Right now, it might seem like a meteor or asteroid would just be another event on the bad-year BINGO sheet of 2020, but not all meteors are bad ones! In fact, if we want to get technical about it, meteors are rarely bad ones, as a meteor is a part of an asteroid or meteorite that has broken off, headed toward Earth, and burned up in the atmosphere, creating a beautiful streak of light across the sky.
The scary stuff is the asteroid itself, that big hunk of space-rock (we’re getting less technical now) that is the Big Bad of so many disaster movies. But even then, some are definitely a little more frightening than others, and we’ve got some of the biggest, baddest, and best right here.
[Atlantic Entertainment Group]
Night of the Comet
This 1984 sci-fi film definitely takes the cake for the scariest meteor in pop culture—because it's combines with zombies! Night of the Comet sees 18-year-old Reggie having to make her way in a world that has been turned into a zombie-filled hellscape after the passing of a rare comet. It seems that the comet turned everyone, except those in steel containers, into ghouls! While the film itself is a comedy, the comet and the zombies remain terrifying.
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Similar to Night of the Comet, Day of the Triffids (the book and the later film adaptation) sees an astrological event wreaking apocalyptic chaos in an unexpected way—as a "green" meteor shower that not only blinds anyone who looks at it, but also drops carnivorous, sentient plants on Earth. The usual post-apocalyptic survival story ensues, although this one is very slightly less scary than Night of the Comet, because zombies are more frightening than plants.
Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
This classic sci-fi novel takes things to less of an extreme than the previous two—no fear of being eaten, for once! Instead, Lucifer’s Hammer focuses on a straightforward asteroid-about-to-hit-Earth scenario, and the fallout after impact. It’s still scary, but a little easier to deal with than surprise killer plants.
The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
The Last Policeman does something a little bit different—because it’s one of the only pop-culture meteors that doesn’t actually hit the Earth by the end of the book! Instead, it's a murder mystery set against the backdrop of a world in free fall after they find out that an asteroid is going to hit soon. As this pre-apocalyptic setting unfolds, it asks some of the biggest questions in our world.
This 1998 Michael Bay film should be scarier than it is, with a massive asteroid headed toward Earth, and very little that can be done to stop it, but this action-packed ride fails to really turn on the fear. If an Earth-killer asteroid is capable of being stopped by a rag tag band of roughnecks and a whole lot of Aerosmith, it’s just not that scary!
In the Marvel Comics Universe, Asteroid M is the base of the mutant villain Magneto, and orbits the Earth. It is one of the least scary meteors (or asteroids) in pop culture because there is essentially zero chance of it crashing into Earth with enough impact to cause an apocalypse. However, it does still have a supervillain calling the shots, so it’s not completely benign, unlike…
This is, of course, neither meteor nor asteroid, but it earns a spot on the list because in the early days of the MCU, when Thor was deemed unworthy, his hammer Mjolnir is sent to Earth. It crash landed in the desert, and was assumed to be some kind of meteor—but of course, it was the reason that Thor himself appeared on Earth and became one of its mightiest heroes, and that’s not scary at all.
What favorite pop-culture comets did we leave out? Tweet @quirkbooks and let us know!