The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)



Critic Consensus: Socially minded yet entertaining, The Day the Earth Stood Still imparts its moral of peace and understanding without didacticism.

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All of Washington, D.C., is thrown into a panic when an extraterrestrial spacecraft lands near the White House. Out steps Klaatu (Michael Rennie, in a role intended for Claude Rains), a handsome and soft-spoken interplanetary traveler, whose "bodyguard" is Gort (Lock Martin), a huge robot who spews forth laser-like death rays when danger threatens. After being wounded by an overzealous soldier, Klaatu announces that he has a message of the gravest importance for all humankind, which he will deliver only when all the leaders of all nations will agree to meet with him. World politics being what they are in 1951, Klaatu's demands are turned down and he is ordered to remain in the hospital, where his wounds are being tended. Klaatu escapes, taking refuge in a boarding house, where he poses as one "Mr. Carpenter" (one of the film's many parallels between Klaatu and Christ). There the benign alien gains the confidence of a lovely widow (Patricia Neal) and her son, Bobby (Billy Gray), neither of whom tumble to his other-worldly origins, and seeks out the gentleman whom Bobby regards as "the smartest man in the world" -- an Einstein-like scientist, Dr. Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe). The next day, at precisely 12 o'clock, Klaatu arranges for the world to "stand still" -- he shuts down all electrical power in the world, with the exception of essentials like hospitals and planes in flight. Directed by Robert Wise, who edited Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) for director Orson Welles before going on to direct such major 1960s musicals as West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965), The Day the Earth Stood Still was based on the story Farewell to the Master by Harry Bates. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Rating: G
Genre: Classics , Drama , Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Robert Wise
Written By: Edmund H. North
In Theaters: wide
20th Century Fox


Patricia Neal
as Helen Benson
Hugh Marlowe
as Tom Stevens
Sam Jaffe
as Prof. Barnhardt
Billy Gray
as Bobby Benson
Frances Bavier
as Mrs. Barley
Drew Pearson
as Himself
Fay Roope
as Major General
Harry Harvey
as Taxi Driver
Edith Evanson
as Mrs. Crockett
Robert Osterloh
as Maj. White
James Seay
as Government Man
John Brown
as Mr. Barley
Glenn Hardy
as Interviewer
House Peters Jr.
as MP Captain
Rush Williams
as MP Sergeant
Olan Soule
as Mr. Krull
Gil Herman
as Government Agent
James Craven
as Businessman
Harry Lauter
as Platoon Leader
Charles Evans
as Major General
Harlan Warde
as Mr. Carlson
Dorothy Neumann
as Barnhardt's Secretary
George Lynn
as Col. Ryder
Freeman Lusk
as Gen. Cutler
John Burton
as British Radio MC
George Reeves
as Newscaster
Harry Harvey Sr.
as Taxi Driver
Gabriel Heater
as Commentator
Elmer Davis
as Commentator
H.V. Kaltenborn
as Commentator
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Critic Reviews for The Day the Earth Stood Still

All Critics (53) | Top Critics (6)

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Full Review… | December 17, 2008
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

The Day the Earth Stood Still may at first look like goofy, outdated science fiction, but its timeless warnings about violence, nuclear confrontation and the difficulties of policing the planet have made it an enduring cultural classic.

Full Review… | October 5, 2007
Denver Post
Top Critic

Like most of Robert Wise's work, this slickly constructed 1951 science fiction film settles squarely in the middle of its genre, better than some and worse than others.

Full Review… | June 4, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Cast, although secondary to the story, works well.

Full Review… | June 4, 2007
Top Critic

Edmund H North's intelligent script and Wise's smooth direction are serious without being solemn, while Bernard Herrmann's effectively alien-sounding score reinforces the atmosphere of strangeness and potential menace.

Full Review… | January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Today, wistful viewers might ask: Where are Klaatu and Gort when we need them most?

June 14, 2003
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

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