The Day the Earth Stood Still, 1951 version
Five out of five stars
With so many at best B-grade science fiction movies made in the fifties and sixties with weak special effects, it is rare that any of them stand out as classics. This is one that does. Made in 1951, when the Cold War and the Red Scare were at their peak, this movie captures the paranoia and fear of new concepts that were so prevalent in the United States at the time.
A spaceship lands in Washington, D. C. and it has two passengers, a humanoid called Klaatu and a large silver robot called Gort. The response is one of fearful curiosity, with military forces including tanks and artillery immediately surrounding the ship. When Klaatu emerges, itchy trigger fingers cause a wounding of Klaatu. This leads to a response by Gort where he vaporizes some of weapons using a powerful beam.
Klaatu informs government officials that the space powers have identified humans with their atomic weapons as a danger to interstellar peace. He tells them that they have a simple choice, either end their warlike ways or be destroyed. Even with this power being displayed, the Earth leaders refuse to cooperate.
Klaatu then goes under cover in order to learn more about humans, living in a boarding house with several people, including a boy. Klaatu also tries to recruit allies among Earth’s scientific elite, demonstrating to a math/physics professor how easily he can solve a complex problem.
While this is a science fiction movie, the main plot is the high level of fear and paranoia among the people and government leaders. Unfortunately, it is reasonable to expect something similar to happen if a ship were to in fact unexpectedly land in Washington. Although the Cold War is over, there is very little reason to believe that the level of trust between powerful nations is any better than it was sixty years ago. This is a great movie that stars the human species with space aliens as supporting players.