Prime Video movie of the day: Close Encounters of the Third Kind is Steven Spielberg's darker alien story

Richard Dreyfuss sits behind a table looking at a person opposite him
(Image credit: Prime Video)
Movie of the day

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Close Encounters of the Third Kind is an iconic sci-fi classic that was a box office success when it debuted in cinemas in 1977. Even in the years following its release, it remains one of the best sci-fi movies around for showing a different take on the aliens come to Earth story (there's no ack ack's here). 

Key to this are the talented Hollywood minds that made it, including legends like Steven Spielberg, Douglas Trumbull (who also worked on the ethereal visual effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey), and composer John Williams, who also wrote the score for Spielberg's Jaws a year earlier

Despite the aliens in this universe being friendly, which was a real departure from the dystopian fears of sci-fi writers at the time, Close Close Encounters of the Third Kind still strikes a melancholy tone. Often considered to be the inspiration for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the film was Spielberg's first big sci-fi blockbuster and is considered to be the darker version of the two – spoiler: unlike ET, who finds a way home, an Earthling leaves theirs. Even so, we rate it as the better Steven Spielberg movie out of the two (although only just). Not sure you agree? It's one of the many new Prime Video movies that landed on the platform this month, so you'll be able to stream it now. 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers - YouTube Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers - YouTube
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For those who haven't seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I will say that its pacing is a lot slower than movies of the 21st Century, but that doesn't take away from its mastery. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey, the movie has its own monolith that holds endless meaning. In this instance, the monolith is in the form of the real-life Devils Tower in Wyoming and is where the final scenes of the movie take place, marking an end to the odyssey that Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) and Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon) embarked on to meet the aliens of the UFOs.  

If you have seen it already, then it's still worth a rewatch, especially with the remastered edition in 4K, which looks spectacular on one of the best TVs paired with the best soundbar to hear Williams' five-note motif, which became the theme for the soundtrack in all its splendor. The symphony of colors and music that explode from the alien mothership in the final scenes of the movie are still some of the most memorable bits from the movie.

Still not convinced Close Encounters of the Third Kind is one of the best Prime Video movies? Don't just take my word for it. Critics have given it a 90% Rotten Tomatoes score, with the Boston Globe's Bruce McCabe writing, "this is a revolutionary film. It's revolutionary in the sense that it suggests, as few films have, the extraordinary sensory potential of the medium". To get a sense of how groundbreaking it was when it was first released, Roger Ebert captures the mood perfectly: "Suddenly, blindingly, the theater was filled with sound and light: With, a dazzling white flash from the screen, and a powerful musical chord so loud on the Dolby stereo system that we felt a wall of air against our faces. In that masterstroke in his first few frames of film, Spielberg laid bold claim to his audience (he must have felt satisfaction in seeing the sophisticates jump in their seats)."     

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Amelia Schwanke
Senior Editor UK, Home Entertainment

Amelia became the Senior Editor for Home Entertainment at TechRadar in the UK in April 2023. With a background of more than eight years in tech and finance publishing, she's now leading our coverage to bring you a fresh perspective on everything to do with TV and audio. When she's not tinkering with the latest gadgets and gizmos in the ever-evolving world of home entertainment, you’ll find her watching movies, taking pictures and travelling.