Every Asteroid and Comet Disaster Movie Ever Made

Earth-threatening asteroid

I spent part of last year digging around for space rocks — that’s movies about space rocks — the idea being to compile a list of every asteroid and comet disaster movie ever made, 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. The next big task was to watch them all.

Because planetary scientists seem to love acronyms more than asteroids, may I present IMPACT! or the Index of Moving Pictures about Asteroid and Comet Threats, 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, with at least four releases in 2020 and 2021.

A release in 2020 is Collision Earth (not to be confused with a 2011 movie of the same name). This made-for-TV drama is about an approaching swarm of debris masking a larger asteroid threat. It features a lot of highly colourful on-the-ground monitoring using virtual reality headsets and Marcel Marceau mimicry.

The next is Greenland, a big budget film about a comet impact and the search for sanctuary in an underground shelter in Greenland. If you find you’re forced to do what the comet doesn’t and give this one a miss because it’s not available in your country, don’t fret because there are plenty of other films on the A-to-Z list, some with more comet impact drama. Greenland is more about clinging onto the fragment of a marriage and a bag of medication (much like another on that list).

The third, for release in 2021, is Don’t Look Up. It’s a cast the size of Hollywood in a satire that measures up rather well on the entertainment scale for films in this genre. Two astronomers try to warn the world about an impending impact the size of Everest that no-one else believes will be a problem because the White House and the world’s largest tech company said so. Originally said by Netflix to be about an asteroid but then changed to comet. Was PR confused (I can help there) or did the script change during lockdown?

The final one, for release in 2021, is Meteor Moon. It’s a A-to-Z of physics jargon…but that doesn’t mean it’s good. Stick with the trailer.

Greenland (2020). STX Entertainment. Making an Impact: Lights, Camera and Asteroid! Every asteroid and comet disaster movie ever made rolled into one.
Greenland (2020) – STX Entertainment

If I were to pick a handful of recommendations to watch from the hundred (or so) on the IMPACT! list, here are my top twelve, in no particular order — although I do leave the best ’til last.

Start with the first ever comet impact movie The End of the World (1916) (but note…it’s silent) and then watch A Fire in the Sky (1978), the one that revived a lost genre and provided 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 and methods which need to be invented regardless of cost or consequence. Follow it up with The Expanse (2015–2021) — it’s astonishingly good, but you’ll need to commit (and make sure you never hit Skip Intro).

If you’ve only got minutes to spare, watch the short film Hope (2016) and the comedy sketch The Size of Texas (2011). Or for another light-hearted take on events, watch the opening episode (S2) 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 too, watch the Japanese films Warning from Space (1956) and Gorath (1962) (where the latter turns an asteroid into a spaceship). I love a Japanese flick, with or without subtitles…

…and so I was totally gripped by the anime Your Name (2016) aka Kimi no Na wa, which is an absolute joy to watch.

But perhaps the best of the bunch of all of the movies ever made in this genre (and that’s no big fish story) is the Japanese film, Fish Story (2009). How on Earth can a silent gap in a song composed of mistranslated lyrics that never sold save the planet? I dare you not to love this one.

Here’s IMPACT! with all the links you need.

Fish Story (2009) - green meteor in sky
Fish Story (2009) – Showgate/Amuse Soft Entertainment

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!