The Day the Earth Stood Still - 1951 B&W
An extraterrestrial flying saucer is tracked by radar flying at high altitude around the Earth until it lands on the President's Park Ellipse in Washington, D.C. The military quickly encircles the spaceship. An alien figure, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), emerges from the ship, announcing that he has come in peace and is on a goodwill mission. From inside his flight suit he takes out a small cylindrical device, opening it as he approaches the military.
Suddenly, Klaatu is wounded by a deflected bullet, fired by a nervous soldier shooting at the alien device. In response Gort, a large, dull silver humanoid robot, who has suddenly emerged from the spaceship. It begins disintegrating all the military weapons present, using a bright ray coming from the robot's now opened head visor. Gort continues until Klaatu orders a halt to the destruction.
The wounded Klaatu explains to the military that the destroyed object was a viewing device, a gift for the president, which he could have used to view life on other planets. Klaatu is taken to an Army hospital, where tests and X-rays show he is physically human. He stuns his Army doctors with the quickness of his healing ability. Meanwhile, the military attempts to enter Klaatu's spaceship.
They find its alien metal impregnable to their diamond drills and cutting torches; Gort stands by, mute and unmoving. Klaatu reveals to the president's secretary, Harley (Frank Conroy), that he bears a message so momentous and urgent that it must be revealed to all the world's leaders simultaneously. Harley tells him that it would be impossible to get all of the world leaders to agree to meet. Klaatu wants to get to know the ordinary people.
Harley forbids it and leaves Klaatu locked up under guard. Klaatu escapes and lodges at a boarding house, assuming the alias "Mr. Carpenter", the name he finds on the cleaners tag on the suit he "borrowed". Among the residents are Helen Benson (Patricia Neal), a World War II widow, and her son Bobby (Billy Gray). At breakfast the next morning, during alarming radio reports, Klaatu takes in his fellow boarders' suspicions and speculations about the alien visit.
While Helen and her boyfriend Tom Stephens (Hugh Marlowe) go on a day trip, Klaatu babysits Bobby. The boy takes Klaatu on a tour of the city, including a visit to his father's grave in Arlington National Cemetery, where Klaatu is dismayed to learn that most of those buried there were killed in wars. The two visit the heavily guarded spaceship and the Lincoln Memorial.
Klaatu, impressed by the Gettysburg Address inscription, queries Bobby for the greatest person living in the world. Bobby suggests a leading American scientist, professor Jacob Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe), who lives in Washington, D.C. Bobby takes Klaatu to Barnhardt's home, but the professor is absent. Klaatu enters and adds a key mathematical equation to an advanced problem on the professor's blackboard.
He then leaves his contact information with the suspicious housekeeper who attempts to rub out the equation with an eraser although is told not to by Klaatu. Later, government agents escort Klaatu to see Barnhardt. Klaatu introduces himself and warns the professor that the people of the other planets have become concerned for their own safety after human beings developed atomic power.
Klaatu declares that, if his message goes unheeded, "planet Earth will be eliminated". Barnhardt agrees to arrange a meeting of scientists at Klaatu's ship and suggests that Klaatu give a demonstration of his power. Klaatu returns to his spaceship the next evening to implement the idea, unaware that Bobby has followed him.
Bobby tells the unbelieving Helen and Tom what has transpired, but not until Tom finds a diamond on the floor of Klaatu's room do they begin to accept his story. When Tom takes the diamond for appraisal, the jeweller informs him it is unlike any other on Earth. Klaatu finds Helen at her workplace. She leads him to an unoccupied elevator which mysteriously stops at noon, trapping them together.
Klaatu admits he is responsible, tells Helen his true identity, and asks for her help. A montage sequence shows that Klaatu has neutralized all electric power everywhere around the planet except in situations that would compromise human safety, such as hospitals and aeroplanes. After the thirty-minute blackout ends, the manhunt for Klaatu intensifies and Tom informs authorities of his suspicions.
Helen is very upset by Tom's betrayal of Klaatu and breaks off their relationship. Helen and Klaatu take a taxi to Barnhardt's home. En route, Klaatu instructs Helen that, should anything happen to him, she must tell Gort "Klaatu barada nikto". When they are spotted, Klaatu is shot by military personnel. Helen heads to the spaceship. Gort awakens and kills two guards before Helen can relay Klaatu's message.
Gort gently deposits her in the spaceship, then goes to fetch Klaatu's corpse. Gort then revives Klaatu while the amazed Helen watches. Klaatu explains that his revival is only temporary; even with their advanced technology, they cannot truly overcome death, that power being reserved for the "Almighty Spirit". Klaatu steps out of the spaceship and addresses the assembled scientists.
He explains that humanity's penchant for violence and first steps into space have caused concern among other inhabitants of the universe who have created and empowered a race of robot enforcers including Gort to deter such aggression.He warns that, if the people of Earth threaten to extend their violence into space, the robots will destroy Earth, adding: "The decision rests with you." He enters the spaceship and departs.
Klaatu barada nikto
Since the release of the movie, the phrase "Klaatu barada nikto" has appeared repeatedly in fiction and in popular culture. The Robot Hall of Fame described it as "one of the most famous commands in science fiction", while Frederick S. Clarke of Cinefantastique called it "the most famous phrase ever spoken by an extraterrestrial." Edmund H. North, who wrote The Day the Earth Stood Still, also created the alien language used in the film, including the phrase "Klaatu barada nikto".
The official spelling for the phrase comes directly from the script (as shown in the above image) and provides insight as to its proper pronunciation. No translation was given in the film. Philosophy professor Aeon J. Skoble speculates the famous phrase is a "safe-word" that is part of a fail-safe feature used during the diplomatic missions such as the one Klaatu and Gort make to Earth.
With the use of the safe-word, Gort's deadly force can be deactivated in the event the robot is mistakenly triggered into a defensive posture. Skoble observes that the theme has evolved into a "staple of science fiction that the machines charged with protecting us from ourselves will misuse or abuse their power." In this interpretation, the phrase apparently tells Gort that Klaatu considers escalation unnecessary.
Fantastic Films magazine explored the meaning of "Klaatu barada nikto" in a 1978 article titled The Language of Klaatu. The article, written by Tauna Le Marbe, who is listed as their "Alien Linguistics Editor," attempts to translate all the alien words Klaatu used throughout the film. In the article the literal translation for Klaatu barada nikto was "Stop Barbarism (I have) death, bind" and the free translation was "I die, repair me, do not retaliate."
The documentary Decoding "Klaatu Barada Nikto": Science Fiction as Metaphor examined the phrase "Klaatu barada nikto" with some of the people involved with The Day the Earth Stood Still. Robert Wise, director of the film, related a story he had with Edmund North saying North told him, "Well, it's just something I kind of cooked up. I thought it sounded good." Billy Gray, who played Bobby Benson in the film, said that he thought that the message was coming from Klaatu and that, "barada nikto must mean... save earth".
Florence Blaustein, widow of the producer Julian Blaustein, said North had to pass a street called Baroda every day going to work and said, "I think that's how that was born." Film historian Steven Jay Rubin, recalled an interview he had with North when he asked the question, "What is the direct translation of Klaatu barada nikto, and Edmund North said to me 'There's hope for earth, if the scientists can be reached.'"