E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)


When an alien gets left behind on Earth, he’s befriended by a boy called Elliott but hunted by government agents…

Seen before? This was the first film I ever saw at the cinema. My parents took me while we were on holiday in the Lake District around Christmas 1982. I was three years old and have memories of hiding under my seat (my mum tells me that early scenes of men with guns had scared me). I’ve seen it a few times in the 32 years since, but sadly and unintentionally the version I watched for #SpielbergWatch was the 2002 special edition. This recut of the movie digitally replaces guns with walkie-talkies, adds in a deleted scene or two (though not Harrison Ford’s cameo – tinyurl.com/ypgufc ) and CGIs up some shots of ET. A shame: it was perfect to begin with.

Best performance: All three of the kids – Henry Thomas as Elliott, Robert MacNaughton as Michael and Drew Barrymore as Gertie – are terrific.

Best scene/moment/sequence: The scene where ET is getting drunk while Elliott himself is at school, increasingly affected by the alcohol, is fantastic.

Review: Watching these films in context highlights how this is a spiritual sequel to Close Encounters. Again, we have aliens encroaching into lower-middle-class suburbia and being met with both fascination and paranoia. But now the story is from an actual child’s point of view (rather than CE’s manchild) and has added BMXs, Star Wars toys and general 1980sness. The whole film is so beautiful – the camerawork, the imagery, the music, the emotion. What’s obvious, as ever with Spielberg, is just how strong and clear the storytelling is – you always know where you are and what’s happening in a Spielberg film. He understands better than perhaps anyone else how to pace a story, how to reveal information, what to focus on and how to dramatise events. ET is an astonishing achievement, a timeless gem.

Ten Speak & Spells out of 10.

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