Jefferson Reed (Robert Townsend) is a mild mannered school teacher in Washington, D.C. His neighborhood is terrorized by a local gang called The Golden Lords led by Simon Caine (Roy Fegan) and allied with drug lord Anthony Byers (Frank Gorshin). One night, Jeff steps in to rescue a woman from the gang only to end up running from them himself. Hiding in a garbage dumpster, he manages to escape. As he climbs out, he is struck down by a glowing green meteorite. His spine is crushed and he receives severe burns. A small fragment of the meteor was left over and taken by a vagrant named Marvin (Bill Cosby). Reed awakens several days later in the hospital, but when his bandages are taken off, he is miraculously healed of all injuries.
Jeff soon discovered that the meteorite had left him with spectacular abilities such as flight, x-ray/laser vision, superhuman strength, speed, and hearing, invulnerability, healing powers, the ability to absorb a book's content by touch, super breath, telepathy with dogs (which he uses to communicate with his own dog, Ellington), and telekinesis. Confiding this to his parents Ted (Robert Guillaume) and Maxine (Marla Gibbs), they convince him to use his powers to help the community. His mother designs a costume and as the Meteor Man, he takes on the Golden Lords. He shuts down 15 crack houses, stops 11 robberies, brings peace between the police, the Crips (Cypress Hill), and the Bloods (Naughty by Nature) where they begin to work together to rebuild the community they destroyed, and plants a giant garden in the middle of the ghetto.
The Golden Lords learn Meteor Man's secret identity and his slowly diminishing powers. As the violence gets out of hand and the Golden Lords continue their attacks, the community members plan to make a deal with them, but Jeff instead teaches them about fighting for their beliefs. A now powerless Jeff fights Simon and is beaten up. Simon points his gun at Jeff, but Jeff's neighbor Earnest Moses (James Earl Jones) throws a record at him, successfully knocking the gun out of Simon's hand. Suddenly, Marvin uses the meteor fragment to strip the Golden Lords of their guns. This enables the locals to stand up to the Golden Lords as they fight them alongside Marvin's dogs. Marvin accidentally drops the meteor and both Jeff and Simon grab the rock from both sides, gaining superpowers, and engage in a brawl.
When Simon is about to throw a dumpster at Jeff, he hears Ellington barking, telling Jeff that he can win, and throws the dumpster at Ellington instead, fatally injuring him. This angers Jeff and he disappears and returns as Meteor Man. They continue with their brawl with Meteor Man winning and draining Simon of his powers by absorbing them. He then defeats the rest of the Golden Lords. The locals all gather around Ellington who is now lying on the street, whimpering in pain. Jeff uses his x-ray vision to see that Ellington's ribs are broken. Before Jeff can do anything, his powers fade away, again. But just then, Marvin comes over and uses the last of his powers from the meteor fragment to heal Ellington's injuries, thus saving Ellington's life. The locals all applaud.
Anthony Byers and his gang then confront Meteor Man, but are outnumbered by the Bloods and the Crips who show up to protect Meteor Man. Anthony Byers and his gang are then arrested by the police after attempting to "take a vacation to the Bahamas".
- "Can't Let Her Get Away" - Michael Jackson
- "It's for You" - Shanice
- "Don't Waste My Time" - Lisa Taylor
- "You Turn Me On" - Hi-Five
- "Who Can"
- "Your Future Is Our Future" - Daryl Coley & Frank McComb
- "I Say a Prayer" - Howard Hewett
- "Is It Just Too Much" - Keith Washington
- "Somebody Cares for You" - Frank McComb
- "Good Love" - Elaine Stepter
- "Ain't Nobody Bad (Like Meteor Man)" - Big Hat Ray Ray
Marvel Comics produced a 6-issue limited series spin-off titled Meteor Man.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 29% based on 14 critic reviews.
Peter Rainer of the Los Angeles Times compares the film to "a fairly clunky sitcom" with its sense of righteous do-goodism, and although the film intends to inspire, it instead sends the message that it would take a superhero to clean up inner-city gang violence. Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 (out of 4) stars, writing "The movie contains big laughs and moments of genuine feeling, but it seems to be put together out of assorted inspirations that were never assembled into one coherent story line....Kids may like the film and anyone can enjoy the moments of inspiration, but 'The Meteor Man' could have been better if it had tried to do less, more carefully."
The film received a Saturn Award nomination for Best Science Fiction Film, but lost against Jurassic Park.