Synopsis: After a gentle alien becomes stranded on Earth, the being is discovered and befriended by a young boy named Elliott. Bringing the extraterrestrial into his suburban California house, Elliott introduces E.T., as the alien is dubbed, to his brother and his little sister, Gertie, and the children decide to keep its existence a secret. Soon, however, E.T. falls ill, resulting in government intervention and a dire situation for both Elliott and the alien.
Genre: Family, Sci-Fi
Director(s): Steven Spielberg
Production: Universal Pictures
  Won 4 Oscars. Another 47 wins & 34 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
115 min


[The letters are in soft-purple against a black background. Purple is

traditionally the color of that which is sacred.]


The black screen becomes a night sky. The camera angles lowers to show a

forest against the night sky.


In an opening in the forest stands a spacecraft. The view of the craft is

obscured by tree branches. The atmosphere is misty, with blue lights coming

from the spacecraft.

[The opening scene is misty and diffused. This forces the audience to pay

close attention to the images on the screen. The characters are not clearly

seen. This engages the audience, as they attempt to see what the aliens

really look like.]

One creature walks up the gang blank and into the ship.


A strange hand, with two long and slender fingers protruding, move aside a

branch that obstructs the view.

[This concentrates the audience's attention. The creature going into the

ship is being observed by another creature. Who are they? What's going on?

This is another technique that forces the audience to focus on the action.]


The inside of the ship appears to be a greenhouse. There are sounds of

water dripping. Cone shaped objects (possibly alien plants) sit among earth

plants. Vapors flow up from the plants.

[These images all appear non-threatening. The aliens are inferred to be

collecting vegetation, and are thereby inferred to be harmless.]

[Like many of Spielberg's other films, the opening sequences contain almost

no dialogue. The story is told without verbal exposition. He forces the

audience to become engaged in the storytelling process by giving them just

bits of information that they have to piece together into the story. He

doesn't insult their intelligence.]


A group of the aliens work in front of the spacecraft. Suddenly, they hear

a dog howl, and they all stop working. Red lights begin to glow in their

chests. It appears as if their hearts have lit up at the sign of danger, as

the red glow seeps through their translucent skin. After a moment the red

lights dim and they return to their work.

[This sets up the prop of the red-lights signifying danger. These small

creatures are endearing and non-threatening. They are like children, which

is immediate grounds for audience empathy. The thought that they may be in

danger from wild creatures in the forest, also creates empathy for them.]


A small fern grows on the forest floor. An alien hand, with two fingers

protruding, reaches out for the fern. The alien groans. A rabbit turns and

listens. The fingers dig up the plant as the rabbit watches. The alien then

carefully uproots the plant. A small wayward alien walks alone among the

gigantic redwood trees. He's dwarfed by the huge trees.

[The awesome towering trees psychologically creates audience empathy for

the creature. The audience identifies with him because they too feel small

when confronted by these trees.]


The creature stands alone on a hilltop as he stares down at the city lights

below. Suddenly he lets out a moan of fright. A truck, with headlights

glaring, pulls up next to him.

[The quiet, peaceful alien is now in jeopardy.]

The creature runs from the lights. Several other trucks with head- lights

glaring drive up. Smoke flows from their exhaust pipes. Men's legs are seen

as they walk among the trucks. They step into a mud puddle as E.T. watches

from behind a shrub. A man with keys jangling from his waist walks past a

headlight. He carries a flashlight in his hands.

[Keys have now become a prop which identifies the antagonist of the story:

the faceless government agent. Like the antagonist of many other fantasy

films, his face is not initially revealed in order to hold the audiences


The man with keys walks to a truck where he and two other men review a map

that's placed on the hood of the truck. The man with keys holds the

flashlight up and points it at the hood. E.T watches them from the bushes.

[The fact that E.T. is observing the actions of the men also creates a

psychological bond between the audience and him, since they are also

observing these characters.]

[While the audience doesn't actually see a map, they presume its existence

given the actions of the characters. This style of story telling engages

the audience, and gets them guessing about the characters' actions. They

then create expectations, which are later often proved to be wrong. This

makes the story both unpredictable and exciting.]


An alien stands in front of a round light and transmits a homing signal,

presumably to call the other aliens back to the ship.

[These characters are all in jeopardy.]


When E.T hears the sound, his red heart lights up. The homing signal

reverberates in his chest.

[This establishes that his heart is used as a communication device, i.e.,

these aliens communicate with their hearts.]

"Keys" hears this sound and quickly turns around. He points his flashlight

towards the sounds. The other men join him as they walk towards the sound.

E.T. screams and runs away, which is indicated by the shaking bushes. The

men with flashlights chase after him.

[So, like Dorothy in the WIZARD OF OZ, the opening scene has the

protagonist being pursued by an unknown antagonist.]

Rate this script:3.8 / 4 votes

Melissa Mathison

Melissa Marie Mathison was an American film and television screenwriter and an activist for Tibetan freedom. more…

All Melissa Mathison scripts | Melissa Mathison Scripts

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