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 E.T. phone home!


E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is perhaps Steven Spielberg's signature fantasy film. It was the biggest blockbuster of 1982 and, in fact, The Eighties 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 adaption, go here.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial provides examples of

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Mary fails to contain her laughter when reprimanding her son Elliott for calling Michael "penis breath."
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Averted, the aliens have no intention of conquering Earth, just sampling Earth's plants, though it's left ambigous as to why exactly they're collecting them. For all their advanced technology, however, they're still capable of making mistakes, such as leaving one of their own on Earth.
  • Always with You
  • 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!


 Elliott: *fed up that nobody believes him about E.T.* IT'S NOTHING LIKE THAT, PENIS BREATH!

    • (Considering what "penis breath" is implying).
  • Healing Hands: E.T.'s famous finger.
  • 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.
  • 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 Michaelangelo 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.
  • Mood Motif
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: E.T. hides himself amongst toys to avoid detection.
  • Never Trust a Trailer
  • No Name Given / Only Known by Their Nickname: 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".
  • Oh Crap: The scientist attempting to scramble back into the moving van, as Elliott pulls out the last peg of an attached walkway.
  • One Head Taller: Played for Laughs; Elliott has to climb on top of a fallen classmate to kiss the girl.
  • Parental Substitute
  • Phrase Catcher: "Shut up, Greg!"
  • Playing Sick
  • Plot Hole: As the Mad Magazine parody asked, why couldn't E.T. heal himself with his own finger when he fell ill, or fly to escape the scientists at the beginning?
    • Pretty sure one's healing powers can't heal one's own Death by Despair. No good reason for him not flying himself, though.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?"
  • 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 Empire Strikes Back into the score at that moment.
      • Also, when the goverment agents invade Elliot's house, the astronauts get a well known breath.
      • Came full circle when members of E.T.'s species appeared in the Galactic Senate in The Phantom Menace.
      • And in the Expanded Universe, we have the E.T. Species senator funding an extra-galactic botanical expedition...
      • And in Revenge of the Sith, Yoda's departure from Kashyyk looks much like ET's departure from Earth.
    • There's also a shout-out to that other Star-thing:

 "Well, can't he just beam up?"

"This Is Reality, Greg!"


 Tyler: "Where's he from? Uranus? Get it? Your anus?"

Greg: He doesn't get it, Ty.

Tyler: "Get it, YOUR? ANUS?"