Review: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

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Close Encounters of the Third Kind opened on this date in 1977. The film starred Richard Dreyfuss and was directed by Steven Spielberg.


Richard Dreyfuss stars as Roy Neary, an ordinary man that encounters UFOs. The accidental meeting haunts Neary and gives him an unknown psychic ability that allows him to connect to the alien life forms. Neary risks his life and family in effort to learn more about the “out of this world” life forms.


  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind is truly a visual marvel. The special effects still hold up today and are even more impressive when you consider that they were crafted 40 years ago. The way the UFOs look and move made an impact on cinema that is still felt today.
  • The sound design, like the visual effects, is also outstanding. It’s easy to overlook the importance of sound design until you watch a film like Close Encounters. The alien vessels are made far more impressive because of the noises they make.
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind is filled with the magic of 70s & 80s era Spielberg. It has the heart, innocence and wonder that defined Spielberg’s early career. Like E.T. and Jaws, it’s hard to imagine anyone else but Steven Spielberg making Close Encounters of the Third Kind.


  • Roy Neary is a likeable character but his actions are hard to overlook. He becomes so obsessed with aliens that he begins to hurt his family. Dreyfuss’ performance allows you to care for Neary—but it’s hard not to find him selfish.
  • John William’s music is always an important part of a Steven Spielberg film. His contributions to Close Encounters, in my mind, are the least memorable of any of the Spielberg/Williams collaborations.
  • Close Encounters drags at times and its pacing becomes an issue in certain scenes. Feeling bored is something that rarely ever happens in a Spielberg film—especially in that era.

In Closing:

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is not one of my favorite Spielberg films—despite it being considered a classic by so many. I can definitely recognize it’s achievements, but the story just doesn’t grab me. Roy Neary behaves in such a selfish matter throughout the film that I find him hard to root for. There are many things that I admire about Close Encounters of the Third Kind—but overall I find it to be one of Steven Spielberg’s lesser films.

Rating: B-