The Day the Earth Stood Still is a unique film, in that it works not only as a sci-fi thriller, but also as a social commentary on human nature's destructive personality and its fear of something different.
Humans in general do not weigh the consequences of their actions and the film shows this, leaving a strong message at its conclusion as to what our destiny will be if we continue on our path of destruction. Sadly not much has changed since this film was released some 50 years ago, which will surely be highlighted in 2008's supposed (yet completely unjustified) remake.
The Day the Earth Stood Still begins when a U.F.O. lands in Washington D.C., causing a panic among its citizens as the police and army are called in. When the ship opens an alien named Klaatu (Michael Rennie) comes forward proclaiming he has come in peace.
Placed under military arrest Klaatu asks to speak to all the representatives of Earth concerning the future of their planet, but is told that it would be impossible due to the world's current political environment.
Finding this to be stupid and childish, he takes matters into his own hands escaping the militaries clutches, studying the people of Earth so he can try and understand their motives. During this time he befriends a young boy named Bobby (Billy Gray) and his mother Helen (Patricia Neal).
This 1951 sci-fi classic still looks great. Robert Wise's simple direction combined with cinematographer Leo Tover's great use of light and shadow has created a unique quasi-film noir/science fiction hybrid. Bernard Hermann's score (which no doubt influenced the likes of Danny Elfman) is excellent and the special effects still work a treat.
Acting wise everyone is solid with no stand out performances to be found, but no one will be able to forget the alien robot Gort, one of the more memorable and terrifying robot creations to be found in the science fiction genre.
A movie whose influence on the sci-fi genre is enormous, The Day the Earth Stood Still is a great film which contains an eternal message.