E.T. The Extraterrestrial.

I didn’t like it.

I was born in 1980 so didn’t see it when it was new, but for the first time when I was probably 4 or 5 (I got the VHS tape as a Christmas present one year) and at that time I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced cheese. I mean come on, a middle class kid a little older than me was the hero, getting into all kinds of hijinks and all that cool bike riding through the construction site!!! I don’t even think I realized the ending was sad. Flash forward to me watching it randomly some weekend on TV when I was in college and still loved it and definitely cried at the end. Ultimately its probably that loss of innocence of the Elliot character.

Its like that old sailors rhyme: “Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, beware of people that don’t cry at E.T. and Marley & Me”.

I cried. Not wehn ET “died” but when the kids revealed him to their mom. She was scared and backed them all out of the room. ET raised his arm after them and made a cry of distress. He was sick, dying, cold, and being abandoned.

One of only three movies I’ve ever bawled at.

I saw it in the theater when it was new, and nearly choked on my popcorn because I didn’t know about the “That’s not what it was like, penis breath!” line. I do remember thinking that it was overall a good movie.

Cut to a few years later, when I was channel surfing and caught it on TV. I was HOOKED; even though I knew what would eventually happen, I knew I was just plain old watching a GOOD movie. And when ET coded and they did this or that to resuscitate him, it was very accurate although a few of the drugs they gave him are no longer in use.

That’s probably the best line in the movie.

I recall when Poltergeist and ET were both released in 1982. ET back then was compared to the Wizard of Oz, by Roger Ebert no less. He gave it 4 stars, while Poltergeist got only 3 stars. Of those two, I’d rather watch Poltergeist now (it’s best line: What’s happening?). I watched ET with my preteen kids, and they were totally bored with it, probably because it wasn’t as novel as it was back 1982.

Read the Roger Ebert review; it’ll tell why it was such a big thing back then.

I’ve never liked it. I only saw it on VHS and over and over again because it was the go-to movie for parties where all the parents stuck all the children in a room to watch a movie and otherwise stay out of their way, so that probably didn’t help. Frankly, I’ve never liked any of that style of 80s movies, which I was reminded of when I watched Super 8 and couldn’t stand it either.

The Godfather in the '70s, done. ET the Extraterrestrial in the '80s, pretty much done. For the 1990’s, Titanic. Wait for it.

Titanic was enjoyable in a theater when I saw it. Lots of action and spectacular effects at the end (I appreciate a lot more of the design and other technical stuff these days, but even then I was impressed). Of course, I was also 15 at the time and nudity in a non-R movie was a hook for a teenage boy that was otherwise skeptical of seeing it (a friend talked me into seeing it with him) and something you just didn’t get by the late 90s. That said, I never understood some of my classmates that saw it a dozen times in theaters. It seems like it’s much less of a touchstone than either The Godfather or ET these days.

I think there is a lot to this. In previous movies and other media, UFOs, flying saucers, and space aliens were hell-bent on subjugating Earth, making slaves of humans, performing experiments on them, and so on.

But here’s ET, who presents no threat to Earth, who is a botanist with no interest in humans (indeed, ET would rather shy away from them, but for their candy), and who is being sought for scientific study by humans. The tables have been turned; ET is the innocent and the humans are the villains.

That’s what made the movie popular, I think–what should have been a scary space alien was a sympathetic character, and those who should have been the “good guys” did nothing that endeared them to the audience. It was a new approach to the space alien movie, and it worked.

I love it.

I was ten years old when E.T. came out–right about the same age as Elliott. I was also a suburban boy and it was just so easy for me to identify with him and his family. I was always a ‘daydreamer’ type of kid, and this movie really captured my imagination. Watching it as a child, I found it thrilling, scary, funny, and sad. I can watch it now and still feel all those things, and feel like I’ve been transported back to 1982. Spielberg’s directorial flair and John Williams’ iconic score help make many scenes quite memorable.

Starman was mentioned above–that’s another favorite film of mine with, of course, similar themes though a more ‘adult-oriented’ take.

Like many others, I found the moments that had nothing at all to do with ET to be some of the more endearing ones. Just that opening sequence of them sitting around playing D&D and bantering (and I think they may have actually been smoking!) put the viewer smack in the middle of the prototypical 1980s California suburban domestic milieu, and that alone is quite the accomplishment.

The older brother singing “Accidents Will Happen” to himself also got me interested in Elvis Costello at a young age, an avid following which led to me eventually befriending the bassist from the Attractions (Bruce Thomas) who has been a big influence on me musically and intellectually, which all started with E.T. - so a bit of a “small world” personal connection there too. (My parents also played E.C.'s music so I heard the song in that context as well, but the fact that it had the E.T. connection made it stand out more. To this day, one of my favorite bass parts in a pop song. Digression over.)

I also remember how malevolent the government agents seemed. Prior to their intrusion, ET had introduced the kids to a world of freedom and adventure; the government comes in and literally encapsulates everything in plastic and starts bombarding everyone with medical examinations, quarantine, bureaucratic bullshit, and otherwise a giant buzzkill that stifles the innocence and curiosity represented by E.T. At the same time even as a kid, the doctors and scientists seemed human to me, not evil, just doing their jobs…I mean, look, if an alien came to earth, the government would do what they needed to do, it’s unrealistic to think they’d just half-ass what should be the most important research of all of their careers.

I do have to say, the astronaut space-suit guys barging into the house was just a bit much. I’m pretty sure even if those suits were required, they could,like, knock first and say, “hey, I know this is weird, but we need to investigate the creature in your house, we’ll try not to be too intrusive…and hey, you’re about to become the new most famous person on earth for having this thing at your house and you will probably have enough books, movies, tv apperances, and speeches to make you richer than you could ever fucking imagine so hey there’s that too, so look on the bright side.” But nope…“let’s smash right through the doors and scare the shit out of everyone and not even utter a single word from behind our faceless helmets.” Yeah…a bit much.

Starman was kind of in the same vein as I alluded to above–a harmless alien that Earth officials took to be somehow dangerous, or worthy of scientific study.

Still, I remember one of my favorite lines from it. Starman (Jeff Bridges) is driving the car, and approaching a traffic light, which is green. It turns yellow, and Starman punches it, going through as the yellow turns red. His human passenger, played by Karen Allen, says something like, “Are you crazy? You could have got us killed doing that.”

Starman simply replies, “I learned from your driving. Red means stop. Green means go. Yellow means ‘go very fast’.”

All quotes paraphrased, based on memory; but that line still comes to me when I approach a yellow light.

But as I said above, with Starman, they still had an alien who was doing something objectively wrong, in that he kidnaps Karen Allen’s character, and forces her to drive him across the country. They even had reports, from that truck driver who got his lug wrench melted, that she was in distress and asking for help. And the guy melted his lug wrench, what kind of monster does that? So you can understand why the government types considered him a threat, even if they were ultimately wrong, and went overboard in their reaction.

But ET didn’t do any of that.

I’ve seen it, once, and never had the urge to see it again. So I don’t know why it was a big hit. Starman I have seen more than once, and liked it a lot more. Maybe because Jeff Bridges is a better actor than special effects can create. Bridges gave IMO a better mirror into Earth culture than ET, and ET did not communicate at all what ET culture was like.

I didn’t hate the movie ET, but I didn’t react to it very strongly, for good or ill.


What makes ET so good is that it shows the kids perspective so effectively. Its about a lonely kid who finds a friend.
The scientists are not evil, they are scary. From the perspective of a kid people in hazmat suits enclosing your house is very frightening. Obviously as an adult you know that it is necessary because the scientist are worried about contagions that people have no resistance to wiping out humanity. They are not trying to hurt ET but almost end up doing so by keeping him apart from his family. By working together to free ET and return him to his people Eliot and his friends and family connect to each other and realize they need each other just as much as ET needs his family.

My first encounter with “E.T.” was on the telephone when my friend tried to explain to me what it was about. I didn’t really understand what he was trying to say, only that the main character was called “Elliott.”

I then saw it in the theater soon after. Or maybe I saw it on video a few years later. Or both. I recall the Reese’s Pieces commercials quite clearly that had the not-really-E.T. character.

A couple of weeks ago I listened to the “E.T.” episode on the Unspooled podcast and then found it on HBO and watched it.

I was surprised that the first two-thirds of the movement were really engaging—interesting, funny, sweet. I found I couldn’t turn it off. I was delighted by Drew Barrymore’s performance.

But then when E.T. got sick and the government people showed up, and I seriously lost interest. The whole final act was too predictable.

Funny, I know most of the bullet points about this movie, I even played (and enjoyed!) the Atari 2600 game (I was 5 years old at the time, gimme a break!), but I’ve never actually seen this movie.

This is one of 3 times in my life where an audience who didn’t know that line or scene was in the movie, and just about blew the roof off the theater. The next one was a couple years later with the “choking on vomit” scene in “This Is Spinal Tap”, and 20 years after that when Kathy Bates did a full-frontal nude scene in “About Schmidt.”

When “About Schmidt” first came out, I heard an NPR interview with Bates where she was asked if she knew about it, and she replied, “It was in the script.”

Around this time (E.T. time), I was in a bar that had a video game - Pac-man or something along those lines - and the guys playing it were fixing their scores so their initials would say “HEL YES ET FUK OFF”. :stuck_out_tongue: