I've watched this movie hundreds of times and for decades this has always bothered me. When the tall alien comes out, he raises his hands, everything is cool, and then he disappears.

There's nothing to suggest that these beings have anything we'd consider magic, or teleportation (hence Barry's abduction). So, was this an editing glitch or something? I can't imagine Spielberg letting that get past him, especially after the Director's Cut.

The only other part "wrong" with that scene is that when the alien comes out (he's like 30 feet tall), the team leader is looking down.

Any ideas on this? Editing glitch? Something to "just accept"?

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    "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Never forget Arthur C. Clarke's 3 laws. May 30, 2014 at 20:51
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    Per IMDB; The smaller aliens come out and stand in line, then greet the humans. We do not see the first tall alien again in the film and in all released versions of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. However, Spielberg's intent was to show a racially diverse group of aliens aboard the ship, as evidenced by the final alien who communicates with Lacombe, who is also a physically different character than the tall and small aliens.
    – Valorum
    May 30, 2014 at 20:52
  • Why do you keep talking about the alien being 30ft? He is shorter than the humans - probably 5ft - hence looking down on him.
    – user46736
    Jun 8, 2015 at 22:16
  • The tall alien definitely isn't 30ft tall. Based on the part where the humans walk out, we can assume the alien is 7ft, maybe 9ft max. As for the team leader looking down, he is looking at the shorter aliens as they begin to walk out. Keep in mind that the humans on the scene can see up the ramp, while we (the audience) cannot. Therefore the team leader knew the shorter aliens were coming down before we actually see them.
    – Omegacron
    Nov 2, 2020 at 20:04

2 Answers 2


From the "making of" documentary, it's clear that Spielberg wanted to show that the alien ship was a multicultural (and hence advanced) environment where many races worked together;

Transcript mine;

"I wanted to show that on the alien world there were also different races, so there was the race of the long willowy "giacometti" aliens, and there was the race of the short bulbous head aliens and there was the race of the very skinny almost ascetic aliens. I wanted to show that like here, there are different races there".

Unfortunately, his plan proved to be technically unfeasible

Transcript mine (edited for brevity)

"Plan B was to do marionettes.

But this was before the age of wire removal, digital wire removal, and unless you could light it so none of those wires showed up there's no way to get rid of the wires.

So there was no way you could light it (e.g. light the puppets without showing the strings). That was almost impossible. So I threw that out.

Close encounters

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    I knew all that. It doesn't actually answer my question as to why the alien just disappeared. The "magic" quote doesn't work because if the aliens can teleport there'd be no need to physically remove Barry. Here's a video: youtu.be/la0_3QfC05E?t=1m47s May 30, 2014 at 23:05
  • @MichaelGaines - There's no in-universe reason. The alien appeared, got edited out, then less difficult to animate aliens (played by 9 year old girls) appear.
    – Valorum
    May 30, 2014 at 23:09
  • Doesn't it seem odd that they were able to animate him coming out, but not simply disappearing or walking back in? Also, it doesn't explain why the team leader was looking down at the ground where there's a 30 foot tall alien coming out. May 30, 2014 at 23:11
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    In the "making of" documentary, they show multiple endings as well as a discussion by Spielberg of how editing the final 25 minutes was one of the hardest challenges of his career, riddled with mistakes that he wishes he hadn't made, several of which he removed for the "special edition". I fear you may be reading too much into a purely out-of-universe decision.
    – Valorum
    May 30, 2014 at 23:14
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    @MichaelGaines: “if the aliens can teleport there'd be no need to physically remove Barry” — I’m not sure about that. Just because they can teleport doesn’t mean we can. Maybe you need to take pre-teleportation vitamins. Or maybe the aliens didn’t know yet whether teleportation might harm us, or send us mad. Or whether we might be a bit dangerous if teleported onto their ship. May 30, 2014 at 23:58

Just bad editing. Same goes with the folks in the suits. It looks like only Roy is picked, but you see just before the ship closes its doors, the other astronauts in red are also gone.

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