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Marisa Paloma Williams

Blue Group

Cinematic Analysis Quarter 3: The Day the Earth Stood Still


The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) is a sci-fi film that takes place in 1950s America,

during the cold war. The theme of this film was the harmful and unproductive effects of violence

and weapons of mass destruction. The US military discovers an unidentified flying saucer, which

proceeds to land on the national mall. From the saucer, emerges a human-like alien man

accompanied by a robot named Gort. The man, who is later revealed to be called Klaatu,

attempts at a peaceful negotiation with the military men surrounding the saucer, but is shot by the

fearful and ignorant humans and taken to the hospital. At the hospital, Klaatu meets with the

presidents secretary and explains that there is a greater reason for his visit to Earth and that he

must explain it to all of the world leaders at the same time. The presidents secretary explains

that because of global tensions, any opportunity to convey a single message to all of the world

leaders at the same time is virtually impossible. Upon hearing this, Klaatu is disappointed.

Klaatu wishes to assimilate into human society for a small period of time, in order to better

understand the global atmosphere and the root of the previously mentioned tensions, and escapes

the hospital despite being told not to leave. Klaatu assumes the fake name of Mr. Carpenter, so as

not to be suspicious, and finds shelter in a boarding house in which a small family, Helen Benson

and her son Bobby, reside. The police and military are out to detain Klaatu, or Mr. Carpenter, but

nobody knows what he looks like so Mr. Carpenter blends right in with the other humans. Mr.

Carpenter bonds with Bobby, and later meets Professor Barnhardt, who Bobby claims is the

smartest man in the world, after Mr. Carpenter helps Professor Barnhardt solve a complicated
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math problem that he had been working on for years. Mr. Carpenter tells Professor Barnhardt

that the reason for his visit is to warn human kind that their usage of atomic bombs will force

aliens to destroy Earth, should this usage extend to space. Professor Barnhardt decides to help

Mr. Carpenter communicate this to the most prominent scientists in the world, which will

eventually spread word to diplomats. After being chased by the police and killed by the police,

Klaatu (Mr. Carpenter) is returned to his flying saucer and resuscitated by his robot, Gort. He

then gives the message to the scientists that the usage of nuclear weaponry in space will result in

a cosmic police force obliterating Earth and leaves Earth on his flying saucer.


The Day the Earth Stood Still takes place in the 50s, during the cold war. During this

time, many weapons were being experimented with and developed, whilst many people felt as

though attempts for peace were being neglected. It depicts wartime, a significant aspect of

American society at the time, and paints it from an outsiders perspective. This depiction is

arguably done without any mention of details regarding specific conflicts, rather, the film assigns

all of the blame for the war and the global conflict not on any particular country, but on human

kind - a very uncommon and liberal perspective at the time. The Day the Earth Stood Still holds

mankind answerable to a higher power for its barbarism and cupidity (Greydanus). The film

also portrays the state and the police force as negative and unproductive members of society. The

police and the system constantly instigate problems and are depicted to be driven by negative

emotions and desires, including fear, aggression and blind ambition (Johnson). The film had a

good amount of bias favoring the United Nations, and displayed several problems considered to
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be resultants of the lack of a United Nations, such as miscommunication and inability to

communicate between countries. The producer of the film, Julian Blaustein, explicitly said that

his goal was to support a strong United Nations (Johnson). Amidst a cold war and rampant

anti-communist sentiment, The Day the Earth Stood Still served as a critique of the madness of

a nuclear arms race that guaranteed the destruction of humanity (Muir) and furthermore created

an film favoring peace without being perceived as overly radical or unreasonable.


The Day the Earth Stood Still contained an ample amount of metaphor and imagery. The

most prominent, however, was the religious metaphor and imagery surrounding Klaatu and the

other characters interacting with them. Klaatu could be interpreted as a Christ metaphor in the

way that he is constantly misunderstood and avidly persecuted - despite being innocent - by

ignorant men representing conventional authority (Sanes), and later killed and resurrected.

Tom Stephens is a very discrete metaphor for Judas - betraying Klaatu (Christ) for the promise of

fame and riches (the reward for turning him in). The inability to detain or harm Klaatu, (ie. the

militarys weapons being obliterated by Gort, Klaatu never being significantly affected by any

physical damage to his person, etc) is also a metaphor for the inability of violence to legitimately

solve conflict. Furthermore, Professor Barnhardt is a metaphor for intelligence and negotiation

being the only truly effective way to solve conflict; when Klaatu is unable to negotiate with

diplomats because of the divide they have created amongst themselves through violence and

terror, he turns to intellectuals and is able to effectively problem-solve through peaceful

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Blue Group

Works Cited

Greydanus, Steven D. "The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) | Decent Films - SDG Reviews."
Decent Films. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

Johnson, Scott. "Peaceful Alien or Communist Threat?" International

Socialist Organization, 06 Mar. 1970. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

Muir, John Kenneth. "Klaatu Barada Nikto: The Day(s) The Earth Stood Still." John Kenneth
Muir., 23 Apr. 2010. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

Sanes, Ken. "The Day the Earth Stood Still: A Prophetic Original and a Mixed Up Remake." The
Day the Earth Stood Still: A Prophetic Original and a Mixed Up Remake. Ken Sanes, 2011. Web.
05 Mar. 2017.

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