E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Thirty-eight years ago today, the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial premiered. It is one of those films that was groundbreaking at the time and is still really good, but maybe isn’t getting enough love currently. You should give it another look.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 002

Title: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg
Written by: Melissa Mathison
Starring: Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore
Music by: John Williams
Cinematography: Allen Daviau
Edited by: Carol Littleton
Production company: Universal Studios, Amblin Entertainment
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release date: May 26, 1982 (Cannes)
Running time: 114 minutes
Budget: $10.5 million
Box office: $792.9 million

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 (or UFO), but in their haste, one of them is left behind. In a suburban neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, a ten-year-old boy named Elliott is spending time with his brother, Michael, 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 Pieces candy to lure the alien to his house. Before going to sleep, Elliott realizes 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, meet the alien. They decide to keep him hidden from their mother, Mary. When they ask him about his origin, he levitates several balls to represent his planetary system and then demonstrates his powers by reviving dead chrysanthemums. 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.

At school the next day, Elliott begins to experience a telepathic connection with the alien, including exhibiting signs of intoxication (because the alien is at his home, drinking beer and watching television), and he begins freeing all the frogs in his biology class. As the alien 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.

The alien learns to speak English by repeating what Gertie says as she watches Sesame Street and, at Elliott’s urging, dubs himself “E.T.” 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 next to a culvert. 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 as 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 dead chrysanthemum, the 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, like he had done for Elliott before.

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 chrysanthemum 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 chrysanthemum and boards the spaceship. As the others watch it take off, the spaceship leaves a rainbow in the sky.

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