Close Encounters of the Third Kind
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FAQ Contents

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Close Encounters of the Third Kind can be found here.

While on the way to investigate a power outage, Indiana electrical lineman Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) experiences a close encounter of the first kind when his truck stalls, he is bathed in light, and he sees UFOs flying through the night sky. Neary is not alone in that others all over the world are having similar experiences. Soon after, they begin to sing, play, or chant a five-tone melody and become obsessed with a mountainlike image that they either draw pictures of or sculpt in mashed potatoes, shaving cream, clay, dirt, etc. Meanwhile, government agents around the world have a close encounter of the second kind, discovering physical evidence of otherworldly visitors in the form of military airplanes that went missing decades ago and suddenly re-appearing in the middle of the Mexican desert. All of these experiences eventually lead to a close encounter of the third with aliens.

The movie is based on a screenplay credited to director Steven Spielberg with contributions by American screenwriters Jerry Belson, John Hill, Matthew Robbins, and Paul Schrader and game designer Hal Barwood. Spielberg claims that the idea for the film originates from his childhood when he and father saw a meteor shower in New Jersey. Pieces of that experience were featured in his 1964 film Firelight and in a short story titled 'Experiences' about a light show in the night sky experienced by a group of teenagers on a rural lovers' lane. A novelisation of the film was released in 1977.

The title is derived from a classification of close encounters with aliens as set forth by American UFO researcher J. Allen Hynek. Close Encounters of the First Kind refer to the sighting of a UFO. Physical evidence of a UFO are classed as Close Encounters of the Second Kind. Actual contact with an alien is a Close Encounter of the Third Kind.

Because Roy was 'on call' and was sent out by the company to fix the power lines but, when he saw the UFOs while on his way to the job, he turned off his radio, didn't contact the company, and chose to chase the UFOs. In most cases, this would be an egregious violation of the terms of employment, resulting in serious reprimand or, in Roy's case, immediate termination.

Yes, the Devil's Tower, Wyoming is a National Monument established in 1906 by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. Most geologists agree that Devil's Tower was formed by a intrusion of igneous magma which cooled underground and was later exposed by erosion, but some believe that it is a volcanic plug or the remains of what was once a large volcano. It is considered a sacred place by the various Indian tribes in the area, and Native American folklore says that it was created when some girls tried to escape several giant bears by climbing on it. The vertical cracks that form the sides of the tower are said to be the claw marks left by the bears as they tried unsuccessfully to reach them.

No, it was only a sleeping gas, the same agent used to knock out the livestock and caged birds.

The mothercraft lands and, after trading variations of the five-tone melody, they open their doors to first release the unaged crew of the military planes that went missing decades ago, then more recently-abducted individuals, including 3-year-old Barry Guiler (Cary Guffey), to the joy of his mother Jillian (Melinda Dillon). Following that, the aliens themselves emerge, revealing themselves as child-sized, thin-limbed, naked, gray-skinned creatures. A number of red-suited, preselected individuals are presented to the aliens as volunteers willing to journey with them, but the aliens select Roy and lead him into the ship. In the final scene, Lacombe (François Truffaut) and an alien exchange hand signals corresponding to the five-tone melody, the alien returns to the mothership, and it takes off.

Most movies with alien encounters have featured hostile aliens, e.g., The War of the Worlds (1953), Invaders from Mars (1953), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), Fire in the Sky (1993), and Independence Day (1996). However, there are a handful of alien encounter films in which the aliens are friendly. Examples include The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), It Came from Outer Space (1953), Starman (1984), Cocoon (1985) and The Abyss (1989).

There are three official cuts of this movie:

1) The Theatrical Version is the original version that was released in theatres in 1977. Its runtime is 135 minutes.

2.) The Special Edition was released in 1980. Director Steven Spielberg was rushed to meet the release date of the film in 1977 and he felt that this compromised his vision of the film, particularly with regards to the special effects. Columbia Pictures then offered him the chance to fix the problems and also gave him a budget to film additional scenes as well as improve the special effects. Included in these are a scene in which an old naval vessel (the SS Cotopaxi) is found in the desert, and, most notably, an extended ending in which we follow Roy into the mothership. In turn, this version of the film also deletes some scenes (such as where Roy is throwing the dirt and garden objects through his kitchen window and the earlier scenes of Roy at work), though the introduction to his family is longer, and there is a new scene where Roy is having a nervous breakdown in the bathroom. Its runtime is 132 minutes. A detailed comparison between the Theatrical Version and the Special Edition with pictures can be found here.

3) The Director's Cut (also known as the Collector's Edition) was released on home video in 1998 and is Spielberg's favored version. In this, he uses footage from both of the previous versions, such as Roy's breakdown in the bathroom as well as the scene in which he is shoveling dirt into his kitchen window. Also restored is a press conference scene that was removed from the Special Edition. The scene of the SS Cotopaxi in the Gobi desert (from the Special Edition) is still included, however, Spielberg opted to remove the extended ending inside the mothership as he felt that including it was a mistake, claiming that he originally made it at the request of Columbia for marketing purposes but later stated that the inside of the ship should have been left to the imagination of the audience. Its runtime is 137 minutes. A detailed comparison between the Theatrical Version and the Director's Cut with pictures can be found here. A detailed comparison between the Special Edition and the Director's Cut with pictures can be found here.

The tone appears as the entry code for an electronic laboratory door lock in Moonraker (1979). A variant appeared in the cueue line at the Star Tours attraction at Disnyland Park. The notes are rearranged in a different order.


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