It's one of those films that's just passed me by for years now - never got around to it myself, and it was never shown during my three years of university (Duel, Jaws and ET were all shown) ... so it was when I was skipping around the movie channels recently that I stumbled across the film part-way-through, and liked what I saw.
I knew I'd dig it anyway - it's got not only "that 70's vibe", but it's also got that fresh new blood feel of a filmmaker's early works. Away I scurried and picked up the 30th anniversary ultimate DVD with all three versions, and I finally sat down and watched Close Encounters (after having hummed that five-note tune, and done the hand signals for years since I was a kid being told about it by my Dad).
It's still impressive three decades later - the special effects specifically - which were incredibly hard to pull off with those techniques and with those limitations. But something fantastic was created that holds up to this day, with essentially a simple premise of just using light to it's full, creative effect.
One thing that always bothered me about it though, and still does now that I've finally seen it, is Roy Neary just upping sticks and ditching his family - even if it means he gets to fly around space and see things everyone else could only dream of seeing. That never sat right with me, and it's interesting that Spielberg thinks along similar lines - as he describes, it's the film which dates him (as a person) most of all. It's where he was at long before he became the family man he is today (seven kids, or thereabouts) and as a result it would be a different film if he made it today.
Regardless, it's simply just one of those films which inspires awe - it's a spectacle movie, and a true-hearted one at that - you can almost feel as if you're experiencing the film in the 1970s. You can feel that sense of event, of wonder and slack-jawed interest (much like the men and women who witness the actual third encounter in the final act).
A must-see for any Spielberg fan, or anyone fascinated by alien life (or the prospect of).