both the theatrical and extended edition The film was released on Blu-ray format on August 29, 2006.[14][15]

Critical reception

Main article: Stargate fandom

Stargate has garnered mostly mixed reviews.[16] In the Rotten Tomatoes main "T-Meter Critics" section, 48% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 40 reviews, with an average rating of 5.3 out of 10.[17] At MRQE, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 from most critics, the film holds a score of 64 based on 95 reviews.[18] Out of Emmerich's 22 works, Stargate is his 3rd highest rated film.[19]

Most of the negative reviews focused on the overuse of special effects, thinness of plot and excessive use of clichés. Roger Ebert went so far as to say, "The movie Ed Wood, about the worst director of all time, was made to prepare us for Stargate". Ebert awarded the film one out of four stars; and, even over ten years later, Stargate remained on his list of most hated films.[20] Mike DiBella from Allmovie said, "There simply isn't enough spectacle in Stargate to make up for its many flaws."[21] The film peaked at number one on the Billboard chart Top Video Rentals on April 29, 1995.[22] However, the positive reviews stated that it was an "instant camp classic" and praised the film for its special effects and entertainment value,[23] with Chris Hicks of the Deseret News calling it "Star Wars meets Ben Hur".[24] Scott McKenzie from DVDactive said, "It's a shame because the world created around the Stargate is compelling and detailed. It's almost enough to make me want to watch the TV series, but not quite."[25] After the release of the movie, Emmerich and Devlin were sued by an Egyptology student, claiming he had written the story and given them the idea. The suit was later settled out of court.[26][27]

Box office

The film received a warmer reception from the public, grossing $71.5 million at the US box office and $125 million in the rest of the world.[28][29] At the time, the film set a record for the highest-grossing opening weekend for a film released in the month of October.[30]

Performance analysis

In its first run, Stargate made more money than film industry insiders predicted, especially given its lukewarm reviews.[31][32] Some regard it as Emmerich's breakthrough film.[33] Stargate grossed over $16,651,000 in the United States during its opening week in October 1994. It was the 35th highest-grossing film opening in the US in October.[34] From November 4–6, the film grossed around $12,368,700, declining 25%. The film would continue this decline until the end of November, when the film garnered $4,777,198, or an 8.2% rise. The week before that the film garnered around $4,413,420, a 45.6% decline. In its last week playing theatrically, the film garnered around $1,170,500 in the US.[35]


In 1995, Stargate was considered for various film awards worldwide. It won six of the ten awards it was nominated for.[36]

Award Category Winner/Nominee Result
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film Stargate Won
Saturn Award for Best Costume Joseph A. Porro Nominated
Saturn Award for Best Special Effects Jeffrey A. Okun and Patrick Tatopoulos Nominated
BMI Film & Television Awards BMI Film Music Award David Arnold Won
Fantasporto International Fantasy Film Award for Best Film Roland Emmerich Nominated
Germany's Golden Screen Awards Golden Screen Stargate Won
Hugo Awards Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation Stargate Nominated
Sci-Fi Universe Magazine: Universe Reader's Choice Awards Best Science Fiction Film Stargate Won
Best Special Effects in a Genre Motion Picture Jeffrey A. Okun Won
Best Supporting Actress in a Genre Motion Picture Mili Avital Won


Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich always envisioned Stargate as the first part of a trilogy of films, but Parts 2 and 3 were never developed.[37] At Comic-Con 2006, 12 years after the original film was released, writer/producer Dean Devlin stated that he was in early discussions with rightsholders MGM about finally bringing the final two parts to the screen.[38]


According to Devlin, the second film is intended to be set around 12 years after the original, with Daniel Jackson making a discovery that leads him back to Earth and to the uncovering of a new Stargate. The second movie would supposedly use a different mythology from the Egyptian one which formed the background to the original movie, with the third movie tying these together to reveal that "all mythologies are actually tied together with a common thread that we haven't recognized before."[39] Devlin stated that he hoped to enlist original stars Kurt Russell (Col. Jack O'Neil) and James Spader (Dr. Daniel Jackson) for the sequels. The actors have reportedly expressed an interest in participating in the project.[40]

The film trilogy would not directly tie into the Stargate SG-1 series. According to Devlin, the relationship between the movie and the series is "we would just continue the mythology of the movie and finish that out. I think the series could still live on at the end of the third sequel. So we're going to try to not tread on their stories."[39] Plans for sequels to the original film are unrelated to the development of straight-to-DVD movies made as sequels to Stargate SG-1. Using some of Roland Emmerich's notes, Bill McCay wrote a series of five novels, continuing the story the original creators had envisioned, which involved the Earth-humans, the locals and the successors of Ra. According to Devlin, he and Emmerich had always planned to do three films with the potential for more, but MGM preferred to play out the television series first.[41]

Television spin-offs

Main article: Stargate

The CD ROM Secrets of Stargate, released after the film, shows how the special effects were made. The film included behind the scenes of the film and the showing interviews with the cast and the production members.[9] Dean Devlin eventually gave Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer (MGM) the rights over the film,[37] and author Bill McCay wrote a series of five novels based on Emmerich's notes, continuing the story the original creators had envisioned. In 1996, MGM hired Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner to create a spin-off television series. Stargate SG-1 premiered on the American subscription channel Showtime on July 27, 1997 and ended its ten-season run in 2007. Stargate SG-1 itself spawned the non-canon animated television series Stargate Infinity (2002–2003), and the live-action television series Stargate Atlantis (2004–2009) and Stargate Universe (2009–2011).

Differences from the series

Concept drawing of Ra's original humanoid form by Patrick Tatopoulos.[42]

SG-1 creators and executive producers Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner altered the canon by introducing several new concepts during production of the SG-1 and Atlantis series. Most notably, many characters were portrayed by different actors in the series, and names were spelled differently.[43] Daniel Jackson was played by James Spader in the movie and by Michael Shanks in the series. Kurt Russell's character Jonathan "Jack" O'Neil, a rather humorless Colonel, is played by Richard Dean Anderson as Jonathan "Jack" O'Neill (with two L's) in SG-1.[44][45] French Stewart's character was named Lieutenant Louis Ferretti, in SG-1, Brent Stait's character is named Major Louis Ferretti. The spelling of Daniel Jackson's wife changes from Sha'uri to Sha're, O'Neill's wife from Sarah to Sara, (similarly, the name of O'Neil's son changes from Tyler in the film to Charlie).[43]

The Stargate Command setting was transferred from the fictional military facility located in Creek Mountain, to the Cheyenne Mountain military complex.[43] The unnamed planet from the film was named Abydos in the series and the distance from Earth changed from millions of light-years away (in an entirely different galaxy, "the Kalium galaxy") to becoming the closest planet to Earth with a Stargate, residing in the same galaxy as Earth. Also in SG-1, Stargate travel is limited to the Stargate network in the Milky Way galaxy (unless a tremendous amount of power is used to lengthen the subspace wormhole of a Stargate to another galaxy's Stargate).[43] Ra was the last of an unnamed race in the film, being of a humanoid species with large black eyes and a lack of facial features. In SG-1 however, Ra is one of many "Goa'uld System Lords," who are a race of parasitic eel-like creatures.[44][46] There were also changes to the Stargate. The unique set of 39 Stargate symbols in the film were replaced with the concept of 38 symbols that are the same for each Stargate (Earth's symbols based on Earth's constellations), plus a single point of origin symbol that is unique to that individual gate.[46] While the kawoosh effect in the movie was created by filming the actual swirl of water in a glass tube, and looked like a vortex on the back of the Gate;[47] on the TV series this effect was completely created in CG by the Canadian visual effects company Rainmaker.[48] At the beginning of Season 9, the original movie wormhole sequence was substituted by a new sequence similar to the one already used on Stargate Atlantis, but being blue as it was in the movie and SG-1, whereas in Atlantis it's green and in Universe, it's white.[49]


On September 5, 2013, during an interview with Digital Spy, Emmerich said that he and MGM are planning a new Stargate as a reboot with a trilogy.[50] On May 29, 2014, it was announced that MGM and Warner Bros. are partnering together for a reboot of Stargate as a trilogy with Emmerich directing, Devlin producing and Nicolas Wright & James A. Woods writing.[51][52] On November 17, 2016, Devlin told Empire Online that the plans to make a reboot a potential new series are stalled.[53]

See also


  1. "Stargate - country". Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  2. "Stargate, la porte des étoiles - country". AlloCiné.fr. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  3. "La porte des étoiles - country". Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  4. 1 2 "Stargate".
  5. Brenner, Paul. "Stargate: Overview". Allmovie. Retrieved January 4, 2010.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Devlin, Dean (2001). Audio Commentary for Stargate (DVD). MGM Home Entertainment.
  7. Asher-Walsh, Rebecca (November 11, 1994). "Slack Happy". Entertainment Weekly.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 Emmerich, Roland (2001). Audio Commentary for Stargate (DVD). MGM Home Entertainment.
  9. 1 2 3 Porter, Beth (January 16, 1995). "Wow, how did they do that?". London: The Independent. Retrieved April 3, 2009.
  10. "Stargate soundtrack". Synfonia of Retrieved April 3, 2009.
  11. Arnold, David. "History - 1994". David Retrieved September 10, 2010.
  12. Kerry J. Byrnes. "Stargate - David Arnold". Film Score Monthly. Retrieved April 3, 2009.
  13. "LaserDisc Database".
  14. "Stargate (VHS) (1995)". Retrieved April 3, 2009.
  15. "Stargate Blu-ray". Retrieved April 3, 2009.
  16. "Stargate". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 15, 2011.
  17. "Stargate". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on June 15, 2011. Retrieved January 15, 2011.
  18. "Stargate". MRQE. Retrieved January 15, 2011.
  19. "Roland Emmerich". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on June 18, 2010. Retrieved January 15, 2011.
  20. Roger Ebert. "Stargate". Sun Times. Retrieved April 4, 2009.
  21. Mike DiBella. "Stargate". Allmovie. Retrieved April 4, 2009.
  22. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (April 29, 1995). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.
  23. Farber, Stephen. "StarGate". MovieLine. Archived from the original on February 21, 2004. Retrieved August 22, 2006.
  24. Hicks, Chris (October 28, 1994). "Movie review: Stargate". Deseret News, Salt Lake City. Retrieved August 22, 2006.
  25. Scott McKenzie. "Stargate: Special Edition (UK - BD RB)". Retrieved April 3, 2009.
  26. "Zuhdi v. Metro Goldwyn Mayer, et al".
  27. "Stargate". Discovery Channel. Retrieved April 3, 2009.
  28. "Stargate (1994)". ''Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 27, 2011.
  29. "Movie Stargate - Box Office Data, News, Cast Information - The Numbers". Nash Information Services, LLC.
  30. "Top Opening Weekends By Month". Retrieved April 4, 2009.
  31. Richard Corliss (July 8, 1996). "The Invasion Has Begun!". Time. Retrieved July 8, 2008.
  32. Rebecca Ascher-Walsh (July 28, 1995). "Space Under Fire". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 8, 2008.
  33. Steven Goldman (March 7, 2008). "Action Man". London: The Guardian. Retrieved April 3, 2009.
  34. "Top Opening Weekends By Month". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 3, 2009.
  35. "Stargate (1994) Weekend Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 3, 2009.
  36. "Stargate". IMDb. Retrieved January 15, 2010.
  37. 1 2 Lee, Patrick (April 16, 2008). "Devlin Develops New Stargates". UK SciFi Networks. Retrieved September 30, 2010.
  38. Eric Vespe (August 22, 2006). "Quint chats with producer Dean Devlin about Flyboys, Isobar, Ghosting and the Stargate sequels". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved September 30, 2010.
  39. 1 2 "Devlin Announces Plans for Stargate Sequels" (July 20, 2006).
  40. "Comic-Con 2006: Devlin on Stargate Sequels". IGN. Retrieved April 3, 2009.
  41. "Dean Devlin Talks Possible Stargate and Independence Day Sequels". Retrieved April 3, 2009.
  42. "Stargate - Ra - Tatopoulos Studios". Tatopoulos Studios. Archived from the original on May 15, 2009. Retrieved April 4, 2009.
  43. 1 2 3 4 "Stargate SG-1 - the TV Show". BBC. Retrieved April 4, 2009.
  44. 1 2 Will Joyner (July 26, 1997). "Through a Gate to the Far Side of the Universe: A TV Series". The New York Times. Retrieved April 4, 2009.
  45. "Stargate SG-1: The Complete First Season". thedigitalbits. Retrieved April 4, 2009.
  46. 1 2 "The Stargate FAQ". GateWorld. Retrieved April 4, 2009.
  47. DVD commentary for the Stargate film
  48. Stargate Magic: Inside The Lab. Special feature on Stargate SG-1 DVD Volume 37 (Lost City).
  49. Audio commentary for "The Ties That Bind", SG-1.
  50. Exclusive: 'Stargate' to receive movie reboot, trilogy planned
  51. Kroll, Justin (May 28, 2014). "MGM, Warner Bros. Team with Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin on 'Stargate' Trilogy". Variety. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  52. Kit, Borys (February 4, 2015). "'Stargate' Remake Finds Its Writers (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter.
  53. Gross, Ed (November 17, 2016). "The remake of Stargate is not happening, and we know why: exclusive". Empire Magazine.
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