Klaatu barada nikto

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Klaatu barada nikto
Script page of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) showing the phrase
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 that originated in the 1951 science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still. The humanoid alien protagonist of the film, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), instructs Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) that if any harm befalls him, she must say the phrase to the robot Gort (Lockard Martin). In response Gort relents from destroying the Earth and resurrects Klaatu from death.[1]

Usage in the film[edit]

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 of the phrase comes directly from the script (as shown in the above 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.

Near the end of the film, as Klaatu is pursued by the American military, he urges Helen Benson to 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. Knowing that Klaatu has died, Gort dissolves the polymer cube encasing him and disintegrates the two guards standing watch. Helen watches Gort kill the guards, then conveys Klaatu's message. Gort takes her inside the spaceship, and then retrieves Klaatu's lifeless body, which he revives.

Usage in 2008 remake[edit]

In the 2008 remake, the line was added at Keanu Reeves' insistence.[2] Klaatu uses it near the beginning of the film to shut down Gort, and again at the end, highly distorted and barely audible, when he stops the destruction of the Earth. Although the line can be heard in the film, it does not appear in the English subtitles.


Because there is no official translation of the phrase, a few notable attempts have been made to determine the phrase's meaning:

Philosophy professor Aeon J. Skoble speculates the famous phrase is part of a fail-safe feature used during diplomatic missions, whereby Gort's deadly force can be deactivated in the event the robot is undesirably triggered into a defensive posture. Skoble observes that this 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 explored the meaning of "Klaatu barada nikto" in the 1978 article "The Language of Klaatu". In the article Tauna Le Marbe, the magazine's Alien Linguistics Editor, attempts to translate all the alien words Klaatu used throughout the film.[4] Le Marbe's literal translation was "Stop Barbarism, (I have) death, bind;" 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 original, recalled a conversation he had with Edmund North, saying North told him, "...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 "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]

In popular culture[edit]

"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]

  • As a tribute to The Day the Earth Stood Still, George Lucas named three minor characters Klaatu, Barada, and Nikto, in Return of the Jedi.
  • In the 1992 film Army of Darkness, Ash (Bruce Campbell) 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.[11]
  • In the 1998 video game Myth II: Soulblighter, some characters must reach the body of The Deceiver and revive him by speaking the words. In the sequence, character is unable to remember the words correctly, but after several tries The Deceiver revives with a muttered, "Close enough."
  • In The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas when Fred and Barney rescue The Great Gazoo from his crash landing, Gazoo utters, "Gort, Klaatu barada nikto."
  • The phrase was used in an off-hand fashion by Commander John Crichton in the TV series Farscape, in the season 4 episode "I Shrink Therefore I Am".[12]
  • In the Firefox web browser, the about:robots page is an Easter egg containing a small number of robot references, with the "page title" (in the browser tab) reading Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!.[13]
  • In the 1982 film Tron, Alan Bradley's cubicle has a sign that reads "Gort, Klaatu Barada Nikto."[14]
    "Gort, Klaatu Barada Nikto" in the film Tron.
  • 1989: in the 1987 animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series episode "Invasion of the Turtle Snatchers", a family of three aliens encountered by Donatello and Rocksteady are named Klaatu, Barada and Nikto. Klaatu is the father, Barada is the mother and Nikto is the little boy. In this version, Klaatu, Barada and Nikto come from a planet orbiting the star Antares.[15]
  • In the 1992 film Toys, General Zevo (Michael Gambon) says "Klaatu Barada Nicto" in attempt to shut down the robotic Sea Swine that is out of control. He is shown injured but alive, implying it shut down after firing a rocket.
  • The June 7, 1994 edition of Weekly World News reported that 12 U.S. senators were aliens from other planets. The piece quoted several senators or their spokespersons humorously "confirming" the story. Associated Press ran a follow-up piece that confirmed the tongue-in-cheek participation of Senate offices in the story. WWN quoted Senator Phil Gramm (R–TX) as saying he was "amazed it took you this long to find out." Charles Pelkey, the then-spokesman for Senator Alan Simpson (R–WY), told AP: "We've got only one thing to say: Klaatu barada nikto."[16]
  • In the French animated series LoliRock episode "Castles in the Sand", Mephisto tries to use the phrase to unlock his sand monster's powers but is unable to finish saying the three words.[17]
  • In Attack of the Hideous Space-Varmints (1997), Donald Duck utters "Er – 'Klaatu barada nikto'?" to a space varmint before she douses Scrooge McDuck with soapy electrolytes.[18]
  • In the video game Fallout: New Vegas, should you choose the wild wasteland perk, the words can be found written on a wall at one of Caesar's legion's main camps, albeit misspelled.


  1. ^ Pomerance, Murray (2006). Cinema and Modernity. Rutgers University Press. p. 125. ISBN 0-8135-3816-5. 
  2. ^ Cindy White (October 2008). "Day's Anatomy". Sci Fi Wire. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 
  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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Retrieved July 15, 2010. 
  9. ^ "The Robot Hall of Fame: Gort". 2006 Inductees: Gort. Carnegie Mellon University. 2006. Retrieved April 18, 2008. 
  10. ^ Clarke, Frederick S. (1970). Cinefantastique: 2.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[full citation needed]
  11. ^ Harms, Daniel (2003). The Necronomicon Files: The Truth Behind Lovecraft's Legend. Red Wheel/Weiser. p. 255. ISBN 1-892389-00-2. 
  12. ^ "I Shrink Therefore I Am", Farscape Episode Guide, BBC.com.
  13. ^ "Mozilla bug 417302". Retrieved May 12, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Klaatu Barada Nikto". tvtropes.org. 
  15. ^ "Invasion of the Turtle Snatchers". TV.com. 14 November 1989. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  16. ^ "Senators Jokingly Confirm Tabloid Claim They Are Space Aliens", Associated Press, May 25, 1994
  17. ^ LoliRock. Episode 14. Event occurs at 16:30. 
  18. ^ Rosa, Don (1997). Attack of the Hideous Space-Varmints. p. 13.