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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The central premise is that Earth, unlike more advanced planets in the universe, is in danger of being destroyed unless the warring, hostile countries who share it can find common ground and learn to live in peace. Ignorance, pettiness, and fearfulness have frightening consequences.
Positive Role Models
Rather than aggressive, predatory aliens usually found in science fiction films, the interplanetary visitors are portrayed as non-violent, helpful, intelligent, and life-affirming. With few exceptions, the military and government folks are seen as hot-headed, fearful, and have a "shoot-first and ask-questions-later" attitude. Klaatu, the central extraterrestrial, is a decidedly positive father figure to the young boy at the heart of the story. Only one female has impact on the plot and she is played as competent, intelligent, and resourceful.
Violence & Scariness
People run in fear of an approaching spaceship. Army tanks and weaponry surround the spaceship; guns are drawn. A seemingly mild-mannered alien in human form is shot and injured by a panicky soldier. A robot vaporizes all the weapons in the area and later uses his powers to demobilize several guards. In a suspenseful sequence, the robot frightens a woman and carries her onto the spaceship. During the final conflict there are gun shots and a death occurs. There is a continuous threat of Earth being vaporized by the interplanetary presences.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Set in the 1950s, smoking is pervasive.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that at the core of this film is the powerful, and potentially disturbing notion that because of Earth's volatility and war-addicted nature, the planet is in danger of self-destructing. The production is old-fashioned, with none of the gore, in-your-face brutality, or heavy realism seen in later science fiction movies. Government and military officials are shown as impulsive and violence-prone; in several action sequences, they threaten and shoot out of fear and without cause. There are tanks, all sorts of guns and weaponry and one character is shot on two separate occasions. An alien vaporizes threatening objects and demobilizes guards. In other suspense-filled moments the leads are seen running for their lives. Since it's set in the 1950s, many characters smoke. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
One of the finest science fiction movies of the 1950s, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL retains its impact and its dignity half a century later. Hopefully no one will ever try to remake this movie, because the earnestness that drives it would be near impossible to recapture. The effects, understated and very competent, would resemble those in 1999's soulless Lost in Space. So please, movie-remaking people, leave this one alone!
Michael Rennie's striking posture and stern, hatchet-like face make for a convincing alien. Patricia Neal is also admirable as Helen, the woman who unwittingly boards her spare room to him but then tries to help him. Children will find a character to relate to in Bobby, Helen's young son who finds a father figure in the man from space. Released during the Cold War, this film was a rarity for depicting its otherworldly visitor as an ambassador of peace. Though young viewers may find the robot and spaceship unimpressive by modern standards, Klaatu's mission will engage them, and the message of non-violence could spur good discussions about the importance of world peace.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.