Very Important Movies: ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ (1951)

If you are a fan of science fiction movies then there’s a giant list of films that you simply must see, ones that are the foundation of modern movies and filmmakers – the VIPs, if you will.  The first Very Important Movie we’ll start with is part of what I like to call, “THE ATOMIC SERIES!”  These films all involve nuclear weapons in some way and are from the 1950s when sci-fi really started to take off in American pop culture.

Our journey begins in 1951 with a film called, The Day the Earth Stood Still. Originally a 1940s short story by Harry Bates called “Farewell to the Master,” TDTESS follows a peaceful alien called Klaatu as he comes to earth to deliver a message for all of its inhabitants. After many misadventures, we find out that Klaatu is trying to warn the earth that unless they stop developing atomic weapons then the other planets of the universe will have no choice but destroy the earth!

This film is a must see because of its dealings with the dawning of the nuclear age and how that plays into the old sci-fi theme of technology gone wrong (Frankenstein anyone?). TDTESS, along with many sci-fi films of the time, deals with a fear of atomic weapons following the end of World War 2. Many saw the aftermath of the weapons on Japan and were worried about the repercussions of such technology. These fears manifested in Hollywood which started pumping out movies like The Day the Earth Stood Still.

While the film may seem to be preachy in its message of love and peace, the original 1951 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still does not hold a candle to the over-the-top 2008 remake starring Keanu Reeves, which felt like a two hour lecture on the importance of recycling. And while the original is not as visually stunning, true sci-fi fans would still be entertained by its original story, campy 50s writing, and sweet alien technology which includes a giant indestructible robot named Gort.

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