Close Encounters of the Third Kind is written and directed by Steven Spielberg, and stars Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr, Bob Balaban, and Cary Guffey. It tells the story of Roy Neary, an everyday blue-collar worker in Indiana, whose life changes after an encounter with an unidentified flying object (UFO).
Close Encounters was a long-cherished project for Spielberg. In late 1973, he developed a deal with Columbia Pictures for a science fiction film. Though Spielberg received sole credit for the script, he was assisted by Paul Schrader, John Hill, David Giler, Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins, and Jerry Belson, all of whom contributed to the screenplay in varying degrees. The title is derived from Ufologist J. Allen Hynek’s classification of close encounters with aliens, in which the third kind denotes human observations of aliens or “animate beings.” Douglas Trumbull served as the visual effects supervisor, while Carlo Rambaldi designed the aliens.
Made on a production budget of $20 million, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind was released in a limited number of cities on November 16, 1977 and November 23, 1977 before expanding into wide release on December 14, 1977. It was a critical and financial success, eventually grossing over $337 million worldwide. The film received numerous awards and nominations at the 50th Academy Awards, 32nd British Academy Film Awards, the 35th Golden Globe Awards, the Saturn Awards and has been widely acclaimed by the American Film Institute. In December 2007, it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. A Special Edition of the film, featuring additional scenes, was released theatrically in 1980. A third cut of the film was issued on VHS and LaserDisc in 1998 (and later DVD and Blu-ray).
The score was composed, conducted and produced by John Williams, who had previously won an Academy Award for his work on Spielberg’s Jaws. Much like his two-note Jaws theme, the “five-tone” motif for Close Encounters has since become ingrained in popular culture (the five tones are used by scientists to communicate with the visiting spaceship as a mathematical language as well as being incorporated into the film’s signature theme).
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind is Steven Spielberg’s third big screen film, following The Sugarland Express and Jaws.
For its 40th anniversary the film receives a 4K restoration one week theatrical re-release engagement.