Last year, I was digging around for space rocks — that’s movies about space rocks — to compile a list of every asteroid and comet disaster movie ever made, from the very first silent film in 1916, to the major blockbusters that launch at us every special effect that digital mastery can conjure up today. And a handful of TV shows.
Here’s the A to Z list which provides links to where you can watch all the 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 not extinct, with at least three releases in 2020 and 2021.
(You can skip the following narrative and go straight to the A to Z, but you might miss something interesting if you do.)
The first new 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 much larger asteroid threat. It features a lot of highly colourful on-the-ground monitoring using virtual reality headsets and Marcel Marceau mimicry.
The second 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 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 one on the list).
The third, for release in 2021, is Don’t Look Up, a big budget cast in a satire about two astronomers who go on a media tour to warn the world about an impending impact that no-one else believes will happen. Most recent news snippets refer to a comet when it comes to this film, but Netflix originally said it was about an asteroid. Maybe Netflix PR were confused about the difference between an asteroid and a comet (I can help with that) or maybe the writers changed the script during lockdown? I did message Leonard DiCaprio to ask what was in his script, but didn’t get a reply.
If I were to pick a handful of recommendations to watch from the full A to Z list, I would choose these:
Start with the first ever impact movie The End of the World (1916); then watch A Fire in the Sky (1978), the one that revived a lost genre and provided a more realistic story than all others up to that point. Then watch the mini-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 impending disaster, as well as methods which must be invented regardless of cost or consequence. For a more realistic telling of what might happen before, during and after a massive impact, watch the docu-drama The Super Comet (2007). For a lighthearted take of an impending disaster, watch the opening episode of Season 2 of The Onion News Network (2011). If you speak Japanese and want a giant creature to battle with the incoming asteroid, watch Warning from Space (1956) and Gorath (1962). But if you only have literally a few minutes to spare, watch the short film Hope (2016) or the comedy The Size of Texas (2011).
Remember, asteroids and comets are not the same thing, although there is growing evidence for ambiguous types — think of them as rocky and icy end members of a whole host of small bodies in between. And don’t confuse meteoroids, meteors and meteorites, because the term ‘meteor’ is almost always misused in this genre.
The article Making an Impact: Lights, Camera and Asteroid! provides a brief synopsis of all these dramas.
Now, on with the A to Z list…