Summaries

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Film and Plot Synopsis

Roy Neary experiences a close encounter of the first kind one night out in the filed when a UFO passes over his truck. While to his friends and family, it looks as if the incident has descended Roy’s into madness, in reality, the aliens have left a haunting image of a mysterious mountain in his mind. Meanwhile, government officials around the world have a close encounter of the second kind when they discover physical evidence of otherworldly visitors. This takes the form of military vehicles that went missing decades ago suddenly appearing in the middle of nowhere. Now, Roy, government officials, and countless other people follow the clues the aliens gave them to reach a site where they will have a close encounter of the third kind: contact.

‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)The film begins in the Sonoran Desert in Northern Mexico. Cartographer David Laughlin (Bob Balaban) meets a French man named Claude Lacombe (François Truffaut). The two men and Lacombe’s crew find a circular ring of vintage airplanes in brand-new condition; complete with full tanks of gas. The US Naval planes are part of ‘Flight 19’ that were reported lost off the coast of Florida in 1945. David and Claude then meet a Spanish-speaking man with a sunburn on one side of his face. Using an interpreter, the man claims the sun came out that evening and spoke to him.

Elsewhere at a US air traffic control tower, the air traffic controllers receive a report from two planes of an unidentified aircraft flying dangerously close to their commercial flights. When the tower asks the pilots if they want to report a UFO, neither pilot does. They wouldn’t even know what to report.

We cut to Muncie, Indiana in the middle of the night. We get to the home of Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon). Something has woken up her young son, Barry (Cary Guffey), inside her house and he follows it outside. Jillian heads after him to bring him back.

In another home, Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) plays with his model trains with his son. The electric company he works for calls him for an emergency service repair as a power outage turns off the electricity in the city.

For some reason, Roy gets lost and while stopped at a railroad crossing, a UFO appears overhead. All the metal objects in and around him begin shaking. The UFO flashes its bright lights at Roy before flying up to space. Roy then drives away. When he gets to a sharp hillside-turn, he almost hits Barry who’s standing in the middle of the road, but Jillian shows up to save him.

As Roy stops to check on the boy, a series of UFOs suddenly fly by them with the police in hot pursuit. Roy joins the chase as they pass through a toll booth at the Ohio border. As the UFOs fly off the edge of a cliff, Roy and the officers can only watch them fly into an overhead thunderstorm. The lights then turn back on in the city.

Roy returns home to tell his family what he saw before taking them back to that hillside curve, but his wife, Ronnie (Teri Garr), doesn’t believe one word he says.

Next we head to the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. David and Claude race to a barren location where the locals have found a lost ship called the Cotopaxi. Someone or something has abandoned it in the sand hundreds of miles from water.

Back in Muncie, Roy begins his decent into madness; sculpting this odd tower in things like shaving cream even though he doesn’t know what it is or means.

Now, David and Claude find themselves in Dharmsala, Northern India where the locals have begun chanting a strange 5-note sequence that they claim came from the sky. Claude then presents his findings to NASA and military officials about the musical notes along with five hand gestures that represent each musical note.

Later that night at the hillside curve, Roy meets Jillian again as the locals gather to see the strange spacecraft. When Roy spots the tower of earth Barry’s forming in the dirt, he recognizes it as the one in his head too. Once again, it look like the UFOs are going to fly by, but the amazement turns to horror as the UFOs turn out to be US military helicopters and they force everyone to leave.

After Jillian returns home, thunderclouds form overhead. The lights from the sky fall over her house and the aliens abduct Barry while she helplessly looks on.

Later, US Government representatives hold a town hall in Muncie. Many of the locals from the hillside curve are there including Roy and his family. The government denies there are UFOs or that they are covering anything up.

Meanwhile, the government coverup continues.

They now plan to take control of northeastern Wyoming around the Devils Tower area using a fake chemical spill as a cover story. Devils Tower is the same image Roy and others have seen over and over in their head, and the image of it is slowly driving Roy crazy to the point he begins modeling it in his living room using dirt, plants, bricks and chicken chicken wire. This erratic behavior causes Ronnie to leave with their kids. With them out of the way, he then builds a flat-topped model of mountain in his family’s living room.

After a phone argument with Ronnie, Roy sees the emergency news report on TV about the government’s fake chemical spill at Devil’s Tower… as does Jillian. Both immediately recognize the mountain as the one from their vision and know they must go there.

At Moorcroft, Wyoming, Roy finds traffic heading towards him as part of the evacuation from that fake chemical spill. At a bunch of evacuation trains cars, Roy meets Jillian. The two decide to head to Devil’s Tower. However, some military agents capture them.

They separate Roy and Jillian, bringing Roy to David and Claude for questioning. As they listen to Roy’s story, they find it’s very similar to other people they’ve captured trying to make it to the mountain.

Jillian and Roy are able to escape with another man named Larry Butler (Josef Sommer). As night falls, the three make it to the other side of the mountain. However, the Army sprays the area with a sedative, and Larry goes nite nite.

Roy and Jillian evade the choppers though and find a large landing strip the government constructed on the east side of the mountain. As the two covertly make their way down to it, several small alien ships appear. Then the ginormous mother ship arrives.

The scientists at the complex begin trying to communicate with the aliens using the musical notes the Northern Indian people chanted. After a few attempts, the mother ship lands; the bottom of it opens and they release dozens of people they abducted over the years. Not only are they unharmed, but they haven’t aged a day. Jillian’s son is one of them.

A few minutes later, the aliens appear to the scientists. They are humanoid looking; no taller than 3 feet with almond eyes.

Claude spots Roy and asks him if he’d join the people they’ve selected to leave with the aliens. Roy accepts without hesitation (and possibly without consideration for his family’s welfare). When the people line up before the creatures, one of the aliens picks Roy out and takes him up the ship’s ramp.

As the ship prepares to leave, another alien gives Claude the musical note hand gestures. Claude smiles and gestures back. Once Roy and the others board the ship, it takes off to infinity and beyond.

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Columbia Pictures released Close Encounters of the Third Kind on December 14, 1977. Steven Spielberg directed the film starring Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, and Teri Garr.

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