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Close Encounters of the Third Kind Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    ReelViews James Berardinelli

    Close Encounters of the Third Kind is unquestionably a great movie.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    It's one of the great moviegoing experiences.

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  • 70

    out of 100


    Steven Spielberg's film climaxes in final 35 minutes with an almost ethereal confrontation with life forms from another world; the first 100 minutes, however, are somewhat redundant in exposition and irritating in tone.

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  • 80

    out of 100

    Newsweek Jack Kroll

    A genuine work of the popular imagination. It's the first true populist science-fiction film, a blend of the most startling, far-out special effects with the most ordinary human material of the American Heartland. [21 Nov 1977, p.88]

  • 90

    out of 100

    The New York Times Vincent Canby

    Steven Spielberg's giant, spectacular Close Encounters of the Third the best—the most elaborate—1950's science fiction movie ever made, a work that borrows its narrative shape and its concerns from those earlier films, but enhances them with what looks like the latest developments in movie and space technology.

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  • See all Close Encounters of the Third Kind reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 8+

Suspenseful, thoughtful alien-encounter classic.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this ultimately uplifting and optimistic story has many scary and spooky moments before the exact nature of the aliens is revealed. To a mother’s horror, her toddler son disappears and is a captive of unknown villains. The earth is enveloped by strange events: electrical storms, unexplained shaking, and unidentified flying objects (UFOs). A house is attacked by mysterious forces; dead animals appear on quiet country roads. A loving father is faced with losing his family because of his conviction. There are scattered curse words including "hell," "s--t," and "bastard." Members of the military are mostly portrayed as unsympathetic and authoritarian.

  • Families can talk about the idea of life beyond our solar system. Do you think there are other intelligent beings out there? Why or why not? If so, what do you think they're like, and do you think they'll ever come to Earth?
  • Talk about how aliens are usually portrayed in the movies. What does this movie do differently? What signs do you get that these aliens will be benevolent?
  • Was this movie scary? What were the scariest parts and why? How does music, lighting, etc. affect how scary a scene is?

The good stuff
  • message true3

    Messages: In contrast to the aliens from outer space usually seen as predatory, violent, and aggressive, this movie offers instead a hopeful picture of interplanetary events. Rather than fearing the unknown, the earth's population just as easily might look forward to a peaceful, friendly encounter. The unorthodox hero, obsessed with making sense of what he's seen, proves the value of following a single-minded path in spite of ridicule or opposition.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: A mother is portrayed as unselfish, caring, courageous, and strong as she searches for and fights for the return of her young son. U.S. military personnel are the villains, in most cases shown to be blindly following orders, harsh, and unsympathetic. On the other hand, the scientists are characterized as open-minded, trusting, and intelligent.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence and scariness: Several spooky and frightening sequences: strange lights appear and disappear; mailboxes shake; a house is attacked by unseen presences; a car flies off the edge of a cliff; dead horses, cows and chickens are found lying by the side of the road. A little boy is abducted by aliens; his terrified mother chases him, unsuccessfully. Helicopters stalk the hero and heroine and they are captured by military forces. A giant spaceship and a number of auxiliary craft hover and land on the earth.

  • sex false0

    Sexy stuff: Not an issue

  • language false3

    Language: Some occasional swearing: "hell," "jackass," "s--t," "Goddamn," "Christ," "bastards," "ass."

  • consumerism false2

    Consumerism: Multiple product placements: Coca Cola, McDonald's, Shell Oil, Budweiser, Baskin Robbins, Piggly Wiggly markets.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not an issue