Compiling a list of every asteroid and comet disaster movie ever made is no easy feat. First, you need to identify potential candidates. Then you have to watch them all, which can be somewhat harder than finding them.
Much like asteroids and comet themselves, there’s a whole spectrum of content in these dramas, from the very first silent film in 1916, to the massive blockbusters that launch every special effect at us that digital mastery can conjure up today. It’s a case of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Since planetary scientists seem to love acronyms more than asteroids, the list has been named IMPACT, or the Index of Moving Pictures about Asteroid and Comet Threats. It’s an A to Z list which provides links to where you can watch every drama, because tracking down some of the more obscure titles is a challenge in itself.
And fans can rest assured that the asteroid and comet impact disaster genre is definitely not extinct or even dormant, not even during lockdown, when there were at least half a dozen releases during 2020 and 2021, including one unique, socially-distanced film called How it Ends (2021).
But if I were to pick a handful of recommendations to watch from the hundred or so titles on the IMPACT list, below is my top twelve (actually, a baker’s dozen), presented in no particular order. But I do leave the best until last — and I bet it’s one you’ve never heard of.
I suggest starting with the first ever comet impact movie, The End of the World (1916), but note…it’s silent. Then watch A Fire in the Sky (1978), an excellent movie and the one that revived a lost genre, providing a more realistic story than all the others up to that point.
Then watch the TV series Salvation (2017–18), a story which encompasses almost everything featured in all the other movies combined, and undertakes relentless attempts of everything known to man to try and mitigate the disaster using methods which need to be invented regardless of cost or consequence. You might want to follow it up by watching The Expanse (2015-2021) which is literally littered with asteroids and impacts.
If you’ve only got minutes to spare, watch the short films Hope (2016) and Seven Minutes to Closing (2017), plus the comedy sketch The Size of Texas (2011). Or for another light-hearted take on events, watch the opening episode of Season 2 of The Onion News Network (2011).
For a more realistic telling of what might happen before, during and after a massive impact, watch the docu-drama The Super Comet (2007).
If you want a giant creature thrown in the mix, watch the Japanese films Warning from Space (1956) and Gorath (1962), where the latter turns the Earth into a spaceship.
I was totally gripped by the anime Your Name (2016) aka Kimi no Na wa, which is a joy to watch.
But arguably the best movie in this genre is the Japanese film Fish Story (2009). And that’s no big fish story. How on Earth can a silent gap in a punk rock song that never sold, composed of lyrics mistranslated from an obscure book, save the planet?
When you are done with those few recommendations, commit to working your way through the whole list.
Here’s IMPACT with all the links you need to find the movies.
Just remember, asteroids and comets are not the same thing, although there are ambiguous types. Think of them, perhaps, as rocky and icy end members of a whole host of compositions in between. And don’t confuse meteoroids, meteors and meteorites, because the term ‘meteor’ is almost always misused in this movie genre. For a brief (I’m lying) synopsis of each drama read Making an Impact: Lights, Camera and Asteroid!