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The landmark film “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” was released on this day in history, June 11, 1982.

With Steven Spielberg as its director, the film starred Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Robert McNaughton and Dee Wallace. 

“In Spielberg’s enduring masterpiece, one of the most wondrous and deeply touching of all science-fiction movies, young Elliott, a lonely child of divorce, befriends an outer-space creature who has been abandoned by his fellow aliens and yearns to return home to his distant home planet,” says the Museum of the Moving Image. 

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“A symphony of feeling, featuring an audacious, overwhelming score by John Williams and cinematography by Allen Daviau that makes California suburbia look like a nocturnal dreamworld, E.T. is the rare blockbuster that is also a work of art.”

When the film was released, Spielberg was 34 years old and reportedly drew on his own experiences as an unusually imaginative, often-lonely child of divorce for his film, says History.com.

“For Spielberg, E.T. marked a return to territory he had first visited with the classic ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977), in which Richard Dreyfuss plays a man who comes face to face with a fearsome alien force that eventually proves to be human-friendly,” says the same source.

Spielberg collaborated with the movie’s screenwriter, Melissa Mathison (who would marry and eventually divorce Harrison Ford, the star of Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones” films) to capture the tale of the wise, cuddly and kind alien botanist who is stranded on Earth.

“Before long, a special link develops between E.T. and Elliott, who will eventually risk his own safety to return E.T. to his planet.”

He needs the help of a sensitive little boy, Elliott (Henry Thomas), to get back home, says History.com.

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Elliott and his siblings, played by Robert MacNaughton (as Michael) and a seven-year-old Drew Barrymore (as Gertie), hide E.T. (as the alien names himself) in a closet to keep the creature out of sight from adults like their mother, the same source recounts. 

Henry Thomas in "E.T."

“Before long, a special link develops between E.T. and Elliott, who will eventually risk his own safety to return E.T. to his planet,” History.com recounts. 

At the time, Richard Corliss gave the film accolades in Time magazine.

“[E.T.] is a perfectly poised mixture of sweet comedy and ten-speed melodrama, of death and resurrection, of a friendship so pure and powerful it seems like an idealized love,” he wrote.

The film won four Oscars, for Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score and Best Sound. 

The same magazine also included the heartwarming “E.T.” in its list of candidates for Man of the Year — the first film character to receive that honor, says History.com.

The movie received Oscar nominations in nine categories at the 1983 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Young Henry Thomas

The film won four Oscars, for Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score and Best Sound, according to multiple sources. 

The motion picture enjoyed amazing success at the box office, raking in some $435 million. 

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In 1985 the movie was re-released and a special 20th-anniversary edition was issued in 2002, says History.com.

In 2022, the movie celebrated its 40th anniversary. 

Henry Thomas and E.T.

The timeless messages of the film continue to be relatable even four decades later. 

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Shot from the perspective of a child, “the movie delicately addresses complex topics such as divorce, loneliness and sibling dynamics,” noted Smithsonian Magazine. 

As film critic Sean Burns wrote for WBUR, “E.T.” continues to be “one of the purest and most emotionally direct of all American movies, with not a whit of adult condescension.”

Spielberg himself said in an interview about the film produced by Universal, “E.T. was about the empowerment of those kids in that family,” 

“I saw this as a story about a family … [that had] suffer[ed] the tragedy of divorce, and how E.T. was able to give so much esteem back to Elliott, and to Gertie, and to Michael, and in a sense, pull that family together. [And] when E.T. sadly flew off in the end, that family would never be the same — in a good way. E.T. was an ambassador for peace.”

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