11 Movies Like Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

, 2005

From Steven Spielberg, Munich is the sharp and thrilling depiction of Mossad agents on a mission to avenge the Munich Massacre, the killing of 11 Israeli Olympic team members at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Despite being based on real events, it’s a work of fiction. This allows the film to stand on clear yet nuanced grounds, focusing on the moral dilemmas that may rise for the secret agents and the perpetrators, now targets. The ensemble cast including Daniel Craig and Eric Bana allow Spielberg to deliver the film you can tell he wanted to make. A personal and striking effort.

Genre: Action, Drama, History, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Abdelhafid Metalsi, Alexander Beyer, Amani Zain, Ami Weinberg, Amos Lavi, Amrou Al-Kadhi, Andreas Lust, Arturo Arribas, Ayelet Zurer, Baya Belal, Ben Youcef, Bijan Daneshmand, Brian Goodman, Carim Messalti, Charley Gilleran, Ciarán Hinds, Daniel Bess, Daniel Craig, David A. Hamade, Dianne Zaremba, Djemel Barek, Eric Bana, Faruk Pruti, Félicité Du Jeu, Geoffrey Rush, Gila Almagor, Guri Weinberg, Guy Amir, Guy Zo-Aretz, Hagit Dasberg, Hanns Zischler, Hiam Abbass, Hicham Nazzal, Hichem Yacoubi, Hisham Suliman, Igal Naor, Jalil Naciri, Jim McKay, Jonathan Avigdori, Jonathan Uziel, Joram Voelklein, Karim Saidi, Karim Saleh, Kevin Collins, Laurence Février, Lili Bordán, Liron Levo, Lisa Werlinder, Lyes Salem, Lynn Cohen, Mahmoud Zemmouri, María Casal, Marie-Josée Croze, Marie-Josée Croze, Martin Ontrop, Mathieu Amalric, Mathieu Kassovitz, Mehdi Nebbou, Meret Becker, Merik Tadros, Michael Lonsdale, Michael Schenk, Mihalis Giannatos, Moa Khouas, Moritz Bleibtreu, Moshe Ivgy, Mostefa Djadjam, Mouna Soualem, Mousa Kraish, Nasser Memarzia, Oded Teomi, Ohad Knoller, Omar Metwally, Omar Mostafa, Ori Pfeffer, Ossie Beck, Patrick Kennedy, Rad Lazar, Raffi Tavor, Renana Raz, Richard Brake, Rim Turki, Robert John Burke, Sabi Dorr, Saïda Bekkouche, Sam Feuer, Sami Samir, Samuel Calderon, Sarah Mennell, Sasha Spielberg, Sharon Alexander, Shmuel Edelman, Sonia Hell, Souad Amidou, Stéphane Freiss, Steven Spielberg, Tom Wlaschiha, Ula Tabari, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Valeria Bruni‑Tedeschi, Wojciech Machnicki, Yehuda Levi, Yvan Attal

Director: Steven Spielberg

Rating: R

IRA terrorists kidnap a British soldier to negotiate an exchange for one of their own imprisoned members. Among them is Fergus (Stephen Rea), whose ambivalence is amplified by his interactions with the hostage soldier Jody (Forest Whitaker) while guarding him. After the terrorists' plan goes awry, Fergus tracks down a woman Jody spoke of during his captivity, only to become confronted with even more complications.

The film, its cast and crew won a slew of awards and nominations in 1993, including the Academy award for Best Original Screenplay. It's a knockout. Each act presents an increasingly challenging psychological and emotional conflict for Fergus: conflicts that require him to question the choices he makes and his beliefs, even about himself. It’s a dark but deeply touching thriller that is ultimately unforgettable.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Adrian Dunbar, Andrée Bernard, Birdy Sweeney, Breffni McKenna, Bryan Coleman, Forest Whitaker, Jack Carr, Jaye Davidson, Jim Broadbent, Joe Savino, Miranda Richardson, Ralph Brown, Ray De-Haan, Stephen Rea, Tony Slattery

Director: Neil Jordan

Stand By Me follows four young friends as they journey around their small town searching for a rumored dead body. On the surface, it moves like an adventure story. The boys narrowly avoid guard dogs and leeches, speeding trains and tough teen gangs. But along the way, they also learn much about each other, in particular about the stark reality of their home lives and the growing depths of their inner struggles, so that beneath all the small-time thrill is a beating coming-of-age story. 

Based on a novella by horror master Stephen King, Stand By Me is terrifying in its ability to evoke the unique thorniness of passing through the gates of adulthood, but also warm and comforting in its reminder of the universality of this feeling.

Genre: Adventure, Crime, Drama

Actor: Bradley Gregg, Bruce Kirby, Casey Siemaszko, Chance Quinn, Corey Feldman, Dick Durock, Frances Lee McCain, Gary Riley, Jason Naylor, Jason Oliver, Jerry O'Connell, Jerry O'Connell, John Cusack, Kent W. Luttrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Korey Scott Pollard, Madeleine Swift, Marshall Bell, Matt Williams, O.B. Babbs, Richard Dreyfuss, River Phoenix, Scott Beach, Wil Wheaton, William Bronder

Director: Rob Reiner

Rating: R

Sisters Martine and Filippa, daughters of a founder of a religious sect, live a simple and quiet life in a remote coastal village in Denmark. Throughout the course of their lives, they reject possible romances and fame as part of their commitment to deny earthly attachments. This is upended by the sudden arrival of a French immigrant named Babette, who served as their house help to escape the civil war raging in her country.

Babette’s Feast is an inquiry into simplicity and kindness, and whether these would be sufficient to achieve a life of contentment. The religious undertones perfectly fit with the film’s parable-like structure, where bodily and spiritual appetites are satisfied through a sumptuous feast of love, forgiveness, and gratitude.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Asta Esper Hagen Andersen, Axel Strøbye, Bendt Rothe, Bibi Andersson, Birgitte Federspiel, Bodil Kjer, Cay Kristiansen, Ebbe Rode, Else Petersen, Finn Nielsen, Gert Bastian, Ghita Nørby, Ghita Nørby, Holger Perfort, Jarl Kulle, Jean-Philippe Lafont, Lars Lohmann, Lisbeth Movin, Pouel Kern, Preben Lerdorff Rye, Stéphane Audran, Stéphane Audran, Therese Hojgaard Christensen, Thomas Antoni, Vibeke Hastrup, Viggo Bentzon

Director: Gabriel Axel

Rating: G

“It is better to live miserable than to die happy,” or so says one of the characters in Jia Zhangke’s anthology film A Touch of Sin. On its surface, the “sin” referenced in the title might pertain to the acts of murder that the four protagonists commit, but in the context of China’s rapidly changing capitalist landscape (a theme explored in the director’s other pictures), it reveals itself as a malady shared by Chinese laborers treated as dispensable resources by the powers-that-be. Murder, then, is explored as an extremity, the effectual breaking point of people no longer able to contain the injustice within themselves. Beneath the splatters of blood is a plea for empathy and understanding, at once remorseful and full of conviction.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

Actor: Baoqiang Wang, Han Dong, Jiang Wu, Jin Zhang, Li Meng, Lu Liu, Luo Lanshan, Qiang Wang, Wang Baoqiang, Wang Hongwei, Wang Qiang, Zhang Jiayi, Zhang Jin, Zhao Tao

Director: Jia Zhangke

Anyone who's seen All That Heaven Allows will naturally be skeptical that a movie claiming to be an homage to Douglas Sirk’s sumptuous masterpiece will live up to the heights of its inspiration. It’s a ballsy move, molding your film so closely to a peerless classic, but Todd Haynes transcends thin pastiche to be a genuinely great film of its own. Where Sirk’s movie charts the social scandal caused by an upper-class widow (Jane Wyman) falling in love with her gardener (Rock Hudson), Haynes sharpens the conflict by recasting the couple as an interracial one (played by Julianne Moore and Dennis Haysbert). What’s more, Haynes brings her husband back from the dead and into the closet to give Far From Heaven another angle through which to tackle the repression and stigma and explore the characters' rocky pursuit of happiness. If that sounds like the stuff of melodrama, it is — Far From Heaven is proudly of that genre, cracking through the veneer of suburban perfection to find roiling tension and repressed desire underneath.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Barbara Garrick, Betsy Aidem, Bette Henritze, Brian Delate, C.C. Loveheart, Celia Weston, Chance Kelly, Declan Baldwin, Dennis Haysbert, Dennis Quaid, Duane McLaughlin, Ernest Rayford, Geraldine Bartlett, J.B. Adams, James Rebhorn, Joe Holt, Johnathan McClain, Jordan Nia Elizabeth, Julianne Moore, June Squibb, Kevin Carrigan, Lindsay Andretta, Michael Gaston, Mylika Davis, Olivia Birkelund, Patricia Clarkson, Ryan Ward, Stevie Ray Dallimore, Susan Willis, Ted Neustadt, Viola Davis, Virl Andrick

Director: Todd Haynes

Rating: PG-13

Sunshine is a sci-fi thriller that details pretty much exactly what you don't want to happen on your journey into space. It follows the struggles of a crew who know that they are humanity's last hope to rekindle a dying sun and save their loved ones back home. Out of radio contact with Earth, relationships become strained and when things start to go horribly wrong the diverse cast give a fantastic performance as they encapsulate both the terror and humanity that arises from such an alien situation. Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later).

Genre: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Benedict Wong, Chipo Chung, Chris Evans, Cillian Murphy, Cliff Curtis, Hiroyuki Sanada, Mark Strong, Michelle Yeoh, Paloma Baeza, Rose Byrne, Troy Garity

Director: Danny Boyle

Rating: R

, 2005

Tsotsi, a delinquent from Johannesburg, South Africa, realizes after shooting a woman and stealing her car, that her baby is on the back seat. A movie with very few words but which manages to be extremely touching. As you witness the transformation of Tsotsi, through his increasing affection for the baby, you will be astonished by the amazing actor, who manages to communicate so many feelings through his sight. This film won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Ian Roberts, Israel Makoe, Jerry Mofokeng, Kenneth Nkosi, Mothusi Magano, Nambitha Mpumlwana, Owen Sejake, Percy Matsemela, Presley Chweneyagae, Rapulana Seiphemo, Terry Pheto, Zenzo Ngqobe, Zola

Director: Gavin Hood

Rating: R

Galaxy Quest may be a parody of the sci-fi franchise, but it’s also a huge fan of it. It forgoes cynical takes for smart odes to the genre, all while retaining an endearing sense of humor about it. It’s silly and self-aware, and it has a lot of fun letting us know that they’re in on the joke. You can watch for the interesting premise, but you'll stay for the laughs and the promise of a genuine thrill ride. Everyone is a blast to watch, but Sigourney Weaver and Sam Rockwell deserve special praise for being outright hilarious, elevating Galaxy Quest from B-movie to camp classic status. 

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Alan Rickman, Corbin Bleu, Daryl Mitchell, Dian Bachar, Enrico Colantoni, Heidi Swedberg, Isaac C. Singleton Jr., J.P. Manoux, Jed Rees, Jennifer Manley, Jeremy Howard, Jerry Penacoli, Joel McKinnon Miller, Jonathan Feyer, Justin Long, Kaitlin Cullum, Kevin McDonald, Marcio Rosario, Matt Winston, Missi Pyle, Morgan Rusler, Patrick Breen, Rainn Wilson, Robin Sachs, Sam Lloyd, Sam Rockwell, Sigourney Weaver, Tim Allen, Todd Giebenhain, Tony Shalhoub

Director: Dean Parisot

Rating: PG

Between Air, Pinball, Blackberry, and Tetris (is nothing sacred anymore?), 2023 has seen its fair share of business biopics. Unfortunately for The Beanie Bubble, it’s coming at the tail end of a trend that has overstayed its welcome in theaters. The Beanie Bubble isn’t very different from its predecessors in that it depicts its product as revolutionary and game-changing for the industry (it’s really not) and attempts to simplify the business phenom via cute graphics and quirky dialogue. Those aspects of the film are fine, if a bit forgettable, but The Beanie Bubble deserves some praise for exploring the power imbalance between Warner and his female partners, whose ideas he milked to no end. Robbie (Elizabeth Banks), Sheila (Sarah Snook), and Maya (Geraldine Viswanathan) are the ones telling this story, and even though the constant time hopping can get irritating, there are times when it feels inspired, like when Robbie starts one sentence and Maya ends her thought. They may be years apart but they’re all falling victim to the same greedy man who has a pattern of exploiting the talented women around him. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adelle Drahos, Ajay Friese, Brian Troxell, Callie Johnson, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Chris Mayers, Delaney Quinn, Elizabeth Banks, Geraldine Viswanathan, Hari Dhillon, Jason Burkey, Javier Vazquez Jr., Jeff Schine, Julia Farino, Kurt Yaeger, Laura Palka, Laura Whyte, Madison Johnson, Mariana Novak, Myke Holmes, Nils Onsager, Paul Kim, Paul Ryden, Robert Mello, Sam Salary, Sarah Snook, Scott Hanson, Stephanie Hong, Sweta Keswani, Tatyana White, Toru Shimoji, Tracey Bonner, Veanna Black, Vince Pisani, Zach Galifianakis

Director: Damian Kulash, Kristin Gore

Rating: R

Ethan Hawke, Uma Therman and Jude Law star in this film, set in the not-so-distant future, where humans are genetically engineered to be as close to perfect as possible. Any child who is conceived in the traditional fashion is labeled inferior and is discriminated against by the rest of society. The movie follows the life of Hawke's character who, although looked down upon and considered genetically inadequate, attempts to break free from the tethers his peers have placed on him to pursue his lifelong dream of traveling to outer-space.

Genre: Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alan Arkin, Blair Underwood, Carlton Benbry, Chad Christ, Cynthia Martells, Dean Norris, Elias Koteas, Elizabeth Dennehy, Ernest Borgnine, Ethan Hawke, Gabrielle Reece, George Marshall Ruge, Gore Vidal, Greg Sestero, Jayne Brook, Jude Law, Ken Marino, Lindsey Ginter, Loren Dean, Mason Gamble, Maya Rudolph, Russell Milton, Ryan Dorin, Steve Bessen, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, Tony Shalhoub, Uma Thurman, Una Damon, Vincent Nielson, William Lee Scott, Xander Berkeley

Director: Andrew Niccol

Rating: PG-13