Director Steven Spielberg and writer Melissa Mathison’s classic 1982 tale of the special friendship that develops between Elliott, a lonely young boy living in a suburban California community, and the wise, benevolent visitor from another planet who becomes lost on Earth, seems to be one of those films which just gets better with age. Inspired by Spielberg’s own childhood imaginary friend, it is a wonderfully simple story, brought to life with a charming lack of cynicism.
As Elliott attempts to help his new friend contact his home planet so that he might be rescued, together they must elude nasty scientists and government agents determined to kidnap the alien. Before long, Elliott and his siblings (including a very young Drew Barrymore) grow to love the oddity from outer-space, and so do we the audience, so that by the time we reach the thrilling, heart-breaking third act, we’re just as invested in getting the squat little alien home as Elliott is.
Undeniably iconic, it is a film which has influenced so much since, but which still remains a hugely entertaining example of Spielberg’s ability to conjure up magical set-pieces, exceptional special effects and heartfelt emotional moments in equal measure. Is there a more lasting single image in Spielberg’s entire career than that of Elliot on his bike, silhouetted against the moon, as John Williams’ yearning score soars over the soundtrack?