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Killer Asteroids and Comets in the Movies


The end of the world has always been a popular subject matter for science fiction movies. The blockbuster movies Deep Impact and Armageddon from 1998 are two of the best known movies of this genre. However, Hollywood has threatened the planet more than twice with a cosmic catastrophe, sometimes more realistically than others! An end of the world by impact film festival would include the following entries:

Deep Impact (1998)
The first of the blockbuster theatre releases of 1998, this movie told of the discovery of a comet heading our way and the efforts of humanity to deflect it. A strong cast included Robert Duvall, Tea Leoni, Vanessa Redgrave, and Morgan Freeman as the President. The space mission to the incoming comet is only partially successful and a big hunk of comet makes a big splash in the Atlantic Ocean. No mass extinction in this one, but the surf was up!

Armageddon (1998)
The second blockbuster to hit the theatres that year ran with the tagline "It's closer than you think!" An asteroid the size of Texas is incoming, and a team of deep drilling experts headed by Bruce Willis is sent up on a souped up space shuttle to blow it up from the inside out. Like in its contemporary Deep Impact, we see the social fabric of the planet falling apart as the impact gets closer and closer. Most critics found this movie a bit "lighter" than the year's other disaster flick with the same theme, and a better action movie.

Meteorites (1998)
This made-for-TV movie came out at almost the same time as the theatrical releases of Armageddon and Deep Impact, an attempt to capitalize on the publicity they generated. The story revolves around Cath Johnson, who discovers that a swarm of meteors will be raining down on Earth, especially her home-town region near Roswell, New Mexico. Of course, the local officials are in denial about her prediction because it would interfere with the annual Roswell "alien festival." Her husband is played by Tom Wopat (formerly of the TV series Dukes of Hazzard).

Doomsday Rock (1997)
This is another made for TV movie on this popular theme. A noted astronomer played by William Devane believes a comet is on a collision course with Earth based on his study of an ancient civilization's time line. Unable to convince anyone in authority of his theory, he and a band of followers take over a missile silo to solve the problem themselves. His daugher, also an astronomer, (played by Connie Sellecca) enlists an FBI agent (Ed Marinaro) to help her save her father and the world. Of course a bit of romance gets into the plot between the FBI agent and the female astronomer.

Asteroid (1997)
"The end of the world is just beginning..." was the tagline for this made for TV movie. The bull's eye in this movie was Dallas, Texas. Attempts to deflect the incoming rock fail. The movie follows the events in the lives of several characters as the big rock comes in to ruin everyone's day. The cast of this one consists of mostly no-name actors.

Meteor (1979)
An asteroid collides with a comet, sending an 8 km chunck of debris heading toward Earth. "There's no place on Earth to hide!" announced this movie's tagline. The U.S. and Soviets cooperate, eventually, to launch a massive barrage of nukes (from their secret orbiting missile silos) to blast the threat. This film has a cast of many well known Hollywood personalities, including Sean Connery, Natalie Wood, Karl Malden, Brian Keith, Martin Landau, Trevor Howard, Richard Dysart, and Henry Fonda (who plays the President). New York City hits smashed big time in this one.

A Fire in the Sky (1978)
In this made for TV movie a comet is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth, headed for Phoenix, Arizona. Of course, no one believes the astronomers who try to warn the government. The movie starred Richard Crenna and Elizabeth Ashley. This movie was known as "The Comet that Ate Phoenix" by the graduate students at the University of Arizona's astronomy department.

Deep Impact movie


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