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ET: The Extra Terrestrial review

We review ET: The Extra Terrestrial - a terrific sci-fi film and probably the best family movie of all time

ET: The Extra Terrestrial

Certificate: PG

Starring: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore

Release date: 1982

5 out of 5


A classic weepie of the highest order, this is a terrific sci-fi film for all the family (and was, in fact, the winner of a 2005 poll to find the best family film ever). Instead of scary invaders from Mars (The War of the Worlds) or ravenous, hideous beasts (Alien), this arrival from outer space is cute and cuddly and (pass the tissues) has accidentally been abandoned on Earth by his pals, who have zipped off home in their spaceship.

A homage to childhood from director Steven Spielberg, this has lonely young boy Elliott (Thomas) befriending the pot-bellied creature (played in many scenes by a small person in an ET suit, while the character’s face was supposedly imagined after the production team superimposed Einstein’s forehead and eyes onto the face of a baby) and introducing him to such Earthly customs as beer drinking, candy eating, and dressing up in Elliott’s sister Gertie’s (Barrymore) clothes. But it’s not all warm and lovely – soon government men are on their trail, ready to experiment on our little space traveller.

Appealing to the little kid in all of us, this is packed with nicely written and well-played sentimental moments that will turn even the most cynical viewer into a pile of blubbering mush, especially when ET’s life is in danger (the scene when he goes all white and chalky may be too distressing for little viewers) or he memorably tells Elliott (tissues again, please) he wants to ‘phone home’.

An anniversary edition, released in 2002, has computerised changes to ET’s facial expressions (subtle differences Spielberg was unable to achieve in 1982) and, most notably, the digital replacement of the government agents’ guns with walkie-talkie radios.

Is ET: The Extra Terrestrial suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...

The scene in which ET appears to be dying (see above) is very upsetting.

If you like this, why not try: Casper, The Iron Giant, Wall.E, Old Yeller, Free Willy,