E.T. Movie Released

The History Behind the Movie

E.T. and Elliott
ET the Extra-Terrestrial and Elliott (played by Henry Thomas) in a scene from the movie. (1982). (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

The movie E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was a hit from the day it was released (June 11, 1982) and quickly became one of the most beloved movies of all time.

The Plot

The movie E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was about a 10-year-old boy, Elliott (played by Henry Thomas), who befriended a little, lost alien. Elliott named the alien "E.T." and did his best to hide him from adults. Soon Elliott's two siblings, Gertie (played by Drew Barrymore) and Michael (played by Robert MacNaughton), discovered E.T.'s existence and helped.

The children tried to help E.T. construct a device so that he could "phone home" and thus hopefully become rescued from the planet he was accidentally left upon. During the time they spent together, Elliott and E.T. create such a strong bond that when E.T. started to become sick, so did Elliott.

The plot got even sadder when agents from the government discovered the dying E.T. and quarantined him. Elliott, distraught by his friend's illness, eventually rescues his friend and flees from the pursuing government agents.

Realizing that E.T. would only really get better if he could go home, Elliott took E.T. to the spaceship that had returned for him. Knowing they would never see each other again, the two good friends say goodbye.

Creating E.T.

They storyline of E.T. had its beginnings in director Steven Spielberg's own past. When Spielberg's parents divorced in 1960, Spielberg invented an imaginary alien to keep him company.

Using the idea of a lovable alien, Spielberg worked with Melissa Mathison (future wife of Harrison Ford) on the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark to write the screenplay.

With the screenplay written, Spielberg needed the right alien to play E.T. After spending $1.5 million, the E.T. we now know and love was created in multiple versions for close-ups, full-body shots, and animatronics.

Reportedly, the look of E.T. was based on Albert Einstein, Carl Sandburg, and a pug dog. (Personally, I can definitely see the pug in E.T.)

Spielberg filmed E.T. in two very unusual ways. First, nearly all of the movie was filmed from the eye-level of the children, with most of the adults in E.T. only seen from about the waist down. This perspective allowed even adult moviegoers to feel like a child while watching the movie.

Secondly, the film was mostly shot in chronological order, which is not a common filmmaking practice. Spielberg chose to film this way so that the child actors would have a more realistic, emotional reaction to E.T. throughout the movie and especially during E.T.'s departure at the end.

E.T. Was a Hit!

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was a blockbuster movie right from its release. Its opening weekend grossed $11.9 million and E.T. stayed at the top of the charts for over four months. At the time, it was the largest grossing movie ever made.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won four of them: Sound Effects Editing, Visual Effects, Best Music (Original Score), and Best Sound. (Best Picture that year went to Gandhi.)

E.T. touched the hearts of millions and has remained one of the best movies every made.