Klaatu barada nikto

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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 in the 1951 science fiction film, The Day the Earth Stood Still. (It was also used in the movie Army of Darkness starring Bruce Campbell.) The humanoid alien protagonist of the film, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), instructed Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) that, were anything to happen to him she must say 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[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 for 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.

Toward the end of the film, Klaatu is pursued by the American military and fervently urges Helen Benson to memorize the phrase, saying "There's no limit to what he [Gort] 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; Gort, knowing he has died, dissolves the polymer cube that encases him and disintegrates the two guards standing watch. Helen Benson watches this, but conveys Klaatu's message. Gort then takes her inside the spaceship and retrieves Klaatu's lifeless body, which he revives.

Usage in 2008 remake[edit]

In the 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, this line was added at Keanu Reeves' insistence;[2] Klaatu uses it near the beginning of the movie to shut Gort down, and again (highly distorted and barely audible) at the end when he 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, 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 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 a 1978 article titled The Language of Klaatu. The article, written by Tauna Le Marbe, who is listed as their "Alien Linguistics Editor," attempts to translate all the alien words Klaatu used throughout the film.[4] In the article, the literal translation 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 "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]
  • 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 Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas" when Fred & Barney rescue 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 novel The Armageddon Rag by George R. R. Martin, one of the characters, Gortney Lyle, is known as Gort. The novel's protagonist, Sandy, says "Klaatu borada nicto [sic], Gort" to him, to which Gort replies, "Real original. I hate that fucking joke. Everybody makes the same stupid fucking joke."
  • In the Firefox web browser, the about:robots page is an Easter egg containing a small number of robot references, with the page title reading Gort! Klaatu barada nikto![13]
  • In the 1982 movie TRON, Alan Bradley's cubicle has a sign that reads "Gort, Klaatu Barada Nikto."[14]
    "Gort, Klaatu Barada Nikto" in the movie TRON.
  • 1989: in the 1987 animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon TV series 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 2013 spoof film Scary Movie 5, the phrase was used as the on/off switch for the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis.
  • The phrase is used by Mickey's character in the TV show "The Monkees". In the episode Mickey is kidnapped by aliens and cloned. His clone is sent back to Earth to "spy". As Peter and Davey figure out what is going on, Clone (robot) Mickey uses the phrase as an apparent attempt to escape.
  • In the 1987 film titled Invisible Thread, Penn Jillette, after saving the planet by performing a magic trick for the space alien threatening to destroy the world, salutes the alien along with his partner Teller and repeats the phrase.


  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)
  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.