Steven Spielberg's ET the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) is a very cute movie, and there's nothing scary about it at all (especially the alien ET). In fact, it's a science-fiction movie rather than a horror movie, and it's actually very sad. (Well, the part that's close to the end is very sad, with ET becoming very sick and almost dying. If you haven't seen the movie yet, you have to find out the rest for yourself the next time you watch it. Sorry but nobody really likes spoilers.) I first saw the movie when I was a little kid (I thought it was scary then) and the most recently I've watched it was last year.
The film opens in a California forest as a group of alien botanists collect vegetation samples. U.S. government agents appear and the aliens flee in their spaceship, leaving one of their own behind in their haste. The scene shifts to a suburban California home, where a boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) plays servant to his older brother, Michael (Robert MacNaughton), and his friends. As he fetches pizza, Elliott discovers the stranded alien, who promptly flees. However, his family doesn't believe him. Elliott waits outside for the alien later that night while leaving out Reese's Pieces candy to lure the creature. Of course, ET appears and Elliott leaves out more Reese's Pieces to lure it to his bedroom. Before he goes to bed, Elliott notices the alien imitating his movements.
Elliott feigns illness the next morning to avoid school so he can play with the alien. That afternoon, Michael and their younger sister, Gertie (played by a young Drew Barrymore, who is one of my few favorite actresses), meet the alien. Their mother, Mary (Dee Wallace), hears the noise and comes upstairs. Michael, Gertie and the alien hide in the closet while Elliott assures his mother that everything is all right. Michael and Gertie promise to keep the alien a secret from their mother. Deciding to keep the alien, the children begin to ask it about its origin. It answers by levitating balls to represent its solar system, and further demonstrates its powers by reviving a dead plant.
(In one scene while Elliott is at school, ET watches John Wayne kiss Maureen O'Hara in a scene from The Quiet Man on TV, which causes Elliott to kiss a girl in the same way as John Wayne does to Maureen O'Hara. If you've ever seen the movie, you'll notice that whatever ET does at home, Elliott's behavior is affected by it at school. That's because Elliott develops a psychic connection with ET while at school.)
The alien learns to speak English by repeating what Gertie says in response to her watching Sesame Street and, through Elliott's urging, dubs itself as "E.T." It enlists Elliott's help in building a device to "phone home" by using a Speak & Spell toy. Michael starts to notice that E.T.'s health is declining and that Elliott is referring to himself as "we." On Halloween—a good reason for why this movie is sometimes shown on TV around Halloween—Michael and Elliott dress E.T. as a ghost so they can sneak it out of the house. Elliott and E.T. ride a bicycle to the forest, where E.T. makes a successful call home. The next morning, Elliott wakes up to find E.T. gone, and returns home to his distressed family. Michael finds E.T. dying in the forest, and takes the alien to Elliott, who is also dying. Mary becomes frightened when she discovers her son's illness and the dying alien, before government agents invade the house.
(Spoilers begin to follow!)
The link between E.T. and Elliott disappears as E.T. appears to die. Elliott is left alone with the motionless alien when he notices a dead flower, the plant E.T. had previously revived, coming back to life. E.T. reanimates and reveals that its 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 Elliott and E.T. as they attempt to evade the authorities by bicycle. Suddenly facing a dead-end, they escape as E.T. uses telekinesis to lift them into the air and toward the forest. Standing near the spaceship, E.T.'s heart glows as it prepares to return home. Mary, Gertie and "Keys" (Peter Coyote), a government agent, show up. E.T. says goodbye to Michael and Gertie, and before entering the spaceship, tells Elliott "I'll be right here," pointing its glowing finger to Elliott's heart. E.T. then picks up the flower pot Gertie gave him, walks into the spaceship, and takes off, leaving a rainbow in the sky.This is one of Steven Spielberg's greatest movies. I have always admired his works, despite not having seen most of them. I consider him my model filmmaker--my idol, my filmmaking "mentor." This movie has been parodied many times, especially by my favorite TV shows, The Simpsons, Family Guy, etc. Family Guy has some references to the movie in many of its random cutaway gags. For example, in one of its cutaway gags, it has ET pretending to cure Tom Hanks' AIDS in Philadelphia, except he doesn't touch Hanks because he doesn't wanna get AIDS. Clip here
Despite being sad, the movie has some funny moments, like the scene where ET disguises himself as one of the stuffed animals to hide from Mom. And during the Halloween sequence, where during a little photoshoot, ET mistakes the prop costume knife on Michael's head for being real and tries to heal it using his healing finger light; however, Michael stops him, saying that it's fake.
P.S. John Williams's music score is absolutely fantastic!
Trivia: The entire film was entirely shot at a child's eye level; the movie was shot in chronological order to invoke real emotional responses from the young actors; ET was played by puppets and related animatronics; this film made Reese's Pieces very popular.