Parents' Guide to

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 7+

Spielberg's family classic is still one of the best.

Movie PG 1982 115 minutes
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 8+

Based on 76 parent reviews

age 5+

It Really Doesn’t Get Much Better

I hadn’t watched this since I was a kid. My 5 year old daughter saw the character and asked about him so we had a family movie night (with popcorn and Reese’s pieces). She got a little worried when ET gets sick but I assured her that the movie has a happy ending and he would be ok and she was fine. She audibly gasped and said “wow” when ET makes the bike fly. It was so fun experiencing it again through her eyes. Sure there’s some adult language and times have certainly changed, but all of that went over her head. Clearly some of these commenters weren’t raised by single moms in the 80s just doing their best to survive. Latch key kids were a thing and most of us turned out great and remarkably resilient.
age 6+

One of the All Time Bests

This is one of the most classic films your kids can watch, with themes dealing with love, space, family, friends and a bit of seeming magic. It is a very simple story about an alien (E.T.) who gets left on earth and wants to go home. To do so E.T. befriends a young boy and his siblings, who help contact and return E.T. to the ship. The story is fantastical in many ways, easily capturing kids imaginations about what an alien might be like, but also what its like to deal with a big situation without mom or dad. I'm not a stickler for swearing so I honestly didn't notice this. Of concern for me is whether it will give my children (4 & 7) nightmares or make them behave in ways that hurt others--it did not. Instead, they fell in love with the lovable E.T. who sees the world hilariously anew while also performing a few alien like abilities. Perhaps the only questionable scene for me is when E.T. finds beer in the fridge and mistakenly gets drunk, smashing into a few things. It is a funny scene but one that may require some explaining (but a good opportunity to learn). Another scary scene is when the authorities come to get E.T. and he becomes ill, dying because he is without his family. But the boy's love brings him back. I would question waiting until kids are 10 or 15 as some suggested. This film is full of movie magic that can capture the minds of young watchers in ways cartoons can never do, and is sure to be a memorable experience for them. Moreover, waiting until later years is sure to see the humor and more touching scenes fall flat. I suspect by that age they'll have seen enough that this will not be at all awe-inspiring. Of note, this was the closing film at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival, where it made its premiere. It surpassed Star Wars as the highest grossing film of all time and was nominated for 9 academy awards, winning 4. It is without a doubt a timeless classic.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (76 ):
Kids say (191 ):

This iconic film is a beautiful exploration of the unique friendship between Elliott and the little extraterrestrial. Although kids may no longer quote E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial or dress as E.T. for Halloween, the kind character remains one of the most recognizable creatures in movie history, and that's due to director Steven Spielberg's genius. Not only is the movie a fantastic sci-fi adventure with unforgettable images (the flying bicycle scene alone is worth watching), but it's also a touching family drama (a divorced mother trying to raise three kids without her ex's help; children who are wary of trusting adults).

The performances, especially from the kids -- Thomas, 6-year-old Drew Barrymore as Elliott's baby sister Gertie, and Robert Macnaughton as his older brother Michael -- are exceptional and genuine. Dee Wallace perfectly captures the frustration and chaos of single parenting, which in the early 1980s was an unconventional family structure to see in movies. John Williams' score soars, and the special effects are still dazzling, even if younger audiences are used to much slicker digital imagery.

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