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Contact (1997)

PG  |   |  Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi  |  11 July 1997 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 185,710 users   Metascore: 62/100
Reviews: 597 user | 157 critic | 22 from

Dr. Ellie Arroway, after years of searching, finds conclusive radio proof of intelligent aliens, who send plans for a mysterious machine.



(novel), (story), 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 14 wins & 25 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sami Chester ...
Vernon (as SaMi Chester)
Timothy McNeil ...
Laura Elena Surillo ...
Cantina Woman
Michael Chaban ...
Hadden Suit
Willie (as Maximilian Martini)
Thomas Garner ...
Ian Broderick


Astronomer Dr. Ellie Arroway has long been interested in contact to faraway lands, a love fostered in her childhood by her father, Ted Arroway, who passed away when she was nine years old leaving her then orphaned. Her current work in monitoring for extraterrestrial life is based on that love and is in part an homage to her father. Ever since funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) was pulled on her work, which is referred to some, including her NSF superior David Drumlin, as more science fiction than science, Ellie, with a few of her rogue scientist colleagues, have looked for funding from where ever they could get it to continue their work. When Ellie and her colleagues hear chatter originating from the vicinity of the star Vega, Ellie feels vindicated. But that vindication is short lived when others, including politicians, the military, religious leaders and other scientists such as Drumlin, try to take over her work. When the messages received from space are decoded, ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


From the Academy Award-winning director of "Forrest Gump" and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Contact" take you on a journey to the heart of the universe See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for some intense action, mild language and a scene of sensuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| | |

Release Date:

11 July 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Contacto  »

Box Office


$90,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$20,584,908 (USA) (11 July 1997)


$100,853,835 (USA) (31 October 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


William Fichtner's character in the film, a blind astrophysicist with enhanced hearing as a result of his condition, is named Kent Clark, a play on the name of Superman's alter ego, Clark Kent. The character is based on a real-life blind SETI scientist, Kent Cullers. See more »


Neither in the hearings, nor after they conclude, is it ever suggested that the machine be used again by a different occupant to attempt to repeat Ellie's experience. The machine does not appear to be destroyed in her attempt and it would seem reasonable for both scientists and politicians to want to simply try it again and see if a second occupant reported a similar experience. See more »


[first lines]
Young Ellie: CQ, this is W9GFO. CQ, this is W9GFO here. Come back?
See more »


References Seinfeld (1989) See more »


The Power of Love
Written by Huey Lewis, Chris Hayes and Johnny Colla
Performed by Huey Lewis & The News
Played briefly during the opening sequence
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Absolutely brilliant; unequivocally, completely amazing in every way.
23 February 1999 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

N.B: This is a very long monologue because I adore CONTACT to bits.

I loved the irony present in Contact, as well as its religious imagery and its attention to fine detail. To see the universe in that opening scene was breath-taking, and the reason for it all coming out of Ellie's eye becomes blissfully apparent in light of the end, for her journey was just as much a physical as well as an emotional and spiritual one. The photography was superb, alternating between expansive sweeps of the landscape and the universe, and close, intimate shots of the characters, symbolising the potential for ‘the unknown' as well as an equally important knowledge of all that is familiar – contact with our own people.

The irony manifested itself in how Ellie, who denounced Palmer's ability to possess complete faith in God, ended up being the advocate of such a faith, though of a different strand; she could now appreciate Palmer's passion. Remember that Biblical verse that when paraphrased reads something like: `The man who is not willing to give up his life will lose it, but he who is willing will gain it'? This religious imagery correlates to how Drumlin lost his life in pursuit of personal acclaim, while Ellie, who admitted that she would freely give up her life in pursuit of life's tormenting questions, gained it in such a memorable and satisfying way. She found inner peace, having made contact with two intelligent races; one of the skies, and one of her own kind. The dried up cliché alluding to aliens: `We are not alone' begins to take on a new meaning in a multitude of dimensions in light of this brilliant movie.

I read this wonderful ‘blurb' about Contact, and I think this following line delineates the film, and why watching Contact became such a defining film for me: `[Ellie's] personal voyage will take her beyond theory, beyond knowledge , beyond experience, to the realization that true vision is ultimately the union of fact and faith.' This duality of life and true fulfilment which arises from the reconcilement of contrary beliefs is surely a theme of the film: evinced through the conflict created by science vs. religion, fact vs. faith, vision vs. reality.

Carl Sagan's novel was also a fulfilling pleasure to read. I thought that the message in pi was an absolutely crucial element of the book, the implications of such a message being that there is an all-powerful ‘force' behind the universe, which brings order to disorder, and such a ‘force' we might call God. So possibly, C.S's novel did prove the existence of God. Maybe the recurring ‘C' pattern in the film, (the ‘quadruple' system Ellie saw near Vega, the sands in her father's hands and that which she holds in the end), is indicative of such order – that no matter how large or small an event, i.e, whether a message is written in the sky or in the palm of one's hands, order is present, and implies a powerful force guiding the universe.

I am incapable of seeing many, if any, faults with this film – I truly cannot understand why anyone would think it contrived or the same as something as brain-numbing and gung-ho as `Armageddon'. It is truly an intellectual film with meanings at many levels – and so thought-provoking! Perhaps Matthew McConaughey's representation of Palmer Joss was a little unbelievable, and the thrice-repeated `It's an awful waste of space' phrase that connected Ellie to her father and Ellie to Palmer can be seen as a tad too sentimental on the one hand, but on the other, it serves to punctuate the potentiality of the physical universe, and the human mind, which, in C.S's case, conceived this book. Jodie Foster is magnificent, but then again, isn't she always? The extraordinary passion Ellie exhibited was admirable – her innate sense of wonder balanced by a stabbing loneliness, born out of the premature departure of a dear parent.

I love Contact because of its poignant humanity, the sense of wonder that resonates so strongly throughout the film and indicates the strength of that wonder which inspired C.S in the first place, and because it searches for meaning so idealistically, while still, necessarily, maintaining the sometimes harsh realities of life (personified by James Woods' unsympathetic and skeptical Kitz).

To those who hated the ending, you obviously missed a crucial component of the film, that of possibility and potentiality. To have Ellie return with tangible evidence of alien existence would demolish all the credibility that Robert Zemeckis attempted to create by showing the current American president referring generically to the event of the message being discovered, the decision to build the machine, etc. The ending was crafted in such a way as to enable a choice by the viewer/reader to be made – just like how C.S equally respected those in his book who chose to pursue a path of science or religion. We, the audience, are allowed to decide what really happened, and this makes Contact an almost interactive and therefore a more intimate experience.

Contact has something to say to everyone, and has real meaning that cannot help but whisk viewers and readers alike to some thrilling place. To those who thought the film predictable, and had not previously read the book, I would say that you must be VERY creative if you managed to anticipate all that Contact had to offer. But for everyone who was as much inspired by this magnificent film as I was, here's the most important lesson to be derived from both the book and the film: `For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.' This enlightened message, dreamt up by Carl Sagan, makes me even more convinced that a book critic who said of Carl Sagan: `with terrestrials like him, who needs extras?' is exactly right.

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