Contact - a solid 8 on the IMDB scale - is one of the few intelligently written and acted SF movies I've seen recently. SF movies tend to be either complete logical blowouts (Independence Day/Jurassic Park/Fifth Element) or farcical (Men in Black). While Contact has some problems with time (a multi-national project costing hundreds of billions of dollars completed in under three years based on schematics from out of this world?), it's mostly right on target.
What made this movie particularly good is the time Roboert Zemeckis took with his direction. Many SF movies are audio/visual assaults on the senses. There's an awful lot of quiet against a panorama of some of the finest special effects ever created. The first two minutes of the movie set the tone and style for what's to come. When there is a visual assault late in the movie, it's a brief interlude comparable to the climax of 2001.
The performances are pretty good - Rob Lowe is so smarmy as the Ralph Reedish-character you want to slap him - and Zemeckis wisely doesn't let the special effects overshadow the characters. People complained about the insertion of Bill Clinton video in this movie, but I thought it mostly worked. I would like to have seen a little more of John Hurt as the mysterious billionaire, but I suppose it added to his mystery.
I think Carl Sagan would have been proud of how his baby turned out.