Top 100 Movie Review: No. 022 – E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Ranked 022 on the IMDb Top 100 Movie List (as at May 2017).
Watched movie during June 2020.

Cast: Dee Wallace (Mary), Henry Thomas (Elliott), Peter Coyote (Keys), Robert MacNaughton (Michael), Drew Barrymore (Gertie), K.C. Martel (Greg), Sean Frye (Steve), C. Thomas Howell (Tyler)
Director: Steven Spielberg
My rating: 8.0 / 10

A small group of alien botanists secretly visit Earth under cover of night to gather plant specimens in a Californian forest. When government agents appear on the scene, the aliens flee in their spaceship, but in their haste, one of them is left behind. In a suburban neighbourhood in the San Fernando Valley, a ten-year-old boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) is spending time with his brother, Michael (Robert MacNaughton), and his friends. As he returns from picking up a pizza, he discovers that something is hiding in their tool shed. The alien promptly flees upon being discovered.

Despite his family’s disbelief, Elliott leaves Reese’s candy to lure the alien to his house. Before going to sleep, Elliott realises the alien is imitating his movements. He feigns illness the next morning to stay home from school and play with him. 

Later that day, Michael and their five-year-old sister, Gertie (Drew Barrymore), meet the alien. They decide to keep him hidden from their mother, Mary (Dee Wallace). When they ask him about his origin, he levitates several balls to represent his planetary system and then demonstrates his powers by reviving dead plant. Already starting to pick up the English language he demonstrates his signature power, revealed through his glowing fingertip by healing a minor flesh wound on Elliot’s finger making a connection between the two. 

At school the next day, Elliott begins to experience the effects of the connection with E.T. including exhibiting signs of intoxication (because E.T. is at his home, drinking beer and watching television), and he begins freeing all the frogs in his biology class. As E.T. watches John Wayne kiss Maureen O’Hara in The Quiet Man on television, Elliott then kisses a girl he likes in the same manner, and is sent to the principal’s office.

E.T. learns to speak English by repeating what Gertie says as she watches Sesame Street.  E.T. reads a comic strip where Buck Rogers, stranded, calls for help by building a makeshift communication device and is inspired to try it himself. E.T. receives Elliott’s help in building a device to “phone home” by using a Speak & Spell toy. Michael notices that E.T.’s health is declining and that Elliott is referring to himself as “we”.

On Halloween, Michael and Elliott dress E.T. as a ghost so they can sneak him out of the house. That night, Elliott and E.T. head through the forest, where they make a successful call home. The next day, Elliott wakes up in the field, only to find E.T. gone. Elliott returns home to his distressed family. Michael searches for and finds E.T. dying. Michael takes E.T. home to Elliott, who is also dying. Mary becomes frightened when she discovers her son’s illness and the dying alien, just then as she is trying to escape the house with her children government agents invade the house.

Scientists set up a hospital at the house, questioning Michael, Mary, and Gertie, while treating Elliott and E.T. Their mental connection disappears, and E.T. then appears to die while Elliott recovers. A grief-stricken Elliott is left alone with the motionless E.T. when he notices a now dead plant E.T. had previously revived, coming back to life. E.T. reanimates and reveals that his people are returning. Elliott and Michael steal a van that E.T. had been loaded into and a chase ensues, with Michael’s friends joining them as they attempt to evade the authorities on bicycles. Suddenly facing a police roadblock, E.T. helps them escape by using his telekinesis to lift them into the air and towards the forest.

Standing near the spaceship, E.T.’s heart glows as he prepares to return home. Mary, Gertie, and Keys, a friendly government agent, show up. E.T. says goodbye to Michael and Gertie, as she presents him with the plant that he had revived. Before boarding the spaceship, he embraces Elliott and tells him “I’ll be right here”, pointing his glowing finger to Elliott’s forehead. He then picks up the plant Gertie gave him and boards the spaceship. As the others watch it take off, the spaceship leaves a rainbow in the sky.

What’s to Like
The heart warming story, the magic of the connection between a human boy and alien, the visuals and the sound.

What’s not to Like

This movie was very personal for Spielberg based on experiences he had as a child going though divorce like the family of this movie, and using his imagination of friendly aliens visiting to cope with the divorce.  The movie is about connection, most big alien visiting Earth movies have them as the villains or something to be scared about but while we are scared when E.T. first shows up he is just a friendly visitor and he heals those around him, both physically with the dying plant and Elliot’s injury, and emotionally as he brings a broken family together.  It is not a coincidence that the main leads, Elliott and E.T. share the first and last initials.

The movie creates a sense of awe and amazement in what these days looks like a much simpler time, a childhood of endless possibilities. The farewell ending and easily bring you to tears even if E.T. will remain with Elliott and his family and with us.    

Interesting side note that E.T. Video game release in a rush by Atari helped crash the video game industry and bankrupt Atari by being so poor. Ten’s of thousand of cartridges buried and only recently found.

Academy Awards

  • Best Sound – Winner
  • Best Effects, Visual Effects – Winner
  • Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing – Winner
  • Best Music, Original Score – Winner
  • Best Picture – nominee
  • Best Director (Steven Spielberg) – nominee
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen – nominee
  • Best Cinematography – nominee
  • Best Film Editing  – nominee

About Nathan

A World traveller who has so far experienced 71 countries (76 by June 2023) in this amazing world.
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