- Directors: Steven Spielberg
- Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Colin Wilson
- Writers: Novel, H G Wells, Screenplay, Josh Friedman, David Koepp
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller
- Actors: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Miranda Otto, Tim Robbins
The story opens in Newark, New Jersey, with dock worker Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) finishing the third shift in the morning. His pregnant ex-wife Mary Anne (Miranda Otto) and her wealthy new husband Tim (David Alan Basche), drop off Ray’s 10-year-old daughter Rachel (Hannah Dakota Fanning) and teenage son Robbie (Justin Chatwin) at his house. They are staying with him in Bayonne, New Jersey, while Tim and Mary Anne visit her parents in Boston, Massachusetts for the weekend. Rachel suffers from a panic disorder, while Robbie harbors resentment and outright disrespect towards his father. Later that day, Ray wakes up from a nap and is told by Rachel that Robbie has stolen his car and left.
Ray immediately sets out to find him, but is distracted by a strange wall cloud formation near his neighbourhood. As he and Rachel view it from the garden, the clouds begin to unleash electromagnetic pulses, disabling all of the working electronic devices in the area, including cars. Ray finds an apologetic Robbie, and tells him to take care of Rachel in the house while he goes to look at a hole in the ground that Robbie mentioned. Traveling past, he advises a mechanic to replace the solenoid of a Plymouth Voyager he is repairing. Ray and many other people find the mysteriously cold hole in the intersection, from which a large Tripod machine emerges. It begins to vaporize all humans within its range, and starts to destroy all the buildings in its path. Ray however, manages to escape and returns to his house. After packing food, Ray and the kids abandon their home and steal the Plymouth Voyager, which, due to Ray’s advice of changing the solenoid, is the only operating vehicle in town.
Afterwards, the narrator reveals that the Tripods were breaking down because the invaders and their weeds were suffering from terrestrial diseases, for which they had no immunity.