Top 100 Movies of All Time Close Encounters of the Third Kind. If this is your first visit to one of my Top 100 Movies of all time posts, basically, the long and short of it is… Here at THiNC. I don’t generally discuss “great” films. Let’s be honest. We discuss indie, low budget, mindjob movies mainly. But a while ago, I thought, hrmmm. Maybe we could learn a bit by walking through what Hollywood thinks to be are the best 100 films of all time. And today? Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s another member of the top 100 movies I am not sure I’ve seen. I know it’s been on in the room – and I’ve seen snippets here and there. But generally speaking, I don’t know what it’s about beyond UFOs of some sort. Oh, aren’t there like lights and tones that are communicated back and forth? Seriously… I have no idea if that is even this movie! hahaha. Let’s go watch it, and then I’ll let you know what I remember. Not even watching this trailer, just cutting right to it.
Top 100 Movies of All Time Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Apparently, CCotTK was a project that Spielberg had been thinking about for quite a while. 1973, he struck a deal with Columbia to craft a sci-fi film (no, not E.T. – that’s later in this list). The title comes from UFO “expert” J. Allen Hynek, and his classification of encounters with extraterrestrials. And the “Third Kind” is in reference to the human observations of aliens. So maybe it means something more like, Close Encounters of Humans Watching Aliens? Huh, interesting. Maybe that will become significant in the movie itself? Anyway. The film was made on a $19 million budget, and it went on to make over $300 million world-wide. And it went on to win a pile of awards and critical acclaim.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind Walkthrough
We open in the Sonoran Desert. Claude Lacombe, a French scientist, and his crew discover a group of airplanes that have shown up, out of the blue, over night. They later discover that the planes were part of a training flight that totally went AWOL right after World War II in the Bermuda Triangle. Interestingly, all of these planes are in perfect condition… but their pilots and passengers are gone. The one person that saw their arrival let’s them know that it was as if the sun appeared at night, and it sang to him. Oh, did I mention that the witness was sunburnt pretty significantly? Similarly, the team also finds an ocean liner which appears in the middle of the Gobi… also perfectly intact, and totally empty.
And better yet, at the Indianapolis traffic control center, two air traffic controllers watch two airline flights barely avoid a collision with a UFO – but neither one wants to sign a report detailing out their observations. Our take-away at the open? Some really wild and crazy stuff is starting to happen here, and it sort of feels like it’s UFOs which have some sort of ability to time jump objects into the future? We really aren’t sure exactly what is happening here. Elsewhere in Indiana (the new UFO capitol of the world apparently) rolling power outages lead to UFO sightings by Jillian, a mother, as well as by Roy Neary, an investigating electrician. Both become utterly obsessed by the idea of these UFOs and begin seeing visions of a particular mountain in their minds. The UFOs then come for Jillian, but she fights them off – but, unfortunately, her son Barry gets abducted. Which, he seems pretty excited about I might add.
As the sightings and the weird related occurrences continue to spread, the French Scientist and team begins working with the United Nations to find out what is going on. And they learn that in India, there is a report that the UFOs witnessed there make a peculiarly distinct five-tone musical refrain. The musical tones are D’ E’ C’ C and G… you know, the infamous Close Encounters theme! And when scientists send that same message back out into space, a pile of random numbers come back. 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42. No no no… those are the Desmond Lost numbers… my bad. These numbers are: “104, 44, 30, 40, 36, 10.” Eventually, Lacombe realizes that the numbers refer to Devils Tower Wyoming. (Which answers the mountain visions… just saying.) Well, when the military arrives there, they begin planting media reports that a train has crashed, leaking a toxic nerve gas in the area. But all the while they are preparing a secret landing zone for the UFOs.
Meanwhile, Roy, our manically obsessed UFO encounter survivor, becomes more and more frenetic about these UFOs and the visions that he is seeing in his mind. And eventually, it causes his wife to leave him… taking the children with her. When the news broadcasts about the crashed train and the nerve agents hit the TV, Roy (and Jillian too, and everyone else obsessing over these mountain visions) realizes that this is the mountain he’s been seeing over and over again. And everyone impacted by these visions begins heading out to this mountain, even in spite of the threats of potential nerve gas poisoning. Now, it must be said that while most sojourners to the mountain (are you sensing a religious traveler to mecca here?) are arrested, Roy and Jillian make it past, just in time to see the UFOs appearing. And they watch as the government begins communicating with the many UFOs via musical tones and notes. Eventually, the mother ship arrives at the site, and releases a gaggle of abducted individuals. WWII pilots, seamen, and various other missing individuals. All of whom have not aged since their abductions. Oh, and Barry is returned to his mother, Jillian, who is extraordinarily relieved. About this time, Roy is included in a group of visitors to the mother ship – and they quickly get him ready for his visit.
When the extraterrestrials come out from the mother ship, they choose Roy to take with them into outer space. Roy then heads into the mother ship, and one of the extraterrestrials interacts with Lacombe, who uses hand signals to communicate the notes. The extraterrestrial repeats the hand gestures, and then heads back into the ship. Which, after much fanfare and excitement, heads off into space.
Thoughts on Close Encounters of a Third Kind
I had seen most of CEoaTK before, and I remembered large swaths of it. I have to spoil this movie list a little bit, and say that, in my mind, Close Encounters of a Third Kind has been welded to 2001 A Space Odyssey. I just didn’t really know the difference. But last week, I accidentally did a write up for 2001, thinking it was the same thing as Close Encounters. Don’t ask how… or why… basically I just read “Close Encounters of a Third Kind” and ultimately I thought it was 2001: A Space Odyssey. So I watched both of these movies in the span of a week. And they are literally, nothing alike. They both deal with encounters with alien life forms. But that is about it in terms of similarities. I actually really enjoyed Close Encounters. (spoiler alert) And I hated… hated hated, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The reason I really enjoyed Close Encounters is mainly because the UFOs and the extraterrestrials all sort of felt like a stand-in for another conversation entirely. Aliens sort of felt like a stand-in for the holy. Or Extraterrestrials as a stand-in for the artistic muse. Right? Have you seen this movie recently? It just sort of feels like a conversation where the thing you are talking about isn’t the thing you are talking about. (I have a lot of these conversations with my wife… a conversation that eerily feels like it isn’t the conversation we are having! haha.) And I would be surprised if someone hasn’t already connected Roy, and his overwhelming possession by this muse, this alien life form permeating every fiber of his being, with Steven Spielberg, the writer and director of this movie. (I think he was the writer and director for only two of his films maybe? Something like that.) I mean, it seems really obvious to me.
Think about it… Spielberg is a young artist/movie maker. The muse touches him – the idea hammers him like a lightening bolt from Thor’s hammer. He is enthralled with the muse inspired insight of an idea. He has been touched by this passion, or fervor, or religion. He’s sketching, and molding, and modeling out his next E.T. cinematic masterpiece. He’s consumed with it like it’s a child in a womb. Caring for it. Coddling it. The nuisances of life is evident, and all around him. The only thing that matters is the idea – making the movie, setting it free. The fears of family, of groceries, of children on a piano banging nonsense out, and screaming in your face, all threats against the idea that the movie can be made, will be made, at all costs. And the muse, this idea? It’s benevolent, like these extraterrestrials. It comes in peace, it wants to connect, it wants to try and communicate to you. It’s trying to find a way through the noise and the scuttle of life. It sends five distinct, perfectly clear notes. Not everything, but enough, a way-point for where to go next. And Roy will let his family go off without him. Roy will run through police barricades, when others are entrapped. Roy will do whatever it takes to be selected by the muse, ordained by the idea, and blessed to bring it to life. And the picture of Roy going off into the great unknown? That is just Spielberg forming the movie, creating, and setting it free. I don’t know. Seems really clear to me.
But this idea, it’s a person agnostic idea. Sure, I see Stephen Spielberg here. I see his family troubles, his divorces, his inability to do the Earth-thing… I see him in all that. But it’s also clear to be about no one in particular. The priest that has heard a calling. A musician with a dream. I see anyone really that has latched on to some idea larger than themselves and won’t let go. Or maybe I’m making all that up. Wouldn’t be the first time. I actually enjoyed this way more than I thought I would. Seemed like there was quite a lot to latch onto, and learn from. Thought the story idea of the various threads were clever and engaging. I thought the mystery was enthralling. It really was a fantastic sci-fi adventure. And it pretty much holds up for today.
Alright, well, I’ve got like 3 more posts to get done really soon, (Pig, and Happily – which were both brilliant. And a FANTASTIC interview with MacLeod Andrews that I can’t wait to put out there for you guys.) So check back in the next day or so. But if you get a chance, check this movie out again. I really think it is a truly great film, and very deserving of being on this list. Just a little shocked out how high on the list it is. Or low, whichever. Deserved to be closer to #1 than 2001, that’s for sure!! So I’m out. Love to hear your thoughts in the comments!!
Want to see the other movies I’ve already covered in the top 100 list… check them out right here.
Edited by: CY