General Film Info
  • Based on the novel by Carl Sagan ( who was he?)
  • *1997; 153 min.; Rated PG
  • *Director--Robert Zemekis

Dr. Eleanor "Ellie" Arroway (scientist working for SETI)--Jodie Foster
Ted Arroway (father)--David Morse
Kent (scientist who works with Ellie)--William Fichtner
Palmer Joss (theology student/writing a book about how science affects 3rd World countries/becomes a spiritual adviser to the President)--Matthew McConaughey
Dr. David Drumlin (Head of National Science Foundation/Science Adviser to the President/Ellie's former teacher)--Tom Skerrit
S.R. Hadden--John Hurt
Richard Rank--Rob Lowe
Michael Kitz(National Security Adviser)--James Woods
Joseph--Jake Busy

Questions/Ideas/Quotes to Consider:

1. What is the universal conflict of the film?
2. What are some themes explored in this film?
3. In what does Dr. Arroway believe?
4. Describe the initial contact scene with the aliens.
5. How does Dr. Arroway change after her “trip?”
6. In what does Palmer Joss believe?
7. How convincingly are the special effects used?
8. What do you think of the “wormhole” theory? Do you think it could work?
Was it portrayed like you thought it should be?
9. How did you like the movie’s ending? Was it what you thought it should be?
10.“Two possibilities exist—either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” –Arthur C. Clarke
11. Explain the principle behind “Occam’s Razor” and show how it can be applied throughout the film. (Not just in one scene).
12. Compare/contrast the basic belief systems of Arroway, Palmer Joss and Kitz. Do their belief systems go through any changes during the course of the film?
13. Suppose a machine like the one in Contact really did exist – who do you think should go to represent the human race and why?
14. What is SETI?

Faith Vs. Science
1. When the signal is discovered from Vega, how do different people react?
2. When the machine is being built, how do some religious groups react?
3. What about the scientific community? What was the conflict between the two?
4. Is Arroway, as a scientist, hypocritical when she says that she believes in love? Can she prove it?
5. Should Drumlin have been picked for the mission? What about Dr. Arroway?
6. Are faith and science at really at odds in this film? Why or why not?

link to more Contact info
Official Contact website
Carl Sagan
Contact, the novel


*Carl Sagan (scientist, worked for NASA; worked with SETI; wrote Contact--the novel)
*SETI (Real agency; searches for extraterrestrial intelligence; see article)
*Voyager Recording (audio and video--sounds from nature; Pres. speech;
*Wormhole Theory (bend space/time to travel further/faster)
*Potential Themes--Faith is ; Religion is _; Science is_; Seeing is ; God is ; Proof is __.
*Pay attention to imagery/symbols/dialogue related to "seeing" in this film (windows, eyes, telescopes, etc.). How do they contribute to meaning? Remember, "seeing" refers to what you actually see visually and to what you understand with your mind.
Brain teasers:
Where is Ellie's team when we hear the Vega signal?
S.R. Hadden--was a very religious man? Did he like Ellie?
When Ellie is little, she uses her radio to reach which city?
What happens to the first Vega mission? Who was selected to go?
Where is the second Vega misssion? Who was selected to go?
Of what is the Vega signal comprised? (Hint: type of number)
The Vega signal initially transmitted a t.v. broadcast--what was it?