The Day the Earth Stood Still

A Christian Allegory?

There have been many who have seen the 1951 science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still as a Christian allegory.  Indeed, apparently the screenwriter Edmund North wrote Christian elements into the film without discussing the matter with director Robert Wise or producer Julian Blaustein.  “It was my private little joke,” explained North.  “I had originally hoped that the Christ comparison would be subliminal.”

According to Wise, he never picked up on the Christ comparison until after the film had been released.  I, for one, also didn’t pick up on the comparison until it was pointed out to me.  So, perhaps we can say that North indeed achieved his objective at keeping the comparison subliminal.

In any event, the question inevitably arises:  Ought we interpret the film as a Christian allegory specifically?  Stephenson Humphries-Brooks says yes.1  I, on the other hand, am personally disinclined to interpret it as such.  As the philosopher Aeon J. Skoble writes,

Tellingly, The Day the Earth Stood Still has very few special effects and derives its power from the story and its characters.  Perhaps for this reason some see the film as a Christian allegory:  Klaatu comes from beyond the world, with a message of love and peace, is misunderstood and killed, gets resurrected, and returns to the sky.  Despite his adopted identity as “Carpenter,” I find this interpretation implausible, first because Klaatu’s message is not that we must all love one another—it’s OK if we don’t, actually, as long as we don’t threaten others—and second because Jesus didn’t threaten to have his robot friend blow up the planet if we didn’t listen.2

My interpretation of the film is largely consistent with that of Professor Skoble.


1 Stephenson Humphries-Brooks, Cinematic Savior: Hollywood’s Making of the American Christ , (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2006), p. 111.

2 Aeon J. Skoble, “Technology and Ethics in The Day the Earth Stood Still,” in The Philosophy of Science Fiction Film, ed. Steven M. Sanders (Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 2008), p. 92.