Film / E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

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He's afraid, he's totally alone and he's 3 million lightyears from home.

"E.T. phone home!"

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is perhaps Steven Spielberg's signature fantasy film. It was the biggest blockbuster of 1982note  and, in fact, The '80s as a whole. John Williams' score, flying bicycles, and an Ugly Cute alien hero are just the tip of the iceberg here.

A group of aliens are in a forest on Earth, not far from a suburb, exploring and collecting plant samples. They are forced to leave in a hurry when alien-seeking scientists arrive on the scene, and one of them is not on the ship when it takes off...

Down in that suburb live Elliott, his older brother Michael, and his little sister Gertrude, the products of a broken home with an overworked mom named Mary (the dad is absent). Over the course of a few days, lonely Elliott encounters the stranded alien and lures it to his house with Reese's Pieces, offering it shelter and naming it E.T.

E.T. learns English — if only a few words — through the kids and especially television, and finally is able to tell them what he wants: to "phone home." Elliott helps him rig up a telephone-like device from such things as a Speak-and-Spell to attempt to transmit a message to his planet. But as they wait for a response, E.T. gradually sickens — as does Elliott, because the alien has developed a psychic bond with him. The government scientists catch up with E.T., and soon all seems lost for the poor little guy. It will take The Power of Love and a daring escape to set things right...

For information on the infamous video game adaptation, go here.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Mary's is justified since at least in her point of view: her son gets sick, misbehaves in school and goes missing on Halloween. She then ends up seeing a creature, that she never thought would exist and that in her mindset may have done something to harm her child. Just as she was about to get her kids away from the house, a bunch of men in strange suits end up trapping her in her own home. Said men tell her that her son might die.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Mary fails to contain her laughter when reprimanding Elliott for calling Michael "penis breath".
  • All There in the Manual: E.T.'s backstory. He's a member of a low grade Hive Mind, essentially a sentient drone: In some ways his intelligence is very simple and childlike, in others, very sophisticated, as befitting field crew. When he is cut off from his group mind, his body, not equipped to handle isolation, begins to break down, hastened by Earth's very high gravity. His telepathic bond with Elliott slows the process, but also makes him an accidental Power Parasite, draining Elliott. When his ship gets in range, he automatically reconnects with the network, which immediately halts the decay and heals him.
  • Always with You: "I'll be... right here."
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: A platonic example, Elliott when he thinks E.T. is dead.
  • Armies Are Evil: Averted. They're more like obstructive and arguably they have a point.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the van during the Chase Scene.
    Michael: I'm gonna crash and we're all gonna die and they'll never give me my license!
  • Badass Adorable: Elliott successfully lures E.T. into his room with Reese's Pieces, even camping outside to wait for him, despite the real possibility that E.T. might be dangerous. Then at the end, he pulls off the entire escape plan to get E.T. back to his ship.
    • E.T. himself counts. He's Ugly Cute, but has formidable psychic powers.
  • Batman in My Basement: Pretty much the plot of the entire film: the kids keep E.T. hidden in the house while E.T. finds a way to contact his planet so he can go home.
  • Behind the Black: During the Hope Spot (below) when a character says that they have lost their pursuers a large group of agent appear from right off camera.
  • Big Brother Bully: Michael before his Character Development.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Parodied by Elliott, who is subliminally reenacting The Quiet Man. Interspersed with actual footage (which E.T. is watching on TV) for bonus points.
  • Big "NO!"/Please Don't Leave Me: When Michael wakes up and sees the flower that E.T. has revived begin to die again, he shouts out a Big "NO!", which is cued up in synch to Elliott's scream of "E.T., DON'T GOOOO!!!", right before E.T. flatlines.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Background dialogue from the doctors (see Cast the Expert) indicates that E.T.'s DNA uses six bases instead of four. (This could explain why he got sick: he became malnourished from eating Earth food.)
  • Bleep Dammit: When Michael returns home during Elliot and E.T.'s first day together and looks into the fridge, he sings to himself, "Nothin' but health shit..." The "shit" is silenced out in the 20th anniversary version, but every other utterance of the word was left untouched.
  • Bowdlerise: For the 2002 special edition, the guns of the cops at the end of the film were digitally replaced by CGI walkie-talkies (Spielberg, now a father himself, felt the shotguns could have been too frightening for his children) and a line spoken by Mary commenting about Michael's Halloween costume had the word "terrorist" changed to "hippie." When the film eventually was released on DVD, the initial run saw both the 2002 release and the original theatrical cut packaged together in one set.
    • Some sources say it was Drew Barrymore who asked for the guns to be edited out.
  • A Boy and His X: A boy and his marooned alien botanist.
  • But Now I Must Go: When the space ship finally arrives to take E.T. home.
  • Chekhov's Gun: E.T. being able to make Elliot's bike fly.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The BMX bikers using their skills to evade the police in the movie's finale.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Mary is reading the trope naming section of Peter Pan to daughter Gertie at one point, foreshadowing E.T.'s recovery in the climax.
    • Also, that seems to be the principle behind the flying bikes, as seen when Elliot and Michael's buddies all take flight on their bikes to evade the feds.
  • Coy, Girlish Flirt Pose: Elliot is a deceptively good ladies' man.
  • Disappeared Dad: "He's in Mexico with Sally."
  • Disney Death: The title character.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": E.T. is an extraterrestrial.
  • Dramatic Alien VTOL: When E.T. finally goes home.
  • Dramatic Drop: You'd probably drop your coffee too if you found your son and a dying alien on the floor of your bathroom.
  • The Empath: E.T. and Elliot share a psychic bond. As Michael puts it, "Elliot feels [E.T.]'s feelings."
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials: When not wearing women's clothes or a white bedsheet over himself, E.T. waddles around naked.
  • Everytown, America: While the town Elliot live in is never mentioned, he points to Northern California on a map when showing E.T. where they live. (The actual house is in the L.A. neighborhood of Tujunga at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains.)
  • The Faceless: With the exception of Elliot's mother, the audience doesn't see the faces of any adults until the final third of the movie, playing up the film's perspective from a child's POV.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: Not quite; E.T.'s one of the rare examples who can't go as himself. He needs a formless ghost sheet.
  • Free the Frogs: A drunk Elliot disrupts frog dissection in science class.
  • Full Moon Silhouette: The Ur-Example.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: E.T., surprisingly, considering he's a botanist: He builds a wind-operated emergency beacon, transmitting in his own language, out of common household items (and a Speak and Spell). What's more, his ship hears his transmission and comes back for him!
  • Girlish Pigtails: Gertie has these.
  • Healing Hands: E.T.'s famous finger.
  • Hero Antagonist: Keys and the rest of the agents may consider this. It's no crime for the Secret Service to investigate a possible alien invader who could be dangerous for the society. E.T. is actually peaceful but they don't know.
  • Hero of Another Story: Something must have happened to Keys to get him interested in aliens, since he's been waiting for something like E.T. to appear since he was 10.
  • Heart Light: E.T. is probably the Trope Codifier
  • Hope Spot: After being able to elude the cop cars, one of Michael's friends cheers "We made it!" only for a couple dozen FBI agents to burst back onto the scene.
  • Humans Are Morons: Averted. Not only do humans heal him and help send him home but there are many moments in which E.T. seems less intelligent than humans, despite coming from a more advanced race, such as when he becomes fascinated with a can of pencils, only to run screaming when they tip over.
  • Innocent Aliens: The title character.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: E.T. has a huge pair of them.
  • Invisible to Adults: To keep Gertie from telling their mother about E.T., Elliot claims E.T. is this. She doesn't believe him.
  • Jump Scare: Elliott's encounter with E.T. in the cornfield.
  • Kissing Under the Influence: Elliot, psychically drunk on E.T.'s beer, kisses the pretty girl in his science class.
  • Meaningful Echo: Because E.T. parrots what others say, there are a good deal of these by the end, such as "I'll be right here."
  • Messianic Archetype: E.T., right down to the resurrection and the Michelangelo touching of fingers between man and the Divine. So blatant was the parable it was spoofed on The Simpsons:
    Rev. Lovejoy: I remember another gentle visitor from the heavens, he came in peace and then died, only to come back to life, and his name was... E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial. (cries) I loved that little guy.
    • Spielberg himself has said he never intended the film to be interpreted as a religious fable, and has himself joked about it.
  • Midair Motion Shot: The famous bike scene.
  • Mood Motif: When the government agents are on screen, the music shifts to a much scarier tone.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: E.T. hides himself amongst toys to avoid detection.
  • Never Trust a Trailer
  • No Name Given: The scientist tracking E.T. begins the film as a nameless, faceless figure distinguished by the bunch of keys hanging from his belt; later in the film, when he becomes a more sympathetic figure, his face is shown, but his name is never revealed. In the end credits he is listed as "Keys".
    • E.T. qualifies as well since E.T. is the nickname Elliott gave him. Justified in the fact E.T. knows limited English and we never see him interact with any of his species.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: During the bike chase, as this image shows, 10-year old Elliot's stunt double is a full grown man. Having the teenagers' stunt doubles as taller-than-average men did not make this much less obvious.
  • Oh Crap!: The scientist attempting to scramble back into the moving van, as Elliott pulls out the last peg of an attached walkway.
    • "We made it!" *looks back* "Oh shit!"
  • One Head Taller: Played for Laughs; Elliott has to climb on top of a fallen classmate to kiss the girl.
  • Overly Long Scream: Elliott when he sees E.T. in the cornfield.
  • Parental Substitute: Elliott to E.T. Though you could also interpret it as being the other way around.
  • Phrase Catcher: "Shut up, Greg!"
  • Playing Sick: Elliot fakes a fever, going so far as to hold a thermometer to a light bulb, in order to spend the day with E.T.
  • Power Walk: The government agents do this as they head for Elliot's home.
  • Product Placement: Perhaps the definitive example of the trope in the just-introduced Reese's Pieces, which saw a successful launch in large part thanks to this film.
    • While M&M/Mars kicked themselves for turning down the offer to use M&Ms. Oops.
    • Speak and Spell also gained additional admiration thanks to this film.
  • Reaction Shot: Reaction shots of the boys' faces when they land their bikes coming down from the sky.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The police and government agents are the villains of the film, but even then they are very reasonable, never actively trying to harm the children when they find out and even giving Elliott time to grieve after ET dies. This is particularly true of Keys, who gently talks to Elliott to try and figure out what's wrong with E.T., while telling him that E.T.'s presence on Earth is a miracle.
  • Repeat Cut: Spielberg uses this effect for repeated shots of Elliott screaming his head off after his first face-to-face encounter with E.T.
  • The Rival: The Thing was this to E.T., one of the reasons it didn't get any notice until a decade later, was because many people watching E.T. didn't like the idea of an evil alien.
  • Rule of Drama: When they finally close off the house, the government agents can't simply walk in and announce their presence via megaphone to remain calm as they enter. No, they have to silently come in the doors and stand at the windows holding out their arms menacingly.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Two to buddy George Lucas' Star Wars franchise: Elliott shows E.T. some of his action figures, and one of the trick-or-treaters is dressed as Yoda. (Notably, E.T. appears to recognize Yoda. Perhaps he's just happy to see someone who isn't freakishly tall and smooth-skinned, but then...) John Williams even sneaks "Yoda's Theme" from The Empire Strikes Back into the score at that moment.
      • Also, when the government agents invade Elliot's house, the astronauts get a well known breath.
    • There's also a shout-out to that other Star-thing:
      "Well, can't he just beam up?"
      "This Is Reality, Greg!"
  • Shipper on Deck: The reason Elliot reenacted the kiss scene from The Quiet Man, was because E.T. was telepathically influencing him while watching that movie.
  • Sistine Steal: Michelangelo beat Spielberg to the "touch fingers with a magical being" shot by a few centuries.
  • Spheroid Dropship: The alien ship.
  • Spin-Off/Expanded Universe: There was a pair of novels published which expanded upon E.T.'s race, who are master botanists and develop their technology from plants.
  • Staggered Zoom: Onto Elliott's face as they approach the police barricade, right before E.T. makes all the bicycles fly.
  • Starring Special Effects
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Both Elliott and E.T. get laid down on operating tables when they are sick and the house is quarantined. Unfortunately, E.T. doesn't last very long...
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Elliott goes to the forest at Halloween and his mother asks where he is.
    Gert: Anyways, why would Elliott go to the forest? Why would he do such a thing?
  • Synchronization
  • Tastes Like Friendship: Reese's Pieces.
  • Tomboy: Gertie. She wears a baseball cap and for Halloween she likes go as a cowgirl. Funnily enough she screams in a familiar high pitched feminine scream.
  • This Is Reality: Elliot's response when one of Michael's friends suggests that E.T. could "beam up".
  • Uranus Is Showing:
    Tyler: Where's he from? Uranus? Get it? Your anus?
    Greg: He doesn't get it, Ty.
    Tyler: Get it, YOUR? ANUS?
  • The World Is Just Awesome: It's suggested E.T. sees Halloween this way.
  • You Can Talk?: Gertie is pretty amazed when E.T. shows he's learned English.

Alternative Title(s): ET The Extra Terrestrial, ET

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