Film Review: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Into the Dark - Film Review: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

I’ve never made it through E.T. without crying, and for two reasons. One, and most obviously, it’s a very moving story. It couldn’t hurt that I was Elliott’s age when E.T. first came out, but I think Steven Spielberg’s tale of a boy and his alien is for all ages, not just my own… then or now.

And the second reason? Brace yourself for cheese. It makes me cry because it reminds me how magical movies can be. Take the climax, for example. You have five children fleeing on bicycles from swarms of government agents. One of the kids has beloved E.T. in his bike basket. All they want to do is help E.T. get home, but the children suddenly find themselves fast approaching a police blockade. Rifles are pulled out and aimed at these kids (*). Cut to a close-up of E.T.’s eyes, knowing full well what he has to do. Cue John Williams and Industrial Light and Magic, who suddenly work in tandem to lift those bicycles off the ground and send them flying into the sunset. A tremendous moment of exhale becomes a flight of fancy, and then you see those silhouettes soar across the setting sun, one of the most iconic images in movie history.

Into the Dark - Film Review: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, and Robert MacNaughton in "E.T."

The ensemble of child actors — Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, and Robert MacNaughton — are among the finest ever assembled. Thomas and Barrymore each give Oscar-worthy performances here. How Oscar could ignore the waterworks here is beyond me. Melissa Matheson’s script is a screenwriting masterwork, and Allen Daviau’s cinematography is so painterly and emotionally evocative, it makes me wish Spielberg would consider working with him again. (Spielberg has been photographically monogamous with Janusz Kaminski ever since Schindler’s List.)

There’s a reason E.T. was the highest-grossing movie of all time (before Titanic knocked it from its perch), and I hope we haven’t lost whatever it was that made that happen. I know I haven’t. And if I ever have my doubts, I can always count on E.T. to restore my faith in good old-fashioned cinematic escapism.

* Note:  Be sure to watch the original theatrical version of the film; in the 2002 special edition, the rifles are replaced with much less threatening walkie talkies and a lot of Carlo Rambaldi’s impressive animatronic work is ‘enhanced’ with computer-generated imagery. Even Spielberg himself regrets all the changes he made in the 2002 version.

Rating: 5/5 ★★★★★ 


About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (

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