E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Marking a change from the menacing aliens of the 50s and 60s, Steven Spielberg instead created movies that showed interspecies friendship and cooperation was possible. First, he found success with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a terrific film but one that was geared more toward adults. The next time around, he presented something that families could enjoy together, and the result was 1982’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, a film that conquered planet Earth box offices and put smiles on the faces of millions, kids and adults alike.

The titular character is an alien scientist—or botanist, close enough—who is accidentally stranded on Earth by his buddies. Wandering around the back end of a California suburb, the alien stumbles upon Elliot (Henry Thomas), a ten-year old still traumatized by the recent divorce of his parents. The two lost souls scare each other at first, but Elliot manages to lure the alien to his house with a trail of Reese’s Pieces.

Thrilled to have such a cool playmate, Elliot hides the extraterrestrial in the closet but he is soon outed by an older brother, Michael and little sister, Gertie (played by a very young Drew Barrymore). The siblings agree to protect the alien — now lovingly referred to as E.T. — then participate in his comic attempts to sample Earth culture, like learning English by watching Sesame Street or getting tipsy on beer. Elliot and E.T. develop a deep bond that links their minds and bodies, putting them both in danger when E.T. starts wilting and pining for his home. The pair, helped by Michael, Gertie and other neighborhood kids, evades capture by the military and successfully signals E.T.’s alien friends to come pick him up. E.T. leaves Earth after a tear-jerking farewell to his new friend, a scene that left audiences grasping for tissues as they bid farewell to their new-found friend.

The movie contributed a number of iconic moments to popular culture, notably E.T.’s plaintive, “E.T. phone home” plea and Elliot’s airborne bicycle with E.T. riding in the basket. And, scenes featuring our alien friend munching Reese’s Pieces made that particular candy one of the most popular in the years that followed. Spielberg’s masterpiece charmed audiences regardless of age and became the top-grossing film to that date, easily beating out Star Wars. E.T.’s fame grew into an international phenomenon and didn’t diminish, just naturally segued into instant classic territory. Twenty years later, an E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial anniversary release featured tweaked special effects, the addition of a little CGI and the digital removal of weapons from some scenes. Despite the reworking (if it ain’t broke…), the movie still has a huge, growing audience, proving that a little child-like wonder and good will can go a long way, in real life and at the box office.

If you remember the wonder of watching E.T. on the big screen, or if you became acquainted through the magic of VHS and DVD, we hope you’ll take a moment to share those special memories of this heartwarming 80s film in our comments section below.

2 Responses to “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial”

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  1. Gina says:

    I remember it played at the theaters for over a year.

    I didn’t want to go see it at first–the nonconformist in me balked at all the ET mania, but eventually did get dragged into seeing it, and loved the movie.

    I didn’t watch the tweaked version. I don’t like them redoing something once it’s already done. You don’t take a paintbrush and add eyebrows to the Mona Lisa, now do you? So leave a classic alone.

  2. nandani says:

    You don’t take a paintbrush and add eyebrows to the Mona Lisa, now do you? So leave a classic alone.

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