The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

day the earth stood still movie poster 1951 gort
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Classic Sci-Fi that still has a good message

Some stodgy acting, slow in the middle

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Day the Earth Stood Still

Studio:  20th Century Fox

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):  September 18, 1951

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

day the earth stood still klaatu shot michael rennie 1951

You Earthlings are dicks…I came with a present and you shot me!

Earthlings are about to find out they are not alone in the universe.  When a ship lands in Washington, D.C., the alien who appears is immediately shot in an accident.  Klaatu (Michael Rennie) recovers at the hospital and reports that he needs to speak to the leaders of the world to warn them about the dangerous path the Earth is taking.  When he learns this isn’t possible, Klaatu sets out to find his own path on Earth by posing as a human at a local boarding house…but can Klaatu teach humanity what they need to know before it is too late?

Directed by Robert Wise, The Day the Earth Stood Still is a sci-fi fantasy.  The film is based on Harry Bates’ story “Farewell to the Master” originally published in Astounding Science Fiction in October 1940.  The movie was selected for preservation in National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1955.

day the earth stood still gort 1951 ufo

Did someone say tacos?

The Day the Earth Stood Still is one of those rather odd sci-fi movies.  It has all the classic sci-fi tropes with scientists, actual concepts and ideas being discussed, and flying saucers, but it also has a bit of a horror to it with the mysterious and powerful Gort that can kill with his stare.  I can remember thinking the movie was rather scary as a kid, but now I enjoy the sci-fi aspect of it much more.

The movie is a product of when it was released, but it still feels rather relevant.  The Cold War was raging, but the U.S. was simple and a mother could let her child spend a day around Washington, D.C. with a complete stranger…a man she had just met the night before (ok that part always felt like a stretch).  Still, the movie’s core aspect of the rising danger of the world conflict definitely still applies…and it feels like it is starting again.

The cast is rather wooden like many of these type of movies.  Michael Rennie is good as the alien Klaatu (who is allowed to be wooden) and Patricia Neal and Billy Gray play the woman and child he befriends.  The movie has a slimy boyfriend in Hugh Marlowe and The Andy Griffith Show’s Aunt Bea Frances Bavier is at the boarding house.  The unseen star of the movie is Lock Martin who at 7’ and 7” made Gort imposing and massive looking.

day the earth stood still gort patricia neal 1951

Damn, Gort…I’m dumping my boyfriend for you!

The special effects range from great to so-so.  The movie’s main set piece of the UFO is still fantastic and looks a lot better than other cheaper sci-fi movies of the time.  Gort is still creepy and the decision to make Klaatu a human was smart for not only storytelling but visuals since he didn’t need any special effects.  Conversely, there are scenes where you can see wires and such and some of the setting look like cheap sets.

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a classic and worth seeking out.  It is fun and has a message that unfortunately is still relevant (the message won a special Golden Globe at the time for Best Film Promoting International Understanding).  The movie was remade in 2008 with Keanu Reeves which wasn’t as well received.  Still stick with the original and remember “Klaatu barada nikto”!

Related Links:

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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