The satellite dish used in the beginning of the film is the same one used in the film GoldenEye (1995).
Jodie Foster was interested in this movie as early as 1995. After initially deciding to drop out, her interest was resparked by a new revision of the script.
Ralph Fiennes was considered for a role, but not cast.
George Miller was originally set to direct, but quit over script and schedule disputes.
Francis Ford Coppola filed breach-of-contract suits against Carl Sagan's estate and Warner Brothers, halting the film. He claimed that Sagan had developed the "Contact" premise for Zoetrope Studios (possibly for a Children's Television Workshop program). The suit alleged that Sagan had not paid the required $250,000 when he had turned the concept into a novel, and in any event was prohibited from selling the film rights to the story.
The character of Kent Clark is based on real-life SETI Institute scientist Dr. Kent Cullers.
Author and producer Carl Sagan died during production of the film. He was reportedly taking great care to ensure that "science" was accurately depicted in the film.
The spilled popcorn near the beginning of the film is in the shape of a crescent that reappears throughout the movie. It reportedly represents the constellation Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, which was Carl Sagan's favorite constellation due to its resemblance to the dish of a radio telescope.
The character of Dr. Arroway was modeled after two of the pioneering radio astronomers of the 1930s and 1940s, Grote Reber and John Kraus; both men were ham radio operators at an early age.
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (featured in the film) has a club station which, with the permission of Reber, had acquired his old call sign "W9GFZ" earlier in 1997. Robert Zemeckis, learning of this tribute, planned to use the same call sign for Arroway in the movie. However, in the end "W9GFO" was used instead. While viewing the film after release, David Wilson of the Internet recognized this call sign as that of his father Robert (Bob) Wilson from the late 1930s. W9GFO and K4WLD are currently unassigned.
The sounds heard during the film's opening shot include:
The Argus Project, featuring 100+ radiotelescopes, is named after a monster with a hundred eyes from Greek mythology.
- "Semi-Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind;
- "Wannabe" by The Spice Girls;
- "God Shuffled His Feet" by Crash Test Dummies;
- "Obviously a major malfunction..." - Challenger Shuttle disaster";
- The theme to "Dallas" (1978);
- "Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut..." - Chocolate bar commercial;
- "Funkytown" by Pseudo Echo;
- Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" speech;
- Walter Cronkite announcing the assassination of President Kennedy;
- Neil Armstrong's "One Small Step" speech;
- "Yellow Polka Dot Bikini";
- "I Have A Dream..." a Martin Luther King Jr. speech;
- Theme from "The Twilight Zone".