5 Plot Point Breakdown: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

By Xiaofeng Chen · September 15, 2014


Screenplay Genre: Science Fiction / Horror / Drama

Movie Time: 92 minutes


A Navy radar station contacts an unknown object orbiting the earth at altitude of 200,000 feet and speed of 4,000 miles per hour. No one has any idea what it is and where it is from. Then the object heads for the East Coast of the United States invades Washington D.C. and lands on National Mall. People see it is an unearthly saucer-shaped spaceship with glossy metallic shell. The Police and Army encircle the spaceship. Out of them are thousands of curious people alongside the media. After two hours of waiting, the hatch on the spaceship opens. A spaceman in a silver suit and helmet comes out and declares to the people: “We have come to visit you in peace, and with goodwill.” (09:05) Then the spaceman walks to the people. A solder triggers his gun nervously and shoots the spaceman wounded. Then an awful robot comes out of the spaceship. It launches deadly rays from its eyes to destroy all the weapons the soldiers have. The spaceman orders the robot to stop. Then he is sent to the hospital and the robot called “Gort” stays with the spaceship.

In the hospital, the spaceman has recovered fast with some kind of unguent he takes with him. He tells the Secretary of the President his name is Klaatu (Michael Rennie) – the representative of another planet who wants to talk with the leaders of all the countries on the earth. The secretary tells him as the intense and hostile situation of the world increases, the conference he requires is impossible to perform. Klaatu is disappointed and escapes from the hospital. 

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

The Police and Military carry out a large scale manhunt for Klaatu. Panic is spreading across the city with rumors about what is going on. Some civilians are watching the news and talking about the spaceman – they are Helen Benson( Patricia Neal) and her son Bobby (Billy Gray), the head of the house Mrs. Crockett and the other tenants. A stranger comes in the hall and they turn on the light to see a polite gentleman (Klaatu) (24:32). Klaatu introduces himself as Mr. Carpenter and tells the people he wants to rent a room. The people relax and adopt him.

Soon Mr. Carpenter (Klaatu) becomes familiar with the people and becomes friends with Bobby. He sees the kindness of these people and the good thoughts of men like Lincoln. He believes there are some people on this planet he could talk with, and he needs to find out who they are. Bobby tells Klaatu Professor Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe) is the man he is looking for. They go to see Barnhardt. The professor is not at home and they see some deep equations he left on the blackboard. Klaatu corrects the faults in them and leaves with Bobby.

The next day Professor Branhardt sends his man to pick up Klaatu to him. They meet at the professor’s home and he has realized who Klaatu is. Klaatu tells Branhardt what his mission is: stopping mankind from developing the nuclear rocket and spreading the war into the universal, or the earth will be destroyed by the peaceful civilizations surrounding it. Branhardt tells Klaatu mankind won’t listen to him unless he does something to force them to understand it. Klaatu gets an idea…


Mr. Carpenter asks Bobby for a flashlight and goes out in the night. Bobby follows him to the landing site of the spaceship. He sees Carpenter waking the robot up with the flashing light to knock the guard solder out. And then he goes into the spaceship. Bobby runs back home and tells Helen about it. Helen doesn’t believe him.

The next day at noon Carpenter goes with Helen and tells her he wants to talk. As they go in the elevator, the power is suddenly down and they’re trapped there. Klaatu tells Helen the electric powers that exist all over the world have been neutralized and all the truth as well. (61:47)

Washington, New York, London, Paris, Moscow… all across the world everything that depends on electric power is down. The Entire Earth Has Stood Still. People are shocked and confused. After half an hour, everything returns to normal. Mankind begins to grasp what a great power they are dealing with.

The elites of the world have accepted Professor Branhardt’s invitation and going to have a meet with Klaatu in Washington. Helen’s boyfriend Tom (Hugh Marlowe) gets some diamonds that Klaatu gave Bobby. He goes to jewelry store to identify them. The shopkeeper tells him they’re unearthly minerals. He realizes who carpenter is and reports it to the authorities.

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

Klaatu and Helen leave the house before the policemen and soldiers come. They take a cab and wander around the city, finding all the ways have been sealed by the policemen and soldiers. Klaatu gets out of the cab and runs to the landing site. But he gets shot and falls down. Before he dies, he tells Helen to bring a message to Gort: “Klaatu Barada Nikto,” or Gort will destroy the earth. (76:37)

Helen goes to Gort. Gort has killed the soldiers who have been watching it. It assaults Helen by launching its deadly rays. Helen relays the message to Gort: “Klaatu Barada Nikto.” Gort gets it, stops attacking and takes Helen onto the spaceship. Then it leaves her there and goes for Klaatu.


Gort finds Klaatu’s body in the military base and takes him back to the spaceship. Helen sees Gort cure Klaatu with some unknown armariums. Then Klaatu is revived back to life(86:20). Klaatu tells Helen he doesn’t have much time left and he must talk to the world now.

The elites from all over the world have been gathered before the spaceship, listening to the solemn speech by Klaatu: “ It’s no concern of ours how you run your own planet. But if you threaten to extend your violence. This earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you!” Then Klaatu and Gort go in the spaceship and take off, disappearing in the starfield…

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