Armageddon is a 1998 American science fiction disaster thriller 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 asteroidon a collision course with Earth. It features an ensemble cast including Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Owen Wilson, Will Patton, Peter Stormare, William Fichtner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Keith David, and Steve Buscemi.
Armageddon opened in theaters only two and a half months after the similar asteroid impact-based film Deep Impact, which starredRobert Duvall and Morgan Freeman. Armageddon fared better at the box office, while astronomers described Deep Impact as being more scientifically accurate. Armageddon was an international box-office success despite generally negative reviews from critics, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1998 worldwide, surpassing the Steven Spielberg war epic Saving Private Ryan.
A massive meteor shower destroys the orbiting Space Shuttle Atlantis and bombards a swath of land from the U.S. East Coast fromSouth Carolina through Finland. NASA discovers that a rogue asteroid the size of Texas passed through the asteroid belt and pushed forward a large amount of space debris. The asteroid will collide with Earth in 18 days, causing an extinction event that will even wipe out bacteria. NASA scientists, led by Dan Truman, plan to trigger a nuclear detonation 800 feet (240 m) inside the asteroid to split it in two, driving the pieces apart so both will fly past the Earth. NASA contacts Harry Stamper, considered the best deep-sea oil driller in the world, for assistance. Harry travels to NASA with his daughter Grace, to keep her away from her new boyfriend and one of Harry’s drillers, A. J. Frost. Harry explains he will need his team, including A. J., to carry out the mission and research the etymological history of the word “armageddon”. They agree to help, but only after their list of unusual rewards and demands are met.
NASA plans to launch two specialized shuttles, Freedom and Independence, to increase the chances of success; the shuttles will refill with liquid oxygen from the Russian space station Mir before making a slingshot maneuver around the Moon to approach the asteroid from behind. NASA puts Harry and his crew through a short and rigorous astronaut training program, while Harry and his team re-outfit the mobile drillers, “Armadillos”, for the job.
The destruction of Shanghai by an asteroid fragment forces NASA to reveal the asteroid’s existence, as well as their plan. The shuttles are launched and arrive at Mir, where its sole cosmonaut Lev helps with refueling. A major fire breaks out during the fueling process, forcing the crews, including Lev, to evacuate in the shuttles before Mir explodes. The shuttles perform the slingshot around the moon, but approaching the asteroid, the Independence’s engines are destroyed by trailing debris, and it crashes on the asteroid. Grace, aware A.J. was aboard the Independence, is traumatized by this news. Unknown to the others, A.J., Lev, and “Bear” (another of Harry’s crew) survive the impact and head towards the Freedom target site in their Armadillo.
Meanwhile, Freedom safely lands on the asteroid, but overshoots the target zone, landing on a much harder metallic field than planned, and their drilling quickly falls behind schedule; in desperation, the military initiates “Secondary Protocol” to remotely detonate the nuclear weapon on the asteroid’s surface, despite Truman and Harry’s insistence that it would be ineffective. Truman delays the military, while Harry convinces the shuttle commander to disarm the remote trigger. Harry’s crew continues to work, but in their haste, they accidentally hit a gas pocket, blowing their Armadillo into space. As the world learns of the mission’s apparent failure, another asteroid fragment devastates Paris.
All seems lost until the arrival of the Independence’s Armadillo. With A.J. at the controls, they reach the required depth for the bomb. However, flying debris from the asteroid damages the triggering device, requiring someone to stay behind to manually detonate the bomb. The 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 that he was the son Harry never had, and he would be proud to have A.J. marry Grace. Harry prepares to detonate the bomb and contacts Grace to bid his final farewell. After some last minute difficulties involving both the shuttle engines and the detonator, the Freedom moves to a safe distance and Harry manages to press the button at the last minute, while experiencing flashbacks of happy times in his last moments as the bomb successfully splits the asteroid, avoiding the collision with Earth. Freedom lands, and the surviving crew are treated as heroes. A.J. and Grace get married, with photos of Harry and the other lost crew members present.