The Day the Earth Stood Still

  • U
  • Robert Wise (1951)
  • US
  • 88 min
Film Review
Reviewed By
5 out of 5

The sight of a flying saucer hovering over Washington in 1951 would have confirmed the fears of many Americans that the end was nigh. But, coming just four months after Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks had unleashed The Thing from Another World upon a petrified Cold War public, director Robert Wise's sci-fi classic was actually a welcome sign of hope that we might not be going up in flames after all. Based on Harry Bates's short story Farewell to the Master, this was also a bold attempt to increase the genre's credibility. From Bernard Herrmann's otherworldly score to Lyle Wheeler and Addison Hehr's deceptively simple designs, The Day the Earth Stood Still has had an incalculable influence on big-screen science-fiction. For all its philosophical solemnity and heavy-handed religious symbolism, Edmund H North's script deftly pokes fun at the Red-baiters who had done so much to foster the nuclear scare, while his notion that children accept without question what grown-ups are too cynical to see has continued to resurface throughout the blockbuster era, notably in those Spielberg landmarks Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET. Wise slickly blends the docudramatic and the melodramatic without ever lapsing into pomposity or hysteria. Michael Rennie is a revelation as Klaatu, exuding dignity, sympathy and authority in a role that was originally intended for Spencer Tracy. Less successful, however, is Lock Martin, who plays giant robot Gort. He couldn't help the fact that his "solid metal suit" creased when he walked, but he might have made a better job of remaining stationary - especially bearing in mind the film's title.

Plot Summary

Classic science-fiction drama starring Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal. A mysterious spaceship from an unknown planet approaches Earth carrying an intelligent humanoid called Klaatu and a giant robot. They have come to warn the world that it will have no future if it persists with nuclear testing. After landing in Washington, the robot is left to guard the ship while Klaatu mingles with the population to learn about human nature.

Cast and crew


Michael Rennie
Helen Benson
Patricia Neal
Tom Stevens
Hugh Marlowe
Dr Barnhardt
Sam Jaffe
Bobby Benson
Billy Gray
Mrs Barley
Frances Bavier
Lock Martin
Drew Pearson
Drew Pearson
Frank Conroy
Carleton Young


Robert Wise

Other Information

Black and White
Theatrical distributor: 
20th Century Fox Film Co. Ltd
Available on video, DVD and BluRay
Certificate U
Twentieth Century Fox Home Ent.