Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

29 corrected entries

(4 votes)

Corrected entry: There are many flaws in the logic and details of the aliens sending coordinates as a longitude and latitude in degrees, minutes and seconds. Firstly the units - 90 degrees in a right angle with 60 subdivisions and 60 sub-subdivisions is arbitrary and how would the aliens know that humans often divide angles like that? If they were being mathematically pure it would be natural to use units of radians. Secondly the origin of the coordinates - for latitude there is a natural choice of the origin, being the equator, so that makes sense, however for the longitude there is no natural choice of origin, and how would the aliens know that humans arbitrary choose the observatory in Greenwich, London, England as the zero meridian? Thirdly the order of the components of the coordinates - if the aliens knew so much about the way we do things to know about the above two points, why did they give the longitude as the first part and the latitude as the second part, when the human convention is to do the opposite? Fourthly the direction of the angle from the origin - why did everyone assume that the longitude was West and the latitude was North? Those coordinates could equally correspond to three other points on the globe.

Correction: Haven't you forgotten something? The aliens have had humans with them since 1945 (perhaps earlier) when they captured the pilots of Flight 19 over the Bermuda Triangle. These men were skilled and experienced Air Force pilots and navigators and they'd be able to tell ET and his mates everything they need to know about latitude, longitude, zero degrees going through Greenwich and so on. They made a couple of mistakes, sure, but it's new technology to them. It'd be surprising if they got it right first time.

Corrected entry: When Roy and Jillian are driving along the dirt track to Devil's Tower, they pass dead animals by the roadside, but we do not see any in the fields.

Correction: They had been placed there by the feds (and may have been merely unconscious) to fool people into thinking there had been a hazmat spill so that the area could be evacuated.

Corrected entry: In the final showdown, earth people are rightly amazed by their first confrontation with the alien spaceships and finally their passengers as well. But since they have (probably for years) prepared and trained a group of astronauts ready to attend the first alien/human space-voyage in history, why do they look so surprised every time a new "wave" of alien ships appear? Aren't they expecting or at least hoping that one of them would land?


Correction: They are surprised and amazed at the number and diversity of the different types of spaceships. They are also a little 'surprised' that they are actually seeing what they hoped they would find.

Vernon Gilmore

Corrected entry: In the scene where the couple is arguing in their home about seeing a movie, there is a boy in the crib trying to break a doll or something. That kid looks at least 4 years old. Isn't a 4 year old a little old to be in a crib? And you can easily tell that the kid would not be able to lay down completely in the crib even if he tried.


Correction: That is the little girl's crib, not the boys. He climbed into the crib by himself to be a pest. If you look after Richard Dreyfus yells at 'Toby' he stops breaking the doll and climbs out of the crib by himself.

Vernon Gilmore

Corrected entry: When Richard Dreyfuss throws in the plants for his sculpture of Devil's Tower, he breaks the kitchen window. After his wife and children have driven away, he closes the window, which now is not broken. (01:15:35)

Correction: The kitchen window over the sink is open the whole time. There is a plant in a vase on the windowsill that is broken when Dreyfuss starts throwing in plants.

Corrected entry: The old guy near the beginning of the film is whistling while he and others see UFOs flying down a road. The tune he is whistling is "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain." The better known title for this old dude's (Roberts Blossom) tune is "Happy And You Know It".

Larry Koehn

Correction: No, the song tunes are different.

Corrected entry: In the scene just as Roy, Gillian, and Larry take off for Devil's Tower, the army officer is on his car phone speaking to his superior. When his superior tells him if they don't get Roy and company off the mountain in one hour, to use EZ4. Lacombe, who was talking to David at the time, looks at the officer and says, "What's EZ4?". Lacombe should not have known what was said over the phone, as only the officer and we, the audience, knew what was being said. It wasn't a speaker-phone.

Correction: You don't always need a speakerphone to overhear something that is said on a phone. I've had phones where I could hear both sides of the conversation when someone stood nearby speaking on the call.

Corrected entry: When Ronnie hastily backs the car out of her driveway it smashes a Big Wheel to the opposite curb, where it comes to rest right next to the neighbor's driveway entrance. In the following shot, showing Roy getting up off the ground, the Big Wheel is a good 10-12 feet away from the driveway entrance. (01:14:25 - 01:14:55)

Correction: We never see the opposite curb when Ronnie backs out of the driveway, so there's no way to determine where the Big Wheel landed. It happens offscreen. Also, the Big Wheel is about a Big Wheel's width from the edge of the neighbor's driveway (*maybe* two feet), not 10-12 feet.

JC Fernandez

Corrected entry: The headline of the newspaper article spells Kidnapping as Kidnaping. (00:58:25)

Correction: My Unabridged Dictionary shows both spellings to be acceptable. See also

Bob Blumenfeld Premium member

Factual error: The aliens broadcast a series of pulses which are decoded by the scientists to be a longitude and latitude. In degrees:minutes:seconds, the longitude is 104:44:30 and the latitude is 40:36:10. These numbers are what the computer display shows and are what the scientists say (except for one slip-up in the hallway early in the scene where 104:40:30 is said). The scientists grab a globe and declare these coordinates are in Wyoming. Everybody and his brother (and the aliens) then proceed to show up at Devils Tower, Wyoming. However, Devils Tower is at around longitude 104 deg 44 min and latitude *44* deg 36min, not the *40* deg 36 min pulsed out by the aliens. If everyone had gone to 40 deg 36 min, they would have ended up in Colorado, more than a couple hundred miles south of Devils Tower, Wyoming. (00:46:23)

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David Laughlin: Have you recently had a close encounter?

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Trivia: After this movie, young Cary Guffey got to play the part of an alien himself - in the Italian movies "Uno Sceriffo extraterrestre - poco extra e molto terrestre" (English title: "The Sheriff and the Satellite Kid", 1979) and its sequel "Chissà perché. capitano tutte a me" ("Everything Happens To Me", 1980); both with the Italian actor Bud Spencer.

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Question: I would really like some insight on a burning question I have had since seeing this movie as a child in 1978, when it came back around in theaters in eastern Canada, where I grew up. Not knowing much about American history in school, I didn't know at the time that there even was a Devil's Tower, or that it had been made the first US National Monument in 1906, and as such would have been famous to all American citizens. I still remember loving the psychic element in the film where our heroes agonize internally about the strange mound shape seen only in their heads, to be finally rewarded and deeply relieved with news footage later in the film which solidified their visions into something tangible and concrete (igneous rock actually!) Thus, as a boy knowing nothing about the tower in Wyoming, this part of the film played perfectly into the fantasy for me-it sold me all the way. But why or how did this work for Americans at the time the film was new? In the film, we are to believe that our adult heroes knew nothing of the tower before their initial close encounters, and were shocked to discover that it actually existed. Again, for me, Devil's Tower was an absolutely incredible and awesome choice, and made me love the film all the more for it. But I would like to know how Americans felt about it during the film's 1977 and later 1980 re-release? Was it just as awe-inspiring for them as well, or was it more like: "Duh-you're driving your family crazy making models of a natural rock formation everyone knows is less than 90 miles away from Mount Rushmore?" I would really appreciate an answer, because for me, the tower's news-footage "reveal" was a huge moment in the film, and really does provide the kick-start that launches the entire third act of the film. For American audiences, why was it not the same as if Roy had struggled to attach a garden hose under a hastily-built plywood model with a hole in the middle, because the aliens implanted a vision of "Old Faithful" in his head?

Answer: Devil's Tower really is out in the middle of nowhere, and in one of the least populated states (it's "only" 90 miles away from Mt. Rushmore, but it's an incredibly boring 90 miles of mostly empty plains) so it didn't make for a convenient tourist attraction like other landmarks and thus didn't garner as much fame (it's actually much more famous nowadays, thanks to this movie). That said, the movie seems to have cleverly provided two separate "reveals" for this plot turn: those familiar with Devil's Tower will recognize it when Richard Dreyfuss knocks the top off his sculpture, giving it the distinctive "flat top" shape; then, only minutes later the rest of the audience will discover it along with the characters during the news broadcast. It wouldn't surprise me at all if this was set up deliberately keeping in mind the landmark's status of "kind of famous but not really THAT famous."

TonyPH Premium member

Your explanation (and the other answer) helps makes the overall plot more understandable. The French scientist, Lacombe, mentions that there were probably hundreds of people who were implanted with the Devil's Tower image in their minds. As pointed out, it is not a particularly recognizable landmark, which would explain why many never made the connection to it.

raywest Premium member

Answer: "Devil's Tower" is, indeed, a national landmark. However, it isn't one of the most famous, nor most iconic. It isn't nearly as widely known as, say, the Grand Canyon, the Mississippi River, Niagara Falls, or the landmarks you mentioned - Mount Rushmore and Old Faithful Geyser. But, as you stated, its imposing form does fit so nicely into the aura of the film's alien encounter. Devil's Tower isn't something everyone knows by shape. And for those of us who do, it doesn't require much suspension of disbelief to posit that the characters in the film wouldn't have put it together prior to the news footage.

Michael Albert

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