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definition - klaatu barada nikto

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Klaatu barada nikto

Klaatu barada nikto
Script of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) showing the phrase Klaatu barada nikto
Character Klaatu (first)
Helen Benson (second)
Actor Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal
First used in The Day the Earth Stood Still

"Klaatu barada nikto" is a phrase originating from the 1951 science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still. "Klaatu" refers to a name of the humanoid alien protagonist of the film. Klaatu (Michael Rennie) commanded Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) that, were anything to happen to him, she must utter the phrase to the robot Gort (Lockard Martin). In response, Gort relented from destroying the Earth and resurrected Klaatu from death.[1]


  Usage in the film

Edmund H. North, who wrote The Day the Earth Stood Still, also created the alien language used in the film, including the phrase "Klaatu barada nikto". The official spelling for the phrase comes directly from the script (as shown in the image) and provides insight as to its proper pronunciation.

The phrase was never translated in the film and neither Edmund North nor 20th Century Fox ever released an official translation.

Toward the end of the film, Klaatu is pursued by the military with orders that he be taken dead or alive. Klaatu tells Helen Benson his concern about Gort and requests she memorize the phrase, saying "There's no limit to what he can do. He could destroy the Earth... If anything should happen to me you must go to Gort, you must say these words, 'Klaatu barada nikto', please repeat that."

Shortly after, Klaatu is shot and killed. While Klaatu's body is being put in a jail cell, Gort removes himself from the plastic encasement and kills two guards. Helen Benson visits Gort outside the spaceship and just before Gort attacks her, she says, "Gort, Klaatu barada nikto. Klaatu barada nikto." Gort takes Helen inside the spaceship then retrieves Klaatu's lifeless body from the jail and brings him back to life using the alien technology aboard the ship.

  Usage in 2008 remake

In the 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, this line was added at Keanu Reeves' insistence as he wanted to speak the famous line.[2] Helen Benson never learns the phrase in the remake. Instead, Klaatu uses it near the beginning of the movie to shut down Gort after he was shot, and again (highly distorted and barely audible) at the end when he touches the sphere and stops the destruction of the earth. Although the line is not in the English subtitles, it can be heard.


Because there is no official translation of the phrase, people have speculated about what it means. A few notable attempts have been made to determine the phrase's meaning.

Philosophy professor Aeon J. Skoble speculates the famous phrase is a safeword that is part of a fail-safe feature used during diplomatic missions such as the one Klaatu and Gort make to Earth. With the use of the safe-word, Gort's deadly force can be deactivated in the event the robot is undesirably triggered into a defensive posture. Skoble observes that the theme has evolved into a "staple of science fiction that the machines charged with protecting us from ourselves will misuse or abuse their power."[3] In this interpretation, the phrase apparently tells Gort that Klaatu considers escalation unnecessary.

Fantastic Films magazine explored the meaning of "Klaatu barada nikto" in an article titled The Language of Klaatu written in 1978. The article, written by Tauna Le Marbe, who is listed as their "Alien Linguistics Editor," attempted to translate all the alien words Klaatu used throughout the movie.[4] In the article, the literal translation for Klaatu barada nikto was "Stop Barbarism (I have) death, bind" and the free translation was "I die, repair me, do not retaliate."[4]

The documentary Decoding "Klaatu Barada Nikto": Science Fiction as Metaphor examined the phrase "Klaatu barada nikto" with some of the people involved with The Day the Earth Stood Still. Robert Wise, director of the film, related a story he had with Edmund North saying North told him, "Well, it's just something I kind of cooked up. I thought it sounded good."[5] Billy Gray, who played Bobby Benson in the film, said that he thought that the message was coming from Klaatu and that, "barada nikto must mean... save earth".[6] Florence Blaustein, widow of the producer Julian Blaustein, said North had to pass a street called Baroda every day going to work and said, "I think that's how that was born."[7] Film historian Steven Jay Rubin, recalled an interview he had with North when he asked the question, "What is the direct translation of Klaatu barada nikto, and Edmund North said to me 'There's hope for earth, if the scientists can be reached.'"[8]

  Popular culture references

"Klaatu barada nikto" has been used extensively in popular culture. The Robot Hall of Fame describes the phrase as "one of the most famous commands in science fiction"[9]and Frederick S. Clarke of Cinefantastique called it "the most famous phrase ever spoken by an extraterrestrial."[10]

Two instances where the phrase is used as a command are the films Toys and Army of Darkness. In the film Toys, the character Leland Zevo speaks the phrase to stop a rampaging robotic sea creature he calls the "Seaswine".[11] In the film Army of Darkness of the Evil Dead series, Ash has to speak similar words in order to retrieve the Necronomicon but fails to remember it properly ("Klaatu... verata... n... Necktie. Nectar. Nickel. Noodle."). In the end he speaks the words again after consuming a potion, allowing him to return to his era. The words were altered from their original use because their meaning was unclear in the original.[12]

The phrase has also been used humorously as is the case when Senator Alan K. Simpson's office used it. The June 7, 1994, edition of the now-defunct supermarket tabloid Weekly World News reported that 12 U.S. Senators were aliens from other planets, including Simpson. Then-Senator Simpson's spokesman Charles Pelkey, when asked about Simpson's galactic origins, told the Associated Press: "We've got only one thing to say: Klaatu barada nikto."[13]

Approximately 26 minutes into the 1982 film Tron, the words are seen posted on a sign hanging in Alan Bradley's cubicle.[14]

In the film Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, two of Jabba the Hutt's skiff guards reference this phrase: one guard is an alien of the Nikto species named Klaatu, and another is an alien of the Klatooinian species, named Barada.[15]

The phrase was used by Commander John Crichton in the T.V. series Farscape, in the season 4 episode "I Shrink Therefore I Am".[16]


  1. ^ Pomerance, Murray (2006). Cinema and Modernity. Rutgers University Press. p. 125. ISBN 0-8135-3816-5. 
  2. ^ Cindy White (November 17, 2008). "On Set: Day The Earth Stood Still". Sci Fi Wire. http://www.scifi.co.uk/blog/films/on-set-day-the-earth-stood-sti/. Retrieved July 18, 2010. 
  3. ^ Skoble, Aeon J. (2007). "Technology and Ethics in The Day the Earth Stood Still". In Steven M. Sanders. The Philosophy of Science Fiction Film. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2472-7. 
  4. ^ a b Le Marbe, Tauna (April 1978). Stein, Michael. ed. "The Language of Klaatu". Fantastic Films (Blake Publishing Corp.) (1). Archived from the original on June 28, 2004. http://web.archive.org/web/20040628163125/http://www.dreamerwww.com/fanfilm/fanfilm2.htm. Retrieved July 15, 2010. 
  5. ^ Robert Wise (December 2, 2008). Decoding "Klaatu Barada Nikto": Science Fiction as Metaphor (DVD). Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Event occurs at 0:14:05. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1346880/. Retrieved July 15, 2010. 
  6. ^ Billy Gray (December 2, 2008). Decoding "Klaatu Barada Nikto": Science Fiction as Metaphor (DVD). Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Event occurs at 0:14:20. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1346880/. Retrieved July 15, 2010. 
  7. ^ Florence Blaustein (December 2, 2008). Decoding "Klaatu Barada Nikto": Science Fiction as Metaphor (DVD). Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Event occurs at 0:14:47. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1346880/. Retrieved July 15, 2010. 
  8. ^ Steven Jay Rubin (December 2, 2008). Decoding "Klaatu Barada Nikto": Science Fiction as Metaphor (DVD). Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Event occurs at 0:14:55. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1346880/. Retrieved July 15, 2010. 
  9. ^ "The Robot Hall of Fame: Gort". 2006 Inductees: Gort. Carnegie Mellon University. 2006. http://www.robothalloffame.org/06inductees/gort.html. Retrieved April 18, 2008. 
  10. ^ Clarke, Frederick S. (1970). Cinefantastique: 2. 
  11. ^ Michael Gambon (actor) (December 18, 1992). Toys (Motion picture). 20th Century Fox. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105629/trivia. Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  12. ^ Harms, Daniel (2003). The Necronomicon Files: The Truth Behind Lovecraft's Legend.. Red Wheel/Weiser. p. 255. ISBN 1-892389-00-2. 
  13. ^ "Senators Jokingly Confirm Tabloid Claim They Are Space Aliens", Associated Press, May 25, 1994
  14. ^ Bruce Boxleitner (actor) (July 9, 1982). TRON (Motion picture). Walt Disney Pictures. Event occurs at 0:27:20. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084827/movieconnections. Retrieved July 19, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Star Wars Power of the Force 2 Photo Archives". Rebelscum.com. http://www.rebelscum.com/POTF2jabbasskiffguards.asp. 
  16. ^ "I Shrink Therefore I Am", Farscape Episode Guide, BBC.com.


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