Armageddon (1998 film)

Armageddon is a 1998 American science fiction disaster film produced and directed by Michael Bay, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and released by Touchstone Pictures. The film follows a group of blue-collar deep-core drillers sent by NASA to stop a gigantic asteroid on a collision course with Earth. It stars Bruce Willis with Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Owen Wilson, Will Patton, Peter Stormare, William Fichtner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Keith David, and Steve Buscemi.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Bay
Screenplay by
Adaptation by
  • Tony Gilroy
  • Shane Salerno
Story by
  • Robert Roy Pool
  • Jonathan Hensleigh
Produced by
  • Jerry Bruckheimer
  • Gale Anne Hurd
  • Michael Bay
CinematographyJohn Schwartzman
Edited by
  • Mark Goldblatt
  • Chris Lebenzon
  • Glen Scantlebury
Music by
  • Trevor Rabin
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • July 1, 1998 (1998-07-01)
Running time
151 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$140 million[2]
Box office$553.7 million[2]

Despite international box-office success, and becoming the highest-grossing film of 1998 worldwide, the film received generally unfavorable reviews. Astronomers noted that the similar disaster film Deep Impact was more scientifically accurate.[3][4]


A massive meteor shower destroys the orbiting Space Shuttle Atlantis, before entering the atmosphere and bombarding New York City. NASA discovers that the meteors were pushed out of the asteroid belt by a rogue comet that jarred loose a Texas-sized asteroid that will impact Earth in 18 days, which would cause an extinction level event that will wipe out all life on the planet. NASA scientists plan to drill a deep shaft into the asteroid and plant a nuclear weapon which, when detonated, will split the asteroid into two-halves that will fly safely past Earth. NASA contacts Harry Stamper, considered the best deep sea oil driller in the world, for assistance. Harry departs for Houston with his daughter Grace, where Harry agrees to participate in the mission, explaining that he will need his team: Chick, Rockhound, Max, Oscar, Bear, Noonan, and A.J., Grace's lover, to whom Grace gets engaged shortly before the mission. They also agree to help once their unusual list of demands is met.

As NASA puts Harry and his crew through 12 days of rigorous astronaut training at the Johnson Space Center, Harry and his team re-outfit the mobile drillers, named "Armadillos", which they will use on the asteroid. NASA is forced to reveal their plans to the world when a piece of the asteroid wipes out part of Shanghai. Two advanced Space Shuttles, Freedom and Independence, are launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Once in orbit the shuttles dock with the Russian space station Mir crewed by Lev Andropov to refuel. However, a fuel pipe leaks into electrical components causing a fire to break out during the fuel transfer and the station is evacuated, but in the haste, Lev and AJ are trapped in the fuel pod area. They manage to escape through a vent before and narrowly make it to shuttle Independence before the station explodes. Sixty hours later the shuttles slingshot around the far side of the Moon to land on the rear of the asteroid. As they travel through the asteroid's debris field, Independence's hull is punctured and it crashes, with most of its crew killed. Grace, watching from Mission Control, is distraught by A.J.'s apparent death.

Freedom lands safely, but misses the target area by 26 miles (42 km), meaning the team must now drill through a thicker crust of compressed iron ferrite. When they fall behind schedule and communications threaten to fail, the President orders the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Kimsey to initiate "Secondary Protocol"; to remotely detonate the weapon on the asteroid's surface. Knowing this would be ineffective, NASA executive Dan Truman and his team delay General Kimsey and the military at Mission Control, while Harry persuades the shuttle commander Colonel Sharp to disarm the bomb so they can complete the drilling. After the mission is resumed, the Freedom Armadillo strikes a methane gas pocket and is blown into space, killing Max. With the mission presumed lost, worldwide panic ensues and martial law is declared in many countries, just before another meteorite destroys Paris. A.J., Lev, and Bear, having survived the Independence crash, arrive in Independence's Armadillo in time to complete the drilling.

As the asteroid approaches Earth, the surviving crew is struck by a rock storm, which kills Gruber and damages the bomb's remote trigger, meaning someone must stay behind to detonate it manually. The non-flight crew draw straws and A.J. is selected. As he and Harry exit the airlock, Harry rips off A.J.'s air hose and shoves him back inside, telling him he is the son he never had and would be proud to have him marry Grace. Before preparing to detonate the bomb, Harry contacts Grace to say his last goodbyes. Freedom moves to a safe distance and Harry pushes the button at the last second, successfully detonating the nuclear weapon and splitting the asteroid in two at the cost of his own life. Both halves safely fly past Earth. Freedom lands, and the surviving crew return as heroes. Sometime later A.J. and Grace are married, with portraits of Harry and the other lost crew members present in memoriam.


  • Bruce Willis as Harry S. Stamper
  • Billy Bob Thornton as Dan Truman
  • Ben Affleck as A.J. Frost
  • Liv Tyler as Grace Stamper
  • Will Patton as Charles "Chick" Chapple
  • Steve Buscemi as "Rockhound”
  • William Fichtner as Colonel Willie Sharp
  • Owen Wilson as Oscar Choice
  • Michael Clarke Duncan as Jayotis Kerleen Bear
  • Peter Stormare as Lev Andropov
  • Ken Campbell as Max Lennert
  • Jessica Steen as Co-Pilot Jennifer Watts
  • Keith David as General Kimsey
  • Chris Ellis as Flight Director Clark
  • Jason Isaacs as Ronald Quincy
  • Grayson McCouch as C. Gruber
  • Clark Brolly as Freddy Noonan
  • Marshall Teague as Colonel L. Davis
  • Anthony Guidera as Co-Pilot S. Tucker
  • Greg Collins as Lt. Halsey
  • John Mahon as Karl
  • Grace Zabriskie as Dottie
  • Eddie Griffin as Bike Messenger
  • Jim Ishida as Client #3
  • Stanley Anderson as The President
  • Narration by Charlton Heston


Director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer at Edwards Air Force Base, Spring 1998

In May 1998, Walt Disney Studios chairman Joe Roth expanded the film's budget by $3 million to include additional special effects scenes. This additional footage, incorporated two months prior to the film's release, was specifically added for the television advertising campaign to differentiate the film from Deep Impact which was released a few months before.[5]

According to Bruce Joel Rubin, writer of Deep Impact, a production president at Disney took notes on everything the writer said during lunch about his script and initiated Armageddon as a counter film at Disney.[6]

Nine writers worked on the script, five of whom are credited. In addition to Robert Roy Pool, Jonathan Hensleigh, Tony Gilroy, Shane Salerno and J. J. Abrams, the writers involved included Paul Attanasio, Ann Biderman, Scott Rosenberg and Robert Towne. Originally, it was Hensleigh's script, based on Pool's original, that had been given the green-light by Touchstone. Then-producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, hired the succession of scribes for rewrites and polishes.[7]




Prior to Armageddon's release, the film was advertised in Super Bowl XXXII at a cost of $2.6 million.[8]

Home media

Despite a mixed critical reception, a DVD edition of Armageddon was released by The Criterion Collection, a specialist film distributor of primarily arthouse films that markets what it considers to be "important classic and contemporary films" and "cinema at its finest". In an essay supporting the selection of Armageddon, film scholar Jeanine Basinger, who taught Michael Bay at Wesleyan University, states that the film is "a work of art by a cutting-edge artist who is a master of movement, light, color, and shape—and also of chaos, razzle-dazzle, and explosion". She sees it as a celebration of working men: "This film makes these ordinary men noble, lifting their efforts up into an epic event." Further, she states that in the first few moments of the film all the main characters are well established, saying, "If that isn't screenwriting, I don't know what is".[9]

The film was also released on VHS and DVD by Touchstone Home Video on November 13, 1998, and would surpass Pretty Woman to become Buena Vista Home Entertainment's best-selling live-action title.[10] The film was released on a standard edition Blu-ray in 2010 with only a few special features.[11]

Space Shuttle Columbia disaster

Following the 2003 Columbia disaster, some screen captures from the opening scene where Atlantis is destroyed were passed off as satellite images of the disaster in a hoax.[12] Additionally, the American cable network FX, which had intended to broadcast Armageddon that evening, removed the film from its schedule and aired Aliens in its place.[13]


Box office

Armageddon was released on July 1, 1998 in 3,127 theaters in the United States and Canada. It ranked first at the box office with an opening weekend gross of $36 million. It grossed $201.6 million in the United States and Canada and $352.1 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $553.7 million.[2] It was the highest-grossing film of 1998 worldwide and the second-highest-grossing film of that year in the United States, finishing just behind Saving Private Ryan.

Critical response

Armageddon received mostly negative reviews from film critics, many of whom took issue with "the furious pace of its editing".[14] On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 38% "Rotten" approval rating based on 121 reviews, with an average rating of 5.2/10. The critical consensus states, "Lovely to look at but about as intelligent as the asteroid that serves as the movie's antagonist, Armageddon slickly sums up the cinematic legacies of producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay."[15] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.[16]

The film is on the list of Roger Ebert's most hated films.[17] In his original review, Ebert stated, "The movie is an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense and the human desire to be entertained". On Siskel and Ebert, Ebert gave it a Thumbs Down. However, his co-host Gene Siskel gave it a Thumbs Up. Ebert went on to name Armageddon as the worst film of 1998 (though he was originally considering Spice World).[18] Todd McCarthy of Variety also gave the film a negative review, noting Michael Bay's rapid cutting style: "Much of the confusion, as well as the lack of dramatic rhythm or character development, results directly from Bay's cutting style, which resembles a machine gun stuck in the firing position for 212 hours."[19] In April 2013, in a Miami Herald interview to promote Pain & Gain, Bay was quoted as having said:

...We had to do the whole movie in 16 weeks. It was a massive undertaking. That was not fair to the movie. I would redo the entire third act if I could. But the studio literally took the movie away from us. It was terrible. My visual effects supervisor had a nervous breakdown, so I had to be in charge of that. I called James Cameron and asked "What do you do when you're doing all the effects yourself?" But the movie did fine.[20]

Some time after the article was published, Bay changed his stance, claiming that his apology only related to the editing of the film, not the whole film,[21] and accused the writer of the article for taking his words out of context. The author of the article, Miami Herald writer Rene Rodriguez, claimed: "NBC asked me for a response, and I played them the tape. I didn't misquote anyone. All the sites that picked up the story did."[22]

Scientific accuracy

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Bay admitted that the film's central premise "that NASA could actually do something in a situation like this" was unrealistic. Additionally, the largest known Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) is (53319) 1999 JM8, which is only 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) in diameter,[23] while the comet in the movie is described as being "the size of Texas". Near the end of the credits, there is a disclaimer stating, "The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's cooperation and assistance does not reflect an endorsement of the contents of the film or the treatment of the characters depicted therein."[24]

The infeasibility of the H-bomb approach was published by four postgraduate physics students in 2011[25] and then reported by The Daily Telegraph in 2012:

A mathematical analysis of the situation found that for Willis's approach to be effective, he would need to be in possession of an H-bomb a billion times stronger than the Soviet Union's "Big Ivan", the biggest ever detonated on Earth. Using estimates of the asteroid's size, density, speed and distance from Earth based on information in the film, the postgraduate students from Leicester University found that to split the asteroid in two, with both pieces clearing Earth, would require 800 trillion terajoules of energy. In contrast, the total energy output of "Big Ivan", which was tested by the Soviet Union in 1961, was only 418,000 terajoules.[26][27]

In the commentary track, Ben Affleck says he "asked Michael why it was easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts than it was to train astronauts to become oil drillers, and he told me to shut the fuck up, so that was the end of that talk."[28]


The film received four Academy Award nominations at the 71st Academy Awards, for Best Sound (Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. Wester), Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Original Song ("I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" performed by Aerosmith).[29] The film received the Saturn Awards for Best Direction and Best Science Fiction Film (where it tied with Dark City). It was also nominated for seven Razzie Awards[30] including: Worst Actor (Bruce Willis), Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Supporting Actress (Liv Tyler), Worst Screen Couple (Tyler and Ben Affleck) and Worst Original Song. Only one Razzie was awarded: Bruce Willis received the Worst Actor award for Armageddon, in addition to his appearances in Mercury Rising and The Siege, both released in the same year as this film.

Academy AwardsBest Sound Effects EditingGeorge Watters IINominated[31]
Best Visual EffectsRichard R. Hoover, Patrick McClung and John FrazierNominated
Best Original Song ("I Don't Want to Miss a Thing")Diane WarrenNominated
Best SoundKevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. WesterNominated
Awards of the Japanese AcademyOutstanding Foreign Language FilmArmageddonNominated
ASCAP Film and Television Music AwardsMost Performed Songs from a Motion PictureDiane WarrenWon[32]
Blockbuster Entertainment AwardsFavorite Actor - Sci-FiBruce WillisWon
Favorite Actress - Sci-FiLiv TylerNominated
Favorite Supporting Actor - Sci-FiBen AffleckWon
Billy Bob ThorntonNominated
Favorite SoundtrackTrevor Rabin and Harry Gregson-WilliamsNominated
BMI Film & TV AwardsBest MusicTrevor RabinWon
Cinema Audio Society AwardsOutstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Feature FilmKevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. WesterNominated[33]
1999 Grammy AwardsBest Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for TelevisionDiane WarrenNominated
19th Golden Raspberry AwardsWorst ActorBruce WillisWon
Worst DirectorMichael BayNominated
Worst Original Song ("I Don't Want to Miss a Thing")Diane WarrenNominated
Worst PictureJerry Bruckheimer, Gale Anne Hurd, Michael BayNominated
Worst Screen CoupleBen Affleck and Liv TylerNominated
Worst ScreenplayJonathan Hensleigh and J. J. AbramsNominated
Worst Supporting ActressLiv TylerNominated
Golden Reel AwardsBest Sound EditingKevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. WesterNominated
Best Sound Editing - MusicBob Badami, Will Kaplan, Shannon Erbe, Mark Jan WlodarkiewiczNominated
1998 Golden Satellite AwardsBest Original SongAerosmithWon
Best Visual EffectsRichard R. Hoover, Pat McClung and John FrazierNominated
Golden Trailer AwardsBest TrailerNominated
1999 MTV Movie AwardsBest Action SequenceArmageddonWon
Best Performance - MaleBen AffleckNominated
Best Performance - FemaleLiv TylerNominated
Best MovieArmageddonNominated
Best Movie SongAerosmithWon
Best On-Screen DuoBen Affleck and Liv TylerNominated
Saturn AwardsBest ActorBruce WillisNominated
Best CostumesMichael Kaplan, Magali GuidasciNominated
Best DirectorMichael BayWon
Best MusicTrevor RabinNominated
Best Science Fiction FilmArmageddonWon (Tied with Dark City)
Best Special EffectsRichard R. Hoover, Pat McClung and John FrazierNominated
Best Supporting ActorBen AffleckNominated
Stinkers Bad Movie AwardsWorst Performance by an Actor in a Lead RoleBruce WillisWon[34]
Worst Performance by an Actress in a Supporting RoleLiv TylerNominated
Worst Screenplay for a Film Grossing More Than $100 Million (Using Hollywood Math)Jonathan Hensleigh and J. J. AbramsNominated
Worst On-Screen CoupleBen Affleck & Liv TylerWon
Most Annoying Fake AccentBruce WillisNominated
Teen Choice AwardsChoice Movie ActorBen AffleckNominated

Other media


Revell and Monogram released two model kits inspired by the film's spacecraft and the Armadillos, in 1998. The first one, "Space Shuttle with Armadillo drilling unit", included an X-71, a small, rough Armadillo and a pedestal. The second one, "Russian Space Center", included the Mir, with the docking adapter seen in the film, and another pedestal.

In 2011, Fantastic Plastic released another X-71 kit, the "X-71 Super Shuttle", the goal of which was to be more accurate than the Revell/Monogram kit.[35]

Theme park attraction

Armageddon – Les Effets Speciaux was an attraction based on Armageddon at Walt Disney Studios Park located at Disneyland Paris.[36] The attraction simulated the scene in the movie in which the Russian Space Station is destroyed.[37] Michael Clarke Duncan ("Bear" in the film) was featured in the pre-show.[37]

See also

  • Asteroid deflection strategies
  • List of disaster films
  • List of films featuring space stations


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