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Film / Close Encounters of the Third Kind

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Close encounters of the first kind:
Sighting of an unidentified flying object
Close encounters of the second kind:
Physical evidence of a UFO
Close encounters of the third kind:
Actual contact.
Original theatrical trailer

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a 1977 science fiction filmnote  written and directed by Steven Spielberg, with a score by John Williams and special effects by Douglas Trumbull.

After a series of bizarre incidents where long-lost ships and aircraft begin reappearing in very unusual places around the world, a wide swath of the state of Indiana is buzzed by a very flashy troupe of UFOs. One of the many witnesses to this flyby is power-company employee Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss). Following the event, Neary is inflicted with visions of a distinctive-looking mountain. His family life quickly falls apart, and his wife Ronnie (Teri Garr) leaves him.

He eventually learns that what he has been seeing and obsessively sculpting is the Devil's Tower rock formation in Wyoming. He meets fellow witness Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon), a widowed mother desperately seeking her young son Barry, who has been carried away by the UFOs. They attempt to reach the Tower, even as the U.S. government, well aware of what is happening, concocts a biohazard scare involving the derailment of a train carrying nerve gas and places a military cordon around the site...

This film is one of only three in Spielberg's entire career for which he wrote the screenplay as well as directed, the others being A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and The Fabelmans. The original version was released in 1977; a "Special Edition" Re-Cut was released in 1980 after Spielberg had proven he was a serious director. (There had been Executive Meddling with the cut of the original, though entirely justified as the studio was going bankrupt and production had to be hastened.) Spielberg re-edited the film yet again for a "Collector's Edition" in 1998. All three cuts were included in the film's Blu-ray release in 2007, along with a new interview with Spielberg explaining the editing.

The title comes from UFOlogy, an encounter of the third kind being one in which the observer sees the aliens themselves as well as their craft.

François Truffaut, better known as a film director and a leader of the French New Wave, appears here as Lacombe, a scientist researching the UFOs who is sympathetic to Roy.

Close encounters of the third trope:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Jillian tells Roy that when she reported Barry's abduction, one of the things she was asked was if there had been any strangers in the neighborhood recently. Even with all the fear and stress they'd been under, the two of them can't help but chuckle at that.
  • The Aesthetics of Technology: The alien ships are glowing heavily and the mothership is covered in billions of blinking lights.
  • Alien Abduction: The Movie.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: The Government of the United States is part of an international effort to have First Contact with aliens, and the first thing the man in charge of the Devil's Tower temporary base tells Lacombe when a dozen people arrive and it's apparent that they are not there because they want to but because they have been coerced is that they are lunatics and fanatics out to disrupt the operation and they must be kicked out.
  • Artistic License – History: "Devil's Tower, Wyoming was the first national monument erected in this country by Theodore Roosevelt in 1915." Impressively, just about everything in this sentence is wrong. To start with, national monuments are designated. "Erected" falsely implies that Devil's Tower is a work of human construction rather than the natural formation it is. Next, the year is wrong. Roosevelt designated Devil's Tower as a national monument in 1906, not 1915. Indeed, Roosevelt wasn't even president in 1915.note  It is true that Devil's Tower was America's first national monument, however.
  • As Himself: J. Allen Hynek, the ufologist who coined the term "close encounters of the third kind," appears in a non-speaking cameo as one of scientists at the Devil's Tower base. He also served as the movie's technical consultant.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Joked about by the personnel at Devil's Tower, quipping Albert Einstein "was probably one of them."
  • Beeping Computers: During the Sensor Suspense scene at the Air Traffic Control near the beginning.
  • The Bermuda Triangle: There's a brief shot in the Special Edition of a ship in the middle of the Gobi desert. It's supposed to be the SS Cotopaxi, one of the Bermuda Triangle disappearances.note  The film opens with the discovery of Flight 19, a Navy aviation training exercise that disappeared out of Ft. Lauderdale.
  • Big Blackout: The UFO's presence causes Muncie and other cities in Indiana to go dark in Slow Electricity fashion, along with temporarily disabling Roy's truck with an EMP-like effect when it Hypno Rays him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jillian gets her son back and all those people who've been abducted throughout the ages are returned to Earth unharmed. However, Neary leaves the Earth to go off into space, which might be cool for him but remember he's leaving behind a wife and three kids who, last they saw him, thought he was going insane and they'll probably never see him ever again.
  • Brainwashed: The aliens use a Hypno Ray on Neary and the others to lead them to the ship and then decide to go with the aliens, leaving everyone and everything they've ever known, possibly never to return. However, the compulsion isn't irresistible, as Jillian is under the same effect, but is satisfied with just getting her son back and decides not to leave (though given the aliens are benign, it's possible they simply let her go).
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: We never learn why the aliens abducted people and why they're returning them now. They are depicted as an entirely unknowable force who do things for reasons the human characters cannot begin to fathom.
  • Brick Joke: Early in the film, Roy tries to convince his kids that seeing Pinocchio would be more fun than mini golf, after which Ronnie calls him "Jiminy Cricket". Later, when Roy is about to enter the ship, the music plays the first line of "When You Wish Upon A Star".
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: People who made contact with the alien probe are filled with visions of Devil's Tower, Wyoming.
  • Canary in a Coal Mine: In order to test the government cover story of a deadly chemical spill at what is really an alien meeting site, the protagonists buy a canary as they enter the area.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Roy has models of the Starship Enterprise and a Klingon battle cruiser, but doesn't notice that his wife looks quite a bit like Roberta Lincoln from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Assignment: Earth."
  • Chekhov's Skill: Roy making a scale model of Devil's Tower gives him greater knowledge of the area than those that drew it, allowing him and Jillian to narrowly avoid being gassed.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: How Neary finally learns what it is he's been obsessing about.
  • Cool Shades: To shield their eyes from the blinding light of the Mothership, the scientists are all wearing Ray-Ban Aviators.
  • Creepily Long Arms: The first alien we see has very long, thin arms and legs, and is by far the most inhuman looking one. (It also has a very sweet smile and spreads its arms in an embracing gesture.)
  • Cymbal-Banging Monkey: Creepy as always.
  • Dawn of an Era: Probably, as humanity makes first contact with alien life.
  • Deathly Dies Irae: "Dies irae" sounds when bright lights are seen clearly approaching the encampment to give the scene an eerie tension as people start screaming.
  • The Determinator: From the moment of his encounter with the spacecraft, Roy would let nothing - not his family, not Federal authorities - get in the way of his obsessive desire to find out the truth by witnessing the landing.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Bye, Roy.
    • Also, whoever Barry's father was.
  • Diving Save: Jillian dives for her son when he is about to be run over by Roy's truck on the road at night.
  • Door Handle Scare: When the aliens arrive at the house, a Scare Chord is playing and the camera focused on the key hole of the front door showing a bright light on the other side. Then the little boy opens the door from the inside but no aliens are showing outside.
  • Dramatic Alien VTOL: In fact, Spielberg did a lot of help to make this trope. The climax has the ship come in first, just as the bright lights at first with the shadow of the Flying Saucer shape eventually becoming clearer as the five notes we've heard through the movie comes through the score. It lands and then the ramp opens and again a crack of light and then the shadows of the aliens themselves, stamping the image of the Greys, in one of their first appearances on film, in our heads.
  • Dream Melody: The five-note theme that brainwashed characters seem to have internalized.
  • Driver Faces Passenger: A case of Idiot Ball. Neary is holding up a map up in front of him while driving, causing his car to drift out of his lane and almost crash into oncoming traffic, becoming a poster child for future distracted driving laws.
  • Enemy Rising Behind:
    • A lighter example, when the "truck" following Roy as he fumbles with his map early in the movie reveals itself to be a UFO by sailing upwards.
    • And then the arrival of the Mothership in the finale.
  • Everybody Lives: A rare example of a science fiction blockbuster that doesn't involve any of the characters dying.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Perfect timing for Roy and Jillian as they reach the landing site exactly the moment when things get interesting.
  • Expy: Lacombe is based on Real Life French UFOlogist Jacques Vallée.
  • Fake Rabies: Roy's brushing his teeth knowing his kids are behind him with a paddle and a Polaroid camera. When the kids whap him in the ass he whirls around with a mouth full of toothpaste froth and growls "ARRGH," and they get the perfect shot.
  • Faking the Dead: The administration of Knockout Gas to the livestock around Devil's Tower in order to make the Gas Leak Cover-Up fly.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Which is why the missing persons had a Year Outside, Hour Inside.
  • First Contact: Not the first movie to detail the first meeting between humans and aliens, but the one to codify it.
  • First-Contact Math: Instead of numbers, the scientists try to communicate with the aliens via a sequence of notes. To limited success.
  • First Contact Team: The aliens are recruiting a First Contact Team from the humans via subliminal communication. The government has its own team ready, but the only human the aliens will deal with is Roy Neary, who is the only one of the alien-recruited humans to actually make it all the way to the contact site.
  • Flying Saucer:
    • And beautiful ones at that; they look like ornaments covered in lights. And wait until you see the mother ship. Imagine a ship the size of a town decked out with neon Christmas lights.
    • Originally the mothership was supposed to be hugely impressive but a bit menacing. In fact, Trumbull was about to get all Freudian and have the underside of the ship resemble a giant breast. Then Spielberg, filming in India, drove six nights in a row past a gigantic oil refinery that was all lit up in a million colors, full of interesting antennae, walkways and pipes, and the "city of light" was born. Bless you, Bharat Petroleum.
  • Forced Perspective: The shot of a ship sitting in the middle of the desert. It wasn't really that big!
  • Foreshadowing:
    • During the initial UFO chase, Barry and Jillian encounter a farmer note  sitting next to the road who is whistling "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain." During the final scene, of course, a mothership comes 'round a mountain.
    • After Roy's initial encounter with the UFO near the railroad, once he hears the news on the radio he storms off, his truck being followed by a huge shadow that more than resembles the mothership which appears during the movie's climax.
    • During the press conference with the military brass, Roy pokes a hole in their condescending lecture, pointing out he is not some UFO conspiracy nut; he was never interested in them until he saw one up close. Later, when the military tries to deflect the questions, Roy calls them out on it, loudly. He is very close to taking control of the meeting, until the old farmer (Roberts Blossom — possibly his best known performance) derails the whole thing by claiming to have seen Bigfoot. It shows that Roy is quite an effective leader when he can pull himself together, something that becomes clear once he gets to Devil's Tower.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Roy Neary (choleric), Jillian Guiler (melancholic), Ronnie Neary (phlegmatic), and Barry Guiler (sanguine).
  • Gas Leak Cover-Up: The government claiming a rail accident occurred with a train carrying nerve gas as a way to evacuate everyone from the area around Devil's Tower, Wyoming, where the aliens are soon due to show up.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: When the Mothership first 'speaks' it blows out the window of a tower at the landing site.
  • Government Conspiracy: See Gas Leak Cover-Up.
  • The Greys: The extraterrestrials were physically modeled after real-life accounts of alien abductions. This is one of the first times they were actually used in cinema, the first having been in 1956's Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. Also an Unbuilt Trope, as Spielberg deliberately gave the Grays different heights, intending to show that their species had the same kind of diversity as ours. Most abduction accounts and subsequent fiction describe the Grays as all identical. The initial tall alien was a marionette. It was impossible to completely film it without the strings showing except in the shots visible in the movie, which is why you only see it the once. The other aliens at the end were all played by young girls, Spielberg felt that "girls move more gracefully than boys."
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Neary complains about this when Lacombe speaks to Laughlin in French.
  • Hollywood Geography:
    • Muncie, Indiana is over thirty minutes from the Ohio state line.
    • The longitude and latitude provided by the aliens actually refer to a spot which is a good 200 miles away from Devil's Tower.
    • In his truck, Roy looks for Tolono on his map. Tolono is in central Illinois and is nearly 200 miles from Muncie. The voices on his radio speak about activity at or near Harper Valley. There is no Harper Valley. The song is based on Harpeth Valley, Tennessee. However, Cornbread Road exists in Muncie. It's also the title of an on-again, off-again podcast radio series begun in 2011 by ham radio operator Jeff Davis (KE9V) about a secret society of hams in a little country town where all is not as it seems...
  • Hope Spot: After a family blowup over it, Neary decides to give up on his obsession. He takes down the UFO articles and starts dismantling the clay mountain replica he was building. However, when he rips off the top, he inadvertently makes it look like the real-world mountain it's supposed to. In the next scene, he's chucking dirt into his house to make a bigger mountain.
  • Hypno Ray: How the Grays turn people into Mad Artists and then enthusiastic abductees.
  • I Come in Peace: The alien beings take the time to teach the Earthlings a tonal language as a gesture of greeting.
  • Idiot Ball: Why did a room full of scientists and technicians take so long to recognize that they were looking at latitude and longitude coordinates. True, there were astronomers there who started out thinking in terms of ascension/declination, but as soon as that didn't map onto anything that made sense, they would have immediately tried latitude and longitude as alternatives.
  • Innocent Aliens: Their methods may be a bit questionable, but the aliens are never depicted as malevolent.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Bob Balaban, who played Lacombe's interpreter Laughlin, believed they would have to change the film's title as nobody would possibly remember it.
  • Karma Houdini: It can be chalked up to Blue-and-Orange Morality, but the aliens kidnapped humans and returned them 32 years later without explanation or apology to the abductees families. They implanted strange obsessions with them in humans, too. Yet they are not asked for an explanation or motif. It's obvious that they mean well, but Fridge Logic invokes this.
  • Knockout Gas: The Army douses the Devil's Tower mountain with sleeping gas to prevent any unevacuated civilians from setting eyes on the UFO landing zone. Jillian and Roy manage to escape it, but Larry succumbs.
  • Leitmotif:
  • Lemming Cops: The one poor officer who tried to follow the UFOs off the side of a mountain.
  • Lens Flare: All of the UFOs produce lots of lens flare, culminating in the giant mothership.
  • Mad Artist: Neary and his fellow volunteer/victims, each compelled to fill a Room Full of Crazy with artwork before they figure out Devil's Tower is a real place ... that now they have to go to.
  • The Mentally Disturbed: Neary's behavior is clearly deranged, though to be fair it's not his fault.
  • Missing Child: Jillian lives in an isolated farmhouse with her only child, who she ends up trying and ultimately failing to protect from the aliens who want him for unknown reasons.
  • Monochrome Casting: The only non-white speaking roles are the NASA operator and the air traffic control commander (real-life ATC David Anderson) at the beginning.
  • Monumental View: There's no place like the landing pad within sight of Devil's Tower.
  • The Mothership: All the little and economy-sized spacecraft flying around Muncie, IN, and Devil's Tower, WY, are eventually followed up by a great whacking big UFO, which disgorges the missing persons and takes up Roy and the other astronauts.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: Or northern Indiana. Southern Indiana is hilly and even has a few mountains (the Little Smokies), as it shades into the foothills of the Cumberland. Indiana would have been fine if Spielberg had chosen a town like Bean Blossom instead of Muncie.note 
  • Newscaster Cameo: ABC's Howard K. Smith introduces the report on the evacuations near Devil's Tower due to the "gas spill". (It was originally supposed to be CBS's Walter Cronkite, hence the spot reporter's line, "Order your steak well-done, Walter".)
  • No Antagonist: When it comes down to it in the end, there are no villains in this film. This is what made the movie such a refreshing take on alien contact in its time. The aliens are strange and mysterious and do some ethically questionable things, but they aren't overtly hostile and give everything and everyone back. The government creates a huge lie to clear Devil's Tower for the aliens to drop by, but you really can't blame them — they're meeting a possibly dangerous, obviously superior alien race. They would want the area clear for privacy and to have an army ready in the background just in case the aliens (or gun-toting human civilians) came out shooting. On a smaller scale, Ronnie Neary is a bit of a bitch, but you really can't blame her for being freaked out by Roy's crazy behavior and wanting to protect her kids. She does, however, put a little too much stake in the what-will-the-neighbors-think concern.
  • Nosy Neighbor: The Nearys have one next door, always watching them from her window.
  • Not Drawn to Scale: The size of the mother ship is incompatible in different shots. When it arrives, it's behind the mountain and a lot bigger than the mountain. When it's in front of the mountain it's no longer bigger than the mountain but smaller or at best about the same.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The scene where a UFO causes a collision scare with some airliners could have been a big set-piece with lots of miniatures and special effects, shot from the perspective of the pilots. Having the scene play out entirely thought radio conversations and display screens at Air Traffic Control not only saved quite a bit of money, it also heightened the suspense and kept the ships' actual appearance concealed until the final scene at Devil's Tower, where The Reveal is truly spectacular.
  • Novelization: Penned (apparently) by Spielberg himself. It is written fairly haphazardly.
  • Ominous Clouds: During the scenes where Barry is abducted, as well as the start of the finale, the arrival of the aliens is heralded by a sudden gathering of dark clouds.
  • Ominous Floating Spaceship: The alien mothership at first.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Roy is not a hero, merely the protagonist. He gets swept into constructing Devil's Tower models like several other people for reasons he does not understand. Then he realizes he's supposed to go to Devil's 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.
  • Otherworldly Visits Youngest First: Barry Guiler is the first person to actually see the aliens in the film, though a select few are quickly made aware of their presence. Barry is also clearly unafraid of the extraterrestrial beings, while others who see their presence are initially terrified of the unknown. Fortunately, the aliens turn out to be benevolent.
  • Out of Job, into the Plot: Roy Neary has lost his job as an electrician after the aliens had arrived on Earth. He starts to become obsessed with the Devil's Tower later on in the film.
  • Practical Effects: SFX man Douglas Trumbull created the cloud effects by injecting white paint into tanks half filled with salt water and half filled with fresh water.
  • Product Placement:
    • This film had a prominent Budweiser commercial, as well as the scientists' vans camouflaged with brand names. Spielberg has been criticized for overusing product placement in his pictures.
    • The 1980 Special Edition featured an extended version of the flyby scene where one of the UFOs stops briefly to read a McDonald's billboard before disappearing into the night. This vignette appears only in that version.
    • When Roy, Jillian, and Larry are escaping the Army camp, they pass by workers unloading crates labeled from various defense contractors at the time, such as Lockheed, Rockwell, and TRW. Given consumers are not likely to purchase products from these firms, this may be less product placement and more an attempt at accuracy, as it is just this type of firm which would be involved in this sort of operation.
  • Reaction Shot: Several during the alien arrival towards the end. The camera takes reaction shots of the amazed military crowd.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Both Lacombe and Laughlin believe in Neary's story and appeal to the military to investigate into his psychic phenomena. Their voices remain unheard.
  • Reconstruction of sci-fi alien movies. Except that the aliens that originally acted menacingly in the end turn out to be nice grey guys.
  • Re-Cut: The 1980 Special Edition added an extended introduction to the Neary family, a UFO scanning a McDonald's billboard, another UFO passing over Roy on the highway after the tunnel, the wreck of the Cotopaxi in the Gobi desert, Roy's Shower of Angst, and a look inside of the spaceship after Roy gets in. The billboard and spaceship interior shots were removed in the 1998 Director's Cut, which, conversely, restored some of the deleted scenesinvoked from the original theatrical version, including Jillian's arrival at the press conference, and Roy gathering the materials for his Room Full of Crazy.
  • Refusal of the Call:
    • Neary tries hard to stop obsessing about his visions, but is ultimately unsuccessful.
    • It's implied a great number of people had visions of Devil's Tower, but only a few could decipher the visions or had the ability to travel there to meet the deadline. Of the few that do make, all save Roy, Jillian, and Larry meekly leave when the army scoops them up. Larry is subsequently hit with Knockout Gas as the three are scaling the mountain.
    • Jillian makes it all the way to the landing pad with Roy, but her only motivation is to find her son, and she stays once he's been returned.
  • Rewatch Bonus: When Roy's pigeons are taken out of the car by a soldier, you can hear a quick hissing noise, then the birds are revealed laying down in their cage. The sound is Knockout Gas being sprayed at them just out of frame to maintain the cover-up and scare Roy and Jillian.
  • Room Full of Crazy: In this case a mountain of mud in Neary's living room.
  • Rule of Cool: The reason why the Mothership rises upward from behind the mountain in the finale, even though that would mean it had previously dug a hole into the Earthinvoked. Spielberg said in an interview that it didn't make any sense, but it was the image he wanted to convey. Or it's just making its final approach from that direction, having already entered the atmosphere and dropped down to low altitude further out.
  • The Runt at the End: The last UFO in the flyby.
  • Saharan Shipwreck:
    • There's a brief shot in the Special Edition which shows the wreck of the SS Cotopaxi, a ship that disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle, in the Gobi Desert.
    • The Cotopaxi also appears in the 40th anniversary release, which has some footage of the original (the press conference) as well.
  • Sanity Slippage: What happens after you get zapped by the Hypno Ray.
  • Scenery Porn: Especially when the audience gets their first up-close look at Devil's Tower. Just as in the movie, there were many viewers who had no idea the place actually existed, but it's real (albeit without the UFO landing pad).
  • Sensor Suspense: The air traffic control scene, where the aircraft (and possible UFOs) are represented not by blips as such, but by basic text and graphics on radar-like screens.
  • Sequel Hook: Roy's voyage aboard the mothership seems ready-made for a follow-up, but to date no sequel has ever been produced, in any media. The closest we've ever gotten is the additional scenes in the later special edition versions that show us what Roy sees aboard the mothership before it takes off.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The mothership has an R2D2 attached to its underside, among other things, including a mini graveyard and a VW van. The model, which is about the size of a large wedding cake, now resides in a glass case at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy center, an annex of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, located in Dulles, Virginia. Definitely worth a look if you're in the neighborhood.
    • The Ten Commandments, Days of Our Lives, and Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century are all seen on the Neary family TV set at various points.
    • In one scene, we can also see models of the Enterprise and a Klingon battle cruiser in their house.
    • A musical shout-out that borders on Actor Allusion: Briefly, during the Devils Tower musical sequence when contact is trying to be made with the alien ship, the Jaws theme can be heard briefly. John Williams wrote both soundtracks, and Richard Dreyfuss was in both CE3K and Jaws. invoked
    • The scene where Jillian grabs Roy's hand while he is hanging onto the side of the mountain right before they see the landing site resembles that of Cary Grant's hanging on Mount Rushmore before he is helped up in the film North by Northwest. Note that Mount Rushmore is only about 90 miles away from the Devil's Tower.
  • Shower of Angst: Roy has this in one of the added scenes from the 1980 recut.
  • Starfish Language: Near the end of the movie, the aliens communicate/signal with a series of tones that happens to be the same notes as the main Recurring Riff of the soundtrack. The iconic leitmotif of five tones — 4d3, 4e3, 4c3, 4c2, 4g2; or D, E, C, lower octave C, G — sounds a lot like "hello".
  • Stay with the Aliens: In the end, Roy is leaving Earth to stay with the aliens.
  • Surprise Vehicle:
    • The "searchlight-bearing helicopter at night mistaken for a UFO" scene that would be copied by later TV shows. In fairness the helicopters first appear from over the horizon, so it's plausible the distinctive sound of their rotor blades might not be heard at that distance.
    • Also the whole UN armada in the Gobi desert.
  • Take My Hand!: Dramatic moment during the ascent to the mountain, Roy is about to slip down but Jillian stretches out her arm so he can clutch at her hand and pull himself out of danger.
  • Taking the Kids: When Roy start acting really crazy, his wife takes the kids and they drive off to her sister's. We don't see them again.
  • The Teaser: The opening sequence at the Mexican junkyard where Lacombe's team discovers the missing planes of Flight 19.
    Laughlin: Who flies crates like these anymore?
    Project Leader: No one does. These planes were reported missing in 1945.
    Laughlin: (stunned) But it looks brand new. (as the Project Leader searches the cockpit and finds photos and a 1945 calendar - in completely mint condition) Where's the pilot? I don't understand. Where's the crew? Hey! How the hell did it get here?
  • Techno Babble: Averted, at least in the air traffic control scene at the beginning; as soon as it becomes clear that a plane is about to collide with a UFO, the controllernote  issues perfectly sensible and practical instructions for conflict avoidance, albeit in ATC-speak.
  • They Would Cut You Up: Averted. This Government Conspiracy just wants everything to stay normal. It knows better than to fuck with these Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
  • This Loser Is You: Roy Neary's family life.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Neary believes that everything he's doing is reasonable, that the risks he takes and the rules he breaks are for heroic endsinvoked, and the film encourages the audience to agree with him.
  • Time Dilation: The reason why none of the abductees look any older when they return, including the pilots of Flight 19, who have been gone thirty years.
    Scientist 1: They haven't aged a day. Einstein was right.
    Scientist 2: Einstein was probably one of them.
  • The Unreveal: The scene of Barry looking at the fridge in awe. We are to assume he sees the extraterrestrials.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's never revealed what happened to Larry Butler, the third companion with Roy and Jillian when they ascend the mountain after he gets gassed with sleep aerosol. However, it's possible that the Army found him later and simply returned him back home.
  • You Can See That, Right?: Roy and Jillian ask this of each other at Devil's Tower, first when they climb a hill and see the huge landing pad built to receive the aliens, and later when alien spacecraft are zipping over their heads on the way to the landing pad.


Video Example(s):


The Cotopaxi

It was lost in the Bermuda Triangle but found in the Gobi Desert. Must be the work of aliens.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / SaharanShipwreck

Media sources: