E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
One of the all-time classics, E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial continues to make hearts swell three decades after its original release. The story of an unhappy boy and his selfless quest to aid a lost alien in his escape from Earth quickly won over audiences around the world, through the extraordinary combination of touching performances, stirring music, and the perfect amount of humour. All the standard themes are there – triumph over adversity, passion winning against faceless bureaucracy, and doing the right thing – but Spielberg brings the whole thing crashing home to us by shooting most of it from a child’s perspective. For the most part, the camera films from the eye-level of Elliott and his special little friend, and most of the adults aren’t even seen in detail.
That simple framing decision puts us right in the shoes of our pre-teen hero, and gets us rooting for him all the way. It also means that the wider perspective – the global implication – is something only hinted at. This is a story told from the point of view of the child, and so the concerns of the adults are peripheral to his goal. He has decided that, regardless of adult protestations, the right thing to do is help E.T get home – and that is exactly what he does. The shady agenda of the mostly faceless grown-ups does not sway Elliott from trusting his instincts and following his heart. His friendship with the alien is one of the most tender and moving things committed to film, and the final reel never fails to make the souls of the audience soar.