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Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

After an encounter with U.F.O.s, a line worker feels undeniably drawn to an isolated area in the wilderness where something spectacular is about to happen.

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 14 wins & 37 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Claude Lacombe (as Francois Truffaut)
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Wild Bill (as Warren Kemmerling)
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Shawn Bishop ...
Adrienne Campbell ...
Silvia Neary
Justin Dreyfuss ...
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Robert
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Storyline

Two parallel stories are told. In the first, a group of research scientists from a variety of backgrounds are investigating the strange appearance of items in remote locations, primarily desert regions. In continuing their investigation, one of the lead scientists, a Frenchman named Claude Lacombe, incorporates the Kodály method of music education as a means of communication in their work. The response, in turn, at first baffles the researchers, until American cartographer David Laughlin deciphers the meaning of the response. In the second, electric company lineman and family man Roy Neary and single mother Jillian Guiler are among some individuals in Muncie, Indiana who experience some paranormal activity before some flashes of bright lights in the sky, which they believe to be a UFO. Roy becomes obsessed with what he saw, unlike some others, especially in some form of authority, who refuse to acknowledge their belief that it was a UFO in not wanting to appear crazy. That obsession ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Close Encounter of the First Kind - Sighting of a UFO. Close Encounter of the Second Kind - Physical Evidence. Close Encounter of the Third Kind - Contact. WE ARE NOT ALONE See more »

Genres:

Drama | Sci-Fi

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| | |

Release Date:

14 December 1977 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

CE3K  »

Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$128,300,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(special edition) | (original) | (collector's edition)

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)

Color:

(Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Douglas Trumbull achieved the dramatic cloud effects by filling a tank half full of salt water with lighter fresh water on top, then injecting paint into the top layer. The paint billowed through the fresh water but flattened out at the top of the heavier salt water, creating the effect we see on screen. See more »

Goofs

The Mexican officers who appear in the Sonora Desert sequence wear Federal Army uniforms. Those uniforms were used during early the 20th century but not anymore by the 70s. See more »

Quotes

David Laughlin: Who flies crates like these anymore?
Project Leader: No one. These planes were reported missing in 1945.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Near the end of the credits it starts to reads as follows: "During the filming of all animal sequences, H.L. EDWARDS, Veterinarian of Gillette, Wyoming, was in attendance at all times to aid the filmmakers and the anesthetist in proper treatment of the animals used, and at no time were the animals harmed or mistreated in any way." See more »

Connections

Featured in Labor Day (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

More Than a Feeling
(1976) (uncredited)
Written by Tom Scholz
Performed by Boston
Produced by John Boylan and Tom Scholz
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Lost in the spectacle and suspense is a necessary character component
14 February 2010 | by (IL, USA) – See all my reviews

After "Jaws" launched him toward eternal fame in 1975, Steven Spielberg's follow-up film would tackle a bigger cultural phenomenon: UFOs. "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" was only the beginning of the director/producer's love affair with the possibility of life on other planets and the first to capture the magnitude of what first contact would be like with aliens in the era of emerging special effects.

But let's take a look at a film released just before it, in the same year (1977) in fact. A little film called "Star Wars." More than 30 years later it might not be fair to compare to the two, but the truth is that one film was about producing a big-budget cash-eating spectacle while the other was fulfilling the dream of a filmmaker to tell an amazing story in a world never before imagined. "Star Wars" has heart and "Close Encounters" has nothing but our attention.

It's hard to knock a film made before I was born in an era where I can't appreciate it for what it was at the time, but there are a lot of fundamental storytelling principles simply left out of this story that one cannot overlook. Visual effects, cinematography and Spielberg's knack for crafting great cinematic moments aren't enough to cover up barely existent character motivation.

I've read that Spielberg has regrets about the ending of this film, that his main character, Roy (Richard Dreyfuss), wouldn't make the choice he makes in the end. I have to agree -- and it's symptomatic of his entire film. Roy is a normal suburban Indiana family man who we don't know much about. Then his truck stalls and he has a close encounter with some kind of UFO. Suddenly he's a madman, being haunted by images of a mesa, ruining his familial relationships. He's driven as if by some other force to go all the way to Wyoming to figure out what it's all about.

Spielberg has us at that last bit of figuring out what it's all about. Roy, on the other hand, and the mother of a child who was "abducted" (Melinda Dillon) are just inexplicably possessed and driven to madness by a vision of a mesa. Roy going crazy and throwing dirt into his kitchen window or randomly sitting in the tub with the shower on for hours keeps our attention, but there's little sympathy going on because we really have no idea who he is. The ending scene of the film is much the same way. It's this drawn out scene of VFX spectacle and flashing lights and John Williams music but it's only a climax in that awing sense and in finally delivering what the film has been hiding from us the whole time. It is not a climax of great character realization (or at least epiphany that makes sense). It can be completely basic, like Luke Skywalker trusting the force, believing in his destiny and then becoming victorious, but it still has to be there and resonate with us in some way.

I certainly recognize some of the brilliant scene work Spielberg does throughout parts of the beginning and the latter half of the film, but there's a reason this is not a classic for all generations: great movies, especially sci-fi films, tell stories that transcend bad special effects or any other inhibitors and "Close Encounters" is about making a suspenseful film, not telling a deeply human story.

~Steven C

Visit my site at http://moviemusereviews.com


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