E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Spielberg's family classic is still one of the best.
  • PG
  • 1982
  • 115 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 74 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 174 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about friendship and trust.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of friendship, loyalty, trust, and sacrifice, 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. He and his little sister and eventually their brother believe that E.T. is good before anyone else. Characters demonstrate teamwork and perseverance.

Violence & Scariness

Most of the violence is from the government agents pursuing E.T. and eventually capturing him. There are several scenes of E.T. and the characters screaming in horror, usually because they have 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, men try to stop E.T. and the kids from escaping.

Sexy Stuff

Elliott, while under the influence of his connection with E.T. (who is watching a couple kiss in a movie), kisses a young girl in his class.


Brief but strong for young audiences: "s--t," "damn," "Oh my God!," "son of a bitch," plus insults like "penis breath," "stupid," etc. Passing use of the word "redskin" during a reading of Peter Pan.


One of the most successful and memorable product placements in movie history: Reese's Pieces. Also, Elliott has Star Wars figures and memorabilia (which is not surprising considering director George Lucas is Spielberg's close pal). Coke, Head and Shoulders shampoo, Coors beer and Pez dispensers are also featured.

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.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Steven Spielberg's classic, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is an outstanding family movie -- one of the all-time best. Its themes of loyalty, trust, and caring are both 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 children, and 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." There's a bit of squabbling among siblings, and E.T. and Elliott both get/act tipsy in one comically memorable scene. A newer edition replaced guns with walkie-talkies, though that sparked a fair bit of backlash. The film was also criticized for having a complete absence of non-white characters. But when Elliott's bicycle lifts up into the sky and soars across the moon, all you'll remember is the joy of movie magic done right.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byCyndi M. January 3, 2017

Fantastic for Families

I remember this movie so well. Just showed it to my seven year old daughter. I'd prepared her ahead of time that there was a very tragic scene towards th... Continue reading
Adult Written byJenPete November 7, 2010

TERRIBLE foul language makes this otherwise fantastic family film inappropriate

We had great memories of this film and hoped to share it with our 8 and 10 year olds. WOW! I'm sure glad we previewed it. The use of foul language is absol... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byShy Guy April 17, 2020

A Great Movie for the Whole Family!

It is a great movie overall, and it shows you right on the cover. The visuals are way ahead of their time, and the storytelling is beyond astounding. I would de... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old June 26, 2015

Fantabulous! The best Stephen Speilberg by far.

Definitely a must see for alien loving kids. Loads of insults like "Ur Anus", "penis breath", also some brief profanities like s--t. A very... Continue reading

What's the story?

In E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, a young boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) discovers an extraterrestrial that had been left behind by his fellow aliens hiding near his house. After he brings E.T. home, it becomes clear that the benevolent otherworldly creature Elliott dubs E.T. can't survive in Earth's atmosphere and must return to his home planet. While hiding E.T., Elliott develops a close friendship and a connection that binds them to each other. With the help of Elliott, his siblings, and their pals, E.T. sends a rescue message to his planet, but Elliott all of a sudden finds himself facing government scientists who want to capture and study E.T. instead of allowing him to return home. The 2012 Anniversary Edition includes interviews with director Steven Spielberg as well as some on-set production footage.

Is it any good?

This film is such a beautiful exploration of a unique friendship; the special connection Elliott shares with the little extraterrestrial is precious. It's difficult to review a movie that was a cultural touchstone of one's childhood, because there are personal memories enmeshed with the movie itself. Although kids no longer dress as E.T. for Halloween or recite his famous line, "E.T. phone home," the kind extraterrestrial remains one of the most recognizable creatures in movie history, and that is 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 the cost of a rental), but it's also a touching family drama (divorced mother trying to raise three kids without her ex's help; children who are wary of trusting adults).

The performances, especially 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, who a year later also played a besieged mother in Cujo, perfectly captured the frustration and at-times insanity of single parenting, which in the early '80s was an unconventional family structure in movies. John Williams' score soars, and the special effects are still dazzling, even if younger audiences are used to much slicker by now. After more than 25 years, E.T. continues to tug at heartstrings and prove Spielberg is a master storyteller.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way that the adults and the kids in the movie see things differently and have a hard time understanding each other's perspective. Why do Elliott and his siblings understand E.T. in a way the adults in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial can't?

  • How does the movie portray parent-child relationships? Could Elliott have talked to his mother about E.T.?

  • Compare E.T. to other movies featuring aliens. Why are aliens usually scary and dangerous rather than peaceful?

  • How do the characters in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial demonstrate communicationperseverance, and teamwork? What about compassion and empathy? Why are those important character strengths?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love aliens and emotional tales

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

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