Movies to Watch With Close Encounters of the Third Kind

(Welcome to Movie Mixtape, where we find cinematic relatives and seek out interesting connections between new releases and older movies that allow us to rethink and enjoy what’s in our theaters as well as the favorites on our shelf. In this edition: the re-release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.)

Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, so it’s being re-released into select theaters this weekend. If you’re near one of the theaters, it offers a fantastic opportunity to see a movie worthy of the big screen as it was intended. If you’re not, you can still load it up on your own personal medium screen and fill your living room with blinking lights and familial angst.

That’s the brilliance of it, right? Like many Spielberg movies, Close Encounters delivers spectacle without relying on it. We get the big-think intrigue of the science fiction, and the thrill of making contact with aliens, but the heart of the story is the obsession that drives a wedge between Richard Dreyfuss’s Roy and his family.

Above all else, there’s a human cost to reaching for the stars.

So what should we watch with it?

The Thing From Another World (1951)

Probably known best today as the movie John Carpenter remade as The Thing, this classic alien invasion flick involves an extremely close encounter with a highly evolved plant that terrorizes an outpost at the North Pole. It’s more straightforward creature feature than Carpenter’s version of John Campbell’s story “Who Goes There?”, but that’s not a knock on it at all. It’s a thriller with a lot of appeal, typically lulling us into a state of calm with emotional monologues before reminding us there’s still a terrible beastie out there trying to drain everyone’s blood.

It also gave Spielberg one of the early working titles for his alien contact film, back when he was calling it Watch the Skies.

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

It will never stop being cool that François Truffaut played a major role in Close Encounters. Deep into his career as a premiere voice of the French New Wave, here he was learning how to speak to extra-terrestrials for Steven Spielberg – the only time he acted in a film that he didn’t direct. Obviously, Spielberg enjoyed working with him.

His Claude Lacombe is a delight, and his signing to the aliens at the end of the film is sheer joy. Utter bliss. You could watch Truffaut’s The Man Who Loved Women as a nod to Close Encounters because he wrote it during his down time between shots, but Fahrenheit 451 may be a more fitting candidate because it’s the one time he really dipped his toe into science fiction. Naturally, he excised almost every sci-fi element from Ray Bradbury’s novel while adapting it.

The Ten Commandments (1956)

Not only is The Ten Commandments playing on a screen on Roy’s house during Close Encounters, the two films share some thematic similarities. Both are about relatively relatable men whose captivation with powerful beings in the sky change their lives in radical ways. Both also reach a climax at a mountainous earthen structure.

The epic about Moses – from childhood to slavehood to leadership to death – is also a stirring mix of spectacle and humanity with a miraculous task at its center, and both films were blockbusters that became classics of their respective genres.

Continue Reading Movies to Watch With Close Encounters of the Third Kind >>

Pages: 1 2Next page

Cool Posts From Around the Web: