Updated: Nov 12, 2019
Nominee #5 - ET: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
A child with troubles of his own, decides to help a friendly extra terrestrial escape the dangers of Earth and return home.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Melissa Mathison
Stars: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote
Produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) is a path-breaking science fiction film that broke the mould (of hostile, colonising aliens); offering a vision of alien life that is undoubtedly superior to human life, but is also benign, potentially warm and caring, even healing.
A ten-year-old boy Elliott (Henry Thomas) is thrown into the role of friend and protector to a genial extra-terrestrial who is separated from his alien clan and is trying to return home. Soon this secret is shared with Elliott's brother, Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and sister, Gertie (Drew Barrymore). Eventually, their mother learns of the strange circumstances, but both Elliott and E.T. are stricken by a mysterious illness that threatens their lives. Government agents and scientists intervene, but the family smuggles E.T. out just in time to reunite him with his own people.
Even the most inscrutable beings aren't that alien to us
The script (by Melissa Mathison) used the perspective of a child and children to convince disbelieving, cynical adults that alien life does exist and it's not as fearful as we like to think. The alien takes the form of a child's imaginary friend and playmate - something that audiences worldwide could identify with.
Spielberg (whose own troubled childhood contending with his parent’s divorce formed the inspiration for the story) seemed unable to work on this film at arm’s length. And in his inimitable way he seems to deftly offer a near-spiritual message: that even the most inscrutable beings aren't that alien to us, that they're capable of seeking, wanting good company, wanting a little game every now and then and that even they, are capable of a little mischief.
Italian special effects artist, Carlo Rambaldi designed the odd-looking homesick alien that won the hearts of cinema goers the world over.
As with so many other Spielberg creations, this film was lifted by a wonderful music score by John Williams.
A year from its release, the film had overtaken Star Wars as the highest-grossing film of all-time (a record that was only surpassed ten years later by another Spielberg work, Jurassic Park). It won four Academy Awards: Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects.