Matthew McConaughey’s Forgotten Sci-Fi Blockbuster Is Taking Off On Streaming

The Matthew McConaughey sci-fi thriller Contact is currently topping the streaming charts.

By Britta DeVore | Updated

Matthew McConaughey

National treasure and possible real-life brother of Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey has had nothing short of a legendary career during his decades-long time in Hollywood. While the critically acclaimed actor’s action flick Sahara has been recently dominating the charts at Paramount+, it’s his 1997 sci-fi feature Contact that’s taking over HBO Max. According to FlixPatrol, the Robert Zemeckis-helmed film is currently a favorite among the platform’s subscribers as it currently holds bragging rights of being on the streamer’s Top 10 list.

Starring Matthew McConaughey and Jodie Foster, the other-worldly feature is an adaptation of the 1985 novel by iconic astronomer, Carl Sagan. In the film, Foster stars as a SETI scientist named Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, who stumbles upon evidence of alien life beyond our own and attempts to make first contact. What she doesn’t realize at the time is that her efforts will entangle her with an adventure far beyond her wildest dreams. 

Along with Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey, the film also boasts a star-studded call sheet including the likes of Angela Bassett, Rob Lowe, James Woods, William Fichtner, Tom Skerritt, William Fichtner, Jake Busey, and David Morse. There would also be fun cameos appropriate for the time, with both Jay Leno and Larry King appearing in the film as themselves. Although Carl Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan began penning the film in 1979, it wouldn’t be seriously considered until 1989, leaving the couple to first release the book in 1985.

For a movie as big as Contact, the visual effects needed to be gargantuan, and that’s why the creative team invested in the likes of VFX companies, including George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital, and Pixar’s RenderMan – just to name a few. With their powers combined, the massive VFX team was able to bring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey’s first contact with extraterrestrials to real life. While the film’s effects would be celebrated at the Saturn and Satellite Awards, it was the feature’s magnificent sound effects that would land a nomination at that year’s Academy Awards.

For Robert Zemeckis, the film was right up his alley, as the director had previously kept audiences enthralled with his vision in the Back to the Future franchise. Contact was also hot on the heels of his critically celebrated drama, Forrest Gump, meaning that it was an important one to pack with talent like Matthew McConaughey, Jodie Foster, and Angela Bassett, and an intriguing storyline to ensure fans would return for more. Following Contact, Zemeckis took on the world of thrillers with Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer in What Lies Beneath and would, of course, go on to helm pictures like The Polar Express, the remake of The Witches, and the live-action Disney flick that no one asked for – Pinocchio

While he may be best known for his part in dramas and comedies, Matthew McConaughey certainly learned a thing or two from his experience on Contact and used it almost two decades later when he joined Anne Hathaway in the pulse-pounding sci-fi epic, Interstellar. Directed by the great Christopher Nolan, the film took audiences to the not-so-distant future when humanity has found itself on a severe downswing with the planet severely threatened. When several brave astronauts take it upon themselves to rescue mankind from the edge of doom, they’re forced to travel through a wormhole that pushes them to their limits.

Along with Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, the feature also starred Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn, Matt Damon, Bill Irwin, and Michael Caine. A massive success at the box office, where it raked in a whopping $773.8 million against its $165 million budget, audiences’ minds were flipped upside down throughout the engaging and ever-changing movie. Another film relying on VFX to provide the extra momentum needed to make the space scenes as real as possible, Nolan invested in Double Negative, the team behind his 2010 psychological thriller Inception, to deliver the goods. 

As for Matthew McConaughey’s future endeavors into the cosmos, the actor will be heading to the universe of Taylor Sheridan’s unstoppable franchise to star in yet another Yellowstone spin-off. While the fate of the original series has recently been called into question with rumors circulating that Kevin Costner would be stepping down from his role as patriarch, John Dutton, it sounds like things for McConaughey’s time in the Wild West is still on track.