A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids can learn about the importance of friendship and trust.
Strong messages of friendship, loyalty, and trust, as exemplified by Elliott and E.T.'s unique relationship. Themes include compassion, communication, and empathy.
Positive Role Models
Elliott is loyal and brave, and E.T. is loving and selfless. While Elliott may be keeping E.T.'s existence a secret, he does it to keep his new friend safe and does anything he can to help him. Elliott, his little sister, and eventually their eldest brother believe that E.T. is good and poses no danger to anyone. Elliott's mother is a loving single parent who does everything she can to look after her children. Characters demonstrate teamwork and perseverance.
Mary is a single mother who does her best to raise her family. Other than that, there isn't much variety in terms of race, body size, sexuality, or characters with disabilities.
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Violence & Scariness
Most of the violence comes from the government agents who pursue and capture E.T. Several scenes of E.T. and other characters screaming in horror, usually because they've just encountered each other. In one particularly upsetting sequence, E.T. gets ghostly pale and looks like he's about to die or actually has died. In another scene, police and military officers holding guns try to stop E.T. and the kids from escaping. On the topic of romantic consent, Elliott surprises a classmate with a kiss.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Elliott, while under the influence of his connection with E.T. (who's watching a couple kiss in an old movie), surprises a young girl in his class with a kiss.
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Brief but strong for young audiences: "s--t," "damn," "oh my God!," "son of a bitch," plus insults like "penis breath," "stupid," etc. Use of the slur "redskin" during a reading of Peter Pan.
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Products & Purchases
One of the most successful and memorable product placements in movie history: Reese's Pieces, which Elliott uses to lure E.T. out of hiding. Elliott also has Star Wars figures and memorabilia (which isn't surprising, considering that director George Lucas is Spielberg's close pal). Coca-Cola, Head and Shoulders shampoo, Coors beer, and Pez dispensers are also featured prominently.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
E.T. drinks beer and gets tipsy, which affects Elliott through their special connection. Elliott starts to act drunk while at school.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Steven Spielberg's classic, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, is one of the greatest family films ever made. Its themes of loyalty, trust, and caring are affecting and easy to understand, and Elliott and E.T.'s extraordinary friendship is one of cinema's most enduring. Some scenes of peril and danger may be too intense for very young kids, and the moments leading to a key character's apparent death will be emotional for just about everyone. Brief strong language includes "s--t" and "son of a bitch," as well as an insult that includes "penis," and use of the slur "redskin" during a reading of Peter Pan. There's a bit of squabbling among siblings, and E.T. and Elliott both get and act tipsy in one comically memorable scene. A 2002 edition replaced a scene that used guns with walkie-talkies, though that sparked a fair bit of backlash, and the guns returned for the film's 30th anniversary in 2012. The film lacks diversity, but its portrayal of a single mother remains commendable. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.