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Film Review: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Film reviews from across the cinematic landscape. Written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.

In 1982, Steven Spielberg released E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

In 1982, Steven Spielberg released E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.


In 1982, Steven Spielberg released E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which starred Henry Thomas, Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, K. C. Martel, Sean Frye, C. Thomas Howell, Erika Eleniak, and Pat Welsh. The film grossed $792.9 million at the box office.


When a group of aliens exploring Earth and collecting plant samples is forced to leave in a hurry, one of them is left behind. Eventually, he meets Elliott, Michael and Gertrude who help him phone home but as they wait for a response, E.T. starts to get sick.

Its plot is simple: a stranded alien befriends a young boy who helps his new friend go home; it’s a boy and his alien.

Its plot is simple: a stranded alien befriends a young boy who helps his new friend go home; it’s a boy and his alien.


Widely considered to be one of the best films ever made, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial deserves all the praise it has received over the years. Its plot is simple: a stranded alien befriends a young boy who helps his new friend go home; it’s a boy and his alien. However, the plot’s simplicity allows the film to flourish, letting its characters fully develop themselves and the bond between Elliott and E.T. to be completely realized. Nothing in the nearly two-hour runtime feels as if it is shoehorned, nor does anything feel improperly explained. There are moments where it’s slow, yet these parts use the full potential of said slowness, delivering audiences everything they need to know.

Similarly, the film does very well in presenting its central characters. For one, there’s Elliott. He’s a young boy initially portrayed as having a wild imagination, shown when nobody believes there’s a goblin in the shed. Nevertheless, when he discovers E.T. and understands the alien just wants to go home, he becomes determined to find a way for his new friend to do so. Despite him being a child with not a whole lot at his disposal, he takes and uses what he can to make his desired result happen, even going so far as to feign sadness at E.T.’s apparent death so he can fool the government agents.

Additionally, E.T. is a fascinating character. He starts off unable to talk and only has a limited vocabulary after his psychic connection with Elliott. He also carries himself with a kind of childlike wonder any alien attempting to figure out an American home on earth would, raiding the refrigerator and figuring out the television as examples. Further, there is evidence to suggest E.T. is a plant-based species. Not only are the flowers coming to life and dying a major theme, but he also wanders off and is found by a river which suggests he went there to help his recovery.

All of this is accented perfectly by the film’s cinematography. It’s all done well, from near the beginning when Elliott is throwing his baseball into the shed to the scene where Elliott and E.T. are flying at night with the moon as a backdrop. Every shot feels as if it was articulately crafted to bring about the best film possible.


Bold indicates reception of award/recognition

Academy Awards

  • Best Sound
  • Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
  • Best Music, Original Score
  • Best Picture
  • Best Director
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Film Editing

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA – Saturn Awards

  • Best DVD Classic Film Release (For the Ultimate Gift Set)
  • Best Science Fiction Film
  • Best Writing
  • Best Special Effects
  • Best Poster Art
  • Best DVD/Blu-Ray Collection (As part of the “Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection.”)
  • Best Actor (Henry Thomas)
  • Best Supporting Actress
  • Best Director
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American Cinema Editors, USA – Eddie Awards

  • Best Edited Feature Film

Awards of the Japanese Academy

  • Best Foreign Language Film
  • Popularity Award – Most Popular Performer (For “E.T.”)

BAFTA Awards

  • Best Score
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Direction
  • Best Film
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Make Up Artist
  • Most Outstanding Newcomer to Leading Film Roles (Drew Barrymore)
  • Most Outstanding Newcomer to Leading Film Roles (Henry Thomas)
  • Best Production Design/Art Direction
  • Best Screenplay
  • Best Sound
  • Best Special Visual Effects

Blue Ribbon Awards

  • Best Foreign Language Film

Boston Society of Film Critics Awards

  • Best Film
  • Best Director
  • Best Cinematography

Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain

  • Best Foreign Film

César Awards, France

  • Best Foreign Film

David di Donatello Awards

  • Best Foreign Director

Direcotrs Guild of America, USA Awards

  • Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures

Fotogramas de Plata

  • Best Foreign Film

Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Original Score – Motion Picture
  • Best Motion Picture – Drama
  • Best Director – Motion Picture
  • New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture – Male (Henry Thomas)
  • Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

Golden Screen, Germany

  • Golden Screen with 1 Star

Golden Trailer Awards

  • Best Animation/Family

Grammy Awards

  • Best Recording for Children (For the “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial album”)
  • Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special
  • Best Instrumental Composition (For “Flying – Theme from ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”)
  • Best Instrumental Arrangement (For ‘Flying – Theme from ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”)
  • Best Pop Instrumental Performance

Guinness World Record Award

  • Most Oscars won for visual effects

Heartland Film Awards

  • Truly Moving Picture Award

Hugo Awards

  • Best Dramatic Presentation

Jupiter Awards

  • Best International Film

Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Best Film
  • Best Director

Kinema Junpo Awards

  • Best Foreign Language Film
  • Readers’ Choice Award – Best Foreign Language Film

Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director
  • New Generation Award – Melissa Mathison
  • Best Music

Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA – Golden Reel Awards

  • Best Sound Editing – Sound Effects

National Board of Review, USA

  • Top Ten Films

National Film Preservation Board, USA

  • National Film Registry

National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA

  • Best Director
  • Best Film

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Best Director
  • Best Film

Online Film & Television Association Awards

  • OFTA Film Hall of Fame – Motion Picture

People’s Choice Awards, USA

  • Favorite Motion Picture

PGA Awards

  • PGA Hall of Fame – Motion Pictures

Sant Jordi Awards

  • Mejor Película Infantil

Writes Guild of America, USA Awards

  • Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen

Young Artist Awards

  • Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture (Drew Barrymore)
  • Best Young Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (Robert MacNaughton)
  • Best Family Feature – Animated, Musical or Fantasy
  • Best Young Motion Picture Actor (Henry Thomas)

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