Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)

In Robert Wise's seminal, big budget science-fiction film - based on Edmund H. North's adaptation of the short story "Farewell to the Master" by Harry Bates; the cautionary tale not only examined wider issues of politics and society, but also human emotions and frailties; much like the "drive in movies" of the 1950's, such as The War of the Worlds (1953), Forbidden Planet (1956), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), this influential, fantasy sci-fi film featured state-of-the-art visual effects and salient social commentary on the Cold War and warfare, and a memorable score by Bernard Herrmann:

  • in the film's intriguing title sequence, an extra-terrestrial vessel approached into the Earth's atmosphere, emphasized by the electronic sounds of theremin theme music; a flying saucer-spaceship landed on the Ellipse (People's Park) in Washington DC in 1951 - causing a panic and US Army troop deployment
  • a humanoid, benevolent, pacifist, interplanetary alien emissary-visitor named Klaatu (Michael Rennie) emerged from the space-craft; he walked down a ramp, held out his hand, and announced that he brought a message of good-will and peace: "We have come to visit you in peace and with good will" - but when he pulled out a device or object from inside his spacesuit (later described as a gift to the US President), an edgy soldier fired his weapon, and the device was shattered in pieces and seen lying on the ground next to the wounded Klaatu
  • suddenly, through the hatch of the vessel-ship emerged Klaatu's silent, killer bodyguard - a giant robot named (Gort). He descended the ramp from the ship and confronted the military force. With his ability, when threatened, to zap (vaporize or melt) the soldiers' weapons, tanks and giant guns, he deployed a lethal, disintegration, death-ray laser beam heat-ray behind his sliding visor, and quickly disintegrated them, but then was ordered to desist. The robot, an interstellar guardian - a member of a police force, also had the power to destroy worlds such as Earth, whose inhabitants were intent on destruction, aggression, and hostility
  • afterwards, Klaatu was hospitalized at Walter Reed for surgery, but healed himself with a salve; he escaped and went into hiding posing as an Earthling named Mr. Carpenter while residing with a human family (single mother/WWII war widow Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) and her son Bobby (Billy Gray)) and others in a boarding house, in order to observe their lives
  • Klaatu was led on a tour of Washington DC by Bobby, including a visit to Arlington Cemetery (and the grave of Bobby's father, who was killed at Anzio) - Klaatu was amazed: ("Did all those people die in wars?"); Klaatu was impressed with the Lincoln Memorial (and its inscribed Gettysburg Address)
  • Klaatu met with Bobby's recommendation for "the smartest man in the world" -- the Einstein-like scientist character Dr. Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe), who conferred with Klaatu, and was told that other alien peoples threatened to completely eliminate Earth (after its development of atomic power) if they didn't seek peace and heed his message
  • the next day at noon, Gort demonstrated his power over the industrial complex, by shutting down the world's power supply for 30 minutes (hence, the film's title "The Day the Earth Stood Still")
Gort Menacing Helen Benson Before She Commanded: "Klaatu barada nikto"
  • young Helen Benson was menaced outside the spaceship by the shadowy approach of Gort; to save herself, she delivered a command of three words - "Klaatu barada nikto" given to her by Klaatu - to prevent the menacing Gort looming above her from killing her and destroying the planet after Klaatu had been shot (and killed) by troops; afterwards, the robot carried Helen in his arms into the spaceship
Klaatu's Farewell Address
  • the film ended with a soft-spoken final scene, when the resurrected extra-terrestrial Klaatu delivered a pro-disarmament address to scientists and other top leaders of Earth's governments - he lectured and warned world leaders with a final challenge and proclamation, as robot Gort stood behind him near the entrance to their spaceship - before they departed in the saucer: ("...but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple. Join us and live in peace or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you")

Spaceship Landing in DC - With Troops Surrounding It

Klaatu (Michael Rennie) with Device

Shattered Object

Robot Gort

Gort's Laser Beam Disintegrated Weapons

Dr. Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe)


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