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"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]

Klaatu barada nikto
Script page of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) showing the phrase
CharacterKlaatu (first)
Helen Benson (second)
ActorMichael Rennie, Patricia Neal
First used inThe Day the Earth Stood Still

The Robot Hall of Fame describes the phrase as "one of the most famous commands in science fiction"[2] and Frederick S. Clarke of Cinefantastique called it "the most famous phrase ever spoken by an extraterrestrial."[3]

Russian speakers can easily recognize the second and the third words of the phrase as "борода" (a beard) and "никто" (nobody).


Usage in the filmEdit

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.

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 vaporizes the polymer cube encasing him and disables the two soldiers standing guard. Helen conveys Klaatu's message. Gort takes her inside the spaceship, and then retrieves Klaatu's lifeless body, which he revives.

Usage in 2008 remakeEdit

In the 2008 remake, the line was added at Keanu Reeves' insistence.[4] 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 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."[5] 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.[6] Le Marbe's literal translation was "Stop Barbarism, (I have) death, bind;" the free translation was "I die, repair me, do not retaliate."[6]

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, "'s just something I kind of cooked up. I thought it sounded good."[7]

Billy Gray, who played Bobby Benson in the film, said that "barada nikto must mean... save Earth".[8] 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."[9] 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.'"[10]

In accepting the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1998, Director Robert Wise closed his remarks by saying, "...I'd like to say 'Klaatu barada nikto', which, roughly translated tonight, means 'Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.'"[11]

Popular culture referencesEdit

  • In the 1982 film Tron, the phrase is seen in the cubicle of character Alan. In the film, Alan must deal with the Master Control Program, a computer program gone rogue.
  • In the 1983 film Return of the Jedi, two of Jabba the Hutt's employees are named 'Klaatu' and 'Barada', the former belonging to one of two 'Nikto' species (the Kadas'sa'Nikto, or 'Green Nikto'). Jedi Master Ima Gun-Di from The Clone Wars is a Kajain'sa'Nikto, or 'Red Nikto,' and the race appears in The Phantom Menace.[12]
  • 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.[13]
  • In the video game adaptation of the film Spider-Man 2, the villain Mysterio, while pretending to be an alien, repeats this phrase during a boss battle against him, along with several other phrases.
  • Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks mocked the widely ridiculed 51 ft (15.5-meter) tall Male/Female steel statue at Baltimore's Pennsylvania Station, writing that it "...looks like Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still. I look at it and want to say: 'Klaatu barada nikto!'"[14]
  • In the season 3 episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius "Lights! Camera! Danger!" Jimmy and his friends are filming a parody of Harry Potter and the spell Jimmy uses to defeat "the evil one whose name is really hard to pronounce" is "Klaatu barada nikto!"[15]
  • In an episode of The Rockford Files, Rockford is blocked from seeing something by a tall bodyguard. Rockford gently pushes him aside saying: "Look, Gort, Klaatu barada nikto, ok? Give me some room." The phrase is a non sequitur in the episode, and never referred to again.
  • In the video game Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!, the NPC at the end of the level Cloud Temples will attempt to recite the line if interacted with a second time.[16]
  • Repeating the phrase “Klaatu Barada Nikto” to Siri, the virtual assistant for Apple’s iPhone, results in a number of different Easter egg references to the 1951 film.


  1. ^ Pomerance, Murray (2006). Cinema and Modernity. Rutgers University Press. p. 125. ISBN 0-8135-3816-5.
  2. ^ "The Robot Hall of Fame: Gort". 2006 Inductees: Gort. Carnegie Mellon University. 2006. Retrieved April 18, 2008.
  3. ^ Clarke, Frederick S. (1979). "Fantasy Films". Cinefantastique (Vol. 8, Issues 2-4): 2. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  4. ^ Cindy White (October 2008). "Day's Anatomy". Sci Fi Wire. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  5. ^ Skoble, Aeon J. (2007). "Technology and Ethics in The Day the Earth Stood Still". In Steven M. Sanders (ed.). The Philosophy of Science Fiction Film. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2472-7.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Robert Wise (1998). Director Robert Wise Accepts the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1998. Event occurs at 0:04:30. Retrieved June 24, 2018.
  12. ^ [1] The Cinema Behind Star Wars: The Day the Earth Stood Still
  13. ^ Harms, Daniel (2003). The Necronomicon Files: The Truth Behind Lovecraft's Legend. Red Wheel/Weiser. p. 255. ISBN 1-892389-00-2.
  14. ^ Rodricks, Dan (August 26, 2007). "Bawlmer Bizarre–What a Relief". The Baltimore Sun. p. 3B. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  15. ^ “Lights! Camera! Danger.” The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, created by John A Davis, season 3, episode 1, Nickelodeon, 11 Nov. 2004.
  16. ^ [2]