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Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) is a science fiction movie about UFOs, written and directed by Steven Spielberg. It stars Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Bob Balaban, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr, and Cary Guffey. The movie has visual effects by Douglas Trumbull and a score composed by John Williams. It received eight Academy Award nominations. Director of Photography Vilmos Zsigmond won the Oscar for Best Cinematography and sound effects editor Frank E. Warner was granted a Special Achievement Award. and in 1998, The American Film Institute placed the film on its list of the 100 greatest American films.

Close Encounters is a landmark Science Fiction film, particularly notable for its portrayal of extra-terrestrials as benign, even kind, which was a sharp departure from the “evil monster” style of most earlier films. It popularized a number of motifs, most of which were drawn from a wide variety of public reports of UFO encounters: alien abduction, small and thin aliens (“greys”), and UFOs covered in lights rather than the disc shapes popular in the 1950s and 1960s. The moral contradiction between the aliens’ benevolence and the forced abductions they conduct is left unexplored.

The movie has been revised numerous times, notably for a 132-minute “Special Edition” reissue in 1980 and again for a 137-minute “Collector’s Edition” in 1988 (see List of films recut by studio for details on these alternate versions). The Special Edition features several new character development scenes, the discovery of a lost ship, the Cotopaxi, in the Gobi Desert, and a view of the inside of the mothership. The interior of the mothership is deleted from the “Collector’s Edition” (Spielberg added this scene as a concession to be allowed to make the Special Edition. He decided it was a mistake and removed it in the later edition).

The enigmatic title refers to the three “kinds” of “close encounters” with aliens, as categorized by the noted UFO investigator, Dr. J. Allen Hynek who defined Close Encounters of the First Kind as “Sighting,” the Second Kind as “Evidence,” and the Third Kind as “Contact.”

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