Elliot (Henry Thomas) is a lonely boy whose estranged father has run off to Mexico. When he hears noises in the garden he is more than a little surprised to find an alien that was left behind when its ship took off without it. He decides to keep it and names it E.T.
The authorities are aware of E.T.'s presence and as the net closes in Elliot must help E.T. escape and return to its family.
Even during the opening sequence, it is clear exactly how E.T. is going to run. The Steven Spielberg and John Williams light and sound show kicks things off before Williams gets into his flow and belts out one of the most famous movie theme tunes in history. At the end of the film, Spielberg took the unusual approach of editing the film to fit the music which aided in Williams rightly winning the 1982 Academy Award for Best Score.
Meanwhile, under the music, the storyline takes shape. Spielberg really knows how to control the audience's emotion as he takes them on a rollercoaster with how he depicts the E.T. character. We see E.T. change from being an unknown and feared being, to something a little clumsy and amusing before the final, heart-wrenching scenes when we fall head over heels in love with the little guy.
On the subject of E.T., the modelling of the character is outstanding. The special effects are few and far between - relatively unheard of at the beginning of the 1980's - so to put across that many facial expressions is truly astonishing. The scene with E.T. under water is simply magical.
The decision to run with mostly children actors work well. Henry Thomas is utterly convincing and his innocence pays off in pushing across the love of E.T. to the audience. Drew Barrymore is irritatingly squeaky at times (well, she was a 7-year-old girl at the time, so it's to be expected) but plays her part in adding to the good, clean family fun.
Really, the only downside comes from its success. Watching it today is spoilt by the number of parodies and cheap television adverts (that's right BT, I'm looking at you) that have been made as a result of its classic status.
If you've never seen this, then I suggest you come to Earth and watch it.