Armageddon (1998 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Bay
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
Music by
CinematographyJohn Schwartzman
Edited by
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]

Armageddon is a 1998 American science fiction disaster film 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 and an ensemble cast comprising Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Owen Wilson, Will Patton, Peter Stormare, William Fichtner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Keith David, and Steve Buscemi.

Though the film was released to mostly negative reviews, it was an international box-office success, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1998 worldwide, although 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, the East Coast, and Finland. NASA discovers that the meteoroids came from a rogue asteroid with a Texas-sized surface when it passed through the asteroid belt, and the asteroid will impact Earth in 18 days, impacting into the Pacific Ocean, causing an extinction level event that will wipe out most life on the planet (same as when the 6 mile wide asteroid killed the dinosaurs). NASA scientists, led by Dan Truman (Thornton) and with other space agencies, plan to drill a shaft into the asteroid of 800 ft., and then plant an H-bomb device into it that, when detonated, will split the asteroid in two, driving the halves apart so they both will fly safely past Earth. NASA contacts Harry Stamper (Willis), considered the best deep sea oil driller in the world, for assistance and advice. Harry returns to NASA with his daughter Grace (Tyler) to keep her away from her new boyfriend, one of Harry's young and rebellious drillers, A.J. Frost (Affleck). Harry and Grace learn about the asteroid and Harry agrees to do it, but explains he will need his team, including A.J., Charles "Chick" Chapel (Patton), Rockhound (Buscemi), Max Lennert (Campbell), Oscar Choice (Wilson), J. Otis "Bear" Curlene (Duncan) and Freddie Noonan (Brolly) to help carry out the mission. Once they have been rounded up and the situation is explained, they agree to help, but only after their list of unusual rewards and demands are met.

As NASA puts Harry and his crew through a short and rigorous 12-day astronaut training program at the Johnson Space Center, Harry and his team re-outfit the mobile drillers, named the "Armadillos", that will be used on the asteroid. When a meteorite from the asteroid wipes out the coastal area of Shanghai, NASA is forced to reveal their plans to the world before Harry and his crew go to Florida for training revisions and last-minute preparations. Afterwards, two of the latest X-71 Space Shuttles, called the Freedom and the Independence, are launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral in Florida. Once in orbit, the shuttles dock with the 11-year old modified Russian space station Mir manned by Lev Andropov (Stormare) to refuel. A fire breaks out during the transfer and the station is evacuated just before it explodes, with Lev and A. J. making a narrow escape. After 60 hours, the shuttles slingshot around the Moon in order to land on the backside of the asteroid. Traveling through the asteroid's debris field Independence's hull is punctured and crashes onto the rock and Oscar, Noonan, Air Force Colonel Davis, Air Force Captain Tucker and munitions specialist Lieutenant Halsey are killed during the crash. Grace, watching from NASA headquarters, is distraught by A.J.'s apparent death.

Freedom lands safely, but misses the target area, so the team must now drill through a 50 ft. thick crust of compressed iron ferrite rather than the planned softer stone, but still on the fault line parallel with the asteroids' course. When they fall behind schedule and communications are about to fail after one and a half hours, the military initiates "Secondary Protocol"; to remotely detonate the weapon on the asteroid's surface, which will not have any effect. While Truman delays the military at Mission Control, Harry persuades the shuttle commander Colonel Willie Sharp to disarm the bomb so they can complete the drilling.

Distracted by Rockhound, who is having a mental breakdown, the Freedom’s Armadillo explodes when it strikes a methane gas pocket and is blown into space killing Max who was inside. Worldwide panic ensues as the mission is presumed lost, martial law is declared in many countries, and houses of worship and underground shelters across the world rapidly fill up, just as another meteorite destroys most of Paris. Suddenly, A.J., Lev, and Bear, having survived the Independence crash, arrive in the Independence's Armadillo in time to complete the drilling.

As the asteroid approaches Earth, it heats up, causing a dangerous rock storm that damages the bomb's remote trigger and kills munition specialist sergeant Gruber. They realize someone must stay behind to detonate it manually. After all the non-flight crew volunteers, they 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. Harry prepares to detonate the bomb and contacts Grace to say his last goodbyes. After the Freedom moves to a safe distance, Harry pushes the button at the last minute (after some difficulty) and his life passes before his eyes as he is killed and the asteroid is destroyed. It breaks in two and both halves fly past Earth. Freedom lands, and the surviving crew are treated as heroes. The film ends with A.J. and Grace's wedding, complete with photos of Harry and the other lost crew members present in memoriam.



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[edit]

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 disc in 2010 with only a few special features.[11][citation needed]

Space Shuttle Columbia disaster[edit]

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[edit]

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]

Critical response[edit]

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 120 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 2​12 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[edit]

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. However, the largest known Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) is (53319) 1999 JM8 which is actually only 7 km in diameter[23]. Additionally, 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.

Award Category Winner/Nominee Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Sound Effects Editing George Watters II Nominated [31]
Best Visual Effects Richard R. Hoover, Patrick McClung and John Frazier Nominated
Best Original Song ("I Don't Want to Miss a Thing") Diane Warren Nominated
Best Sound Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. Wester Nominated
Awards of the Japanese Academy Outstanding Foreign Language Film Armageddon Nominated
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Most Performed Songs from a Motion Picture Diane Warren Won [32]
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Actor - Sci-Fi Bruce Willis Won
Favorite Actress - Sci-Fi Liv Tyler Nominated
Favorite Supporting Actor - Sci-Fi Ben Affleck Won
Billy Bob Thornton Nominated
Favorite Soundtrack Trevor Rabin and Harry Gregson-Williams Nominated
BMI Film & TV Awards Best Music Trevor Rabin Won
Cinema Audio Society Awards Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Feature Film Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. Wester Nominated [33]
1999 Grammy Awards Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television Diane Warren Nominated
19th Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Actor Bruce Willis Won
Worst Director Michael Bay Nominated
Worst Original Song ("I Don't Want to Miss a Thing") Diane Warren Nominated
Worst Picture Jerry Bruckheimer, Gale Anne Hurd, Michael Bay Nominated
Worst Screen Couple Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler Nominated
Worst Screenplay Jonathan Hensleigh and J. J. Abrams Nominated
Worst Supporting Actress Liv Tyler Nominated
Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. Wester Nominated
Best Sound Editing - Music Bob Badami, Will Kaplan, Shannon Erbe, Mark Jan Wlodarkiewicz Nominated
1998 Golden Satellite Awards Best Original Song Aerosmith Won
Best Visual Effects Richard R. Hoover, Pat McClung and John Frazier Nominated
Golden Trailer Awards Best Trailer Nominated
1999 MTV Movie Awards Best Action Sequence Armageddon Won
Best Performance - Male Ben Affleck Nominated
Best Performance - Female Liv Tyler Nominated
Best Movie Armageddon Nominated
Best Movie Song Aerosmith Won
Best On-Screen Duo Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Actor Bruce Willis Nominated
Best Costumes Michael Kaplan, Magali Guidasci Nominated
Best Director Michael Bay Won
Best Music Trevor Rabin Nominated
Best Science Fiction Film Armageddon Won (Tied with Dark City)
Best Special Effects Richard R. Hoover, Pat McClung and John Frazier Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ben Affleck Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actor Nominated


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.[34]

Theme park attraction[edit]

Armageddon – Les Effets Speciaux is an attraction based on Armageddon at Walt Disney Studios Park located at Disneyland Paris.[35] The attraction simulates the scene in the movie in which the Russian Space Station is destroyed.[36] Michael Clarke Duncan ("Bear" in the film) is featured in the pre-show.[36]

See also[edit]


  • Lichtenfeld, Eric (2007). Action Speaks Louder. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-8195-6801-5. OCLC 636164671.
  1. ^ "ARMAGEDDON (12)". British Board of Film Classification. July 7, 1998. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Armageddon (1998)". Box Office Mojo. October 11, 1998.
  3. ^ "Disaster Movies". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 23, 2008.
  4. ^ Plait, Phil (February 17, 2000). "Hollywood Does the Universe Wrong". Space.com.
  5. ^ Lichtenfeld, p. 221.
  6. ^ "Tales from the Script: Hollywood Screenwriters Share Their Stories – – Nonfiction Book & Film Project About Screenwriting". Talesfromthescript.com. Retrieved April 29, 2011.
  7. ^ Petrikin, Chris (June 8, 1998). "'Armageddon' credits set". Variety.com.
  8. ^ Lichtenfeld, p. 224.
  9. ^ The Criterion Collection: Armageddon by Michael Bay. Criterion.com. Retrieved on 2012-05-14.
  10. ^ 1999 Annual Report (Report). The Walt Disney Company. 2000.
  11. ^ Armageddon Blu-ray, retrieved June 4, 2019
  12. ^ "Photos of the Shuttle Columbia Disaster?". BreakTheChain.org. Archived from the original on January 21, 2012.
  13. ^ Sue Chan (February 3, 2003). "TV Pulls Shuttle Sensitive Material, Hewlett-Packard Ad, Bruce Willis Movie Yanked From Air". CBS News.
  14. ^ Lichtenfeld, Eric (2007). Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie. Wesleyan University Press. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-8195-6801-4.
  15. ^ "Armageddon". rottentomatoes.com. July 1, 1998.
  16. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  17. ^ Ebert, Roger (August 11, 2005). "Ebert's Most Hated". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
  18. ^ Roger Ebert – Armageddon. Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved on 2012-05-14.
  19. ^ Lichtenfeld, p. 220.
  20. ^ Rodriguez, Rene. "'Pain & Gain' revisits a horrific Miami crime" The Miami Herald (April 21, 2013).
  21. ^ Miami Herald: Michael Bay: No apology for Armageddon (April 24, 2013)
  22. ^ "Michael Bay Hits Back at Reporter in 'Armageddon' Apology Flap". Deadline Hollywood (April 2013).
  23. ^ https://echo.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroids/Phaethon/Phaethon_planning.2017.html
  24. ^ TOUCHSTONE PICTURES ARMAGEDDON Archived September 8, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. movie-page.com.
  25. ^ Back A, Brown G, Hall B, Turner S (2011). "Could Bruce Willis Save the World?". Physics Special Topics. University of Leicester. 10 (1). Archived from the original on February 26, 2013.
  26. ^ Hall, Ben; Brown, Gregory; Back, Ashley; Turner, Stuart (October 1, 2012). "It's Official: Try-Hard Bruce Willis Could Not Save the World". Astronomy & Geophysics. 53 (5): 5.5. doi:10.1111/j.1468-4004.2012.53504_6.x. ISSN 1366-8781.
  27. ^ Collins, Nick (August 7, 2012). "Bruce Willis would have needed a bigger bomb to stop asteroid, scientists say". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on August 8, 2012.
  28. ^ jeremykirk13 (February 2, 2012). "61 Things We Learned from the 'Armageddon' Commentary". Film School Rejects. Retrieved June 17, 2016.
  29. ^ "The 71st Academy Awards (1999) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org.
  30. ^ "1998 Golden Raspberry Award Nominees and Winners". Archived from the original on March 28, 2006. Retrieved April 30, 2006.
  31. ^ [1][dead link]
  32. ^ "ASCAP Honors Top Film & TV Music Composers at 27th Annual Awards Celebration". Ascap.com. June 28, 2012. Retrieved June 6, 2014.
  33. ^ Awards for Armageddon on IMDb
  34. ^ http://fantastic-plastic.com/x-71-super-shuttle-from-armageddon-by-fantastic-plastic-models.html
  35. ^ "Armageddon – Backlot – Disneyland® Resort Paris". International.parks.disneylandparis.com. Retrieved April 29, 2011.
  36. ^ a b "Armageddon – Les Effets Speciaux | Photos Magiques – Disneyland Paris photos". Photos Magiques. Retrieved April 29, 2011.

External links[edit]