Australian Council on Children and the Media

ET the Extra Terrestrial

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG 8-13 (Disturbing scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for ET the Extra Terrestrial
  • a review of ET the Extra Terrestrial completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 10 January 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to disturbing scenes
Children aged 8-13 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing scenes
Children over the age of 13 OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: ET the Extra Terrestrial
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild coarse language
Length 110 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

A young boy, Elliott (Henry Thomas) hears some noises outside and goes out to investigate. He is extremely terrified to find a small alien creature who is just as afraid of him. Elliott decides to take him into the house where he hides him in his bedroom.  Elliott names the alien ET and eventually introduces him to his older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton), his younger sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and the family dog, but not to his mother Mary (Dee Wallace).

Elliott and ET seem to understand and communicate with each other and Elliott is aware that if ET is found he will be taken away from him. ET starts to learn some words and manages to communicate his desire to get home to his own planet. Elliott sets out to help ET find a way to contact his family and find his way home while avoiding being discovered by outside forces that are closing in on them.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Aliens

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Some name calling and bullying on the school bus – a fight breaks out.
  • Elliott cuts a plastic tunnel loose from the van that Michael is driving. It contains government agents who get dragged along the road.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged under five, including the following:

  • The opening scene shows a spaceship landing and aliens setting out to explore only to be frightened by men approaching them. Eerie music is playing and the aliens run back to the spaceship screaming but one gets left behind.
  • When Elliott meets ET for the first time they both scream and ET’s neck elongates. ET is rather scary looking with bulging eyes
  • A man with a mask is listening to the boy’s conversation.
  • A team of government agents search Elliott’s house while there’s no-one home.
  • Elliott spends the night out with ET trying to contact his home. His mother is very worried and calls the police, thinking that he has run away. When he does return, he has a fever and is quite ill.
  • Meanwhile ET is still up on the hill but is lying on the ground in the wet and looks dead.
  • Michael brings ET home and Mary meets him for the first time and is very afraid.
  • At the same time the house is invaded by government agents wearing space suits and breathing apparatus. The house is surrounded by the army, soldiers with guns and the police.
  • ET and Elliott are both seen lying on beds with tubes and electrodes stuck to them.
  • ET appears to die – the medics try to resuscitate him but with no luck. This is quite a traumatic scene – Elliott is screaming and imploring ET to live.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

OK for this age group

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Coke
  • V8

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • ET drinks a can of beer from the fridge and becomes dizzy and falls down. Elliot also feels weird.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Some name calling including ‘penis breath’, supreme wimp
  • damn
  • Oh my God
  • shit
  • hell
  • son of a bitch

In a nutshell

ET the Extra Terrestrial is an exciting adventure story about the friendship between a young boy and an alien. It is a classic science fiction movie and some of its scenes might be too intense for younger viewers.

The main message from this movie is acceptance of others who are different.
Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • friendship
  • loyalty
  • courage
  • selflessness

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Is it a good thing to hide things from parents or should Elliott have told his mother about ET?
  • Was it necessary to take drastic steps to defy authorities to save ET’s life?

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