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The 50 Best Sci-Fi Movies

11. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, Bob Balaban, Francois Truffaut

For most of Steven Spielberg's exemplary Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the aliens appear to be hostile. Their first appearances, though not physically before the camera, hint at malicious intentions, specifically the shaking of one character's truck and the abduction of another character's young son.

As Spielberg's visually stunning drama heads into its third act, the stakes are high and the dread mounts, but then a strange, and incredibly ballsy, thing happens: The director subverts your expectations by revealing the invaders to be peaceful beings.

Going against the typical aliens-are-monsters motif in science fiction, Spielberg, who both wrote and directed Close Encounters, answered the eternal question "Are we alone?" with a joyous, "No, and we've got some pretty adorable and friendly neighbors beyond those stars." Back in 1977, that was a courageous stance to take, especially since UFO interest was at its peak and Hollywood thrived off of instilling paranoia and fear in curious moviegoers. Spielberg, always the optimist, offered a scenario in which aliens want to be our friends.

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