Sallee Alfaro

Written by Sallee Alfaro

Modified & Updated: 15 May 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett


E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is a timeless classic that captured the hearts of audiences worldwide when it was released in 1982. Directed by Steven Spielberg, this sci-fi adventure film tells the story of a young boy named Elliott who befriends a friendly alien stranded on Earth.

With its memorable moments, heartfelt performances, and an iconic score by John Williams, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial has become a beloved film that continues to resonate with audiences of all ages. In this article, we will delve into 38 fascinating facts about this cinematic masterpiece, from behind-the-scenes anecdotes to interesting trivia about the film’s production, cast, and reception.

Key Takeaways:

  • “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” was a heartwarming 1982 film that captivated audiences with its iconic alien character, emotional storytelling, and timeless themes of friendship and love.
  • The movie’s impact extended beyond the screen, inspiring parodies, theme park attractions, and even a surge in pet adoptions, showcasing the enduring influence of this beloved cinematic masterpiece.
Table of Contents

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was released in 1982

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, directed by Steven Spielberg, was released in 1982 and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. It captured the hearts of audiences worldwide and went on to become one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

The iconic alien character, E.T., was created using a combination of animatronics and a child actor in a costume

E.T., the friendly extraterrestrial, was brought to life through the use of both animatronics and a child actor named Matthew DeMeritt. This innovative combination allowed for a realistic and endearing portrayal of the alien character.

The film was shot in chronological order to help the young cast members form a genuine emotional bond

Steven Spielberg made a unique creative decision to shoot E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial in chronological order. This was done to help the young cast members, including Henry Thomas who played the lead role of Elliot, form a genuine emotional bond with each other and their on-screen alien friend.

E.T.’s voice was created by combining various animal noises

To achieve E.T.’s distinctive voice, sound designer Ben Burtt combined various animal noises, including the sounds of raccoons, bears, and walruses. The result was a unique vocalization that became instantly recognizable and beloved by audiences.

The movie holds the record for the most weeks as the number one film at the US box office

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial held the record for the most weeks as the number one film at the US box office for over 11 years. It remained in the top spot for 16 consecutive weeks, solidifying its place in cinematic history.

E.T.’s iconic finger touch scene was inspired by Michelangelo’s painting

The iconic scene where E.T. touches Elliot’s finger was inspired by Michelangelo’s painting “The Creation of Adam,” which depicts the hand of God reaching out to touch Adam. This symbolic gesture in E.T. represents a connection between humanity and the extraterrestrial.

The film’s title character is never referred to as “E.T.”

Throughout the movie, the extraterrestrial character is never actually referred to as “E.T.” Instead, he is simply called “The Extra-Terrestrial” or “The Alien.” The nickname “E.T.” was given to the character by fans and has since become synonymous with the film.

The movie was nominated for nine Academy Awards

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial received nine Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. It ultimately won four Oscars for Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, and Best Sound Editing.

E.T. was originally planned as a horror film

Before Steven Spielberg reimagined E.T. as a heartwarming tale, it was initially conceived as a horror film called “Night Skies.” The script featured a group of malevolent aliens terrorizing a farm family, but Spielberg ultimately decided to shift the focus to a story about friendship and love.

The film’s iconic flying bicycle scene was achieved using a combination of practical effects and visual effects

The memorable scene where E.T. and Elliot fly across the moon on a bicycle was created using a combination of practical effects and visual effects. A full-scale bicycle and a mechanical rig were used for the practical shots, while a combination of blue screen and matte painting techniques were employed for the visual effects.

The film’s famous line “E.T. phone home” was improvised by the young actor

One of the most memorable lines from the movie, “E.T. phone home,” was actually improvised by the young actor Henry Thomas during the audition. Steven Spielberg loved the line so much that he decided to include it in the final film, becoming an instantly recognizable catchphrase.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial has a runtime of 115 minutes

The runtime of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is 115 minutes. Within this relatively short duration, the film manages to tell a captivating and emotionally resonant story about friendship that has touched the hearts of millions.

The film’s total worldwide box office gross exceeds $792 million

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial has been a commercial success since its release, grossing over $792 million worldwide. Its enduring popularity has made it one of the most financially successful films of all time.

E.T.’s design was influenced by famous personalities

The design of the E.T. character was influenced by a combination of famous personalities, including Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway, and Carl Sandburg. This blend of notable individuals helped create a distinctive and instantly recognizable look for the beloved alien.

The film was originally set to have a sequel

After the success of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, plans were made for a sequel titled “E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears.” However, this sequel never materialized, and Spielberg decided to leave the story as a standalone masterpiece.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was ranked as the greatest science fiction film of all time by the American Film Institute

In 2008, the American Film Institute ranked E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial as the greatest science fiction film of all time. This recognition solidifies the movie’s impact and enduring influence on the genre.

E.T.’s movement was inspired by a combination of a toddler and a ballet dancer

The movement and physicality of the E.T. character were inspired by observing both toddlers and ballet dancers. By combining the innocence and curiosity of a young child with the graceful movements of a ballet dancer, the alien character’s unique mannerisms were created.

The film’s score was composed by John Williams

The unforgettable musical score of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was composed by the renowned composer John Williams. The score perfectly captures the emotional journey of the characters and has become synonymous with the film itself.

The film’s release caused the sales of Reese’s Pieces to skyrocket

After E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was released, the sales of Reese’s Pieces, featured prominently in the film, experienced a significant boost. This unintentional marketing success showcased the power of product placement in movies.

The film’s young cast members had to audition with E.T. as a puppet

During the audition process, the young cast members had to act alongside a puppet version of E.T. This helped Spielberg gauge their ability to interact convincingly with the alien character, ensuring a strong ensemble cast.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was a major inspiration for the hit Netflix series Stranger Things

The creative team behind the popular Netflix series Stranger Things cited E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial as a major source of inspiration. The show’s nostalgic 80s setting and focus on a group of kids encountering otherworldly creatures draw clear parallels to Spielberg’s beloved film.

There was a video game adaptation of E.T. that became widely regarded as one of the worst video games of all time

A video game adaptation of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was released for the Atari 2600 console, and it is often considered one of the worst video games ever made. The rushed development and poor gameplay led to a commercial failure and a subsequent burying of unsold copies in a landfill.

The film’s production had a codename to maintain secrecy

To maintain secrecy during the production of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, the project was given a codename: “A Boy’s Life.” This helped prevent leaks and added an element of mystery to the film’s development.

E.T.’s glowing heart was created using a special mechanical effect

The iconic glowing heart on E.T.’s chest was created using a special mechanical effect. A light bulb was placed inside the puppet, and a servo-controlled mechanism allowed it to pulsate, giving the illusion of a beating heart.

E.T. was inspired by Steven Spielberg’s personal experiences

E.T. was inspired by Steven Spielberg’s personal experiences and feelings of loneliness as a child. The film explores themes of connection and friendship, drawing from Spielberg’s own emotions and memories.

The film’s emotional impact led to a surge in pet adoptions

The emotional bond between Elliot and E.T. in the film resonated with audiences in such a way that it led to a surge in pet adoptions. Many families were inspired to bring a new furry friend into their lives after experiencing the power of friendship depicted on screen.

E.T.’s design was heavily influenced by Steven Spielberg’s childhood imaginary friend

The design of E.T. was heavily influenced by a childhood imaginary friend that Steven Spielberg had named “Raccoon.” Spielberg’s memories of this imaginary friend helped shape the look and personality of the lovable alien.

The film received critical acclaim upon release

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial received widespread critical acclaim upon its release. Critics praised the film’s storytelling, performances, and its ability to evoke genuine emotion. It remains highly regarded as a cinematic masterpiece.

The film’s production faced numerous challenges

The production of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial faced several challenges, including weather complications, technical difficulties with the animatronic E.T., and a tight shooting schedule. However, Spielberg’s determination and creativity allowed the film to overcome these obstacles and become a success.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial popularized the bicycle as a mode of transportation for youngsters

The iconic bicycle chase scenes in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial popularized the use of bicycles as a mode of transportation for youngsters. It sparked a trend and further solidified the bicycle’s association with childhood adventures.

The film’s success inspired a tourism boom in the town where it was filmed

The success of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial led to a tourism boom in the town of Crescent City, California, where it was primarily filmed. Fans flocked to see the filming locations and experience the magic of the beloved movie firsthand.

The film’s script was written in just eight weeks

The script for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was written by Melissa Mathison in just eight weeks. This remarkable feat showcases Mathison’s talent and the speed at which the story was developed.

E.T. made a cameo appearance in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

In a playful nod to his iconic character, E.T. made a brief cameo appearance in George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. This cameo further solidified E.T.’s status as a pop culture legend.

The film’s success led to a decline in the popularity of space-themed movies

Following the release of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, the popularity of space-themed movies experienced a decline. The film’s heartwarming story and focus on personal relationships shifted the focus away from traditional science fiction narratives.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is often praised for its timeless themes

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is often praised for its timeless themes, including friendship, love, and the resilience of the human spirit. These universal themes continue to resonate with audiences of all ages, making the film endure over time.

The film’s score won the Grammy Award for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture

The musical score of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, composed by John Williams, received critical acclaim and won the Grammy Award for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture. The score’s emotional melodies and iconic motifs have become inseparable from the film itself.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial has inspired countless parodies and homages

The enduring popularity of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial has inspired numerous parodies and homages in various forms of media. From popular TV shows to comedic sketches, the presence of E.T. and its iconic moments can be found throughout pop culture.

The film’s legacy lives on in theme park attractions

The impact of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial can be seen in theme park attractions around the world. Universal Studios has an E.T. Adventure ride, allowing visitors to experience a journey with the lovable alien firsthand, keeping the film’s legacy alive.


E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is a timeless classic that continues to captivate audiences of all ages. With its heartwarming story, impressive visual effects, and memorable characters, the film has left a lasting impact on the film industry and popular culture. From Steven Spielberg’s masterful direction to John Williams’ enchanting score, every element of E.T. comes together to create a truly magical cinematic experience.

Through its exploration of themes such as friendship, love, and acceptance, E.T. resonates with viewers on a deep emotional level. The iconic image of Elliot and E.T. flying across the moon has become synonymous with wonder and imagination. The film’s enduring popularity is a testament to its universal appeal and the profound connections it forges with its audience.

So the next time you want to take a nostalgic trip back to the ’80s or introduce a new generation to the joy of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, remember to grab a bag of Reese’s Pieces and prepare to embark on a magical journey that will touch your heart and remind you of the power of friendship.


1. When was E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial released?

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was released on June 11, 1982.

2. Who directed E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial?

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was directed by Steven Spielberg.

3. What is E.T. short for?

E.T. is an abbreviation for “Extra-Terrestrial.”

4. Where was E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial filmed?

The majority of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was filmed in California, specifically in areas near Los Angeles and Tujunga.

5. Who played the role of Elliott in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial?

The role of Elliott was played by Henry Thomas.

6. What is the famous line from E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial?

The famous line from E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is “E.T. phone home.”

7. What awards did E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial win?

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial won four Academy Awards, including Best Original Score and Best Visual Effects.

8. How much money did E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial gross at the box office?

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial grossed over $792 million worldwide, making it one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

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