Classic Movie Review – E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

drew barrymore and ET the extra terrestrial
drew barrymore and ET the extra terrestrial

“Be good.”

What an enchanting film! E.T. The Extra Terrestrial is deservedly among the greats. Steven Spielberg proved he was mighty with the movie-making. Who else can take a goofy premise (suburban boy befriends gentle alien) and make it so compelling? So buoyant and wondrous. It seems like it would be a kiddie flick, but to be honest, E.T. is for everyone. Adults need to return to this sweet film for a fun viewing at home — or hopefully — you can catch it at a drive-in theater. It’s really cool that classic movies are topping the (limited) box office during the lockdown of the world.

Note: all Classic Movie Reviews probably contain spoilers. We assume the statute of movie limitations has passed. 😉

Watching E.T. for (almost) the first time

I’ll admit, I forgot about this movie. I saw it exactly once, in the theater, in 1982. Somehow E.T.never made it into my rewatch lists. So when I heard E.T.was on the big screen at the drive-ins, I immediately volunteered to get Peetimes for RunPee. But to me, this wasn’t a rewatch. Not really. It was like a new movie to me. I only remembered the iconic stuff: the moon flight, the Reese’s Pieces, Drew Barrymore as an adorable 7 year old, and the “phone home” plot device.


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I did recall the awesome John Williams soundtrack, with that haunting main theme. It’s pretty much embedded into my subconscious. How does John Williams do this, for so many iconic movies? The man is a treasure.

Give it a listen and you’ll be right back to your younger days:

Some introspective thoughts on E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

So as I watched E.T. again, after 38 years, it was essentially a brand new movie. And I admit it: I was sobbing all over the place when E.T. dies. As were all the characters, which was very moving. More on this later. I also laughed quite a bit. This thoughtful film has some frankly hysterical moments.

I totally forgot that Elliot and E.T. have a bond where they experience each other’s emotions. The set up for that was wonderfully executed, and the audience is led to this revelation by careful and amusing steps.

In the two flying bicycle scenes, you can’t help but get caught up in the transcendent magic. This was an excellent use of imaginative fantasy by a master; you believe; your heart sings.

I watched the beginning a few times to try to make out what the aliens were doing in the forest. It looks like they were gardening. There were some bizarre little mushrooms all around (one mushroom had a face and seemed to be yawning – WTF?). It seems the premise is they came to our planet to grow and harvest something they apparently couldn’t do at home. They had a goal. They weren’t tourists, and didn’t plan to make any sort of first contact. I’d love to know more about their little Earth farming project.

Symbolism in E.T.

It was enlightening to see why E.T. got stranded. He wanders away from the gardening group because there’s a lovely nighttime view of the town below. Perhaps he was a younger alien, caught up in the mystery of a beautiful new world. He sat, gazing happily at all the glowing lights, probably contemplating that each of those lights represented a home. It’s no surprise that after he’s abandoned he heads right for one of those warm and comforting lights. The concept of home is very important in E.T.

Lights are also deeply symbolic — notice that lights are very pointedly used throughout the film; it’s almost distracting. Spielberg wanted us to get on some level. SymbolismProject states:

Light is one of the most universal and fundamental symbols. It is the spiritual and the divine, it is illumination and intelligence. Light is the source of goodness and the ultimate reality, and it accompanies transcendence into the Nirvana of Buddhist doctrine.

No bad guys?

I loved that there’s no villain in this film. It seems like the shadowy, faceless government men are the bad guys, led by the man with the jingling keys. That misdirect is consistent across the movie. That it turns out these people are not there to dissect E.T. but to help him live is among the greatest surprises of my movie-going life. I didn’t remember that at all. And now as an adult, I identified with the jingling keys man: he told Elliot that E.T. came to him too, and he’s been waiting for this moment since he was ten years old. I’m right there with him.

When E.T. finally flat-lines, every character in the movie is crying. The medics take off their isolation masks in salute to the gentle alien creature. We finally saw their faces, and they were caring, compassionate men and women. They cried. The kids cried; the mother cried…you know you cried too.

Even the older boys who seemed like jerks were actually heroes by the end. When they fly their bicycles to save E.T., you can see their carefully studied teenage ‘coolness’ melt away. They remove the sunglasses, the caps, and the attitude, and become young, vulnerable again. We close in on the wonder in their eyes. Again, we have a common theme across the story — that of faces, and how in really seeing them, we open ourselves to love.

E.T. is goodness personified. His face is even shaped like a heart. He tells Gertie to ‘Be good,’ and I think he meant it as a total life philosophy. He healed the family, healed the town, and finally, E.T. heals the viewers: we walk away happy.

Everyone in a major benchmark blockbuster was GOOD? Can you think of another movie of this type where that’s a thing?

Be good.

This is the message, and a hopeful one it is for us, during this time of illness and strife.

So, was this movie perfect?

Kinda.

The only nit I’d pick in this film is that E.T. comes back to life for no apparent reason. I understand the Tinkerbell reference (if you clap and believe, Tinkerbell comes back to life), but all Elliot did was stand there and cry. Did E.T. come back to life because his ship returned? It seems the aliens have a telepathic connection that keeps them alive, via that glowy beating heart, and being separated meant any E.T. would eventually wither and die. That’s my take on it. None of this was made clear, and as a child I somehow thought the power of Elliot’s love brought him back. As an adult, I want these questions answered, because I’m a geek and I overthink things.

I also thought Elliot should have gone with E.T. when he asked. (I also thought the dog was going with them, when he gallops into the ship. That would have been cool and satisfying.) Clearly, the aliens have a usable ship: Elliot could have gone with them and come back any time. I would have gone! Remember the end of Close Encounters? Well, Richard Dreyfuss goes with the aliens! Wouldn’t you?

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: A 2 hour film that, once it gets going, never stops tugging on the heartstrings…so you will need our Peetimes.

Here are 3 good ones. I suggest you use the 2nd if you can, which ends just before the one hour mark, and is extra long.

None of the Peetimes involve the best humor, drama, action, plot, or cool Spielbergian-isms.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. (What we mean by Anything Extra)

Tags: movie review,Family, Sci-Fi

Movie release date: 2020-06-11

We now have Peetimes up for E.T. on the RunPee app. Just filling in the blanks on our old favorites. Do you agree with the Peetimes we chose? 

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3 thoughts on “Classic Movie Review – E.T. The Extra Terrestrial”

  1. I remember it as a sweet wholesome film, and you’re right, every actor was great..
    And the Williams score was marvelous, he makes you feel the stuff whether you want to or not..
    I did not want to cry when ET left, but he made me..
    I now call that “getting Spielberged”, when you are forced into the feeling with a hammer..

    On another note, there is a sequel book at least… I think it’s called The Green Planet.. though I forget the plot since it was ages ago.. And I seem to recall it wasn’t really good.. But it might answer your early questions..

    And I always think you should go in the spaceship of a ride is offered, duh!

  2. Hi Sara! Welcome back! Yeah, I didn’t remember E.T. being especially sad, but this is Spielberg we’re talking and I should have realized that. This is what the man does best, but then goes on to make us happy. I can’t fault that. It’s a one-two blow by adding J Williams to the mix. Yeesh 🙂

    Is getting Spielberg like getting “Jossed”?

    I never heard of that book, although I did read an interview just now where the actor for the older brother talks about his idea for a sequel on their little botanical lifestyle. He said he dropped the idea bc the heart of the story isn’t the aliens, but how humans are affected BY the aliens. Makes sense.

    I’ll still read said book if there’s a link somewhere, out of curiosity.

    GUESS WHAT I FOUND! A real, honest to goodness E.T. sequel, which is less than 5 minutes long and is just perfect.

    I’m finishing writing up my post about that today and will link to it for you here. IT IZ TEH AWESOMES.

    Yes, always, always take the spaceship. Dumb humans.

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