Top 100 Movie Review: No. 080 – Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Ranked 80 on the IMDd Top 100 Movies. Watched August 2018.

Cast: Richard Dreyfuss (Roy Neary), Melinda Dillon (Jillian Guiler), Francois Truffaut (Claude Lacombe), Teri Garr (Ronnie Neary)
Director: Steven Spielberg
My rating: 8.5 / 10

Science fiction adventure about a group of people who attempt to contact alien intelligence. Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) and single mother Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon) and her son witnesses an unidentified flying object. While in parallel story a group of research scientists from a variety of backgrounds lead by Frenchman Claude Lacombe are investigating the strange appearance of ships and WW11 planes in remote locations.

What’s to Like:
The sounds and music and practical effects are outstanding, the suspense, the end positive message and tone from what would be a frightening situation. The Frenchman who barely speaks English being the key scientist for most of the movie and the United Nations involvement which would be rare for a USA film made these days.

What’s not to Like:
Roy’s obsession with the UFO’s drives his family away in fear and he seemingly abandons them without much thought or later reference. Roy and Ronnie Neary’s parenting style of yelling and threatening their children is out of place.

This is a classic sci-fi movie that stands the test of time. It’s amazing how many scenes have been reused or inspired other movies over the years for example the alien ships on the mountain and the sound communication. The plot throws up lots of mystery and questions; Are the aliens friendly? Will have they abducted people? Can we communicate with them? How would we in reality deal with such a situation?

The movie is more than just a science fiction movie, in many ways it is more of a drama with conspiracy thriller overtones that looks at how those of us on Earth might react to the possibility that there really is something out there by following two parallel storylines of the (optimistic) scientist / (concerned) government officials and the everyday people caught up with the sightings. With the aliens kept off-screen until the end and their presence only represented sporadically via mysterious lights and fleeting glimpses of their spacecraft you focus on the reactions, the military keeping it under wraps, the optimistic scientist, the panicked average citizen, how people react to others who have claimed to have an encounter, friends abandoning friends, and a wife abandoning her husband (very understand BTW).

While there are no action pieces in this movie as such the abduction scene of Jillian’s three year old son Barry was terrifying the first time I saw this movie. Jillian desperately trying to keep the aliens out while I son just wants to play with them after his previous positive experience.

The movie ranges from silly humour to drama to wonder and to outright terror—without any major issues. The characters are believable and interesting throughout, the individual who bought up his earlier bigfoot sighting showing how those who could have an experience could easily be shot down and seen as crazy. I thought that Jillian’s character after breaking into a ‘chemical’ spill quarantined area, evading the military and then climbing the difficult Devil’s Tower would not have stood back right at the end, her desperation for her son and everything she had been though probably wouldn’t not have seen her stop just short of meeting the aliens but eventually she comes down when she spots Barry leaving the UFO.

Any enjoyable movie well worth it’s place in a top movies of all-time list.

Academy Awards:

  • Best Cinematography – winner
  • Best Sound effects editing – winner
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Melinda Dillon) – nominee
  • Best Director (Steven Spielberg) – nominee
  • Best Art Direction-Set Decoration – nominee
  • Best Sound – nominee
  • Best Film Editing – nominee
  • Best Effects, Visual Effects – nominee
  • Best Music, Original – nominee

About Nathan

A World traveller who has so far experienced 71 countries (76 by June 2023) in this amazing world.
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