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Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

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After an accidental encounter with otherworldly vessels, an ordinary man follows a series of psychic clues to the first scheduled meeting between representatives of Earth and visitors from the cosmos.

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'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' at 40

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of Steven Spielberg's cultural phenomenon Close Encounters of the Third Kind with a look at images from the film.

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 14 wins & 38 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Roy Neary
... Claude Lacombe (as Francois Truffaut)
... Ronnie Neary
... Jillian Guiler
... David Laughlin
... Project Leader
... Wild Bill (as Warren Kemmerling)
... Farmer
... Jean Claude
... Barry Guiler
Shawn Bishop ... Brad Neary
... Silvia Neary
Justin Dreyfuss ... Toby Neary
... Robert
... Team Leader
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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:

We are not alone See more »

Genres:

Drama | Sci-Fi

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook

Country:

Language:

| | |

Release Date:

14 December 1977 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

CE3K  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$20,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$132,088,635

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$303,788,635
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(Special Edition) | (Theatrical Original) | (Director's Cut)

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)

Color:

(Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Originally, there was a different sequence filmed in which Lacombe and Laughlin met for the first time. In the earlier version, the two got together in a limo parked on the concourse at IND, where Lacombe had come to await the arrival of the plane which had just avoided a midair collision with a UFO. During the scene, Lacombe tested Laughlin's skills as an interpreter by having him translate part of an erotic book. When Steven Spielberg decided the movie needed a more impressive opening (it was originally supposed to begin with the air traffic control scene), he devised the sequence in which Lacombe and Laughlin meet in the Sonora desert. See more »

Goofs

The solfege hand signals Lacombe and the alien use at the end of the film to "talk" to each other are in the wrong order. The first and second notes are switched and while it should be "re-mi-do-do-so", what is signaled is "mi-re-do-do-so". See more »

Quotes

Scientist: That's a 2500 dollar globe! What are you guys doing?
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the 1980s special edition, the new musical edition features the end credits different, then the fades into well after the end credits to the black screen. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Fourth Kind (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain
(uncredited)
Traditional
Whistled by a UFO observer
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Overrated, disappointing sci-fi film that has become fondly remembered over the years...but why?
31 July 2004 | by See all my reviews

Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977) is a genuinely silly, unfortunately outdated story. Its epic scope made it one of the highest-grossing films of 1977, nominated for two Academy Awards ® (it lost Best Visual Effects to George Lucas' "Star Wars"). Now, 27 years later, it just seems goofy and sickeningly sweet.

Spielberg adds a schmaltzy layer to most of his films that set his projects apart from the work of other directors. Arguably the most famous filmmaker since Hitchcock (in terms of public recognition), Spielberg is responsible for some of the greatest films ever made. Most critics consider "E.T." and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" – both films that deal with extra-terrestrial life – to be some of his finest. For me, they are both rather disappointing. And unbearably sugar coated.

So, what is the primary problem with "Close Encounters"? Is it a bad movie? No, not really. But it's not a particularly memorable one, either. Apart from a few so-called "classic" sequences (the boy opening the door, the mashed potatoes, the alien arrival), the movie fails to spark much interest. Most of it – to be completely blunt – is quite stupid. Spielberg admits on the Special Edition DVD that he finds "Close Encounters" a bit too optimistic and unrealistic. When Spielberg made this movie, he believed in extra-terrestrial life, and was a young man with no children. In retrospect, Spielberg claims that the movie is a perfect snapshot of his youth, but as an adult, he would never make the movie the same way he did in '77.

One of the largest flaws is the fact that Roy Neary (played by Richard Dreyfuss fresh off the success of Spielberg's 1975 smash hit "JAWS") abandons his own family (wife and children) to embark on a crazy search for extra-terrestrial life. In a matter of thirty minutes of screen time he has packed up, traveled to Wyoming, broken past blocked off roads, found a new romantic interest, and by the end...well...let's just say that the conclusion is rather shameful on Spielberg's behalf. It is quite evident that he had no firm grasp of moral obligation in '77, and Roy's climactic decision is wholly unbelievable.

Then again, most of the film is like that, too.

Neary is an electrician who experiences a "close encounter" one night when a UFO seems to attack his car, and then flies off into the distance. Roy soon struggles with confusing mental images that have mysteriously implanted into his brain.

Hounded by the smart Dr. Lacombe (French director Francois Truffaut in his acting debut), Roy soon realizes that the extra-terrestrials plan to land on earth – and he wants to be there, to see it all.

Roy's evolution is too fast – in a matter of what seem to be few days he has turned into a complete loon, and because of Spielberg's lack of character arc, the sudden change is startling and – worst of all – cold. We lose all sense of empathy for Roy, primarily because we do not experience his pain – we see him suffering, sure, and moping around like a "cry baby," as his son names him. But this happens so fast that we are left wanting more.

The movie's conclusion – which lasts over forty minutes long – is the most exciting part, but the abrupt change of pace (from being a slow-moving charming family film about "close encounters" to an oddball chase movie about the government covering up a dangerous conspiracy and hunting down escaped witnesses) hinders the lasting impact. Spielberg is constantly trying to find a groove for his movie, and never really finds one to stay the course.

Then, there's the long-awaited alien introduction (which lasts over twenty minutes long). Most people flocked to the theaters in order to see this sequence – the special effects showcase of the year. This is proven by the fact that Spielberg purposely draws out the scene for such a lengthy period of time. Then, audiences savored the F/X because they were the best since Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" (even the trailer advertisements claimed this was so, in order to entice viewers). Now, they're outdated, by almost all standards of special effects. Watching them for twenty minutes becomes tiring.

And of course, the annoying musical conversation between man and alien comes next – something else that only makes the film more grating so many years later. "It's so '70s!" someone once said. I agree. (Many great masterpieces were made during the 1970s, but most people forget how many downright cheesy, forgettable movies were made, too.)

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind" simply does not hold up after 27 years, which is quite unfortunate. The F/X are shoddy, the ideas are insane, the movie is long and boring, and the direction and acting are about the only two things that approach greatness. Spielberg shows talent behind the camera here, but it is vastly inferior to "JAWS." Even John Williams' score fails to leave the same impact as "JAWS," "Jurassic Park," etc.

Produced during a slew of "happy alien" movies (followed by another slew of "mean alien" movies during the '80s after Ridley Scott's "Alien" in 1979), "Close Encounters" is at times amusing, annoying, fast, long, and silly, all at once. The nation needed hope during the '70s, and they turned to the skies. Spielberg answered their calls, with a movie that set records, but is now nothing but a forgettable tale.

Many will disagree with me when I say that "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is an overrated, disappointing motion picture with few redeeming qualities. The harsh feedback should be interesting.

2.5/5


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