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Armageddon (1998 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Bay
Screenplay by
Adaptation by
Story by
Produced by
CinematographyJohn Schwartzman
Edited by
Music by
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
  • July 1, 1998 (1998-07-01)
Running time
150 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$140 million[2][3]
Box office$553.7 million[2]

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 an ensemble cast consisting of Bruce Willis with Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck, Will Patton, Peter Stormare, Keith David, and Steve Buscemi.

The film was a commercial success, grossing $553.7 million worldwide against a $140 million budget and becoming the highest-grossing film of 1998, and the highest-grossing film to be released by Touchstone Pictures. The film received mixed reviews from critics.


A massive meteor shower destroys the orbiting Space Shuttle Atlantis, before entering the atmosphere and bombarding New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Moncton, Halifax, and Newfoundland. The meteors were pushed out of the asteroid belt by a collision from a rogue comet, which also dislodged a massive asteroid the size of Texas, and NASA learns that the asteroid will impact Earth in 18 days, potentially wiping out all life on Earth. NASA devises a plan to have a deep hole drilled into the asteroid, into which they will insert and detonate a nuclear bomb to destroy the asteroid.

They recruit Harry Stamper, a third-generation oil driller and owner of his own oil drilling company. Harry agrees to help, but on the condition that he bring in his own team to do the drilling. He picks his best employees for the job: Chick Chapel, his best friend and right-hand man; geologists Rockhound and Oscar Choice; and drillers Bear Curlene, Freddie Noonan, Max Lennert, and A.J. Frost (who has been dating Harry's daughter Grace despite Harry's objections). Over twelve days, they are trained to become astronauts with astronaut Willie Sharp, who will pilot Freedom — one of the two shuttles to fly to the asteroid, the other being the Independence. Before leaving, Chick apologizes to his ex-wife for wronging her and sees his son, who is unaware of his parentage. Grace accepts A.J.'s marriage proposal, much to Harry's reluctant dismay; she later has her father promise to return home safe with her fiancé.

Following the destruction of Shanghai by another meteor strike, word of the massive asteroid becomes public to the world. Both shuttles take off without incident and dock with the Russian space station Mir to take on fuel. However, a leaky pipeline ignites the fuel pod on fire. A.J. and Roscosmos Cosmonaut Lev Andropov narrowly manage to board Independence before the space station is destroyed.

Approaching the asteroid, Independence is damaged by debris and crashes, killing all on board except Lev, Bear, and A.J. They embark in the shuttle's Armadillo to find the Freedom crew, which lands 26 miles from its intended landing site. When the drilling goes slower than predicted, Sharp reports to Mission Control that it is unlikely the team will reach the depth necessary to destroy the asteroid before "Zero Barrier", the point after which detonating the rock will not save Earth. The President of the United States decides to remotely detonate the bomb from Earth immediately, which will cause total mission failure. Sharp and Harry have a vicious argument, but agree to defuse the bomb and work together after Harry promises Sharp that he will accomplish the mission. They make progress on drilling, but a missed gas pocket causes the Armadillo and Max to be blown into space. Just as Harry, NASA, and the world believe the mission to be a failure, while another meteor destroys Paris, A.J. and the others arrive in the second Armadillo.

A.J. succeeds in drilling the hole to the required depth, but a rock storm kills Gruber and damages the remote detonator, forcing someone to stay behind and manually detonate the bomb. They draw straws; the responsibility falls upon A.J.. Harry takes him down to the asteroid's surface, only to disconnect A.J.'s air hose and force him into the shuttle's air lock. Harry then tells A.J. that he is the son Harry never had, and he would be proud to have him marry Grace. Using the Armadillo, Harry tearfully gives Grace his blessing to marry A.J., and Grace says that she is proud to be his daughter.

After some difficulty, Freedom takes off, but then a second blowout causes Harry to lose his grip on the detonator. Just before Zero Barrier, he manages to detonate the bomb and saves the planet. The astronauts land on Earth safely. A.J. and Grace are reunited and Chick reconciles with his ex-wife and estranged son. Later, A.J. and Grace are married, with the portraits of Harry and the others lost on the mission present in memoriam.




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

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.[4] 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.[5][6]

Bruce Willis was cast in the film as part of a three-picture deal he cut with the studio to compensate them for the dissolution of 1997's Broadway Brawler.[7][8] He received a significant pay cut for the picture as part of the deal.[9] Sean Connery was originally considered for the role of Stamper, but Bay decided to cast a younger actor in the role after meeting oil drillers.[10]


Principal photography for Armageddon began in August 27, 1997 and ended on January 29, 1998.[11] Filming occurred at Culver Studios in Culver City, California.[12] In May 1998, Walt Disney Studios chairman Joe Roth expanded the film's budget by $3 million to include additional special effects scenes by Dream Quest Images showing an asteroid impacting Paris. This additional footage, incorporated two months prior to the film's release, was specifically added for the television advertising campaign to visually differentiate the film from Deep Impact which was released a few months before.[13] At a budget of $140 million, it was Buena Vista's most expensive film at the time.[3]




Prior to Armageddon's release, the film was advertised in Super Bowl XXXII at a cost of $2.6 million.[14]

Home media[edit]

Despite a mixed critical reception, 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"—released the 'directors cut' of the film to DVD and Laserdisc. 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".[15]

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.[16] Armageddon then premiered on both VHS and DVD formats on February 1, 1999, in the UK. It was the country's best-selling DVD release, selling over 100,000 copies. However, this record would be surpassed by The Matrix later that year.[17] The film was released on a standard edition Blu-ray in 2010 with only a few special features.[18]

Television airing[edit]

By April 2002, ABC airings of Armageddon had already received modifications due to the September 11 attacks that occurred seven months prior. The scene where the World Trade Center was hit by meteors and caught on fire was edited out because of its similarity to the attacks.[19]

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.[20] 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.[21]


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 ahead of Dr. Dolittle with an opening weekend gross of $36 million, combined with $54.2 million from its first five days.[22] Upon opening, the film had the third-highest Fourth of July opening weekend at the time, behind Men in Black and Independence Day.[23] The film was dethroned by Lethal Weapon 4 in its second weekend, although it collected a total of $23.5 million.[24] In late July 1998, it surpassed its rival Deep Impact to become the highest-grossing domestic release of the year.[25] The film 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[edit]

Armageddon received mostly mixed reviews from film critics, many of whom took issue with "the furious pace of its editing".[26] On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 43% approval rating based on 176 reviews, with an average rating of 5.3/10. 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."[27] Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 42 out of 100, based on 23 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[28]

The film is on the list of Roger Ebert's most hated films.[29] 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, commenting on the noise and intensity of the film, but also stating that he found the film to be amusing. Ebert went on to name Armageddon as the worst film of 1998 (though he was originally considering Spice World).[30] 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."[26]

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.[31]

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,[32] 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."[33]

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. Additionally, the largest known potentially hazardous asteroid (PHA) is (53319) 1999 JM8, which is only 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) in diameter,[34] while the asteroid 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."[35] Astronomers would subsequently note that Deep Impact was more scientifically accurate.[36][37]

The infeasibility of the H-bomb approach was published by four postgraduate physics students in 2011[38] 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.[39][40]

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."[41]

Neil deGrasse Tyson said on the October 2, 2023 episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert that, until the release of the 2022 film Moonfall, Armageddon was the movie which violated more laws of physics per minute than any other movie ever.[42]


Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Original Song "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"
Music and Lyrics by Diane Warren
Nominated [43]
Best Sound Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, and Keith A. Wester Nominated
Best Sound Effects Editing George Watters II Nominated
Best Visual Effects Richard R. Hoover, Patrick McClung, and John Frazier Nominated
American Music Awards Top Soundtrack Armageddon: The Album Nominated [44]
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Most Performed Songs from a Motion Picture "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" – Diane Warren Won [45]
Awards Circuit Community Awards Best Achievement in Sound Nominated
Best Visual Effects Nominated
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Actor – Sci-Fi Bruce Willis Won [46]
Favorite Actress – Sci-Fi Liv Tyler Nominated
Favorite Supporting Actor – Sci-Fi Ben Affleck Won
Billy Bob Thornton Nominated
Favorite Soundtrack Armageddon: The Album Nominated
BMI Film & TV Awards Best Music Trevor Rabin Won
Bogey Awards Won
Cinema Audio Society Awards Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Motion Pictures Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, and Keith A. Wester Nominated
Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Picture Jerry Bruckheimer, Gale Anne Hurd, and Michael Bay Nominated [47]
Worst Director Michael Bay Nominated
Worst Actor Bruce Willis (Also for Mercury Rising and The Siege) Won
Worst Supporting Actress Liv Tyler Nominated
Worst Screenplay Screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh and J. J. Abrams;
Story by Robert Roy Pool and Jonathan Hensleigh;
Adaptation by Tony Gilroy and Shane Salerno
Worst Screen Couple Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler Nominated
Worst Original Song "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"
Music and Lyrics by Diane Warren
Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing – Dialogue & ADR George Watters II, Teri E. Dorman, Juno J. Ellis,
Gloria D'Alessandro, Alison Fisher, Carin Rogers,
Karen Spangenberg, Mary Andrews, Andrea Horta,
Denise Horta, Stephen Janisz, Nicholas Korda, and
Denise Whiting
Best Sound Editing – Sound Effects & Foley Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, and Keith A. Wester Nominated
Best Sound Editing – Music (Foreign & Domestic) Bob Badami, Will Kaplan, Shannon Erbe, and
Mark Jan Wlodarkiewicz
Golden Screen Awards Won
Golden Trailer Awards Golden Fleece Nominated [48]
Grammy Awards Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media "I Don't Want to Miss A Thing" – Diane Warren Nominated [49]
Japan Academy Film Prize Outstanding Foreign Language Film Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best Movie Nominated [50]
Best Male Performance Ben Affleck Nominated
Best Female Performance Liv Tyler Nominated
Best On-Screen Duo Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler Nominated
Best Song from a Movie Aerosmith – "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" Won
Best Action Sequence Asteroid Destroys New York City Won
MTV Video Music Awards Best Video from a Film Aerosmith – "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" Won [52]
Online Film & Television Association Awards Best Original Song "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"
Music and Lyrics by Diane Warren
Nominated [53]
Best Adapted Song "Leaving on a Jet Plane"
Music and Lyrics by John Denver
Best Sound Effects Editing George Watters II Nominated
Best Visual Effects Richard R. Hoover, Patrick McClung, and John Frazier Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Original Song "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"
Music and Lyrics by Diane Warren
Won [54]
Best Visual Effects Richard R. Hoover, Pat McClung, and John Frazier Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Science Fiction Film Won[a] [55]
Best Director Michael Bay Won
Best Actor Bruce Willis Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ben Affleck Nominated
Best Costumes Michael Kaplan and Magali Guidasci Nominated
Best Music Trevor Rabin Nominated
Best Special Effects Richard R. Hoover, Pat McClung, and John Frazier Nominated
Stinkers Bad Movie Awards Worst Actor Bruce Willis Won [56]
Worst Supporting Actress Liv Tyler Nominated
Worst Screenplay for a Film Grossing Over $100M Worldwide Using Hollywood Math Screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh and J. J. Abrams;
Story by Robert Roy Pool and Jonathan Hensleigh
Worst On-Screen Couple Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler Won
Most Annoying Fake Accent Bruce Willis Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actor Ben Affleck Nominated

Other media[edit]


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.[citation needed]

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.[57]

Theme park attraction[edit]

Armageddon – Les Effets Speciaux was an attraction based on Armageddon at Walt Disney Studios Park located at Disneyland Paris.[58] The attraction simulated the scene in the movie in which the Russian Space Station is destroyed.[59] Michael Clarke Duncan ("Bear" in the film) was featured in the pre-show.[59]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tied with Dark City.


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  6. ^ Wolf, Jaime (August 27, 1998). "The Blockbuster Script Factory". New York Times. Retrieved June 15, 2022.
  7. ^ Brew, Simon (February 24, 2020). "The three films that Bruce Willis was cornered into having to make". Film Stories. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  8. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (October 5, 2010). "Bruce Willis In Drama Deal For Pal Joe Roth". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  9. ^ Bart, Peter (2000). The Gross: The Hits, the Flops-- the Summer that Ate Hollywood. St. Martin's Press. pp. 85–90. ISBN 9780312253912. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  10. ^ "61 Things We Learned from the 'Armageddon' Commentary". February 2, 2012.
  11. ^ "Woody Allen, Soon-Yi Previn show signs of bliss". The Philadelphia Inquirer. October 6, 1997. p. 32. Archived from the original on September 25, 2023. Retrieved September 25, 2023 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  12. ^ Mears, Hadley (November 21, 2019). "Culver Studios before Amazon". ’’LA Curbed’’. Retrieved February 1, 2024.
  13. ^ Lichtenfeld 2007, p. 221.
  14. ^ Lichtenfeld 2007, p. 224.
  15. ^ Basinger, Jeanine (June 21, 1999). "Armageddon". Criterion.com. Archived from the original on December 22, 2008. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
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  17. ^ Boehm, Erich (December 13, 1999). "'Matrix' DVD breaks sales records in U.K." Variety. Archived from the original on May 28, 2022. Retrieved May 26, 2022.
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  23. ^ "Movies: Hype surrounding new releases often more exciting than flick". The Post-Crescent. July 27, 1998. p. 37. Archived from the original on September 25, 2023. Retrieved September 25, 2023 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  24. ^ Bellisle, Martha (July 16, 1998). "'Lethal Weapon 4' outshoots 'Armageddon' at box office". Associated Press Writer. The Times and Democrat. p. 17. Archived from the original on October 16, 2023. Retrieved October 16, 2023 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  25. ^ "'Private Ryan' tops the box office". Quad-City Times. July 28, 1998. p. 28. Archived from the original on September 16, 2023. Retrieved September 16, 2023. Open access icon
  26. ^ a b Lichtenfeld 2007, p. 220, [1].
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  42. ^ What James Cameron Got Wrong in "Titanic" - Neil deGrasse Tyson. YouTube.
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External links[edit]