Steven Spielberg has made many masterpieces over the course of his 50 year career, in many different genres. One type of movie that he excels at making is the science fiction movie, and he enthusiastically returned to this genre in the 2000s, with AI, Minority Report, and War of the Worlds. Before this, Spielberg famously tackled the alien movie in two very different ways – the family-friendly ET, and the more cerebral Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
One of the main selling points of Close Encounters was that the aliens themselves remain mysterious and unseen until the film’s final moments. In the 1997 documentary The Making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg says that he was under a lot of pressure to finish the film quickly for a deadline.
“I was trying to get Columbia to let me finish the movie the way I wanted it to be finished, but…they needed the film to come out during Christmas. I was hoping to come out the following summer, but they kept insisting, ‘Not only must you make Christmas, because our whole company is at stake and we’re all counting on this film. You have to make November.’ So I had no choice.”
“After the film’s success, I went back to Columbia a year and a half later and said, ‘Now let me finish the film the way I had always intended to. I wanna recut certain scenes and I want to shoot more sequences.’ And then they said to me, ‘We’ll give you the money… if you show the inside of the mothership. Give us something we can hang a campaign on.’ And so I compromised and had Richard Dreyfuss walking inside the mothership. I never should have done [that], because that should have always been kept a mystery, the inside of that ship.”
The 1980 cut which included the mothership scene was the only one available on VHS for many years. Spielberg made a 1998 Director’s Cut of the thriller movie, which included some elements of the 1980 cut, but not the mothership scene.
Check out our guide to the best Steven Spielberg movies, to find out if Close Encounters made the cut.