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Meteor (film)

For the 2009 television film, see Meteor (TV miniseries).
File:Meteor imp.jpg
original film poster
Directed by Ronald Neame
Produced by Arnold Orgolini
Theodore R. Parvin
Run Run Shaw
Written by Stanley Mann
Edmund H. North
Starring Sean Connery
Natalie Wood
Karl Malden
Brian Keith
Henry Fonda
Music by Laurence Rosenthal
Cinematography Paul Lohmann
Edited by Carl Kress
Distributed by American International Pictures
Running time
107 minutes
Country United States
Hong Kong
Language English
Budget $16 million[1]
Box office $8,400,000 (USA)

Meteor is a 1979 science fiction Technicolor disaster film in which scientists detect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth and struggle with international, cold war politics in their efforts to prevent disaster. The movie starred Sean Connery and Natalie Wood.

It was directed by Ronald Neame from a screenplay by Edmund H. North and Stanley Mann, which was "inspired" by a 1967 MIT report Project Icarus.[2][3] The movie co-starred Karl Malden, Brian Keith, Martin Landau, Trevor Howard, Joseph Campanella, Richard Dysart and Henry Fonda.


After the asteroid Orpheus is hit by a comet, a five-mile chunk of Orpheus is sent on a collision course towards Earth, which will cause an extinction-level event. While the United States government engages in political maneuvering, smaller asteroid fragments precede the main body, wreaking havoc on the planet. The United States has a secret orbiting nuclear missile platform satellite named Hercules, which was designed by Dr. Paul Bradley (Sean Connery). It was intended to defend Earth against a massive space rock, but instead was demoted to become an orbiting super weapon now aimed at Russia. However, its fourteen nuclear missiles are not enough to stop the meteor.

The U.S. discovers that the Soviet Union also has a weapons satellite. The President (Henry Fonda) goes on national television and reveals the existence of Hercules, explaining it was created to meet the threat that Orpheus represents. He also offers the Soviets a chance to save face by announcing they, too, had the same program and their own satellite weapon. Bradley requests a scientist named Dr. Alexei Dubov (Brian Keith) to help him plan a counter-effort against Orpheus.

Bradley and Harry Sherwood (Karl Malden) of NASA meet at the control center for Hercules, located beneath 195 Broadway in Lower Manhattan. Major General Adlon (Martin Landau) is the commander of the facility. Dubov and his interpreter Tatiana Donskaya (Natalie Wood), arrive and Bradley gets to work on breaking the ice between them. Since Dubov cannot admit the existence of the Soviet device, he agrees to Bradley's proposal that they work on the "theoretical" application of how a "theoretical" Soviet space platform's weapons would be coordinated with the American ones.

Meanwhile, more meteor fragments strike Earth and the Soviets finally admit that they are willing to join in the effort. It appears that the satellite has a lot in common with Hercules, with sixteen nuclear missiles to be used against a large space rock, but is now an orbiting super weapon aimed at the U.S. The satellite is christened Peter the Great, and both satellites are turned towards the asteroid. Unfortunately, smaller fragments continue to strike the planet, causing great damage, including a deadly avalanche in the Swiss Alps and a tsunami which devastates Hong Kong. On Sunday morning, Peter the Great‍ '​s missiles are launched first because of its relative position to the asteroid. Hercules's missiles are fired 40 minutes later.

Just after Hercules's missiles are launched, New York is struck by a large fragment, destroying most of the city. Several workers inside the control center are killed when the facility is destroyed, and the survivors slowly work their way out of the control center by going through the New York subway system, which has become a trap due to water from the East River flooding the tunnels. Meanwhile, the two packs of missiles link up into three successively larger waves. The Hercules crew reaches a crowded subway station and waits while others try to dig out.

Eventually, the missiles reach the meteor. The first wave of missiles strikes the rock, causing a small explosion, the second wave follows with a larger blast, and the third wave creates an enormous explosion. When the dust clears, the asteroid appears obliterated. In New York, the radios broadcast the good news: Orpheus is no longer a danger to Earth. Just then, the subway station occupants are rescued.

Later, at an airport, Dubov, Tatiana, Bradley and others exchange goodbyes before Dubov and Tatiana depart on a plane for the Soviet Union.


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  • Burke Byrnes as Coast Guard Officer
  • Bibi Besch as Helen Bradley
  • Yu Yung as Hong Kong fisherman


The film was an American International co-production with the Shaw Brothers (HK) studio.[4] $2.7 million of the budget came from AIP.[5]


With universally negative reviews (it made numerous "Worst Of" lists for that year's movies), it proved unpopular with audiences, losing millions in the process, and is considered to be one of the reasons for the downfall of American International Pictures. According to one biography of Natalie Wood, she and most others in the cast knew early on this film was going to be a dud, mainly due to the director and the script. Despite the failure and being disliked by the main cast themselves, it was nominated for an Academy Award. Meteor currently holds a 5% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 20 reviews.


The voiceover at the end of the film mentions "Project Icarus", a report on the concept to use missiles to deflect an asteroid which was the "inspiration" upon which the movie was based. This refers to the report Project Icarus, originally a student project at M.I.T. for a systems engineering class by Professor Paul Sandorff in the Spring of 1967 to design a way to deflect an Apollo asteroid, 1566 Icarus, found to be on a collision course with planet Earth. Time magazine ran an article on the endeavor in June 1967 [6] and the following year the student report was published as a book.[7][8][9]


The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound (William McCaughey, Aaron Rochin, Michael J. Kohut and Jack Solomon).[10]

Comic book adaptation

Marvel Comics published a comic book adaptation of the film by writer Ralph Macchio and artists Gene Colan and Tom Palmer in Marvel Super Special #14.[11]

Similar films

  • Many elements of the movie's plot were used in the 1998 films Armageddon and Deep Impact.
  • A 2009 film with the same title and a similar plot, Meteor, was broadcast by NBC as a 4-hour, 2-part miniseries.
  • Meteor replicated many elements of 1964's Fail-Safe. These include the Americans forced to co-operate with the Soviet Union and share secret details concerning their nuclear weapons in order to avoid a global Armageddon, the strenuous objections of a senior Air Force officer in the control room, and Henry Fonda again portraying the unnamed American President with an essentially identical demeanour.

See also

  • Asteroid deflection strategies
  • 1979 Stern Electronics released a pinball machine named Meteor. The backglass art was very close to one of the versions of the movie poster art for the film Meteor.


  1. ^ Buried Alive--in the Line of Duty Lee, Grant. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 29 May 1978: f5.
  2. ^ "MIT Course precept for movie", The Tech, MIT, October 30, 1979
  3. ^ Project Icarus
  4. ^ 'Meteor'--How a Movie Came to Be: HOW 'METEOR' BECAME A MOVIE A Movie Is Born; a Meteor Is the Star A Meteoric Idea Becomes a Movie MOVIE-MAKING Cohen, Jerry; Soble, Ronald L. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 02 July 1978: a1.
  5. ^ Film Casting: Finding the 'Horse for the Course': Casting: High Stakes Gamble Assembling 'Meteor' Cast: Ticklish Job in a Multimillion-Dollar Movie Project CASTING FOR MAJOR FILM--WAGERING IN MILLIONS CASTING FOR MOVIE CASTING FOR HIGH-COST FILM Cohen, Jerry; Soble, Ronald L. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 04 July 1978: a1.
  6. ^ "Systems Engineering: Avoiding an Asteroid", Time Magazine, June 16, 1967.
  7. ^ Kleiman Louis A., Project Icarus: an MIT Student Project in Systems Engineering, Cambridge, Massachusetts : MIT Press, 1968
  8. ^ Project Icarus, M.I.T. Report No. 13, M.I.T. Press 1968; reissued 1979
  9. ^ Day, Dwayne A., "Giant bombs on giant rockets: Project Icarus", The Space Review, Monday, July 5, 2004
  10. ^ "The 52nd Academy Awards (1980) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-07. 
  11. ^ Marvel Super Special #14 at the Grand Comics Database

External links