Day the Earth Stood Still, The

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Not suitable under 8, not recommended under 13, PG to 15 due to violence and disturbing themes and scenes.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Day the Earth Stood Still, The
  • a review of Day the Earth Stood Still, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 26 December 2008.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Day the Earth Stood Still, The
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Violence
Length: 106 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly), a biologist with a young stepson Jacob (Jaden Smith) is bundled into a government car and taken to a rendezvous where she, along with dozens of other scientists are told that an object is approaching Earth at great speed and will crash into Manhattan’s Central Park in less than 90 minutes.
The object, a giant glowing sphere, lands and an alien walks out. Just as Helen is about to make physical contact with the alien, it is shot by one of the police or soldiers surrounding the sphere. As soon as the alien falls to the ground a giant robot comes out of the sphere and emits a high pitch sound that causes everyone to fall to the ground stunned, at which point the alien gives a command and the robot shuts down.
The alien is rushed to hospital where the bullet is removed and he takes on human form (Keanu Reeves). We learn that the alien’s name is Klaatu, and that he represents a delegation of planetary leaders and wishes to speak to our world leaders. Rather than taking Klaatu to meet with world leaders, the Secretary of Defence Regina Jackson (Kathy Bates) instructs Helen to drug him so that he can be taken to a secure location. However, Helen secretly assists the alien to escape.
We now learn that Klaatu is here not to save the human race but to save the Earth and its animals from the human race by ridding the Earth of humans. Helen begs him to give her a chance to prove that humans can change and takes him to meet her mentor Professor Barnhardt (John Cleese). Professor Barnhardt attempts to sway Klaatu’s opinion by arguing that human will evolve when faced with crisis, but the authorities arrive and Klaatu, Helen and Jacob flee into the forest.
Meanwhile, Klaatu’s protector, the giant robot, which the military has dubbed G.O.R.T. (Genetically Organic Robotic Technology), has been moved to a secret underground location where the military attempt to find out what makes it work. GORT responds by transforming into a swarm of billions of metallic insect-like creatures that destroy all in their path
The film becomes a race against time as Helen tries to convince Klaatu to give humankind a second chance before it is too late.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Extra-terrestrial beings; the end of humankind

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The Day the Earth Stood Still contains violence throughout, including mass destruction and battle violence, some brutal violence, and some low level blood and gore. Examples include:

  • Helen is taken against her will from her home by American federal agents who act in an intimidating manner. Helen appears disturbed by their presence and manner.
  • When a giant alien sphere lands in Manhattan’s central park people panic and run knocking others over in their stampede. The landing of the sphere causes cyclonic-like winds that blow people over, and we see a baby snatched from its pusher just before the pusher is swept away in the wind.  
  • Dozens of military vehicles fitted with large machineguns and hundreds of armed soldiers and police officers surround the alien sphere after it lands, with soldiers positioning themselves on rooftops and aiming their weapons on the sphere.
  • The alien walks out of a giant spear and reaches out to Helen who is dressed in a protective suit. Blood splatters across Helen’s face shield and the alien falls to the ground. Immediately following the shooting of the alien, we hear a high pitch sound being emitted from the sphere and see all of the humans surrounding the sphere fall to the ground as if stunned. A giant robot emerges from the sphere.
  • In hospital a doctor who attempts to defibrillate the alien’s heart appears to receive a shock and is thrown across the room.
  • Following the removal of the bullet, we see the alien inside a plastic tube kicking and hitting the sides of the tube as if in a panic.
  • The alien is strapped to a wheelchair and placed in an interrogation room with a man with a lie detector machine. Wires are placed on the alien’s forehead and he is asked questions by the man operating the lie detector. After several questions, the man controlling the machine touches the machine and appears to be electrocuted by the machine, falling back in his chair. When the man sits up he appears to be in a trance and answers a number of the alien’s questions. He slumps forward unconscious or dead. During the same scene we hear a high pitched sound and see dozens of guards holding their ears and then falling down unconscious.
  • We see several remote controlled fighter jets, helicopters and army tank approach and attack the robot GORT. The jets fire missiles of which the robot takes control, causing the missiles to destroy themselves. The robot then takes control of the jets and crashes the jets into the tanks and the helicopters crash to the ground, exploding in flames. 
  • In a couple of scenes we see images of people rioting and looting smashing shop windows, and images of riot police confronting civilians.
  • We see a police officer pointing a gun at Klaatu uses his alien powers to crush the police officer between two cars. We see the cars collide and hear a crunch and see the policeman lying dead on the ground with a small amount of blood seeping from his mouth. Klaatu smears some ointment on the inside of the dead policeman’s mouth then touches the policeman causing the policeman’s body to convulse and start breathing again.
  • Helen, Klaatu and Jacob run into a forest while being chased by three army helicopters. Helen is snatched from the ground by a soldier and winched aboard a helicopter.    
  • Two army helicopters target Klaatu. Two red laser dots appear on his body, we see a look of concentration on Klaatu’s face and hear a loud high pitched sound and see the two helicopters crash into each other and explode in flames.
  • Helen, Klaatu, Jacob and another man in a car crash through an army barricade with soldiers jumping out of the car’s path. Soldiers are given orders to fire upon the car and the car is thrown through the air. When it comes to rest the driver lies dead in his seat with his eyes open.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • A number of people wearing bio-hazard suits walk though an eerie fog surrounded by dozens of dead trees.
  • A number of scenes contain images of a giant alien sphere filled with swirling gas and also smaller spheres that appear to be sucking in various kinds of animal and marine life  which swirl about inside. The spheres are likened to Noah’s ark and there is worried talk about the possibility of the coming flood.
  • The robot GORT is a giant menacing machine with a Cyclops-like eye in the centre of his helmeted head.
  • While Klaatu is looking at himself in a mirror, several spots of blood appear on his shirt front. He watches the spots of blood for a few seconds and then collapses to the ground unconscious. 
  • Jacob looking scared, runs away from Klaatu, crossing a narrow rickety bridge that has a raging torrent of water beneath. Jacob overbalances and almost falls in and Klaatu reaches out and saves Jacob from falling.      
  • A soldier wearing a protective suit is fixing machinery next to GORT when GORT begin to transform into billions of microscopic metal bugs. Tiny holes begin to form in the man’s protective suit and he panics and tries to leave the room which has now become sealed shut. Tiny bloody holes begin to appear in the flesh of the man’s face and he screams in terror and falls to the ground dead. The metal bugs then attack the protective glass of an observation booth and a soldier pushes a button that causes the room to incinerate. We see the glass forming cracks and exploding and people running away and being thrown through the air.
  • A giant swarm of metal bugs comes out of an army complex and descends on the troops.  The army fires rockets and all manner of weapons at the swarm which we later hear killed all the soldiers.
  • Helen, Klaatu and Jacob walk through a swam of metal bugs. Blood drips from Jacob’s nose and he collapses on the ground. Klaatu tells Helen that Jacob is dying. He takes hold of Jacob’s hand and tiny bugs begin to crawl off Jacob’s hand and onto Klaatu’s hand, as if Klaatu is drawing the bugs into his own body. Jacob opens his eyes and sits up uninjured.  
  • Klaatu walks into a giant swarm of bugs, reaches up and touches a giant glowing sphere and disappears. 
  • Jacob upset and crying at his father’s grave, tells Klaatu that he is afraid of being left all alone and that he is resentful of his father leaving him alone 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be distrubed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above mentioned scenes and by the idea of the destruction of humankind.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the idea of the destruction of humankind.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • L.G. phones and computers
  • Action figures based on a computer game (Halo)

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • a nude man lying on his side is shown from behind.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Klaatu and Jacob ride in the back of a pick-up truck. When they are dropped off a woman holding a can of beer hangs her head and shoulders out of the pick-up truck’s window in an intoxicated manner and shouts at them before the truck speeds away. 
  • We hear talk about sedating Klaatu and see a woman holding a drug vial with Classified written on it, and a woman give Klaatu an injection without his consent.

Coarse language

None of concern

In a nutshell

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a remake of a 1951 sci-fi classic, and while the film has the advantages of modern day CGI effects, sci-fi fans may be disappointed.
The main messages from this movie are that

  • humans are self-destructive and can be their own worst enemy
  • humans are capable of making life-altering behavioural changes, but need to be faced with crisis or extinction in order to be moved enough to make the changes, and that this process is part of our evolution.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • love and empathy, as shown by Helen towards her frightened and angry stepson, Jacob
  • mercy and compassion, as shown by Klaatu several times when he saves human lives
  • understanding, trust and friendship, as shown in Jacob’s developing relationship with Klaatu

Parents may also wish to discuss

  • the relationship of humans to the planet Earth
  • the concept of human civilisations reaching crisis point where their world is threatened before they can evolve to deal with the problems.