More than 100 years have passed since the first film was shown in movie theatres that depicted events surrounding a rock from space making an impact with Earth — although in that case it was a comet rather than an asteroid.
That movie, a silent black and white film called The End of the World, released in 1916, was inspired by the passage of two comets — the so-called Great Daylight Comet of 1910, closely followed that year by Halley’s Comet.
There was much hysteria surrounding these two events, in particular mass panic about the possibility of being poisoned by the hydrogen cyanide gas that had recently been detected in the coma of Halley’s Comet.
Since then, we have been inundated with fictional depictions of an asteroid or comet heading for Earth. Below is a spoiler-filled A to Z of pretty much every movie and TV show which features an asteroid or comet impact threat. One or two of the perpetrators are not technically asteroids or comets but massive rocks from space nonetheless.
If you’d prefer a short version without narrative read this version.
“So, what you’re telling me is that there’s something out there in space. You don’t know what it’s made of but you’re pretty sure it’s headed toward Earth. It may break up and burn off but you don’t know exactly where. It may change course and miss but you don’t know exactly when. Well, I’m grateful for all the expert advice.“
A Fire in the Sky (1978)
The list covers cinema releases, made-for-TV movies, internet movies, miniseries, a handful of single TV show episodes, and a phenomenal dramatised documentary which, like planet Earth in most of these dramas, is unmissable. A handful of titles on the list have been re-released with different titles or cuts as shown.
But before I start, I want to say two things. Firstly…
It’s the size of Texas
When the astronomer at the observatory or the man at Mission Control declares the approaching asteroid to be “the size of Texas” — which seems to be the go to size comparison in certain asteroid impact disaster movies — what does that size actually mean? Does the asteroid have a width, length, mean geometric diameter or flat face the size of Texas, or do we wrap Texas around the asteroid?
Texas has a surface area of around 696,000 km² and an asteroid the size of Texas could have a diameter of 1,265 km, 940 km or 470 km depending on the context and how you calculate it. You can read more about that in It’s the Size of Texas.
The asteroid that it is thought led to the demise of the non-avian dinosaurs 66 million years ago may have been the size of Hollywood (measured from Studio City to East Hollywood), or about 10km (6 miles). Most comets may be smaller than around 16 km (10 miles).
And secondly, I want to say…
It’s not a meteor
In many of these movies, the term ‘meteor’ is misused and its misuse begets misuse. A meteor is what moviegoers now expect the incoming antagonist to be called, so moviemakers continue to call it that every step of the trajectory.
But there is only a meteor when the object is in the meteor phase. A meteor is the bright phenomenon that we see in the sky due to something striking and burning up in the atmosphere. The meteor is the heat, light and ionisation associated with that.
There is no atmosphere in space — and where there’s no atmosphere, there’s no meteor. You can read more about that in Meteoroids, Meteors and Meteorites.
And (I lied) thirdly…
It’s a multiple choice
Take a deep breath because the disaster mitigation attempts you are about to encounter cover everything from nuclear warheads on surface-to air-missiles, space-based missiles, sub-sea missiles, thrown into trenches, dropped into volcanoes and drilled into the asteroid, to kinetic impactors, gravity tractors, zero-gravity levitation devices, carbon-fibre mesh trawlers, magnetic rail guns, triangulated laser guns, plasma canon drones, Mylar light sails, self-sealing nanomaterials, repulsive energy-field devices, spread focus laser generators, super-heated surfaces, reflective paint, EM drives, EM pulse machines, weaponised asteroids, stealth asteroids, super weapons, hijacked space probes, clandestine trajectory alterations, theoretical energy sources, homemade rockets, chemical concoctions, doomsday machines, mini black holes, the Brayburg effect, the fifth element, underground bunkers, building arks, joining cults, mass evacuation, planetary evacuation, making the Earth intangible, cloaking it in a carbon-fibre shield, pushing it out of the way with the rocket effect, jolting it out of the way with an induced tectonic shift, shifting it back by igniting the world’s largest natural gas reserve — and when all that fails, digging yourself into a hole in the ground or standing on a beach and waiting for the impact to happen. And there’s always an ill-fated reporter on the trail.
The following list of titles was last updated on 17 May 2022. Links may be to any of Amazon, IMDb, iTunes, Netflix, YouTube, a film archive, or the film company website.
Lights, camera and asteroid!
A Day on the Asteroid (2009). If you make it through this list you will have spent much more than a day on the asteroid. My list starts not with a disaster movie but a little film set in 3032 about a Chief Inspector sent to investigate increasing disturbances in the space-time continuum related to wormhole activities on the asteroid mining colony Palermus IV. There’s definitely something going on, on this asteroid. Trailer | Watch
A Fire in the Sky (1978). Not to be confused with the one about alien abduction with a similar title. A newly-discovered comet a quarter of a mile wide looks to be on course to impact Earth — although if, when and precisely where it will strike no-one can agree. The threat is being kept secret to avoid mass panic but a near-Earth object expert goes on air to tell it like it is. After a failed military nuclear intercept, mass evacuation is the only option before Phoenix and everything within 100 miles of it is obliterated in a massive airburst. Watch
Anna’s Storm (2007) aka Hell’s Rain. TV movie. The small town of Cottonwood in Colorado is caught up in a meteor storm that rains debris down across the state without warning. Residents struggle to dodge the meteorites, while the town’s doctor struggles to tend those who didn’t. But the doctor is still grappling with his own mental wounds from the time he was unable to save his own son’s life. His wife, now the town’s Mayor, tries to instil calm in what was an already a troubled town, while trying to decipher cryptic psychic messages from her dead son who is trying to warn her that the meteorites are the precursor to an even larger asteroid threat. Trailer | Watch UK | Watch US
Apocalypse, CA (2011). A group of friends seeking a fitting end to the end of the world head to the desert outside of Palm Springs, the predicted impact site of an asteroid that will strike in a few days’ time. Almost as a metaphor for the approaching asteroid, a giant is stamping people out at random in this off-beat story. It’s The Wizard of Oz meets Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. But she’s just someone whose wish was to get her own back on someone who turned her down years before. What do the others now regret having wished for? An antipodean genie masquerading as a DJ in the desert reverses their wishes-gone-wrong. Trailer | Watch US
Armageddon (1998). The film that launched a thousand asteroid size comparisons. A blockbuster (literally) about a team of deep core drillers with the wrong stuff tasked by NASA to save the world from an asteroid the size of Texas. There are only eighteen days to go before it impacts into the Pacific Ocean and it’s 97.6 billion—
Trailer | Watch UK | Watch US | the size of Texas
Asteroid (1997). TV miniseries. Not one but two asteroids are perturbed from the asteroid belt by the return of a long-period comet. Kansas City and Dallas are the impact targets. With insufficient warning and a failed nuclear intercept attempt, mass evacuation is the only option. Unfortunately, the family of the astronomer who discovered the asteroids happens to live right smack bang in the middle of the Dallas impact site. Watch
Asteroid (2021). A man moves his family back to the town where he grew up, only to find the house is in a communications dead zone. Then NASA announces that an asteroid will hit in three days’ time and his house is ground zero. To avoid dealing with it, the government issues an executive order to remove the town from the United States. But a massive deposit of super-rare minerals buried beneath the town is gravitationally attracting the asteroid and a jammer is causing the blackout. It’s a conspiracy to clear the area to get hold of the minerals. Watch UK | Watch US | YouTube
Asteroid-A-Geddon (2020). A nuclear strike fails to break up asteroid 2200 QL which is still heading for Earth. The seemingly indestructible core is composed of a carbon-bonded metal more dense than anything known to man. Svobodium carbonate. With two months until impact, the US talks about launching a second warhead, the Russians talk kinetic impactor, a religious fanatic talks God’s will, and a bohemian metallurgist builds a ten petawatt tungsten-tantalum carbide-encased deuterium fluoride-source laser and saves the world. Watch UK | Watch US
Asteroid: Final Impact (2015) aka Asteroid Impact aka Meteor Assault. TV movie. A whistleblower scientist who used to run an asteroid tracking program that was clandestinely being used as a spy satellite, reactivates it to locate a dark asteroid on course to hit the western continental US within hours in a catastrophic impact. With a homemade rocket he fires a chemical compound into the asteroid which implodes in an instantaneous chain reaction. Trailer | Watch | DVD
Asteroid vs Earth (2014). TV movie. Alerted by an anomalous spectroscopic osmium spike, an intern at the Keck Observatory discovers an asteroid one quarter the size of the Moon travelling at seven million miles per hour towards Earth. A geophysicist suggests shifting Earth out of the way with a massive tectonic displacement. “We need to puncture the protruding crust of the trench in order to pierce the asthenosphere and expose the Earth’s core,” she tells us and launches a submersible armed with nuclear bombs into the Yap Trench to induce a swarm of earthquakes along the Ring of Fire. When the target magnitude 18 intensity isn’t met, the only alternative is to drop bombs down the Saipan volcano. Trailer | Watch UK | Watch US
Before the Fall (2008) original language title Tres Días (2008). Movie. An asteroid will impact Earth in 72 hours in a catastrophic collision that no-one is expected to survive. In its final hours, the world is gripped by chaos and mass panic. A serial killer escapes from prison and holds a family hostage, making their final hours even more unbearable. It’s violent and destructive even before the impact, so maybe do what the asteroid won’t and give this one a miss. Trailer | DVD
Collision Earth (2011). TV movie. The Sun momentarily becomes a powerful magnetar, magnetising Mercury and knocking it onto a collision course with Earth. An abandoned weaponised asteroid project is resurrected to deflect it. The asteroid isn’t the threat to Earth here, but there’s an impact threat nevertheless. Trailer | Watch UK | Watch US
Collision Earth (2020). TV movie. A disgraced military meteoriticist believes that asteroid Phaethon was perturbed during its perihelion and is heading towards Earth hidden inside its own meteor cloud. Odds are it will strike Manitoba with the force of a million Hiroshimas. VR-operated plasma drones and a nuclear attack fail to destroy it and Earth’s orbital meteor shield can’t stop it. Will the Braeburg effect work? Trailer | Watch UK | Watch US
Color Out of Space (2019). Sci-fi horror based on H. P. Lovecraft’s 1927 short story of almost the same name (and one of three remakes). A glowing meteorite of an indescribable colour lands on an alpaca farm in the fictional town of Arkham and becomes the catalyst for a series of bizarre electromagnetic and horrifically transmogrifying events. The rock disappears shortly after impact, but the transformative colour remains present in the static, in the water, down the well, everywhere, as it attempts to change all life around it. The first three minutes are mesmerising, an electronica soundtrack soars, and there’s a horse named Comet. Watch UK | Watch US
Crash of the Moons (1954) aka Rocky Jones, Space Ranger: Crash of Moons (1954). TV movie (three episode story of a TV series). The planet Ophecius is in the collisional path of one of the moons in a pair of “gypsy moons”. The planet, the moon and a nearby space station must all be evacuated before the impact which is going to happen within days. A very odd experience but worth a watch to see the type of TV show people used to enjoy in the 1950s. Watch
Danny Phantom “Phantom Planet” (2007). Animated TV series [S3, Ep 12–13]. An attempt to blow up an approaching Ectoranium asteroid on course to impact Earth is scuppered. A haunt of ghosts have to make the Earth intangible so that the asteroid will pass right through. Watch
Deadly Skies (2006). See also Force of Impact (2006) aka Ultimate Limit (2006). TV movie. An astronomer tracks back a number of meteoroid impacts in Switzerland, Africa and California to an asteroid the size of Texas. But that asteroid will pass by Earth safely. It’s the rogue asteroid that struck it which is the main threat here. An ex-Air Force Major resurrects an aborted secret laser weapon to deflect it with just seconds to spare. Watch Original | Watch Alternative
Deep Impact (1998). Movie about a comet heading for Earth, a failed nuclear intercept mission, and a lottery to decide which citizens will be allotted shelter in underground bunkers before the comet fragments impact. Told largely from the viewpoint of a reporter on a US TV news network, who chooses beach over bunker when the tsunami arrives. Watch
Die Farbe (2010) translated as The Colour Out of Space. Based on H. P. Lovecraft’s 1927 short story of the same name, relocated to Germany. A meteorite of a colour never seen before lands on a farm but disappears over the course of a few days, leaving scientists not only baffled but with no sample to study. Absorbed into the soil, the colour slowly infiltrates its surroundings, transforming and mutating all forms of life in the vicinity. When the source of the colour is tracked down to a well, the entity is forced back into space, seemingly by no more than the energy released by a single hand grenade. Watch (YouTube) | Watch (Amazon)
Don’t Look Up (2021). Two astronomers discover a comet heading for Earth but no-one else takes it seriously after the White House and the world’s largest tech giant conceive plans to intercept and mine it. It’s Deep Impact meets Salvation meets Idiocracy in this rare-Earth impact satire, with a jazzed-up soundtrack, that perfectly captures the dumbing down of space science missions across all facets of today’s media. “Not everything needs to sound so goddam clever or charming or likeable all the time.” Please may there be no more songs about space rocks or missions on the horizon. Watch (Netflix)
Doomsday Rock (1997) aka Cosmic Shock (1997). TV movie. A rogue scientist…anthropologist…astrophysicist…assumes control of a military missile silo in an attempt to intercept an asteroid he believes will collide with Earth based on a prediction he discovered in a series of ancient Aboriginal cave paintings. The authorities enlist his daughter’s help to try and stop him from launching the missiles. But his predictions turn out to be correct. Memorable line: “I don’t want the woman getting anywhere near the meteor.” Watch
Earthfall (2015). TV movie. A close encounter with a rogue planet changes Earth’s tilt and orbit, sending it out towards the asteroid belt. Half the planet is plunged into perpetual night and fierce storms ravage the surface. With subtle nods to a 1977 classic, separate groups of civilians are drawn towards a secret Government facility based on a set of coordinates sprawled on flyers and buildings. How will they restore Earth’s orbit? By igniting the world’s largest natural gas reserve with the world’s entire stockpile of nuclear weapons. Trailer | Watch UK | Watch US
Earth Storm (2006). TV movie. When the Moon is struck by an asteroid, a fragment of the Moon breaks off and impacts Earth. The unstable Moon creates major disruption to Earth’s weather and tides. Now a massive fault poses the risk of even bigger fragments hitting Earth with devastating consequences. A demolition specialist is sent to implode the Moon using an unproven EM pulse machine to recharge the magnetic field being generated in the core and close up the fault. Trailer | Watch
Evolution (2001). Comedy about an unusual meteorite observed to fall in the Arizona desert that contains the building blocks of alien life and that goes through exponential evolution of hundreds of millions of years in just a matter of days. Two community college professors and their motley group of reluctant geology students turn out to be head and shoulders above the military in figuring out how to save the planet. Trailer | Watch
Fish Story (2009). Before the Sex Pistols was Gekirin, a Japanese punk band and its only album, Fish Story, released in 1975 with lyrics lifted from a mistranslated book. It never sold. Fast forward 37 years. Hours before a comet is to become the greatest hit of 2012 and a tsunami engulf Japan, a solitary record shop remains open in Tokyo. The owner is playing one of the last surviving copies of Fish Story to one of the last remaining customers in the city. How on Earth can a silent gap in a song that never sold save the planet? If my love of a movie were a fish, it would be something just like this — and you’ll have to watch it to know what the fish that means. Trailer | Film Archive | Amazon
Force of Impact (2006) aka Ultimate Limit (2006). See Deadly Skies (2006).
Futurama: “A Big Piece of Garbage” (1999). Animated TV sitcom [S1, Ep 8]. Spoof of Armageddon (1998). Earth is in the path of a giant ball of garbage from Old New York launched into space by the mob in the 21st Century. An attempt to plant a bomb into a fault line fails, so a second ball of garbage is launched to deflect it. Watch
Gli Asteroidi (2017) translated as The Asteroids. Set in a rundown part of Bologna, this coming of age drama charts the demise of two friends into criminality as they go around stealing candelabras from churches. The action plays out against the backdrop of the close approach of an asteroid that their artist friend believes won’t miss and will end all life on Earth. With some scenes filmed at the Medicina Radio Observatory, this film is not so much about the asteroid than the desperation, but it does have a soundtrack by Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari and Lo Stato Sociale that is worth tuning in for.
Gorath (1962) aka Yōsei Gorasu (1962) translated as Ominous Star Gorath. It’s 1979 and a collapsed star threatens to rip Earth apart on its path through the Solar System. In a global collaboration, massive rocket thrusters are installed at the South Pole to move Earth out of the path of the star and reinstate it when the threat has passed. A series of extreme environmental catastrophes, and then a monstrous walrus, momentarily threaten the success of the ambitious project. A stylish film, despite the absurdities. Trailer | Watch (Film Archive) | Watch (Amazon) | Watch bits (YouTube)
Greenland (2020). Movie. Interstellar comet Clarke is traversing the Solar System and expected to make a close approach with Earth. When the first fragments breach the atmosphere, Florida is obliterated. The next impacts will devastate the planet and an app allocates shelter in an underground bunker in Greenland to selected people with skills that will be useful after the apocalypse. Rather than focusing on the comet impact, it’s more about saving a fragment of marriage and a bag of medication. Trailer | Watch
Hell’s Rain (2007) see Anna’s Storm (2007).
Hope (2016). Excellent six minute film. A lone scientist believes that the Earth will be destroyed in a series of catastrophic meteoroid impacts. When no-one (wife included) believes him, he builds his own space-based ark to preserve hundreds of specimens of life on Earth, then watches alone from space as the rocks rain down on Earth below. Watch
How It Ends (2021). Seeking to make amends before the end of the world. A comedic romp about a woman and her younger self in LA on, like, a road trip of soul-searching and, like, self-discovery in the run-up to, like, an asteroid impact. But in the end she is by herself, with herself (her younger self) after shunning the obligatory end of the world party. You, you, you oughta know there’s a boombox held aloft that doesn’t say anything. And when it ends, she does look up. It’s the only socially-distanced asteroid impact movie on this list, perhaps anywhere. Trailer
Ice Age: Collision Course (2016). Animated movie. After surviving another ice age, a sabre-toothed squirrel ends up in space trying to bury his acorn on an asteroid. But the rock splits in two and is sent hurtling towards Earth. A herd of animals sheltering from the meteor storm on Earth find a carving on a cave wall that depicts an impact in the same place every few millions years. Guided by Neil de Grasse Tyson, they launch magnetic crystals from a meteorite into an erupting volcano to deflect the asteroid. Trailer | Watch
Icetastrophe (2014). TV movie. A meteoroid enters Earth’s atmosphere and splits in two. A small hot fragment impacts in the mountains and a larger icy fragment strikes the town of Lennox where a flash freeze icetastrophe ensues. Only by bringing the two meteorites back together can the balance of nature be restored. Watch | DVD
Impact (2008). Two part TV miniseries. While the Earth is in the path of spectacular meteor shower, a brown dwarf impacts the Moon setting off a series of extreme electromagnetic and gravitational events on Earth. The increased mass is now pulling Earth onto a collision course with the Moon. Two scientists are sent to the Moon to eject the object. Watch
Impact Earth (2008) aka Futureshock: Comet Impact (2007). TV movie. A comet impacts off the coast of Ireland creating a devastating tsunami. The astronomer who failed to detect it receives NASA funding to develop a reliable NEO observation program. He discovers the comet was part of a chain that will strike the USA in a K-T size event. The military plan a nuclear deflection, the astronomer warns against it and the world goes into economic meltdown in anticipation. Trailers
Impact Earth (2015). TV movie. A student discovers an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Her supervisor is a former NASA asteroid tracker but no-one will believe him after he predicted an impact years ago that never happened. So the student publishes her own warning on social media and plans her own deflection attempt using a reprogrammed satellite in an elaborate game of space billiards. Trailer
Judgment Day (1999). Movie. A small asteroid destroys a village in Bolivia but a second one a thousand times larger is due to arrive within days. Unfortunately, the Government scientist who designed the only weapon capable of preventing the impact has been kidnapped by a delusional cult leader. A dangerous criminal who knows his whereabouts is released from prison to assist the FBI track him down. Trailer | DVD
La Fin du Monde (1931) translated as The End of the World. Movie co-written by astronomer Camille Flammarion. A wealthy gentleman astronomer realises that Lexell’s Comet will hit Earth on its next apparition and the world will end in 114 days. It’s “La fin du monde! La fin du monde! La fin du monde!“. After acquiring a media corporation he announces the event to the world, which causes the global economy to collapse and the world to descend into chaos. The astronomer is accused of fabricating a hoax…until the comet comes into view. It passes safely by, but the world is already devastated by the hysteria. Le commentaire! Le commentaire! Le commentaire!
Melancholia (2011). Movie. Not an asteroid but a previously undetected rogue planet given the name Melancholia enters the Solar System from behind the Sun, making a close approach and ultimately colliding with the Earth. The film follows the strained relationship between two sisters who shelter in a magic cave when the planet collides with Earth. Trailer | Watch
Meltdown: Days of Destruction (2006). TV movie. An asteroid fragment the size of Iceland skims the atmosphere, perturbing Earth’s orbit closer to the Sun and creating a global heat wave. The gravitational pull of the other planets could reinstate Earth’s orbit, but they’ll only know that…when it rains. What? The asteroid drama is over in the first fifteen minutes. The remainder is about a group of individuals overcoming heat and vigilantes to get to an airfield. Then it rains. Trailer | Watch UK | Watch US
Menace from Outer Space (1954) aka Rocky Jones, Space Ranger: Bobby’s Comet (1954). TV movie (three episode story of a TV series). Professor Newton spots a comet heading for Earth…but on closer inspection it’s a missile made of a powerful energy source of pulverised silicon that could only have come from one of Jupiter’s moons. Watch
Meteor (1979). Movie. A main belt asteroid is struck by a comet, deflecting it towards Earth. It will hit within a week. The force of impact will be ten orders of magnitude larger than the largest earthquake ever recorded. The US and Russia must first admit to owning space-based nuclear weapons and then agree to combine their stockpiles, if there is to be any hope of preventing the catastrophe. Operations are controlled from a bunker beneath AT&T New York. Watch
Meteor (2009). Two part TV movie. A collision in the asteroid belt with a passing comet splits asteroid 114 Kassandra in two and both pieces are on a collision course with Earth. While the emergency Task Force plans the missile interventions, a lone astronomer on the road to the command center has to find a way to transmit essential data, while all forms of communication are being taken out by the meteor storm. Watch
Meteor Apocalypse (2010). TV movie. A comet on a collision course with Earth is intercepted by a global nuclear intervention. But the fragments raining down on Earth contaminate the groundwater and poison the population. One man with a possible antidote is on a cross-state journey to find his family and administer the antidote. Watch
Meteor Assault (2015) see Asteroid: Final Impact (2015).
Meteorites! (1998). TV movie. Just as the small town of Leroy is about to hold its lucrative annual UFO Festival, it is battered by a series of massive meteorite falls as Earth passes through some cometary debris. People believe that aliens landed in Leroy back in the 1950’s and the town’s Mayor refuses to cancel the festival, meteorites or no meteorites! Watch
Meteor Moon (2020). An asteroid has collided with the Moon, knocking it out of orbit and onto a collision course with Earth. The debris field can be cleared using nuclear missiles, but what can reinstate the Moon’s orbit? A mini black hole, perhaps. There’s a drone orbiting the Moon with an anti-matter drive that can be repurposed as a Mini Hadron Collider, but it stalled on the far side of the Moon. Now someone has to go and reactivate it. Trailer | Watch
Meteor Storm (2010). TV movie. Millions of years ago a dense meteorite composed of element 120 Unbinilium impacted into what is now the San Francisco bay. Now it is altering the paths of near Earth objects. The passage of a comet creates an intense meteor storm on San Francisco and perturbs the orbit of asteroid Apophis onto a collision course with Earth. A nuclear intervention succeeds. Watch
Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack (1988). Thirteen years after the war, Neo Zeon plan a counterattack on Earth with weaponised asteroids, to plunge the planet into a nuclear winter. The first rock impacts in Tibet, but the Federation HQ evacuates from Lhasa in time. Reneging on a peace treaty, Neo Zeon launch a second asteroid. The Londo Bell special force manages to break it up by detonating a stockpile of nuclear weapons inside the asteroid’s network of mining tunnels, but only using the enhanced Nu Gundam psycho-frame can the two largest pieces be decelerated. The two rocks are eventually captured by Earth’s gravity, remaining visible in the sky thereafter as satellites. Watch
Mutant World (2014). Movie. A doomsday prepper discovers that an asteroid will impact Earth in a potentially apocalyptic event and there’s a nuclear reactor at the impact site. A group takes shelter in a former missile silo. Ten years later they venture outside to find that anyone who was exposed to the radiation becomes a mutant cannibal after dark. The first 7 minutes is about the impact; the rest of the movie is about mutants. Watch
Night of the Comet (1984). Comedy horror movie. A teenage girl spends the evening in the projection room at a cinema with her boyfriend while the world watches a comet that is returning after 65 million years. They emerge the next day to a red haze and find that anyone who was not reduced to a pile of red dust is now a zombie. It’s only included for the title. Trailer | Watch
One-Punch Man: “The Ultimate Disciple” (2015). Anime episode [S1, Ep.7]. Superheroes Genos and Metal Knight fail to destroy a meteoroid on a collision course with City-Z. Superhero Saitama destroys it in one punch but it fragments and devastates the city anyway. Watch
Pete’s Meteor (1998). A grandmother in Dublin is struggling to take care of her orphaned grandchildren and their drug-dealer uncle Pete is no help at all. Then one night a large meteorite falls in their backyard. Convinced the rock has been sent from their dead parents whose spirits they believe now reside on a star, the kids are devastated when the authorities remove it. A scientist becomes convinced it’s all part of a cosmic plan for him to adopt the children. Expect incomprehensible whispers throughout. Watch
Polar Storm (2009). Movie. A fragment of comet Copernicus impacts Earth and knocks it off its axis. A geomagnetic reversal follows, but when the magnetic field declines to zero the solar wind will strip away Earth’s atmosphere. A quarter of a million people perish in the impact and now all life on Earth is threatened by the reversal. With two days to go, only one scientist knows how to realign the poles using some strategically placed nuclear weapons. Trailer | Watch
Post Impact (2004). Movie. The Earth is in the aftermath of a massive comet impact. Most of the northern hemisphere has been plunged into an ice age as a result of the atmospheric dust. An experimental microwave-beam power station satellite, secretly designed as a lethal weapon, is the key to Earth’s future. But whoever gains control of the satellite gains control of the planet. Trailer | Watch
Rocky Jones, Space Ranger: Crash of Moons (1954). See Crash of the Moons (1954).
Rocky Jones, Space Ranger: Bobby’s Comet (1954). See Menace from Outer Space (1954).
Salvation (2017–18). TV series. An MIT student discovers that an asteroid will impact Earth in six months’ time causing an extinction level event. He approaches the head of the world’s largest tech giant, who tries to save the world with money he doesn’t quite have, radioactive material he can’t legally get, and technology that doesn’t quite exist. This story throws everything you can think of about asteroid mitigation at you. And, yes, there’s a fated reporter on the trail. Trailer S1 | Watch S1 & S2
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012). A bit of a romcom. As a 70-mile wide asteroid heads towards Earth, two strangers in New York embark on a road trip, one to find his high school sweetheart and the other to try and return to England. But they end up back with each other when the impact happens. Then everything fades to white. There’s only one special effect in this film: inspecting the countless concentric grooves of a Scott Walker record for specs of dust. Poignant symbolism of Earth’s fate in the Solar System and what’s about to happen. The Sun ain’t gonna shine anymore…well, not until the dust clears. Trailer | Watch
Sliders: “Last Days” (1995). TV series episode [S1, Ep 3]. The sliders team arrive on an alternate Earth two days before a predicted asteroid impact and three days before their next slide. Nuclear weapons have never been invented so they have to get to work inventing the atom bomb to deflect the asteroid before it’s too late. Watch
Stargate SG-1: “Fail Safe” (2002). TV Series episode [S5, Ep 17]. A Goa’uld diverts an asteroid onto a collision course with Earth. The Stargate team is dispatched to prevent the catastrophe. As they prepare to launch a missile to destroy the asteroid, they detect a high concentration of the rare and super-dense mineral Naquadah inside the rock and instead manage to use the hyperdrive to jump the asteroid past Earth. Watch
Starship Troopers (1997). Film inspired by the 1959 novel by Robert A. Heinlein, although not much like it. The war with alien arachnids is instigated when they launch an asteroid at Earth, wiping out Buenos Aires and killing in excess of 9 million people. Shortly afterwards, a system of defence is constructed in space to prevent any further asteroids reaching Earth. Watch
Stonado (2013). Movie. So it’s not about asteroids, comets or even meteorites, but huge boulders being ripped up from the sea floor by a series of massive tornados and then launched back to impact the Earth. Boston is the target for the destruction. The solution is to heat up the atmosphere with a high altitude explosion using one of the tornados as an elevator for the bomb. Watch
The Apocalypse (2007). A movie about faith that lives up to its title. In the run up to a devastating asteroid impact, the Earth is pummelled by every form of extreme event imaginable from twisters to tsunamis. A man and woman embark on a cross-state journey to reunite with their daughter, but not everyone makes it. Actually, no-one will. When the asteroid appears in the sky moments before the credits roll, it’s the most massive object of any of these so-called meteor movies. “Pray with me,” the father says. Well, there’s nothing else left to do. Watch
The Colour Out of Space (2010) see Die Farbe (2010).
The Curse (1987) aka The Farm (1987). Sci-fi horror based on H. P. Lovecraft’s 1927 short story The Colour Out of Space. A mysterious glowing sphere falls onto a farm in Arkham in the middle of the night. The local doctor says it’s not a meteorite. So…what, then? Over the next few days it disintegrates into a murky ooze that seeps into the soil where it poisons the water, rots the crops, eats away at the livestock, and finally sends the farmer’s family mad. Watch Amazon | Watch YouTube
The Cusp (1996). In the not too distant future, Earth’s bloated population of 26 billion has exhausted its natural resources and a metal-rich asteroid is being nudged by a spacecraft into a lunar trojan orbit for mining. But not everyone is convinced this will save the Earth. A band of environmental extremists are planning to save the planet by eradicating everything but the most basic life on Earth. A saboteur has been masking the true course and speed of the asteroid and now it’s coming in too fast to be captured. The one remaining crew member has to skim it off the top of Earth’s atmosphere and back out into space using the spacecraft as the kinetic impactor. Watch
The Day of the Triffids (1962, 1981, 2008). One movie and two TV series. Not so much an impact than a meteor shower creates the catastrophe, but ‘its a classic and simply has to be included. A spectacular meteor storm blinds everyone who sees it and disperses spores around the globe that grow into carnivorous triffid plants. In the early version, salt water destroys the triffids; in the later version, it’s genetic engineering. Watch (1962) | Watch (1981) | Watch (2008)
The Day the Sky Exploded (1958) original language title La Morte Viene dallo Spazio (1958) translated as Death Comes from Outer Space. Italy’s first sci-fi movie (English dubbed). When the engine of a manned mission to the Moon malfunctions, it explodes in a region of near-Earth asteroids. Thousands of asteroids form a giant cluster which is now heading straight for Earth. The world’s entire stockpile of nuclear missiles is launched to break up the cluster. Watch
The End of the World (1916) aka The Flaming Sword (1916). Silent movie. A comet is discovered that will enter Earth’s atmosphere and cause global destruction and economic disaster. This film was made in the aftermath of the panic that preceded the 1910 apparition of Halley’s Comet, made worse by the sudden appearance of The Great Daylight Comet of 1910 which stole Halley’s thunder. Don’t forget your comet pills and your canary when you take shelter in a coal mine. Watch (Danish Film Institute) | Watch (Amazon)
The End of the World (1931). See La Fin du Monde (1931).
The Expanse (2015-2021). TV series [see S2 Ep 4-5; S4 Ep 10; and S5 onwards]. Set in the 24th century when much of the Solar System has been colonised, the inner planets are consuming resources from the asteroid belt where water is more precious than the minerals they mine. Earth, Mars and the outer planets coexist on the brink of war. In S2, Earth is saved from impact by a protomolecule-infected Eros by redirecting it to Venus. When a freedom fighter with plans for making a massive impact enters the scene in S4, the effects on Earth and Mars are catastrophic. See also astro-mining in the movies. Watch
The Fifth Element (1997). Every 5,000 years, a massive sentient fireball of the most ominous intelligence imaginable reappears intent on destroying all life on Earth. Engaging it in warfare only makes it stronger and the sole method of defeating it is the alignment of four sacred stones activated by the four classical elements — earth, water, fire and air — and a supreme fifth element. In 2263, while an alien diva conceals the stones, the fifth element is attacked on its way to protect Earth. An ex-special forces officer turned taxi driver is tasked with reuniting them to save the world. Trailer | Watch UK | Watch US
The Green Slime (1968) aka Ganmā Daisan Gō: Uchū Daisakusen (1968) translated as Gamma 3: Great Space War. Movie that was originally in Japanese but adapted and edited into a US version. A team of scientists are dispatched from an orbiting space station to plant a bomb on the surface of an asteroid that is on course to impact the Earth. They find it inhabited by a green slime, some of which is inadvertently brought back to their space station and evolves into a host of one-eyed tentacled aliens. Watch
The Last Train (1999) aka Cruel Earth (1999). TV miniseries. A group of passengers on a train to Sheffield are accidentally frozen by the contents of a canister released by the shockwave from an asteroid the size of Birmingham impacting in Zambia 6,000 miles away. Phew! They thaw out 52 years later in a lawless jungle inhabited by violent gangs and feral dogs. A government agent who was on the train leads them to a secret bunker in Scotland where a cryogenic project has been set up to save the human race. Watch
The Lost Missile (1958). Movie. An unidentified missile-like object from space is heading towards Earth. A foiled attempt to blow it up sets it on course to destroy New York and Ottawa. Ottawa is destroyed. A revolutionary rocket is launched just in time and the missile is destroyed, saving New York. Watch
The Monolith Monsters (1957). Movie. A large meteorite impacts and breaks up in the Southern Californian desert. When exposed to water, the fragments grow into massive stone monoliths that petrify (literally) the inhabitants of a nearby town. A geologist realises that salt water destroys the monoliths. To generate enough of it, he blows up the local dam and floods the nearby salt flats. Watch
The Onion News Network: “Asteroid Heads to Earth” (2011). TV news comedy episode [S2, Ep 1]. The news on 5 October 2011 is that all life on Earth will come to an end when a massive asteroid strikes in less than half an hour. With simultaneous tweets by anchor and host of Factzone @BrookeAlvarez, there is live coverage right up to the moment the studio is struck by the asteroid. Watch
The Sarah Jane Adventures: “Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?” (2007). Two part episode [S1, Ep 7–8] of a children’s TV show. Meteoroid K67 is on a collision course with Earth but no-one knows because it is coming through a radar blind spot. When in range, Sarah Jane will use her alien computer, Mr Smith, to create a magnetic pulse and deflect it back into space. But only after other time-travel adventures take place across the decades in between. Watch
These Final Hours (2013). Movie. Ten minutes after an asteroid has struck in the North Atlantic Ocean, a global firestorm is gradually ravaging the Earth. There are 12 hours until it reaches Western Australia. In Perth, one man attempts to use his final hours to help a child find her father. At the end, with no escape, the only choice is to watch from the beach as the firestorm arrives. Trailer | Watch
The Simpsons: “Bart’s Comet” (1995). Animated TV series episode [S6, Ep 14]. While in detention with Principal Skinner, Bart discovers a comet heading for Earth and straight for Springfield. A misguided rocket invention destroys the only bridge out of town and as the residents of Springfield sing Que Será Será, the comet breaks up in the atmosphere and Bart bags a meteorite. The episode first aired on 5 February 1995, influenced by the events surrounding Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 that broke apart under the gravitational influence of Jupiter, colliding with it in July 1994. Watch | Watch US
The Size of Texas (2011). Comedy short about a group of scientists advising the government about an asteroid that will impact Earth in 15 hours. Their best estimate is that it’s the size of Texas, or at least a Texas and a Paris, Texas. They needs to know how many Texases before considering mass evacuation and it depends on the decade used to define the size of Texas. But it’s all too late. Watch
The Super Comet (2007). Two-part dramatised documentary which is utterly brilliant and deeply impactful (pun intended). A hypothesised future history of planet Earth after a comet strikes in the Yucatán Peninsula today, near to where an impact 65 million years ago caused the extinction of the (largest) dinosaurs. Discussed by renowned expert scientists with dramatized scenes following different groups of survivors in different parts of the world in the aftermath of the impact. Trailer | Part 1 | Part 2
The West Wing: “Impact Winter” (2004). TV series episode [S6, Ep 9]. The White House staff prepare for the possible impact of a 400m wide asteroid that could hit the northern hemisphere in 46 hours. POTUS weighs up the impact scenarios: obliterating a city would be better than an impact in the Pacific Ocean for damage containment. The asteroid misses Earth by 73,000 miles. Watch
Tik Tik Tik (2018). Movie. An Indian Shuttle crew is sent with an onboard missile to destroy an asteroid which is on course to impact the Earth. They are kidnapped by the captain of a Chinese space station who attempts to steal the missile and use it to destroy India and get lucrative rebuilding contracts. One of the Shuttle crew is a trained magician and escape artist who manages to free the crew and launch the missile at the asteroid to prevent the catastrophe. Trailer | Title Track Video
Total Eclipse (2008) aka Fall of Hyperion (2008). Movie. As hundreds of small meteoroids bombard the Earth, an orbiting space station is knocked onto a collision course with Earth. With a thermonuclear reactor on board, if blown up before impact it will shower the Earth with radioactive material — and if it impacts, much of California will be uninhabitable for a thousand years. It turns out if was all part of a clandestine plan to get a vetoed missile defense Act reinstated. Watch
Tycus (1998). Movie. A reporter learns of a secret nuclear missile bunker in the Sierra mountains and goes to investigate. He learns that a comet a third the size of the Moon is on course to impact the Moon which will in turn affect all life on Earth. A multi-millionaire is planning a mitigation attempt from an underground bunker and offering shelter to a select few should the comet deflection attempt fail, which it does. Every major city in the world is struck by incoming boulders. Expect tidal waves, earthquakes, fires and floods. Trailer | Watch
Ultimate Limit (2006) aka Force of Impact (2006). See Deadly Skies (2006).
Undead (2003). Movie. An influx of meteorite strikes turn the inhabitants of the small Australian town of Berkeley into zombies. Then aliens start abducting other residents. Acid rain falls from the sky which turns out to be the antidote for the zombie infection. It seems the aliens only arrived to keep the infection delivered in the meteorites from spreading. Trailer | DVD
Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965) original language title Planeta Bur (1965) translated as Planet of Storms. English edited version of a Russian film. It’s 2020 and the Moon has been colonized. Three spaceships head for Venus but one is destroyed by an asteroid on the way. This film is only included here because it confuses the terms “asteroid” and “meteorite”: ”There is no fair or unfair — to a meteorite you get hit, you die.” The asteroid strike is three minutes in, the rest is escaping creatures on Venus. Watch
Warning from Space (1956) aka Uchūjin Tokyo ni arawaru (1956) translated as Spacemen Appear in Tokyo. A rogue planet named Planet R is on course to collide with Earth. A technologically advanced race of starfish-like beings from planet Paira, which co-orbits with Earth on the other side of the Sun, visits Japan to warn the Earth and join forces to stop the destruction of their respective planets. Watch
When Worlds Collide (1951). Movie not about an asteroid or comet, but a rogue star, Bellus and its planetary companion, Zira. With Bellus on a direct collision course with Earth, a lottery is held to decide which personnel working on building a space ark will be allotted seats to go and start a new colony on the safety of planet Zira. Told largely from the viewpoint of those working on the ark. This is the movie that inspired Deep Impact and many, many more. Watch
Without Warning (1994). Mockumentary delivered as a news network report. Three spatially synchronized asteroid impacts in uninhabited regions on Earth turn out to be a form of extraterrestrial contact based on symbols sent out on the Pioneer 11 spacecraft. When Earth launches a nuclear retaliation, it comes under siege by hundreds more impacts. Segments of the alien message are delivered by survivors at the impact sites, citing what seem to be bits of the recorded message sent out on the two Voyager spacecrafts. The reason for contact is never made clear. Watch
Wizards of Waverly Place: “Wizards vs Asteroid” (2011). TV series episode [S4, Ep 17]. When the Russo family of wizards, who live above a sandwich shop in Greenwich Village, hear about the failed attempt to destroy a giant asteroid hurtling towards Earth, they change their minds about taking a portal to shelter in the wizard world and instead go into space to reactivate the missile that failed to detonate. Watch
You, Me and the Apocalypse (2015). TV comedy series. An attempt to deflect a comet off an impact course with Earth fails and it will impact in 34 days. This 10 episode series counts down the event, following the lives of a diverse group of unconnected individuals around the world. A librarian, a bank manager, his mum. A nun from Umbria assisting a priest who runs the Vatican’s X-files looking to debunk a bunch of reported messiahs. I did say diverse. Somehow they all end up sheltering in a bunker under the UK town of Slough as they watch the end of the world unfold on TV. Watch
Your Name (2016) aka Kimi no Na wa (2016) translated as Your Name Is? It’s stunningly beautiful and mesmerisingly charming and became the highest-grossing anime movie ever. Two lives are intertwined in space and time, linked to a comet, some kuchikamisake and the meaning of kawatare-doki. A girl in Itomori and a boy in Tokyo three years in her future swap lives, communicating via notes saved on each other’s smartphone. But on the day in her timeline when a comet makes its close approach, he never hears from her again. He tracks down her village in his timeline, only to find it’s a succession of impact craters formed by fragments of a comet that impact on its return every 1,200 years. Trailer | Watch UK | Watch US
Zodiac: Signs of the Apocalypse (2014) aka Zodiac: Signs of Destruction aka Apocalypse Tomorrow. When an ancient astrological rock carving is uncovered in a Peruvian mine, a wave of unprecedented natural disasters are set in motion around the globe. Depicting twelve events associated with the signs of the zodiac, the final event marks the return of a long-period planet which will destroy Earth. A scientist overcomes floods, fireballs, volcanic fury and Feds to reunite the carving with a radioactive stone that activates an energy field and shields the world from destruction. Memorable line (for all the wrong reasons): “Sir, those geysers, or whatever you want to call them, they did look a bit like the Aires sign.” Trailer | Watch UK | Watch US
Lights, Camera and Asteroid! That’s a wrap.
TL;DR: Read the short version.
Or read Astro-Mining in the Movies.
Don’t forget, it’s always Asteroid Day on 30 June.
Fair Use and Fair Dealing. All images shown in this article about asteroid and comet impact movies were selected to support the commentary. I believe this constitutes fair use or fair dealing of any such copyrighted material, but suffice to say if any copyright holder should wish an image to be removed, please make contact via email and the image will be removed without hesitation.