[Screen It]


(1997) (Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild None *Moderate Mild Mild
Minor None Minor None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild Minor Moderate Moderate *Moderate

Sci-Fi: A radio astronomer discovers an alien signal that contains plans for building a transport device to another world.
Science has fascinated Ellie Arroway (JODIE FOSTER) since her childhood days playing with shortwave radio communications. Turning that into a career, she's now a radio astronomer searching for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence along with longtime colleague, Kent Clark (WILLIAM FICHTNER). One day she gets just that: A strong signal from the distant star, Vega, that may just change the way she, and everyone else, look at themselves and their world. Immediately the government, headed by National Security Advisor Michael Kitz (JAMES WOODS), gets involved. For inside that signal are the blueprints for creating an intergalactic probe capable of sending a traveler to another world. As she fights to retain control of her discovery from Kitz and her former boss, David Drumlin (TOM SKERRITT), Ellie turns to a former acquaintance and now Presidential spiritual advisor, Palmer Joss (MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY), who supports her, but also questions her belief in science over that of religion. Soon Ellie finds herself competing to be Earth's first ambassador to another world, and she receives support for doing so from eccentric billionaire S.R. Hadden (JOHN HURT). As the teleportation device is constructed, Ellie prepares for her possible trip to where no Earthling has ever been.
If they're fans of "realistic" sci-fi, or of any of the cast, they might, but it's doubtful younger kids will want to see this.
The reason was not available, but we'd guess it was for language, one violent scene, and a few scenes that may be too intense for younger children.
  • JODIE FOSTER plays a radio astronomer who places science over religion (partially due to having lost both her parents at a young age) and who sleeps with Palmer (early in the story). She doesn't try to impose her personal beliefs on anyone, however, but instead reacts to others who question her.
  • MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY plays a spiritual advisor to the President who questions Ellie's belief in science over religion (and sleeps with her on their first date early in the story).
  • TOM SKERRITT plays Ellie's boss who always takes the credit for her work and challenges her for the position of being Earth's first ambassador to that alien world.


    OUR TAKE: 9 out of 10
    This is the smartest, if not most satisfying film of the year. Successfully working on many levels, the film not only entertains, but challenges your conventions -- a rare combination in today's competitive blockbuster-crazed industry. Truly a thinking person's movie, the film doesn't take the easy way out, but instead allows the viewer to make up their own mind as to what really happens, and causes one to reexamine their own beliefs. With the right mix of science and science fiction, the film will appeal to mature, older audiences, as well as those looking for a wild sci-fi adventure. Based on the 1985 Carl Sagan novel, the plot is completely convincing -- with a dose of suspension of disbelief -- and never comes across as boring or trite. The story is so intriguing that you can't help but be sucked up into its creative spell, and the fact that everyone -- at some point in their life -- has thought about something like this makes it that much more appealing. Unlike normal sci-fi films (like last year's "Independence Day"), this production is more reserved and makes your imagination work as hard as your eyes. In addition, its ying-yang approach to the relationship between science and religion, and whether the two can co-exist, is brought up, but never in an overbearing fashion, and it does create several interesting questions that the audience has to answer for themselves. The opening is stunning -- and works well for introducing the plot -- as we travel away from Earth and encounter our past as we fly farther back through decades worth of TV and radio broadcasts that are still traveling through space. And the moment when Ellie discovers the transmission, and the moments leading up to the "trip" are as exciting as any live TV event covering similar space-related stories. The cast is superb all around, with Foster obviously leading the pack. Her character is completely believable and the fact that she must question her non-belief in "faith" creates a multidimensional field for Foster to work in, and she does so in her normal outstanding way. The rest of the performances are excellent, and director Robert Zemeckis (the "Back to the Future" movies, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and the hugely popular "Forrest Gump") once again hits this production out of the ballpark. Always one to experiment and push the boundaries not only of special effects, but of story and characterization, he blends all of those elements together into a compelling and fascinating piece of work. It's highly unlikely you'll find a better movie this summer, and it will probably go down as one of the better -- if not the best -- film of 1997. We give it an enthusiastic 9 out of 10.
    Some viewers may be offended by what they believe is a disrespectful approach that this film takes toward religion. Ellie doesn't believe in God, or in any religion, because she needs concrete facts to support that, and she can't find them. Her support of science probably stems from the fact that she never knew her mother (who died during childbirth) and that her father died in front of her at the age of nine. She's searching for answers (that she believes are scientific), but finds herself questioning her "faith" in science and learns that religion might not be such a hard thing to accept. Helping her along is Matthew McConaughey who questions her beliefs and helps open her mind. Other religious elements include a group of fanatics (one of whom acts as a terrorist), the question of whether these aliens believe in God, and some signs (such as "Jesus is an alien") that may offend some viewers. Beyond that, the film has only a few other objectionable bits of material. Ellie and Palmer sleep together on their first date, but are only seen afterwards. Two "s" words are the worst of the profanity, and violence is limited to one scene. We rated that as a moderate due to the massive destruction and numerous deaths relating to a terrorist explosion, but it's the only scene of violence. There's a bit of drinking and smoking, but nothing more than seen on regular TV. Since this movie will probably receive tremendous word of mouth, many older children might be drawn to it. If you're concerned with the content of this PG rated film, we suggest you read through the scene listings to decide whether it's appropriate for you and/or your children.

  • Ellie and Palmer drink beer in a small bar.
  • Ellie drinks a beer at a reception.
  • Ellie and Palmer drink champagne at a reception as do others in the background.
  • None.
  • Depending on your view of this movie's approach to religion and science, it may contain a great deal of objectionable material, or very little at all. Also, read "Our Word to Parents" for more details.
  • Ellie's questioning of religion may offend some viewers ("What if science proved that God never existed in the first place?"), as might her replacing religion with her strong belief in science.
  • Likewise, the portrayal of religious fanatics, including a sign that says "Jesus is an alien," a terrorist who blows up himself and others, and Rob Lowe portraying the leader of a conservative religious coalition (which created laughter due to his past indiscretions) might be seen by some viewers as offensive.
  • Drumlin often takes credit for Ellie's work and then attempts to win her role as the first intergalactic traveler.
  • Ellie spots a terrorist in the transportation machine and Drumlin confronts the man, but it's too late -- he's rigged with explosives and blows up the machine.
  • The scenes where Ellie prepares for, and eventually takes, her space trip might be scary for younger viewers as her craft begins to shake violently and her appearance gets distorted during the trip.
  • Explosives: Used by a religious fanatic to destroy the travel machine.
  • Phrases: "Pain in the ass," and "Screw" (non-sexual).
  • Some viewers may not like the fact that Ellie believes in science over religion and may worry that their children will adopt this belief as well (but she doesn't push her beliefs on others).
  • None.
  • There's just a minor amount of suspenseful music in a few scenes.
  • None.
  • 2 "s" words, 5 hells, 4 "ass" words (1 used with "hole"), 2 S.O.B.'s, and 2 uses of "Oh God," and 1 use each of "Jesus," "God," "My God" and "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • Ellie and Palmer sleep together on their first "date" (after attending a reception), but are only seen after doing so. No movement is seen, but a small portion of her bare breast is momentarily seen.
  • Ellie wears a cleavage-revealing dress to a reception.
  • One of Ellie's colleagues occasionally smokes a pipe.
  • Drumlin smokes a cigar at a reception.
  • A few people smoke in the backgrounds of shots.
  • Ellie (as a child) asks her dad if she can talk to her dead mom (she died giving birth to Ellie) via her shortwave radio, and he tells her that she can't .
  • In flashback we see Ellie's horror as she (at nine-years-old) finds her dad collapsed on the floor from his heart condition, and she races to get his heart medicine but it's too late (he dies). Later as an adult, she still feels guilty over not getting to the medicine faster.
  • Palmer questions whether science can fill the void, and the search for meaning, in people's lives.
  • There are some discussions about believing in God and science's role in religion that would be good topics for discussion with children.
  • They give Ellie a suicide pill to take in case things go horribly wrong on her trip, but she never uses it.
  • This is the only act of violence, but since a great deal of death and destruction result from it, we gave the category a "moderate" rating.
  • Ellie spots a terrorist in the transportation machine and Drumlin confronts the man, but it's too late -- he's rigged with explosives and blows up the machine, killing himself and many other people.

  • Reviewed July 5, 1997

    Other new and recent reviews include:

    [1917] [Bombshell] [Cats] [Little Women] [Spies In Disguise] [Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker] [Uncut Gems]

    Privacy Statement and Terms of Use and Disclaimer
    By entering this site you acknowledge to having read and agreed to the above conditions.

    All Rights Reserved,
    ©1996-2020 Screen It, Inc.