Science Fiction

Films To See Before You Die #9: The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)


Director: Robert Wise

Stars: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe

Quote from the Film: “I won’t resort to threats, Mr. Harley. I merely tell you the future of your planet is at stake.”–Klaatu (Michael Rennie)


(Image of Klaatu (Michael Rennie) and his arrival on Earth)

Plot Summary: An alien spaceship comes mysteriously out of the sky and lands in the middle of Washington D.C., the United States capital. A mysterious man leaves the spaceship and tries to speak to the citizens and the military of the nation’s capital. The man, whose name is Klaatu (Michael Rennie), means no harm and tries to give one of the soldiers an item of unknown origin. One jumpy soldier shoots Klaatu and injures him. After this happens, a robot, Gort (Lock Martin), comes out of the spaceship and displays a threatening beam that can make things disappear from existence.


(Gort and his threatening beam)

Gort makes a few guns disappear and Klaatu stops Gort from any more destruction by saying the phrase, “Gort! Klaatu barada nikto”!  After Klaatu says this, Gort will stop in his tracks and his beam will be covered by a piece of metal. Klaatu gets Gort to stop and the citizens decide that they need to take Klaatu to the hospital. While Klaatu is in the hospital, he meets Mr. Harley (Frank Conroy) and speaks to him about wanting to meet the representatives of the world and relay to the leaders an important message that applies to the whole entire planet. Mr. Harley informs him that it won’t be possible. Klaatu expresses that he would like to be amongst humans and see how they interact amongst each other, but is informed to stay put, recover, and not go anywhere. Klaatu doesn’t follow his instruction by Mr. Harley and decides to live amongst humans. After his escape from the hospital, the police send out warnings that the space man (Klaatu) is on the loose and for citizens to be aware. Klaatu decides to board with a family and try to grasp human behavior. He meets Helena Benson (Patricia Neal) who later becomes okay knowing that Klaatu is an alien and helps him out after the military intensifies their search (going to avoid spoilers). Klaatu relays his message at the end telling the citizens of Earth what they need to do in order to not receive destruction from the hands of other planets. Then he flies away with Gort in the spaceship to an unknown destination.

Why You Should See This Before You Die: The Day The Earth Stood Still is a great sci-fi classic. It has what you expect from sci-fi films such as spaceships, aliens, robots, and a possible threat looming. Though Klaatu is not on Earth to cause harm, he is there to warn them from other planets, though the only way the planets will attack Earth is if they don’t change their ways and become less threatening (not going to spoil anything). Just the thought of a stranger coming from another planet is scary, but the thought of him coming to relay a message that we’re being watched for our behavior is a definitive wake-up call, if it was real. The film has realistic reactions of how we would probably act if something of this magnitude happened–we would all probably panic. A good example of this from the film would be when everything that is mechanical stops…completely. Gort is a fearful character that gives the threat more potency as he can destroy the Earth single-handedly on his own. It’s a film that could possibly signify that it doesn’t hurt to have peace and watch how we operate. Though the film’s threat is of beings of outer space, it relates to reality as if a country has actions that is worthy of attention or threatening, there’s the possible that a country may take offense to it. It’s a film that could make people watch their steps and make sure to not step on any toes in a science fiction format. Definitely don’t miss out on this classic and see it before you die.


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