- Directors: Mimi Leder
- Producers: David Brown, Richard D Zanuck
- Writers: Bruce Joel Rubin, Michael Tolkin
- Genres: Sci-Fi, Thriller
- Actors: Robert Duvall, Elijah Wood, Morgan Freeman, Vanessa Redgrave, Blair Underwood
At a star party, Amateur astronomer Leo Biederman (Wood) stumbles upon unusual object near the stars Mizar and Alcor, and alerts professional astronomer Dr. Marcus Wolf (Charles Martin Smith) at a local observatory. After discovering the object is a comet and working out its orbit, Wolf realizes that the comet will impact Earth, but dies in a car accident on his way down from the observatory before he can alert the world.
A year later, MSNBC reporter Jenny Lerner (Leoni) researches the resignation of the United States Secretary of the Treasury and his connection to an “Ellie.” She soon discovers that Ellie is not a mistress but “E.L.E.”, an acronym for “extinction-level event”. Because of Lerner’s investigation, President of the United States Tom Beck (Freeman) announces the grim facts: The cometâ€”named Wolf-Biedermanâ€”is 7 miles (11 km) wide, large enough to destroy civilization if it strikes Earth. He also reveals that The United States and Russia have been secretely constructing the largest spacecraft ever in orbit: The Messiah. They plan to send the Messiah to destroy the comet, using nuclear weapons. Life changes drastically worldwide, and Leo and Lerner both become celebrities.
After intercepting and landing on the comet, The Messiah’s crew (Duvall and others) plants the bombs into the comet’s surface, but one crew member dies and another is seriously injured. When the bombs are detonated Messiah is damaged and contact with Earth is lost. The comet is not destroyed; instead, it splits into two chunks, one a mile and a half wide (named “Biederman”) and the other six miles wide (“Wolf”), but both still world-threatening.
The film closes with Beck speaking to a large crowd in front of the under-reconstruction United States Capitol, in which he urges the nation to continue its recovery and efforts to rebuild.