I bought the Bluray version of E.T. last week. It was on my Amazon wish list for a long time, and I was ready for a little nostalgia and special features I had not previously seen. I was 9 when I saw it the first time, and in retrospect it was pretty intense. As an adult, and a hack of a film enthusiast, I can honestly say that it's one of the best movies ever. I would even describe it as perfect.
This was the first time I had seen it in years, and I'm completely astounded at just how timeless it is. The story is relatively simple, but involves a lot of intense themes about abandonment, friendship, family, death, persistence and courage.
The first thing that struck me in the first 15 minutes is just how good the child actors are. Child actors can be a total train wreck (see: Star Wars: Episode I), and ruin a movie. But those kids were just amazing. Henry Thomas is so genuine and real at every stage. So is tiny Drew Barrymore. In particular, the two performed so well when E.T. died. I think as an adult, watching the reaction of Gertie when they zap E.T. is traumatic, especially as a parent. You genuinely feel like that 6-year-old is seeing something awful.
From the time that E.T. begins to die, and the adults invade the home, right through the ending credits, is probably the most consistently emotionally intense piece of cinema ever created. I mean really, you can't help but cry at the death (and said reactions of the kids), turning to joy and anxiety in the escape, and the farewell at the end. And through it all, the John Williams score reflects the action on screen perfectly.
While there are things that I can pick on in almost every movie I cherish and love (everything from Pulp Fiction to Raiders of The Lost Ark), there really isn't anything I can latch on to in E.T. It's very nearly a perfect film.