Deep Impact (1998) - Rotten Tomatoes

Deep Impact (1998)



Critic Consensus: A tidal wave of melodrama sinks Deep Impact's chance at being the memorable disaster flick it aspires to be.

Deep Impact Photos

Movie Info

Mimi Leder (The Peacemaker) directed this science-fiction disaster drama about the possible extinction of human life after a comet is discovered headed toward Earth with the collision only one year away. Ambitious MSNBC reporter Jenny Lerner (Tea Leoni) stumbles onto the story, prompting a White House press conference. United States President Beck (Morgan Freeman) announces the government's solution: a team of astronauts will travel to the comet and destroy it. The team leader aboard the spaceship Messiah is Spurgeon Tanner (Robert Duvall), who was once the last man to walk on the moon. However, the mission fails, splitting off a chunk of the comet, now due to land in the Atlantic with the impact sending a 350-foot tidal wave flooding 650 miles inland, destroying New York and other cities. The larger part of the comet, hitting in Canada, will trigger an E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event), not unlike a "nuclear winter" as dust clouds block out the sun and bring life to an end. President Beck reveals Plan B: a cavernous underground retreat constructed to hold one million Americans, with most to be selected through a national lottery. Since teenage amateur astronomer Leo Biederman (Elijah Wood) discovered the comet, his family gets a pass to enter the cave, but his girlfriend Sarah (Leelee Sobieski) and her parents will be left behind. Meanwhile, still in space, Spurgeon Tanner devises a plan for a kamikaze-styled operation that could possibly save the Earth. Special visual effects by Scott Farrar and Industrial Light & Magic. ~ Bhob Stewart, Rovi

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Robert Duvall
as Spurgeon Tanner
Téa Leoni
as Jenny Lerner
Elijah Wood
as Leo Biederman
Vanessa Redgrave
as Robin Lerner
Maximilian Schell
as Jason Lerner
Leelee Sobieski
as Sarah Hotchner
Morgan Freeman
as President Beck
James Cromwell
as Alan Rittenhouse
Mary McCormack
as Andrea Baker
Blair Underwood
as Mark Simon
Dougray Scott
as Eric Vennekor
Ron Eldard
as Oren Monash
Alexander Balueyev
as Mikhail Tulchinsky
Jon Favreau
as Gus Partenza
Laura Innes
as Beth Stanley
Bruce Weitz
as Stuart Caley
Betsy Brantley
as Ellen Biederman
Richard Schiff
as Don Biederman
Gary Werntz
as Chuck Hotchner
O'Neal Compton
as Morton Entrekin
Caitlin Fein
as Caitlin Stanley
Amanda Fein
as Caitlin Stanley
Joseph Urla
as Ira Moskatel
Una Damon
as Marianne Duclos
Mark Moses
as Tim Urbanska
Derek de Lint
as Theo Van Sertema
Charles Dumas
as Jeff Worth
Suzy Nakamura
as Jenny's Assistant
Alimi Ballard
as Bobby Rhue
Katie Hagan
as Jane Biederman
Denise Crosby
as Vicky Hotchner
Rahi Azizi
as Student
Hannah Werntz
as Holly Rittenhouse
Tucker Smallwood
as Ivan Bronsky
Merrin Dungey
as Sheila Bradley
Kimberly Huie
as Wendy Mogel
William Fair
as Grey Man
Francis X. McCarthy
as General Scott
Ellen Bry
as Stofsky
Concetta Tomei
as Patricia Ruiz
Mike O'Malley
as Mike Perry
Kurtwood Smith
as Otis Hefter
Gerry Griffin
as NASA Official
Charlie Hartsock
as David Baker
Jennifer Jostyn
as Mariette Monash
Don Handfield
as Dwight Tanner
Jason Frasca
as Steve Tanner
Cynthia Ettinger
as Pretty Woman
Benjamin Stralka
as Little Boy
Stephanie Patton
as Brittany Baker
John Ducey
as Young Lieutenant
Christopher Darga
as Section Leader
Cornelius Lewis
as Bus Sergeant
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News & Interviews for Deep Impact

Critic Reviews for Deep Impact

All Critics (87) | Top Critics (23)

It drags considerably, and mainstream action audiences are likely to find it tedious and undeniably old-fashioned.

May 8, 2019 | Full Review…

The filmmakers want us to care about all these people, but we never really get to know them, and there is no sense of impending doom except when Leoni starts chugging martinis.

June 25, 2018 | Full Review…

Deep Impact isn't especially deep, and the extent of its impact seems limited. But it does turn out to be a fairly involving movie.

June 25, 2018 | Rating: 3/5

Why isn't it scarier? Maybe its targets are too scattered, its final impact too shallow. Maybe director Mimi Leder couldn't locate the right overall tone. And maybe the two writers simply don't take the story very seriously.

June 25, 2018

When all is said and done, it is precisely such lackluster imitations of real life that prevent this lightweight melodrama from leaving any deep, or lasting, impact of its own.

June 25, 2018 | Full Review…

These folks are so blase, you'd think that scientists had predicted pennies from Heaven instead of world's end within the year.

June 25, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Deep Impact


A great action/disaster film. It has a good cast, decent Sfx which still hold up today. I like the different perspectives of the characters in the film. The type of film you can watch over and over again.

Dean King
Dean King

Super Reviewer

When a movie like this wants to be a drama about characters instead of "just" brainless catastrophe (catastrophe that takes place only in the end anyway), the least they could do is to come up with characters that matter and a plot that isn't so offensively stupid and incoherent.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


Back in 1998 we got the first of two movies revolving around the possible cataclysmic events of a gigantic comet hitting the Earth. This did happen a few times back in the 90's with the two volcano flicks...'Dante's Peak' and errr 'Volcano', 'Bug's Life' and 'Antz', 'Tombstone' and 'Wyatt Earp' etc... For some reason Hollywood bigwigs seemed to think we needed two virtually identical movies coming out in the same year. Where as 'Armageddon' was a more bombastic explosion filled action adventure where characters had cool nicknames, this movie was a much deeper emotional rollercoaster with a sensible angle. I've always seen or compared these two films to videogames...this film being more like a realistic simulator and 'Armageddon' being more like a balls to the wall arcade cabinet game. Clearly there is no need to go over the plot in much detail as it speaks for itself, but both films required astronauts to drill deep into the vast looming comet and plant nukes to blow it up. In one film it works, in the other it doesn't. What I liked about this film was the well portrayed characters and their development, although the casting wasn't all that good truth be told. We meet a rounded selection of average people, and of course Mr President and some officials, as the clock ticks down to judgement day. Each character has their own individual issues that intertwine with other characters throughout, its basically a slice of life for each person in the lead up to the disaster. In the mean time we also follow some astronauts and their mission to plant the nukes which naturally also includes more heart pounding problems to solve. On the whole every story line is very emotional as the tension builds...people die, people must make choices, sacrifices, redemption, reconciliation, love...its all here in buckets loads and what's more it works. I will be quite honest here and say this movie gets me every time with the old waterworks, I can't help it. Leder uses all the tricks in the book to make you reach for the tissues, every predictable cliche is present and correct from making up with a loved one, giving up a life saving seat on a helicopter for a mother and the astronauts making the ultimate sacrifice. There are some scenes which really wrench at your heartstrings (I think), when Leoni and Schell hold each other on the beach before being engulfed by the tsunami, the shuttle crew saying their goodbyes before blowing themselves up inside a comet fissure, when the newsroom team must draw straws for helicopter placings. That scene also annoyed me, a young mother and child draw the short straw and must stay behind and no one offers their place to them! surely a mother and baby would get a place regardless sheesh! On the flip side the destruction porn, or disaster porn should I say is handled well with solid CGI. The ruination of poor old New York is well rendered and still holds up today, watching the megatsunami sweep through the city toppling skyscrapers is actually quite scary. The tsunami itself looks good against the city but elsewhere it does look a tad obvious, there are the odd shots that stick out a bit these days but that's expected. In general it all looks very good and with minimal use of big set pieces really, not until the finale that is, its mainly dialog and space sequences. The space sequences are quite impressive I might add, nicely done, realistic in appearance no all looked accurate to me, as though it could really happen. The comet sequences were probably the best in the film, it all looked like a set sure but very well created, cold and intimidating visually, great space suits for the astronauts and some slick looking machinery and gear which all looked like it would actually do the job for real. It always amused me how the US decides to save one million people, 300,000 of which already have places, people like scientists teachers doctors...artists? No one over 50...bit of a bummer huh, oh unless you're the President or any of his aides that is. I've also always wondered about the US military in this film, did they get automatic places in the caves? seeing as they are serving their country, did their families get automatic places too? if not why would any soldier follow orders and do what they do...act like emotionless heartless robots. I also found it hilarious that as Elijah Wood and his family are about to enter the caves his folks actually let him run off to find his little girlfriend! As if any parent would allow their child to do that in that situation, I'm pretty sure any normal parent would have dragged the child in with them no questions asked. The whole sub plot is ridiculous too seeing as Wood would have died for nothing, he didn't know the bigass comet would get destroyed and he never made it back to the caves, so both him and his girlfriend would have been killed ordinarily. When Wood does find his girlfriend her folks tell them to get to higher ground...but again why bother when they all knew the bigass comet would wipe everything out. Surely being together in the last few minutes would have been a better option for the kids. So technically Wood goes off on a suicide mission and his folks let him. So even with a simple plot like this there are still (I think) some flaws that don't really reflect reality that well. I also thought the main casting was a bit all over the place with Leoni coming across kinda weak in my opinion. She just looks confused all the time and her newscaster sequences were terrible, even before she announces the bad news she's stuttering through it annoyingly. Schell adds some old fashioned class and sheen but the relationship/connection between him and Leoni never really feels right even though it isn't suppose to. Even at the very end I just didn't feel it between them which is a shame because they are one of the main focus points in the plot (still a sad moment). On the other hand the drama kicking off in space is managed expertly by Duvall, him and his team really do come across as a proper group of astronauts. This was one aspect I've always like about the movie and that's the combination of the Earth based drama and space set drama, both of which are solid and gel perfectly. I was also impressed how the story is handled, it never crosses your mind that the space shuttle crew might not make it back, sure you know there's always gonna be redshirt character in there but you always assume they will be the heroes and get home. I guess this is what makes their sacrifice so powerful towards the finale, it surprises you, hits you hard, and in that brief moment you connect with the small team one human to another. I'm sure there are probably some scientific bits that aren't overly accurate too but in general this movie feels very realistic, looks very realistic and manages to cover the stark reality of humanity having to face extinction exceptionally well in the countdown to the end of the world.

Phil Hubbs
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

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