E.T.: The Extraterrestrial


E.T.: The Extraterrestrial is a motion picture (1982) directed by Steven Spielberg, in which a benign, lovable alien (a botanist on a research expedition) is stranded on Earth following the hurried departure of his spacecraft. The contrast between, on the one hand, creatures such as E.T. and those featuring in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and, on the other, the malignant invaders in the Alien series and Independence Day, could hardly be more stark.


In E.T., the classic premise of an alien encounter is transformed into an unabashedly sentimental film fantasy that is perhaps Spielberg's best demonstration of his knack for eliciting and manipulating audience response. He achieved his emotional effects in part by cleverly maintaining the point of view of the 12-year-old hero; indeed, much of the film is shot from waist level. Also, the forest where E.T. finds himself at the beginning of the movie is reminiscent of a Disney landscape – in fact, this is only one of many references in the film to the works of Walt Disney.


On a more general level, the alien represents the faith, optimism, and imagination that for Spielberg are special qualities of childhood: the children can soar lyrically through the sky on their bicycles with E.T.'s help, in marked contrast to the images of containment represented by the adult world, among them the hermetically sealed plastic tubes of the government scientists.