5 Things That Don’t Make Sense About E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

The star of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Not every science fiction film needs to be shrouded in bleak themes and cataclysmic violence - Exhibit A: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. In 1982, director Steven Spielberg followed-up his worldwide hit Raiders of the Lost Ark with this heartwarming tale of friendship between a lost alien and the troubled young human boy who helps him find his way home.

Winner of four Academy Awards, including John Williams’ breathtaking score, E.T., which recently had a pseudo-sequel in the form of an ad that reunites the creature with a grown-up Elliott (Henry Thomas), is a prime example of emotionally lasting, gorgeously executed cinematic perfection. Well, at least we thought it was perfect.

Admittedly, it took some especially deep analysis and a little imagination, but I was able to spot just a handful flaws and amusing nitpicks that may have gone over the heads of some of fans of this masterpiece. These are five things about E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial that do not make the most sense.

The ghost costume in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Mary Has No Suspicions Over “Her Daughter’s” Halloween Costume

Elliott and his brother, Michael (Robert MacNaughton), have a plan to safely and discreetly smuggle E.T. out of their house and into the woods to use their makeshift communication device to their alien friend can “phone home.” The idea is to dress E.T. as a ghost for Halloween and trick ‘r treat until dark when he and Elliott can depart to the woods to make the interplanetary call. The biggest hurdle in their plan is to convince their mother, Mary (Dee Wallace), that the one under the sheet is their little sister, Gertie (Drew Barrymore), and that is where the most glaring flaw in their operation lies.

Whether the first thing you notice about the ghost costume is that the eye holes are inhumanly far apart or that the head underneath matches the figure of a 3 foot toad more than 7-year-old girl, it would be clear to even a stranger that it is not Gertie under that sheet, let alone a human child in general, so how does is this not suspicious to Mary? Not to mention, would it not have also been a source of concern for her that her child appeared to have shrunk about a foot in height (which E.T.’s extendable neck could have fixed anyway)? 

To be fair, Mary is a single mother distracted by a variety of other responsibilities on her plate, so it is understandable that an oddly shaped Halloween costume might not be the most pressing issue on her mind, but, regardless, it should not have been that easy for the boys to convince their mom that was her own daughter under there.

The astronaut in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Where Did The G-Men Get An Astronaut Suit?

At the climax of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Elliott comes to the frightening realization that he is not the only one aware of his alien friend’s earthly presence, nor the only one anticipating the return of his species, when he and his family get a surprise visit. As soon as the G-Men, whose tracking of E.T. has been hinted at throughout the film, make their way into their home, Elliot knows that these people want to take his sick friend away from him. However, if it were my door they were knocking on, my first question upon first laying eyes at this stranger would have been, “Did you make a wrong turn at Saturn?”

While the protective suits the G-Men wear as they are approaching are obviously hazmat suits, the first person to enter the household is clearly wearing what appears to be a fully automated astronaut suit - helmet, jetpack, and all - and, unless I missed a part where it was mentioned that NASA was involved in this operation, I am not sure what the purpose of this outfit is. Has astronaut gear proven to be far more effective in preventing contamination and the initial visitor wanted to be extra careful when exposing himself to a non-human migrant, or did they feel that E.T. might feel more comfortable if first approached by a fellow space explorer? Well, it certainly did not make the family feel comfortable, nor does the movie do much make the reason for his astronautical appearance clear.

Elliott and the gang on their bikes in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

How Are Children On Bikes Able To Outrun Police Cars?

After E.T.’s health has restored and his heartlight is shining bright, Elliott knows it is time to bring him home. After he makes an escape from the G-Men’s pop-up research station outside of his family’s home, he and Michael meet up with his friends to travel by bike to take E.T. to the landing site of his family’s spaceship, all the while being chased down by an entire squad of police cars at nearly every turn. However, quite conveniently I might add, the cops can barely keep up with them.

Police vehicles are made for circumstances in which high-speed pursuit is necessary, yet when it comes to bicycles powered by the legs of skinny adolescents, they somehow fall short of their purpose. Now, I would at least be willing to believe that the cops are purposefully pulling back as to considerately avoid hitting the children in front of them or, better yet, that E.T. is using his telekinetic ability to help boost the bikes’ speed before that iconic moment in which he eventually makes them levitate. However, regardless of these explanations, I think that the van that Michael takes to bring E.T. to the meet-up with his friends would have been a more efficient mode of transportation than the bicycles in the first place.

Elliott (Henry Thomas) phoning his friend home in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Why Does E.T. Have To “Phone Home” At All?

Despite his initial wishes to keep him for himself, Elliott makes it his responsibility to help E.T. contact his family so that he can return home. He helps him construct a device to contact his family using a few common household items, which is impressively effective in relaying the message as it results in the heartwarming resolution in which the interspecies friends depart in the same location he first landed on our planet. I actually have no reason to nitpick the method of contact, but the necessity for contact I do.

We know from the very beginning of the film that E.T. was marooned on Earth by mistake when his family packed up and left for outer space in a hurry, forgetting to check if he was still there in that moment. Yet, I think it would be safe to assume that his absence would have not gone unnoticed for too long and, therefore, they should have been able to realize that he must be at the last planet they landed on before he disappeared. Elliot’s homemade S.O.S. machine is a nice gesture, but he would have never had to use it to help E.T. “phone home” had his family used some common sense.

E.T.'s species in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Elliot Has Star Wars Toys Despite A Franchise Character Living In His House

While first getting acquainted with his new otherworldly house guest, Elliott gives E.T. a tour of his room. At one point, he even shows him a few of his more prized possession: Star Wars action figures. In 1982, Steven Spielberg probably could not have realized how groundbreakingly meta this seemingly inconsequential moment in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial would turn out to be.

As evidenced by a cameo of his species (apparently called “Asogians”) in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and from how he acts as if he is seeing an old friend when he spots a child wearing a Yoda mask for Halloween, it has been proven that E.T. exists in the universe of George Lucas’ classic franchise. Therefore, technically, Elliott should not be aware these characters exist, let alone possess action figures that resemble them. You could make the argument that E.T.’s travels go beyond the parameters of time and space and Elliott’s universe is one in which Star Wars is just a work of fiction, but before I make that a conclusion, I would like to see this confirmed in a future novelization.

What do you think? Will you never be able to watch E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial the same way again, or do think I’m phoning it in this time? Let me know your explanations for these head-scratches in the comments and, in the meantime, be sure to check back for updates on your favorite friendly alien (or not-so friendly aliens, even) here on CinemaBlend.

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.