The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element
The Fifth Element

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Luc Besson
Produced by Patrice Ledoux
Written by Robert Mark Kamen
Luc Besson
Story by Luc Besson
Starring Bruce Willis
Milla Jovovich
Gary Oldman
Ian Holm
Chris Tucker
Music by Éric Serra
Cinematography Thierry Arbogast
Editing by Sylvie Landra
Studio Gaumont Film Company
Distributed by Gaumont Film Company (France)
Pathe (UK)
Columbia Pictures (US)
Release date(s) May 7, 1997 (1997-05-07) (France)
Running time 126 minutes
Country France
Language English
Budget $90 million[1]
Box office $263.9 million

The Fifth Element is a 1997 French/American science fiction film directed, co-written, and based on a story by Luc Besson, starring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, and Milla Jovovich. Mostly set during the twenty-third century, the film's central plot involves the survival of humanity which becomes the duty of a taxicab driver (and former special forces Major) named Korben Dallas (Willis) when a young woman (Jovovich) falls into his taxicab. Upon learning of her significance, Dallas must join efforts with the girl to recover four mystical stones essential to defending Earth from an impending attack.



In 1914, the extraterrestrials known as Mondoshawans arrive at an ancient Egyptian temple and collect the only weapon capable of defeating the Great Evil which appears every five thousand years. The weapon consists of four stones, representing the four classical elements, and a sarcophagus that contains a Fifth Element in the form of a human, which combines the power of the other four elements into a "Divine Light" that can stop the Great Evil. The Mondoshawans promise to their human contact, a priest, that they will return with the Elements in time to stop the Great Evil, but an accident forces them to give their key to the temple to the priest and instruct him to pass it on to future generations.

In 2263, the Great Evil appears in the form of a giant ball of black fire and destroys an Earth battleship. President Lindberg (Tom Lister, Jr.) is then informed of the history of the Great Evil and the weapon that can stop it by the current priest of the Mondoshawan key, Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm). As the Mondoshawans return to Earth, they are ambushed by the shape-shifting Mangalores, hired by the industrialist Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman) who was hired by the Great Evil itself to dispose of the element stones. The Mondoshawan's spacecraft is destroyed and the only thing Earth scientists could recover was the hand of the Fifth Element, which they use to create a humanoid woman, known as "Leeloo" (Milla Jovovich). Terrified of her unfamiliar surroundings, she escapes and jumps off a ledge to land in the flying taxicab of Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), a former major in the Special Forces.

Dallas delivers Leeloo to Cornelius and his apprentice, David (Charlie Creed-Miles), whereupon Cornelius learns that the four Element stones were entrusted to Diva Plavalaguna, an opera singer. Because the Mangalores failed to obtain the stones, Zorg kills them, but their compatriots attempt to obtain the Elements for themselves. General Munro (Brion James), Dallas' former superior, re-enlists Dallas and orders him to travel undercover, as a radio contest winner, to meet the Diva on a luxury cruise in space. The publicity of the contest attracts the Mangalores and Zorg to the space liner as well. Dallas takes Leeloo with him, while Cornelius instructs David to prepare the temple and stows away aboard the vessel.

The Diva is killed when Mangalores attack the ship; but Dallas retrieves the Elements from the Diva's body. He then fights the Mangalores, killing their leader, to liberate the ship. Zorg arrives and searches for the Elements; he finds a carrying case, assumes the elements are in it, and leaves behind a time bomb that causes the liner's occupants to evacuate. Zorg departs on his spacecraft, but discovers the case to be empty, so he returns to search for the Elements. He deactivates the bomb to have time to search, but a dying Mangalore then activates his own bomb, destroying the ship and killing Zorg and the remaining Mangalores, while Dallas, Cornelius, Leeloo, and talk-show host Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker) escape with the Elements aboard Zorg's spacecraft.

The four return to the Egyptian temple as the Great Evil approaches. The group arranges the stones and activate them by contact with the classical element that each stone represents; but Leeloo has become despondent and disenchanted with humanity after seeing the history of War in her studies, and initially refuses to release the Divine Light, whereupon Dallas confesses his love for Leeloo and kisses her. In reply, Leeloo combines the power of the stones and releases the Divine Light, causing the Great Evil to become dormant as a new moon in Earth's orbit.


Fitz Hall (Footballer of Queen's Park Rangers FC) appears at the beginning of the film as a twelve-year old boy.[2]


Pistol used by Bruce Willis as Maj. Korben Dallas (Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, Seattle)

As the film went into development in the early 1990s, Besson went on to create Léon, starring Jean Reno, while comic book artist Jean-Claude Mézières, who had been hired as a conceptual designer for The Fifth Element, returned to illustrating The Circles of Power, the fifteenth volume in the Valérian and Laureline series. This particular volume featured a character named S'Traks who drives a flying taxicab through the congested air traffic of the vast metropolis on the planet Rubanis. Besson read the book and was inspired to change the character of Dallas to a taxicab driver who flies through a futuristic New York City. Zorg owns the taxi company that employs and subsequently fires Dallas as part of a one-million person layoff designed to slow economic growth at the request of the government.

Largely set in a futuristic New York City, the film was a French production, with most of the principal photography filmed at Pinewood Studios in England. Some scenes were also shot on location in Mauritania. The concert scenes were filmed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, except for the special effect shots that show the Planet Fhloston through the ship's portholes. The Fifth Element was shot in Super 35 mm film format. Many scenes contain visual effects, and nearly all of the visual effects scenes are hard-matted with aid of Computer-generated imagery. The production design for the film was developed by French comics creators Jean Giraud (Moebius) and Jean-Claude Mézières. The costume design was created by French fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, who produced 954 costumes for use in the film.

The original name of the character Ruby Rhod was Loc Rhod. This name also appears in the novelization of the film.

The "Divine Language" spoken in the film is a fictional language with only 400 words, invented by director Luc Besson and Milla Jovovich. Jovovich stated that she and Besson wrote letters to each other in the Divine Language as practice.[3]

The film was developed from a 400-page story outline Luc Besson reportedly began while still in high school. As the story was far too long for a feature film, Besson wrote this screenplay from only its first part. A sequel, titled Mr. Shadow, was planned but development attempts ended within the year.[4]


The Fifth Element received generally positive reviews with a "fresh" 73% based on 55 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus, "Visually inventive and gleefully over the top, Luc Besson's The Fifth Element is a fantastic piece of pop sci-fi that never takes itself too seriously".[5] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times offered a positive review, writing, "There's no doubt about it, when it comes to saving the world, Bruce Willis is your man. He does it with smarts and style, humor and courage."[6] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it 3 stars out of 4 saying "I would not have missed seeing this film, and I recommend it for its richness of imagery. But at 127 minutes, which seems a reasonable length, it plays long."[7] David Edelstein of Slate gave it a negative review, saying, "It may or may not be the worst movie ever made, but it is one of the most unhinged."[8]

The film was selected as the opening film for the 1997 Cannes Film Festival[9] and became a major box office success, grossing over US$263 million, almost three times its budget of US$90 million.[1] 76% of the receipts for The Fifth Element were from markets outside of the United States.[10]

The Fifth Element was nominated for an Academy Award in 1998 in the Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing category, losing to Titanic, but it won the BAFTA Award for Best Special Visual Effects. It was nominated for seven César awards and won three for Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Production Design.

The Visual Effects Society voted The Fifth Element to be the 50th most influential visual effects film of all time.[11]

Home media

The original home video release of The Fifth Element took place in North America on 10 December 1997, on VHS, LaserDisc, and DVD. The original DVD was in its original 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen format, had English and Spanish audio and subtitling, and carried no special features.

The film was re-released in Sony's Superbit collection on 9 October 2001. This enhanced release, also pressed in its original 2.39:1 format, used a higher data rate for a better picture, and featured subtitling in six languages (English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese and Thai) but only English audio and no special features.

A two-disc Ultimate Edition was released on 11 January 2005. Disc one contained the Superbit DVD with five languages of subtitles (all the Superbit subtitles except Thai) and added audio tracks in German and Swedish. The second disc provided special features, including deleted scenes and a production featurette, for the first time.

The first Blu-ray Disc release of the film occurred on June 20, 2006, and was widely criticized as having poor picture quality.[12] Sony subsequently made a remastered Blu-ray version available, released on 17 July 2007.[13] The feature set of the original Blu-ray release matches Disc 1 of the Ultimate Collection, while the Remastered version contains only English and French audio. Neither release carried special features.


The Fifth Element: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by various artists
Released 6 May 1997
Genre Film score
Label Virgin
Professional reviews

The reviews parameter has been deprecated. Please move reviews into the “Reception” section of the article. See Moving reviews into article space.

Much of the film's score, composed by Éric Serra, shows an influence of North African music, particularly Raï. The music used for the taxicab chase scene, titled "Alech Taadi" by Algerian performer Khaled, is excluded from the film soundtrack, but it is available on Khaled's album N'ssi N'ssi.

Plavalaguna performs on stage.

In Plavalaguna's performance, the music and the vocalization abruptly shift from a classical to a trance style. This striking change is cross-cut with scenes of Leeloo's fight with the Mangalores in Plavalaguna's chamber, and the fight choreography is set to the music.

The Diva Dance opera performance featured music from Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor : "Il dolce suono", the mad scene of Act III, Scene II, and was sung by Albanian soprano Inva Mula-Tchako, while the role of Plavalaguna was played by French actress Maïwenn Le Besco. Part One (titled Lucia di Lammermoor) and Part Two (titled The Diva Dance) of this piece are included as separate tracks on The Fifth Element soundtrack, but are sequenced to create the effect of the entire performance seen in the film. The end of Part One blends into the beginning of Part Two, creating a smooth transition between the two tracks.

Track listing

All tracks composed by Éric Serra unless indicated otherwise.

  1. "Little Light of Love" – 4:50
  2. "Mondoshawan" – 4:01
  3. "Timecrash" – 1:49
  4. "Korben Dallas" – 1:43
  5. "Koolen" – 0:55
  6. "Akta" – 1:51
  7. "Leeloo" – 4:56
  8. "Five Millenia Later" – 3:13
  9. "Plavalaguna" – 1:47
  10. "Ruby Rap" (Serra/Luc Besson/Robert Kamen) – 1:55
  11. "Heat" (Serra/Sebastien Cortella) – 2:54
  12. "Badaboom" – 1:12
  13. "Mangalores" – 1:06
  14. "Il dolce suono" from the 3rd act of Lucia di Lammermoor (Gaetano Donizetti/Salvadore Cammarano) – 3:10
  15. "The Diva Dance" – 1:31
  16. "Leeloominai" – 1:41
  17. "A Bomb in the Hotel" – 2:14
  18. "Mina Hinoo" – 0:54
  19. "No Cash No Trash" – 1:04
  20. "Radiowaves" – 2:32
  21. "Human Nature" – 2:03
  22. "Pictures of War" – 1:19
  23. "Lakta Ligunai" – 4:14
  24. "Protect Life" (Serra/Cortella) – 2:33
  25. "Little Light of Love" (end titles version) – 3:29
  26. "Aknot! Wot?" (bonus track) (Serra/Besson/Kamen) – 3:35


A video game adaptation based on the film was also created by Activision for the PlayStation game console and PC. It was generally met with average to negative reviews.[14][15] A racing game titled New York Race was also released in 2001.[16]

There was also a novel adaptation by Terry Bisson and published by HarperPrism.[17][18][19]



  1. ^ a b "Fifth Element". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  2. ^ Bryant, Tom (24 October 2007). "Has a journalist ever won an international cap?". The Guardian (London).,,2197545,00.html. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  3. ^ Interview included in the bonus feature "The Adventure and Discovery of a Film: The Story of the Fifth Element" on the DVD release of The Fifth Element (Ultimate Edition).
  4. ^ "Mr. Shadow". Corona Coming Attractions. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  5. ^ "The Fifth Element Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  6. ^ Top Critics]. The Fifth Element. Rotten Tomatoes.
  7. ^ "Ebert review". Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  8. ^ Edelstein, David (11 May 1997). "Slate magazine review". Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  9. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Fifth Element". Retrieved 27 September 2009. 
  10. ^ The Fifth Element at Box Office Mojo
  11. ^ VES 50: The Most Influential Visual Effects Films of All Time Press release from VES
  12. ^ Williams, Ben (5 August 2007). "The Fifth Element Blu-ray". Retrieved 24 August 2009. 
  13. ^ Hunt, Bill (21 May 2007). "My Two Cents 5/21/07". The Digital Bits. 
  14. ^ The Fifth Element for PlayStation game review at Gamespot
  15. ^ The Fifth Element game review at IGN
  16. ^ "NYR: New York Race – The Fifth Element for Game Boy Color". 14 November 2001. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  17. ^ "The fifth element : a novel". Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  18. ^ TB Biblio RTF[dead link]
  19. ^ Terry Bisson, The Fifth Element: A Novel (Harpercollins, 1997).


  • Besson, Luc. (1997) The Story of the Fifth Element: The Adventure and Discovery of a Film, London: Titan. ISBN 1-85286-863-5
  • Bizony, Piers. (2001) Digital Domain: The Leading Edge of Visual Effects, London: Aurum. ISBN 1-85410-707-0
  • Hanson, Matt. (2005) "The Fifth Element", in Building Sci-Fi Moviescapes: The Science Behind the Fiction, Burlington, Massachusetts: Focal Press, pp. 60–66. ISBN 0-240-80772-3.

External links

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