Spotlight on Steven Spielberg’s E.T. on its 40th Anniversary


You know you’re definitely getting older when all your favorite movies growing up are turning 20, 30, 40 years old. Well, one of those movies turned 40 years old this month and I thought I’d do a post on it before the end of June.

I was around Henry Thomas’s age in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial when the movie was released in 1982 and some scenes have become ingrained in my mind even decades later. I haven’t rewatched E.T. in a while but earlier this week I was watching all kinds of clips of E.T. and came across this making-of video. It cannot be overstated that Steven Spielberg is a filmmaking maestro, he’s tackled so many genres and his earlier films have influenced so many other movies/shows. Most recently, Netflix’s Stranger Things has paid plenty of homages to Spielberg’s work, especially E.T. He is one of those filmmakers that one can call a maestro behind the camera… not only does he have such a singular vision about the concept of a film but he seems to be well-liked on set, and clearly has a gift for dealing with his young cast members Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore.

E.T. is definitely one of the most memorable movies about aliens I had seen (the first one was Superman: The Movie, albeit the alien was far better looking, ha!) Interestingly enough, both of the scores were done by the music legend that was John Williams, Steven Spielberg’s longtime collaborator. I LOVE this flying theme which at times resembles the flying theme of Superman… it’s truly movie magic that still gives me the feels every time I watch it.

Per Looper, E.T.  is still one Spielberg’s biggest box office hits, grossing $792 million worldwide ($2.28 billion when adjusted for inflation), staying No. 1 at the weekend box office for a consecutive 16 weeks, a record that is unlikely to ever be broken (though Titanic came close in 1997).

This reminds me, I need to do a Top 10 Spielberg Movies post soon, as I’m sure that’ll be quite different from most people as I still haven’t seen Saving Private Ryan and Lincoln yet.

Here are a few fun facts about E.T. according to Parade Magazine:

  • Why was there never a E.T. Part II? Spielberg and screenwriter Melissa Mathison toyed with the idea, even reportedly working on a story in which Elliott and his friends are abducted by aliens and need to contact E.T. for rescue. But Spielberg decided that any follow-up would detract from the magic of the original.
  • Harrison Ford ended up on the cutting room floor. He was married to screenwriter Mathison from 1983 to 2001 and fresh from working with Spielberg on Raiders of the Lost Ark, his small role as Elliott’s school principal never saw the light of day.
  • There was more than one E.T. used for filming. Some were animatronic puppets operated by hydraulics; others were actors in various rubber getups. The scene where E.T. gets a little tipsy was performed by 11-year-old Matthew DeMeritt, an actor born without legs. A special E.T. suit allowed him to walk using his arms.


Thanks to this GetCenturyLink report, I also learned about which Spielberg movies America googles most. E.T. ranks third after Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List.

Here are some blockbuster findings from that report:

  • These filming locations all searched for their respective films the most: Hawaii (Jurassic Park), New Jersey (West Side Story), and Massachusetts (Jaws).

  • Utah might love Steven Spielberg more than any other state does—five movies tied for the most googled Spielberg film there. Raiders of the Lost Ark ultimately won by a slim margin.

  • Jaws was googled the most in three of the six states that make up New England—where great white sharks migrate in the summer and fall.


Spielberg turned 75 last December, which I can hardly believe since he seems to look pretty youthful for being in his 70s. Like Ridley Scott who’s in his 80s, Spielberg also doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. In fact, he’s still on top of his game with his first musical, West Side Story, winning all kinds of awards this year. He’s currently working on his semi-autobiographical film, The Fabelmans, based on his own childhood growing up in post-war Arizona, from age seven to eighteen. The film is co-written by Tony Kushner and stars Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, and Seth Rogen.

Are you a big fan of Spielberg and E.T. specifically?

5 thoughts on “Spotlight on Steven Spielberg’s E.T. on its 40th Anniversary

  1. For me, this is Steven Spielberg’s best film. I was 1 years old when it was out in theaters and I saw it as a kid a few years later and I still cry whenever it’s on (unless it’s that 2000 remastered version where they replaced the guns with walkie-talkies which they eventually got rid of). It’s one of my childhood favorites and I would love to show it to my niece and nephew in a few years.

    1. Hmmm, good thing I’ve never seen the remastered version.

      I feel like this is one of those movies that can be appreciated for years to come. I think even young kids could appreciate this one as it’s so wholesome.

  2. I know I saw E.T. when I was younger but I don’t remember much about it. I think it’s one of the few Spielberg’s films that I don’t have the urge to rewatch it. With the exception of his remake of West Side Story, which I really thought was great, I haven’t seen a lot of Spielberg’s films the last few years. I don’t think I made it through Lincoln, both The War Horse and Ready Player One bored me.

    But he’s accomplished more than any filmmakers has ever dreamed about, so he’s making the movies that he wants to make now.

    1. I haven’t seen Lincoln either, The War Horse was boring and I could barely get through Ready Player One. Glad you like West Side Story, it’s not a genre I expect from Spielberg but he did a brilliant job with it. I’m really intrigued by The Fabelmans as it’s about his own life.

  3. Pingback: The Alliance Lately: Issue No. 58 – The Minnesota Film Critics Alliance

Join the conversation by leaving a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s