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The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

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An alien lands and tells the people of Earth that they must live peacefully or be destroyed as a danger to other planets.

Director:

Robert Wise

Writers:

Edmund H. North (screen play), Harry Bates (based on a story by)
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4,431
Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Michael Rennie ... Klaatu
Patricia Neal ... Helen Benson
Hugh Marlowe ... Tom Stevens
Sam Jaffe ... Professor Jacob Barnhardt
Billy Gray ... Bobby Benson
Frances Bavier ... Mrs. Barley
Lock Martin Lock Martin ... Gort
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Storyline

Travelling with mind-boggling speed, a gleaming unidentified flying object zooming in from the boundless deep space, penetrates the Earth's atmosphere, landing smoothly in Cold War-Washington, D.C. Encircled by large yet feeble military forces, the peaceful intergalactic ambassador, Klaatu, emerges from the mysterious vessel accompanied by the silently dangerous robot of incomprehensible power, Gort, only to witness firsthand the earthlings' hospitality. The sophisticated humanoid declares that he comes in peace; however, he needs to assemble the world's greatest minds to hear his merciful warning and a definitive ultimatum. Is Klaatu the messenger of humanity's doom? Written by Nick Riganas

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Is There a Face That Can Destroy the World? See more »

Genres:

Drama | Sci-Fi

Certificate:

G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French | Hindi | Russian

Release Date:

25 December 1951 (Brazil) See more »

Also Known As:

Journey to the World See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,200,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of the more distinctive, and subliminally eerie, effects in the film is a musical organ chord, held on two different notes, mixed in with the engine and wind sound effects of Klaatu's saucer as it flies over the D.C. area at the beginning of the story. See more »

Goofs

Drew Pearson's desk doesn't have any pens on it when he starts his broadcast. There are two pens directly in front of him on the desk when the camera angle changes. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
American Radar Operator: Holy Mackerel! Call headquarters. Get the lieutenant.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Elmer Davis, H.V. Kaltenborn, and Drew Pearson identify themselves when they appear on screen. Radio personality Gabriel Heatter is identified by an announcer. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Taken (2002) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Classic with surprising (for the time) pacifist message
27 July 2003 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

When a space ship lands in the middle of a playing field in Washington, the military respond with an immediate shut down of the area. The inhabitant of the space ship exits bearing a gift, but is shot by soldiers mistaking it for a weapon. Seconds after the shot a large robot exits and destroys all the weapons. The alien, Klaatu, is taken to a hospital and asks for an audience with all the world leaders. When he is refused, he escapes the hospital and takes a room in a small guest home incognito. The man hunt starts as Klaatu seeks to deliver his message to earth and avert disaster.

In a sea of 1950's sci-fi this film easily stands out as a classic that gave so much to popular culture – the score alone has been aped (or lifted in the Simpson's case) in many other films. The plot is very different to the others of the period as it is a peaceful message it sends, rather than a `beware the red menace' message of fear and hate. In fact one character even says she thinks the `alien' is from earth (ie Russia) only to be hushed! The film lacks action but makes up for it with a solemn mood and genuine thoughtfulness as Klaatu learns more about humans and tries to reconcile what he sees with what he sees in the wider world as a whole.

In recent hindsight it is impossible not to look at Klaatu's warning of `disarm or we'll remove your threat by destroying you' in the same light. Isn't this the same warning and actions that Bush and Blair made recently? I'll leave you with that thought but I found it difficult to understand Klaatu's pre-emptive strike, while holding a critical view of Bush's.

That aside the film's production is very polished. The score is excellent and really gives the film an alien feel to it. The direction makes use of ordinary sets to good effect – the very idea of the space ship landing in Washington is obvious, but to have it land on a baseball field is a clever way to show it striking (sorry – accidental pun) at the heart of ordinary America. The cast do well and mostly rise above the clichés set by the genre. Rennie does good work as Klaatu and Neal is more than just a screamer as Helen. Of course we have to have a wide-eyed all American boy (Bobby, but it could easily be Johnny or Jimmy) to see the whole thing, but he does OK.

Overall this is a classic of the genre that has passed on so much to modern audiences. The pacifist message is refreshing when viewed along side so many other of the period which used the aliens to warn against the spread of communism, but the ease with which you now accept Klaatu's threat of a pre-emptive strike will depend on your political views over the past few months.


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