YMMV: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Is Roy a lovable everyman on a grand spiritual journey, or a selfish, unstable jerk who abandoned his wife and children?
  • Awesome Music: The communication music has forever been associated with films about aliens. Also, the score is done by John Motherfucking Williams. Case closed.
    • For reference, the communication music is known as "Wild Signals."
    • Listen carefully for musical Shout Outs to Jaws (when the mothership is communicating with the Devils Tower base) and Pinocchio (when Roy is being led into the ship).
    • The "voice" of the mothership was done by Jim Self, a legendary tuba player in his own right. Spielberg used him because the skill and difficulty of playing the tuba gave the mothership a "human" characteristic.
  • Designated Hero: Roy is not a hero, merely the protagonist. He gets swept into constructing Devils Tower models like several other people for reasons he does not understand. Then he realizes he's supposed to go to Devils Tower and does, again only because he's compelled to. In the end he makes it past the army who are only trying to make sure First Contact goes smoothly, and gets to go on the alien spaceship, making him the "winner". Compare his fellow trying-to-reach-the-aliens person Jillian, who is at least trying to find her lost son.
  • Ear Worm: Bah bi bah bom baaaaaaa. That is all.
  • Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: The film can be interpreted as a metaphor for a spiritual awakening and journey: An ordinary man (Roy Neary) has an experience with a higher power (encounters UFOs on the highway one night) that completely changes his life (he becomes obsessed with UFOs) and is subsequently compelled by this higher power (through an implanted mental image) to make a pilgrimage to a predetermined location (a road trip to Devil's Tower, Wyoming) where he communes with the higher power (takes part in First Contact with the aliens) and is ascended into the heavens (departs with the aliens after being chosen to join them). In addition, Roy gets sunburned by the UFOs during his initial encounter. In keeping with the spiritual awakening metaphor, the sunburn can be interpreted as the mark of Roy's symbolic baptism from normal everyman to alien contactee.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Six years after Close Encounters was released, Colorado suffered a real toxic-gas spill following a train crash that forced an emergency evacuation, much like the cover story that was used in the film to justify evacuating the Devil's Tower area.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The humans who enter the mothership at the end are dressed in red jumpsuits and sunglasses, which in hindsight look like cheap versions of the aliens' outfits from the original V miniseries (in which the aliens did not turn out to be cuddly, friendly greys).
  • Seinfeld Is Unfunny: Compared to The X-Files. Which came along sixteen years later.
  • Values Dissonance: New Age faith in alien intelligence as a benevolent Higher Power, and in the sterile void of space as Heaven, doesn't resonate much any more, to say nothing of the hatred that comes down these days on a parent who abandons his family to pursue some other goal.
    • Although Roy never left his family, it was his family that left him! On the telephone to his wife, he says he is trying to be a good parent and that he'll do anything his wife wants if she were only to return, implying he sincerely wants to try to put his obsession behind him. Given the way the conversation ends however, do you think his wife was ever considering letting him see the kids again? Its hard to argue that Roy has anything really left for him on Earth?
      • His wife was angry and freaked out. And even if she still wanted to leave him when things calmed down, it's not like he'd never see his kids again. Leaving earth was leaving his family behind forever, no matter how you look at it.
      • He may not have left his family, but he certainly drove them away. Ronnie was freaked out and obviously at the end of her rope during the bedroom scene; when Roy starts trashing the house and stealing chicken wire, it's hard to blame her for getting the kids as far away as possible.
      • One way or another, Spielberg had clearly attended MUFON meetings and/or read their literature. This has happened to thousands of people who are or believe themselves to be contactees. Much of what Roy does, other than the sitcom whackadoo stuff with the chicken wire et al, is typical contactee behavior — the research, the night drives, meeting other contactees, etc. Looking for answers. Most spouses are supportive, but there will always be male and female Ronnies.
      • Spielberg himself has said that if he made the movie now he would've had Roy stay with his family.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The spaceships are still pretty damn impressive.