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E.T. Cute & Cuddly or Mean & Scary?

Updated on October 10, 2012

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

E.T. is one of the greatest and best loved movies of all time. In 1982 this Steven Spielberg directed blockbuster stayed at the top of the box office for six weeks grossing over $350 million. It was nominated for nine Oscars at the Academy Awards and won four. It became an instant classic and won the hearts of children and adults alike. Twenty seven years later it touches a newer generation who hope E.T. can "phone home" and who get choked up when he finally does have to leave. This film will always have a place at the top of my favorite movie list and is something I'd like to share with my family. So why are my two daughters petrified at the mention of this poor alien's name?

Where It All Began

The first viewing

My daughters are aged 10 and 6. One lazy Saturday afternoon about three years ago, Daddy popped in the E.T. DVD. I knew the time for them to be introduced to this world of wonder and awe had finally come. They were ready to be whisked away to a magical place. Taken from this dark room and transported through light and sound. The two hours passed perfectly. They loved the movie. "Just like me," I thought. My girls laughed and cried at all the right places. They fell in love with E.T. They really empathized with him. Now that I think about it, maybe this is where the trouble began.

The Next Day

E.T. The Extra-Terrible

The morning after we watched the movie, my girls were transformed. I was very excited to pick their brains and find out what they really liked and what moved them. Could they be feeling the same things as me? As I already stated they were transformed. No, not into the classic film loving duo I had been hoping for but into two newly terror-stricken E.T. haters. Both my girls simultaneously had E.T. inspired nightmares. They wanted no mention of the great film we watched the night before. I thought to myself, "this won't last".

It Still Lasts

"I had a dream about E.T. again last night."

It has been three years and my girls have not viewed the movie again. They continue to have frequent nightmares staring the famous alien. The name "E.T." sends them screaming into the other room (this is sometimes a good practical joke; my wife disagrees). I've asked them to pinpoint what about him is so upsetting. My youngest cites the scene where he is dressed up in the wig. My oldest won't even give me the time of day when I mention his name. E.T. is officially a curse word in my home.

A Father's Hope

E.T. is a vegitarian

I have come to understand that my daughters' revulsion is not all that uncommon. Through various forums I have found that others were scared of E.T. when they were children as well (some have grown up and still are). I, myself have never had a fear but only a deep respect for this great film. I hope that someday my daughters will be able to share with me this wonderful movie and look back at their fears and laugh. Until then, whenever they don't finish their dinners, I say to them: "I hear E.T. coming around the corner and he's really likes veggies". My daughters always finish their vegetables.

UPDATE 2012

E.T.'s 30th Birthday

It has been almost four years since I created this lens and E.T. is now 30 years old. My oldest is 14 and just watched it again this year. She is over her fear and it is one of her favorite films. My youngest is 10 and still won't watch it. She doesn't want to talk about, hear, or see any images of E.T. at all. But I am OK with it. There is time and I have hope. I've read your comments and realize this really affects so many. I hope that maybe someday you will be able to conquer your fears and enjoy the film. If not, may you find wonder and awe in many a film elsewhere.

Great Stuff on Amazon

Gertie's Reaction to E.T.

My youngest daughter bears a slight resemblance to Drew Barrymore and would probably have reacted the same way.

Were You (Or Are You) Afraid Of E.T.? - Please share your story here. Thanks!

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      Sam 2 years ago

      I had seen the film multiple times when I was 2-5, but the alien soon started to frighten me. I am 14 now, and this terror has no end in sight. I purchased and watched the film recently for closure, and in the parts I wasn't paralyzed with fear, I love it. But now my fears are returning, I've slept with my lights on for a week. He's just so, so creepy. And the noises! As I read these comments about similar fears, I was both laughing and cringing with the same fear. The cornfield scene, the bathtub scene where he's dying, and the creek are the worst. I can't even sleep, it's 12 am! There should be a psychological field for this exact fear. WHY IS HE SO SCARY?!?!!!??!!??

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Since childhood, ET has been terrifying. the atmospheric intro with hundreds of mysterious figures in the woods, eerie sounds, and heavy breathing start it off feeling like a horror film, the first encounter in the corn, with ET's squealing shrieks is equally nightmarish, ET dying in the bathtub and the mother's look of absolute horror at the discovery, the masked hazmat men coming in and taking control of everything. All of these moments were terrifying, but none of them shine a light to the shed scene, in which Elliott sleeps in a hammock outside the shed, and ET appears in the doorway of the lighted shed and shuffles toward Elliott. I'm not surprised it was ET dreams that drove away your children's love of ET, that scene perfectly mimics an episode of sleep paralysis. Everyone I've talked to thought ET was just strange looking, but it isn't ETs appearance that really makes it a work of horror. It's the strange quiet in the suburban neighborhood punctured by the shuffles and rasping breaths of something wholly alien. That's the kind of quiet you hear as a child lying in bed after everyone else has fallen asleep, probing the dark corners of your room for what doesn't belong. 16 years later, I still love the movie. I don't love it for its family values, or its uplifting plot, or Elliott and ETs dynamic, or even the infamous bicycle scene. I love it because it strikes a strange vein of horror that no one has ever found before, one where classic horror timing, punctuation, and sound design can happen alongside mundane suburban living, and classic fairytale storytelling. It's precisely that it isn't a horror film that makes it so frightening.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: WOW! That is the exact same nightmare I had for weeks after watching ET!!! I honestly believe it is the reason why I need to sleep with my bedroom door shut. But yeah, him waddling all creepy like towards my bed and then reaching his long disgusting finger near me and then he does that terrifying screeching noise. UGH! I just got shivers. Seriously, that scene where Elliot waits for ET outside that shed... I still have trouble watching that scene.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      This movie....omg all I can say is I was HORRIFIED since day 1. The year was 1989 and I was about 5 years old. my mom and stepdad popped out the vhs tape with the green lining on it and I thought nothing of it. I must have freaked out then because all I remember is waking up the next morning in bed with no remnants of even watching the movie. LOL my next memory of this lovable but super creepy film is when i got a little older. the music in the beginning is what prepared me for my fear of the next few scenes. The most scary scene for me is when Elliot is walking with the flashlight and et pops out of the bushes. Words don't EVEN begin to describe how fast I screamed and ran out of the bedroom with my little brother screaming behind me. idk what it is but i am 29 years old today and every holiday for thxgiving and xmas this movie tends to unexpectedly come on out of nowhere and i CANNOT bear to watch it unless someone is at home with me. i now have a 2 year old daughter and i really want her to grow up with this wonderful all time classic and honestly she may be the one to take the fear out of me because I try my best to not let mama see that i am scared of anything but that music and the long e.t. finger and the flower growing bigger and just him looking at me face to face thru the t.v. makes me feel like i can't turn by back and gives me chills up my spine although I LOVE e. t. its so weird. I think it's a mental thing. at 3 and 4, kids' minds have such a small schema of the world or something so upon viewing this thing you really either grow up hating or loving it.

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      Cadence3645 4 years ago

      Im not saying this like I'm glad your girls were petrified, but it feels good to know I'm not alone...So anyway, here's my story: when I was four years old, me, my big sister, and my dad all went to the theater to watch the movie for its 20th anniversary. The night was truly enchanting. I, in fact, was very similar to your girls. I laughed at parts like when he was drunk, I laughed at the burps, and I laughed at most of the bathroom scene. I cried when they were sick, and I cried when he had to go home. Anyway, when the movie was over, we went home and I spent (no joke) an hour telling my mother about the movie. I even enjoyed talking about it. But after that, things went horribly wrong. I had several different nightmares that night. My imagination, like many other people's at that age was very broad. Possibilities kept popping into my mind about the things that squashy little creature could've done anyway. Alongside that, I couldn't get his voice out of my head. Eventually, nightmares occurred at least once a night, and I couldn't bare to even look at a picture. As a matter of fact, I became so terrified, I would scream and try with all of my little girl might to get away from my evil sister who would torture me with the VHS tape...even that scared me. My sister has kept my fear on the line of no return for years. The creature never bothered her, but she knew good and well it bothered me. To this day, I still hate seeing him...I don't like ever seeing him, but I knew if I was going to read this, I'd see pictures. What really gets me is when I see it and I don't expect it. Like a few days ago, I was on facebook going through my friend's pictures. And as you may have guessed, there was a picture of him staring right at me...I froze for a moment, and quickly shut the laptop. My sister soon figured out I'd seen that, and the next time I opened the laptop, I freaked out as I saw that she had made that exact same picture a blown up version as my desktop. I could've killed her. So yeah, saw it when I was four, and I'm fourteen now. I still hate it and refuse to watch it. I think I watched it too early aged...my dad was just like you, expecting me to love it forever and always; I never got around to it. He also scared me once when I was eight. I was riding my bike, and he hid in a bush and said "E.T. Phone home!" in a voice very similar to the real one...I never did forgive him. So anyway, you can clearly see I've been forever scarred by that movie. Cute story line, terrifying terdish alien.

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      Cadence3645 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Your account of that nightmare gave me a shiver down my spine just reading it. I'm not glad your fear is so bad, but I'm happy to know I'm not alone...My nightmare was similar, but still different...I had heard my sister watching it one night, and the same night I was literally frozen stiff in my bed. I had a nightmare that made me sleep in my parents floor for a very long time after it. I dreamed one of those dreams that feel so real. I was sitting in my bed, with the small lamp next to me and I was reading a book. Btw when this happened I was ten years old. So anyway, I was sitting there reading in bed. My closet was about six feet away from the end of my bed, just a regular door closet sort of thing. Anyway, I remember looking up at it in the dream and seeing it creek open to just a crack. His fingers slid through the crack and I heard his creepy breathing. I jumped up and ran out of my room, only to find I was apparently home alone. The doors had been locked on the inside of the house, and I couldn't get out. When I turned back from trying the back door, I whirled around and froze seeing him right there staring me in the eye. His eyes went from blue, to purple, to all black. He took a step (waddle) toward me and that's when I woke up, drenched in sweat. Ever since then, no. Un uh. I ain't ever planning on watching that movie ever again.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Lol

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Im 9 and horrified of et he looks like a terd

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      My daughter is 10 and just is so scared of him!we went on a trip and the movie came on she keep her head in my lap the whole time

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      Rymom28 4 years ago

      I was very afraid of ET as a kid and so was my sister. I don't know if it was the sound he made or because he was "real" or what, but it freaked us out! Great lens!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: I USED TO HAVE THE SAME EXACT NIGHTMARE! Duuuude, I'm freaking out right now. (I'm 18)

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: I USED TO HAVE THE SAME EXACT NIGHTMARE! Duuuude, I'm freaking out right now. (I'm 18)

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      As a child I was petrified of him, my Dad put it on and the bit where Elliots going through the reed and E.T. screams I was out the room screaming myself. I hated it I had nightmares all the time about him. Now I really love the film but I still feel a bit uneasy at the start.

    • HayleyD profile image

      HayleyD 5 years ago

      My 6 year old was terrified of E.T. for the longest time until she watched the movie, now it's one of her favorites!!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I'm 22 and still scared of ET. The worst thing about him is that you try to forget about him and never think about him and he randomly pops up when you don't expect him, like on tv adverts or in magazines. He makes my heart beat faster when I see him.

      Apparently I used to like him when I was about 2 when I first watched it, then I had a nightmare that my bedroom door was ajar and he walked into my room and stood at my bed looking over me. I remember that nightmare to this day. Apparently I forced my mum to throw the video away. I always get anxious on Boxing Day because the movie is always on tv and I'm scared that his horrible creepy face is going to pop up. The main things that are horrible about him are his general appearance, his disgusting long neck and his ear shattering screech. The worst scene in the movie that really makes me shudder is the river scene where he's all white and crusty.

      When I was a teenager, I used to pretend that I was "grown up" and not scared anymore, but I always have been. Now, at 22, I can admit that I am still scared and probably always will be. He seems to set off this great fear in a few people that stays with them for life. Like me, they feel genuine symptoms of real fear when they see him, like heart beating fast and hands sweating. When I was 8, we went to USA and my parents took me to Universal Studio's in Florida, which is home to the hideous ET ride. I managed to get out of going on it, I don't know how I would have reacted to the ride.

      I can't believe that people have uploaded pictures of this disgusting alien on this post, which is about a fear of ET. When I loaded the page, I could see an empty image box and I knew that ET was loading, so I quickly scrolled down to the comments. Just seeing him makes me feel awful and anxious.

      If they ever bring out ET in 3D and its advertised everywhere, I don't know what I'll do. It was bad enough when he started doing the BT adverts here in the UK, his hideous face and voice would just randomly pop up when I was watching tv. I vivedly remember my horror and rushing to turn off the tv, rather than finding the remote to change channel, purely because I knew it would be faster to switch ET off at the source.

      YUCK

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      E.T. was probably the first movie I ever saw in the theater and I was never afraid of him. According to my mom when I saw him I leaned over and told her he was gorgeous. I was only 4 at the time but it's still one of my favorite movies of all time. And still love sci-fi.

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      Andrew Scott 5 years ago from New Zealand

      My 4 year old son recently asked me if he could watch a film he had seen advertised during the morning cartoons. He said it was about a huhu grub that came from space. (A huhu grub is an edible larva of some kind of insect that lives in rotting logs in New Zealand. When I say edible I don't mean we eat them - we are vegetarian, which means we don't eat insects or aliens).I waited to see the ad myself, and of course he had seen an ad for E.T. We both watched it that night, and he was transfixed. It was the first time he had watched a whole film right through, and it was the first time I had seen E.T. right through. He was fascinated, and never looked away until his mama came home from work. Soon after, it was the scene when E.T. died on the operating table and my son bawled his eyes out, crying for his mama. We were both surprised, having expected him to be scared or bored by then, but it was quite handy as it took Mama's attention away from me wiping my eyes (grit). And again when E.T. went back to his own planet. He's been asking ever since when we can watch it again, and now I can see what all the fuss was about. It's a great film.

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      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      This is funny. I hope your daughters are permanently scared though. I loved ET way back then, but was a bit older than them. Be thankful that they are sensitised and unable to tolerate everything they see.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      he is so scary i don't know why but his face theres something about his face that's just scary.Please comment

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      When I was a kid (by the way I"m 19 now) ET used to scare the crap out of me, but as I grew older my fear went away. (I'm still creeped out when ET is in the river and when he's in the bathtub reaching his arm out to Mary). I used to have all sorts of nightmares about ET when I was a kid. Some of these nightmares were just bizzarre. My most bizarre dream I ever had was when I was at the UNM pit to watch a lobo basketball game and "Misty from Pokémon (sitting right by me)" went to the court and threw her pokeball and said "Go ET!" THEN...ET APPEARED. AND I WAS SCARED TO DEATH! Other nightmares is when ET is at the side of my house when I went out to enjoy the fresh air. But now if i ever have dreams of ET, it's not anything scary about him. it's just like a normal good dream. In fact today I just went out and bought the dvd at Target because I love this movie. I wish they had a dvd of the original though. The original cornfield scene is way better than the newer CG cornfield scene.