National Treasure
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJon Turteltaub
Screenplay byJim Kouf
Cormac Wibberley
Marianne Wibberley
Story by
Produced by
CinematographyCaleb Deschanel
Edited byWilliam Goldenberg
Music byTrevor Rabin
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
  • November 19, 2004 (2004-11-19)
Running time
131 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$100 million[1]
Box office$347.5 million[1]

National Treasure is a 2004 American action-adventure heist film[2] released by Walt Disney Pictures. It was written by Jim Kouf and the Wibberleys, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and directed by Jon Turteltaub. It is the first film in the National Treasure franchise and stars Nicolas Cage in the lead role, Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger, Sean Bean, Justin Bartha and Christopher Plummer. In the film, Benjamin Franklin Gates, a historian, along with computer expert Riley Poole and archivist Abigail Chase, search for a massive lost Freemason treasure, which includes a map hidden on the back of the United States Declaration of Independence.

National Treasure was released worldwide on November 19, 2004. The film grossed $347 million worldwide and received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the action scenes and performances but criticized the premise and screenplay. A sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, was released in 2007.

At the 2022 D23 Expo, a sequel television series, National Treasure: Edge of History, was announced. It was released on the Disney+ streaming service from December 14, 2022 to February 8, 2023.


Benjamin Franklin Gates is an American historian, cryptographer, and treasure hunter. When Ben was young, his grandfather John told him that, in 1832, Charles Carroll passed on a secret clue to their ancestor of a fabled treasure hidden in America by the Knights Templar, Founding Fathers and Freemasons. Carroll's clue leads anyone to the treasure: with the phrase "the secret lies with Charlotte". While Ben is convinced by the story, his skeptical father, Patrick, dismisses it as nonsense.

Ben and his friend, computer expert Riley Poole, head an expedition financed by wealthy Ian Howe to find the Charlotte, revealed to be a ship lost in the Arctic. Within the ship, they find a meerschaum pipe, whose engravings reveal the next clue is on the Declaration of Independence. When Ian reveals himself to be a crime boss and suggests stealing the Declaration, a fight ensues, and the group splits. Ben and Riley report Ian's plan to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Abigail Chase of the National Archives, but they don't believe them. Ben decides to protect the Declaration by removing it from the Archives' preservation room during a gala event. Obtaining Abigail's fingerprints, he successfully obtains the Declaration, only to be spotted by Ian's group just as they break in to steal it. Ben tries to leave via the gift shop but has to pay for the Declaration when the cashier mistakes it for a souvenir copy. Suspecting something amiss, Abigail confronts Ben and takes back the document. Ian promptly kidnaps her, but Ben and Riley rescue Abigail, tricking Ian by leaving behind a souvenir copy of the Declaration. The FBI, led by Agent Sadusky, begins tracking Ben.

Going to Patrick's house, the trio studies the Declaration and discovers an Ottendorf cipher written in invisible ink. The message refers to Benjamin Franklin's Silence Dogood letters. Patrick formerly owned them, but donated them to the Franklin Institute. Paying a schoolboy to view the letters and decipher the code for them, Ben, Riley, and Abigail discover a message pointing to the bell tower of Independence Hall. Pursued by Ian, they find a brick containing a pair of spectacles with multiple colored lenses, which, when used to read the back of the Declaration, reveal a clue pointing to Trinity Church. Ian's associates chase the trio through Philadelphia until the FBI arrests Ben. Abigail and Riley lose the Declaration to Ian, but Abigail convinces Ian to help them rescue Ben in exchange for the next clue. Ian agrees, contacts the FBI, and arranges a meeting at the USS Intrepid, where they help Ben evade the FBI.

Ian returns the Declaration and asks for the next clue, but when Ben remains coy, Ian reveals he has taken Patrick hostage. They travel to the Trinity Church, where they find an underground passage that appears to lead to a dead end, lit by a lone lantern. Patrick claims it is a reference to the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, pointing Ian to the Old North Church in Boston. Ian traps Ben, Abigail, Riley, and Patrick in the chamber, heading for Boston, which was Patrick's intent as the clue was fictitious and he knew that Ian would betray them. Ben then finds a notch the meerschaum pipe fits into, opening a large chamber containing the treasure, with a staircase to the surface. Ben contacts Sadusky, who is actually a Freemason, and surrenders the Declaration and the treasure's location in exchange for letting Abigail go free, giving the Gates family and Riley credit for the discovery, and no prison sentence. On a tip from Ben, the FBI arrests Ian.

Later, Ben and Abigail start a relationship and Riley is somewhat upset that Ben turned down the 10% finder's fee for the treasure so the entire collection could go to museums worldwide, but the 1% he did accept has still netted them all with significant wealth.


A caucasian man with short brown hair. He is looking towards the right and has a microphone in front of him.
A caucasian man with short dirty blonde hair. He is looking towards the left and is wearing a suit.
Nicolas Cage in 2011 (top) and Sean Bean in 2015

David Dayan Fisher appears as Shaw, Stewart Finlay-McLennan as Powell, Oleg Taktarov as Viktor Shippen, and Stephen Pope as Phil McGregor (Ian's henchmen); Annie Parisse, Mark Pellegrino, Armando Riesco, and Erik King play agents Dawes, Ted Johnson, Hendricks, and Colfax, respectively. Don McManus appears as Dr. Stan Herbert, Arabella Field appears as Abigail's secretary, and Yves Michel-Beneche appears as the boy who gives Riley clues at the museum. Sharon Wilkins, Alexandra Balahoutis, and Dahn Ballard portray a butcher, a clothing store clerk, and a gift shop cashier respectively. Jason Earles portrays Thomas Gates, and Terrence Currier portrays a young version of Founding Father Charles Carroll.



By early 1999, it was revealed that Jon Turteltaub was developing National Treasure based upon an idea developed by Oren Aviv and Charles Segars in 1997, with a script by Jim Kouf.[5] By 2001, the project was relocated to Touchstone Pictures.[6]

Film set for the underground chambers beneath Trinity Church

In May 2003, Nicolas Cage was cast as the lead.[7] New drafts were written by nine scribers, including Cormac and Marianne Wibberley,[7] E. Max Frye, and Jon Turteltaub.[8] By October, Sean Bean was cast.[4]

Filming locations

National Treasure was filmed primarily in Los Angeles, Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Utah. Most scenes were filmed on location, with the exceptions of the Independence Hall scene, portions of which were filmed at the replica of Independence Hall at Knott's Berry Farm, and the Arctic scene, which was filmed in Utah.[9]


National Treasure (Original Score)
Film score by
ReleasedNovember 16, 2004
GenreStage & screen
ProducerTrevor Rabin
Professional ratings
Review scores

All tracks are written by Trevor Rabin

1."National Treasure Suite"3:17
3."Finding Charlotte"1:04
4."Library of Congress"2:27
5."Preparation Montage"4:53
6."Arrival at National Archives"1:54
7."The Chase"4:22
8."Declaration of Independence"1:43
9."Foot Chase"3:34
10."Spectacle Discovery"3:18
Total length:38:45

Portrayal of Declaration of Independence

The film's suggestion that the original Declaration of Independence still has clearly visible ink is inaccurate. The document's ink faded over time due to exposure to damaging lighting, with little ink still existing by 1876.[11][12]


Box office

National Treasure earned $11 million on its opening day in the United States, ahead of Paramount & Nickelodeon's The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (which earned $9,559,752).[13][14] It grossed $35,142,554 during its opening weekend, on 4,300 screens at 3,243 theaters, averaging $11,648 per venue.[15][16][17][18] The film had the best opening weekend for a Disney film released in November until it was surpassed by Chicken Little in 2005. It held on to the No. 1 spot for three weekends. In Japan, National Treasure bested the double-billing MegaMan NT Warrior: Program of Light and Dark and Duel Masters: Curse of the Deathphoenix, grossing $11,666,763 in its first week. The film closed on June 2, 2005, with a domestic gross of $173,008,894 and earning $174,503,424 internationally. Worldwide, National Treasure grossed over $347,512,318, against a budget of $100 million.[1]

Critical reception

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 46% based on 179 reviews, and an average rating of 5.30/10. The site's consensus reads, "National Treasure is no treasure, but it's a fun ride for those who can forgive its highly improbable plot."[19] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 39 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[20] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[21][22]

Roger Ebert gave the film 2/4 stars, calling it "so silly that the Monty Python version could use the same screenplay, line for line."[23] Academic David Bordwell has expressed a liking for the film, placing it in the tradition of 1950s Disney children's adventure movies,[24] and using it as the basis for an essay on scene transitions in classical Hollywood cinema.[25]


Year Award Category Notes Result
2005 BMI Film & TV Awards BMI Film Music Award BMI Film Music Award for Trevor Rabin Won
2005 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA Saturn Award for Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film Nominated
2005 Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress Diane Kruger Nominated
2005 Teen Choice Awards Movie: Action/Adventure Nominated
2005 Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Models and Miniatures in a Motion Picture Matthew Gratzner, Forest Fischer, Scott Beverly,
and Leigh-Alexandra Jacob, for the treasure room
2005 World Stunt Awards Taurus Award for Best Overall Stunt by a Stunt Woman Lisa Hoyle Nominated
2005 Young Artist Awards Best Family Feature Film: Drama Nominated
2005 Young Artist Awards Best Performance in a Feature Film, Supporting Young Actor Hunter Gomez Nominated

Home media

National Treasure was released on Disney DVD in May 2005. In keeping with the movie's theme, the DVD contains a "Bonus Treasure Hunt": viewers who watch the Special Features on the disc are rewarded with puzzles and codes that unlock more features.

Collector's Edition DVD

To help promote Book of Secrets, a special collector's edition, two-disc DVD set of the movie was released on December 18, 2007. The set features a bonus disc containing additional deleted scenes and documentaries.[26]


Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released Blu-ray versions of National Treasure and its sequel, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, on May 20, 2008.[27]


Main article: National Treasure (franchise)

Although the DVD commentary stated that there were no plans for a sequel, the film's box office gross of an unexpected $347.5 million worldwide warranted a second film, which was given the green light in 2005. National Treasure: Book of Secrets was released on December 21, 2007.

In 2008, director Jon Turteltaub said that the filmmaking team would take its time on another National Treasure sequel.[28] In October 2013, Turteltaub confirmed that he, the studio, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and the actors all wanted to do a third film, saying: "We want to do the movie, Disney wants to do the movie. We're just having the damnedest time writing it. I'll bet that within two years, we'll be shooting that movie. I'd say we're about halfway there."[29] In May 2016, Cage confirmed the film was still in the writing process,[30] and in July 2018, Turtletaub reiterated that a script for a possible third film was "close", but Disney still was not completely sold on it.[31] In January 2020, it was announced that Chris Bremner, the writer of Bad Boys for Life, would write a new script.[32]

In May 2020, Jerry Bruckheimer confirmed that, not only was there a third film in development with the original cast returning, but also that a Disney+ series was in the works with the same premise as the original, but focusing on a much younger cast.[33]

In an April 2022 "Ask Me Anything" thread on Reddit, Cage responded to a question about his involvement in possible future installments: "No, the priority was to turn it into a TV show so I would say probably not."[34][35]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Box office statistics for National Treasure (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 10, 2007..
  2. ^ "'National Treasure' cashes in on wacky heist".
  3. ^ Vitale, Simona. "Il mistero dei Templari - National Treasure, trama e cast del primo film con Nicolas Cage". Mondo Fox (in Italian). Fox Networks Group. Archived from the original on May 13, 2018. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Feiwell, Jill; Harris, Dana (October 13, 2003). "Sean Bean". Variety. Archived from the original on October 6, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  5. ^ Cox, Dan; Carver, Benedict (February 22, 1999). "'Treasure' found". Variety. Archived from the original on October 6, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  6. ^ Fleming, Michael (July 31, 2001). "Helmer digs for 'Treasure'". Variety. Archived from the original on October 6, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Fleming, Michael (May 27, 2003). "Cage unearths 'Treasure'". Variety. Archived from the original on October 6, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  8. ^ The Wibberley's (April 9, 2003). "National Treasure Draft" (PDF). Patriot Resource. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  9. ^ "Locations for National Treasure". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  10. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Trevor Rabin, National Treasure (Original Score)". Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  11. ^ "The Declaration of Independence Has Had a Fairly Rough Time, but Preservationists Have Saved It". July 3, 2020.
  12. ^ Ruane, Michael E. (October 21, 2016). "Was the Declaration of Independence 'defaced'? Experts say yes". Washington Post.
  13. ^ "Daily Box Office for Friday, November 19, 2004". Box Office Mojo. 2004.
  14. ^ Duong, Senh (November 20, 2004). "BOX OFFICE: Friday Estimates - 1. ?Treasure? $11M, 2. ?Square pants? $9.4M". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  15. ^ "November 19-21, 2004 Weekend". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  16. ^ Gray, Brandon (November 22, 2004). "'National Treasure,' 'SpongeBob' Clean Up". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  17. ^ "SpongeBob squeezed at box office". BBC. November 22, 2004. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  18. ^ Peterson, Todd (November 22, 2004). "Treasure Makes Bank at the Box Office". People. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
  19. ^ "National Treasure". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  20. ^ "National Treasure". Metacritic. Retrieved May 23, 2015.
  21. ^ Mark Hofmeyer (November 19, 2019). "5 Reasons National Treasure Is Still a Fan Favorite". Rotten Tomatoes.
  22. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  23. ^ Ebert, Roger. "National Treasure". Chicago Sun-Times.
  24. ^ Bordwell, David (January 5, 2008). "Your trash, my Treasure". Retrieved January 30, 2010.
  25. ^ Bordwell, David (January 2008). "The Hook: Scene Transitions in Classical Cinema". Retrieved January 30, 2010.
  26. ^ "Collectors Edition". Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  27. ^ "Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Announces the Disney Blu-Ray Title Wave Coming 2008". High-Def Digest. August 17, 2007. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved September 27, 2007.
  28. ^ Kirkland, Bruce (May 30, 2008). "'National Treasure 3' in works". Jam!. CA: Canoe. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  29. ^ Franklin, Garth (October 22, 2013). "A "National Treasure 3" Is On The Way?". Dark Horizons. Archived from the original on March 31, 2014. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  30. ^ "'National Treasure 3': Nic Cage Says the Writers Are Still Fact-Checking". Collider. May 25, 2016.
  31. ^ Alyssa Fikse (July 30, 2018). "The Director Of 'National Treasure' Explains Why We Haven't Gotten A Third Movie Yet". Uproxx. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  32. ^ Kit, Borys (January 17, 2020). "'Bad Boys 4' in the Works (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  33. ^ Mancuso, Vinnie (May 7, 2020). "Exclusive: 'National Treasure' Disney+ Series In Development". Collider. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
  34. ^ "r/movies Nicolas Cage's AMA". Reddit. April 10, 2022.
  35. ^ DiBenedetto, Chase (April 10, 2022). "Nicolas Cage's Reddit AMA was a nostalgic, honest delight". Mashable. Retrieved May 16, 2023.