"Who are we going to call now?"
Most people I know, even fellow sci-fi lovers, don't understand why I love Contact. They find it slow and boring, and the ending unsatisfying (even Mr. Garrison from South Park weighed in on that :P). But if you don't mind a thinky movie and don't need to be entertained by an explosion every 30 seconds, I recommend giving Contact a chance.
Jodie Foster plays Dr. Ellie Arroway, a brilliant physicist who works for SETI. After years of battling for funding and dish time, she is the first recipient of a message from space. She helps the government decode the message and is involved in the building of a mysterious space vehicle (assembly instructions were embedded in the message). While all that unfolds, Ellie has a complicated friendationship with a priest, Palmer Joss, played by Matthew McConaughey. (This and A Time To Kill are the ONLY movies in which I can take McConaughey seriously.) Their relationship serves as the movie's main vehicle for respectful discussions of faith vs. science. I feel that faith and science are equally represented and supported by the end of the film, leaving you to draw your own conclusions. I like that.
Ellie's loss of her father to a heart attack at a young age also plays a big role in the plot. Jena Malone plays young Ellie, and I still consider her performance one of the best child acting jobs I've ever seen.
I don't want to say more because the story has many twists and turns. This is an alien movie, but the aliens are mainly a catalyst for the real story - their active role is very small. I read on the Wikipedia page that one of the producers' goals was to make the story seem very real, like what would actually happen if a message from space were discovered. They incorporated real news footage, used real media personalities, and filmed at real observatories and at NASA. Although it's a little dated now, since this movie came out in 1997 (gosh I'm getting old), it still feels very real to me.
I'm ashamed to admit this, but it took me a lot of viewings to realize that Ellie's research partner/best friend, Kent, is blind. Some of his lines are kind of mumbled, and I thought he was just squinty or something. LOL!!
Now I want to watch this again! :)