RANKED: Steven Spielberg (#11 — Close Encounters of the Third Kind)

Photo: Columbia Pictures

Photo: Columbia Pictures

Chris Luckett


Release Date: November 16, 1977

Chronology: Spielberg’s follow-up to the original blockbuster, 1975’s Jaws, solidified his stature as a director to watch – until 1979’s bloated 1941.

Box Office: $132 million ($501 million, adjusted for inflation)

Oscars: 9 nominations, 2 wins

Premise: Line worker Roy (Richard Dreyfuss) witnesses a UFO while driving home one night and becomes increasingly obsessed with searching for meaning to his recurring visions of a mountain in the desert

Over two hours?: Yep, 137 minutes

John Williams Score?: Yes

Father Issues?: Oh boy, are there ever. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is one of the only movies Spielberg has said he would change if he made it today, as he so disagrees with the neglectful actions and decisions he wrote for Roy in the latter half of the movie.

War?: None

Aliens?: Uh, yes. It’s a movie about a making contact with aliens, so, yes.

Surprise Appearances: François Truffaut, Bob Balaban, and Lance Henrikson

Fun Fact: If you look closely at the underside of the mothership, R2-D2 can be seen just hanging out, near the edge of the ship

Best Line: “I know this sounds crazy, but ever since yesterday on the road, I’ve been seeing this shape. In shaving cream, in pillows… Damn it! I know this. I know what this is! This means something… This is important…”

Best Scene: 

Verdict: Overshadowed somewhat by Star Wars, Spielberg’s first foray into sci-fi not only proved that Jaws was no fluke, but also was one of the first movies of its kind to depict the possibility of benign aliens coming to Earth. Dreyfuss walks the line between obsessed and crazy well, and the visual effects are quite impressive even today. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is ultimately all about the big reveal at the end, but the impact the movie’s had on all science-fiction since is immeasurable.

Rating: 4½ stars / 5