59. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

May 24, 2018

Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: Melissa Mathison
Starring: Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, Henry Thomas, Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore
Runtime: 114 Minutes


Original UK Release: 1982




In many instances, the best work of an artist is one which shows you the soul of its creator. To that end, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is Spielberg’s most honest, poignant and personal piece of filmmaking.


Heavily influenced by his life growing up in a fractured suburban home, Melissa Mathison’s spectacular screenplay matches Spielberg’s sentiments beautifully - this is at once the fantasy and reality of what it’s really like to grow up in an environment of instability.


For much of the film, we see the world exclusively through the eyes of young Elliott and his siblings, obscuring the view of the more alien enemies that circle around them every day; the grownups (personified by “keys”). E.T. may be here by accident, but his efforts within the family help in healing the lonely wounds left by their father.


Its remarkable that the film feels as real as it does concerning its fantastical premise, everyone acts in a thoroughly believable manner to the events that their presented with, and the performances from the children in all their own unique ways are incredibly down to earth – Dee Wallace, too, gives a fantastic performance as their turbulent but strong-willed mother and defender.


Upon all of this, Spielberg has managed to bring up a remarkable amount of emotion through the elements at his disposal. From the extraordinarily convincing work on E.T., the sound design, the beautiful photography and John Williams’ heart-tugging score, the ride that you are taken on is so effortless in approach and execution that its dense craft barely registers through the well of tears forming in the eyes come the final reel.


It’s an endlessly exciting, funny, touching but outstandingly real story, solidly told and evenly built with some of the most memorable characters, moments and images to ever grace the silver screen.

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