GERTIE: I don't like his feet.
ELLIOTT: They're only feet, you little twerp.
We'd argue that—be it human or alien—the average foot isn't anything to write home about. Ugly feet span galaxies. See? We have so much in common.
MICHAEL: Maybe he's some animal that wasn't supposed to live; kind of like those rabbits we saw. He could be a monkey or an orangutan.
ELLIOTT: A bald monkey?
GERTIE: Is he a pig? He sure eats like one.
Listen, Gert: If you'd been living on Reese's Pieces you'd found on the ground, you'd be pretty hungry, too.
MICHAEL: Did you explain school to him?
ELLIOTT: How do you explain school to higher intelligence?
MICHAEL: Maybe he's not that smart. Maybe he's like a worker bee who knows only how to push buttons or something
ELLIOTT: He is too smart.
MICHAEL: Okay, I just hope we don't wake up on Mars or something, surrounded by millions of little squashy guys.
Do you think Michael's skepticism is justified, or is he being too hard on the "little squashy guy"? And what about Elliott? What makes him so sure that E.T.'s smart?
DOCTOR: Has it lost any hair?
GERTIE: He never had any hair.
The pronoun choices in this brief exchange reveal a lot about the varying attitudes toward E.T. The doctor refers to E.T. as an "it," while Gertie, seemingly over her toe prejudice, refers to E.T. as a "he."
DOCTOR: He's got DNA!
This unnamed doctor may refer to E.T. as a "he," but he is straight-up shocked that E.T. has DNA. Why?
GERTIE: He's not going to hurt you, Mom.
MICHAEL: He's not going to hurt you.
MOM: Michael, get her downstairs!
GERTIE: He's the man from the moon! The man from the moon!
(MOM carries ELLIOTT out of the bathroom.)
ELLIOTT: You don't know him! You don't know him!
This exchange embodies the importance of appearances. Here's why: When Mom first meets E.T., he's dying on her bathroom floor. Not exactly the best first impression. She's scared, she's suspicious, and she doesn't want to listen to what the kids have to say. (In other words, her reaction is pretty typical of all of the adults in the film when they first encounter E.T.) Meanwhile, the kids have already gotten to know him at this point and are confident that he's not a threat.
ELLIOTT: It was nothing like that, penis-breath!
Elliott's choice of insult speaks directly to his young age. (It's hard to imagine a frustrated businessman calling someone "penis breath" in a heated boardroom clash, for example). In fact, screenwriter Melissa Mathison told The New Yorker that she stole this line directly from a child she knew in her previous tenure as a babysitter, stepmom, and older sister.
MOM: If you ever see it again, whatever it is, don't touch it. Just call me, and we'll have somebody come and take it away.
GERTIE: Like the dogcatcher?
ELLIOTT: But they'll give it a lobotomy or do experiments on it or something.
Everybody's acting age-appropriately here, given the whole "alien in the backyard" thing. Mom's not thinking "alien" and just wants to keep her kids safe. Elliott's more concerned with E.T.'s wellbeing and has a vague notion of how a strange creature would be treated, probably informed by pop culture. Even Gertie has her own frame of reference.
ELLIOTT: And look, fish. The fish eat the fish food, and the shark eats the fish, and nobody eats the shark. See? This is Pez. Candy. See, you eat it. You put the candy in here, and then when you lift up the head, the candy comes out, and you can eat it. Want some? This is a peanut, you eat it, but you can't eat this one, 'cause this is fake. This is money. See? We put the money in the peanut. See? Bank. See?
When it comes to must-have knowledge about how things work here on Earth, the intricacies of Pez dispensers and peanut-shaped banks probably don't crack the Top 20, but Elliott's exuberant, rapid-fire explanation of his world—a.k.a. the stuff in his room—reflects his youth.
ELLIOTT: But, look, you can't tell. Not even Mom.
GERTIE: Why not?
ELLIOTT: Because, uh, grown-ups can't see him. Only little kids can see him.
GERTIE: Give me a break!
Gertie may be the youngest, but she's not an idiot. Still, Elliott's tactics in swearing his little sister to secrecy reflect the "us vs. them" divide in the film between youth and adulthood.
ELLIOTT: Now I wish I would've listened in science.
Don't beat yourself up too much, Elliott. We're pretty sure "building an interplanetary communication device from common, household items" isn't covered until at least junior year.
MICHAEL: We're all going to die, and they're never going to give me my license.
At this point in the film, Michael's been caught impersonating a federal agent, stolen a van, and admitted that he's never driven an automobile forward before… but getting his license is still on his radar. Priorities!
MICHAEL: Where's the playground?
ELLIOTT: It's near the preschool!
MICHAEL: Where's that?
ELLIOTT: I don't know streets! Mom always drives me!
MICHAEL: Son of a bitch.
Look: Michael and Elliott may have commandeered a federal vehicle, but they're still kids.
ELLIOTT: He's a man from outer space, and we're taking him to his spaceship.
GREG: Well, can't he just… beam up?
ELLIOTT: This is reality, Greg.
Duh, Greg. The matter-of-factness of Elliott's explanation, as well as Greg accepting it wholesale, reflect their youth. It also shows a change in the power structure. Up until this point in the film, Greg (and all of Michael's friends) treated Elliott like a pain in the butt. Now Greg's in the annoying little brother position.
ELLIOTT: I'll believe in you all my life. Everyday. E.T., I love you.
We're not crying. We just have some dust in our eyes. While we work that out, chew on this: What do you think Elliott means when he says he'll believe in E.T.?
ELLIOTT: Do you talk? You know, talk? Me, boy. Elliott.
Us, Shmoop. You, Shmooper. Why is it that whenever we want to talk to somebody who doesn't speak our language, we revert to caveman-speak?
GERTIE: Mommy, he can talk!
MOM: Of course he can talk. I'll be right back in ten minutes. Stay there.
Here we have an example of communication… and miscommunication. While Gertie's understandably stoked about E.T.'s new vocabulary, Mom thinks she's referring to somebody else.
[E.T. presses buttons on the phone.]
GERTIE: You wanna call somebody?
Before E.T.'s language skills really pick up, he communicates with the kids non-verbally, and they know exactly what he means. Even Gertie.
GERTIE: I taught him how to talk now. He can talk now. […]
ELLIOTT: E.T. Can you say that? Can you say "E.T."? E.T.
E.T.: Eee. Tee.
[ELLIOTT laughs ecstatically]
E.T.: E.T! E.T! E.T.! Be good.
GERTIE: "Be good"! I taught him that, too.
We're not going to lie: Gertie's the last person we would've pegged to be E.T.'s English teacher. But she embraces the role wholeheartedly. After all, she's still learning to communicate herself.
E.T.: E.T. phone home.
MICHAEL: My god, he's talking now.
E.T.'s vocabulary is small, but powerful. He needs to make contact with his home planet, and he needs to make contact pronto.
MICHAEL: Stop that. No, don't. It's a fake knife. It's a fake.
Miscommunication can lead to hilarious results, as it does here, when E.T. mistakes Michael's Halloween costume for a real injury, and Michael struggles to communicate to E.T. that he's okay and doesn't need E.T.'s healing touch—especially not at this moment when they're trying to sneak E.T. past Mom.
DOCTOR: You say it has the ability to manipulate its own environment.
MICHAEL: He's smart. He communicates through Elliott.
DOCTOR: Elliott thinks its thoughts.
MICHAEL: No. Elliott—Elliot feels his feelings.
Elliott and E.T.'s telepathic bond takes communication to a whole new level.
GERTIE: I just wanted to say goodbye.
MICHAEL: He doesn't know goodbye.
E.T.: Be good.
E.T. may not know "goodbye," but he still knows precisely how to communicate his farewell to Gertie, as he makes a callback to one of the first phrases she taught him.
TYLER: Elliott. Douche bag.
MOM: No "douche bag" talk in my house!
Oof. Tyler has no qualms about calling Elliott a "douche bag" in front of Elliott's mother? That's cold!
GERTIE: What are you going as for Halloween?
ELLIOTT: I'm not going to stupid Halloween.
MICHAEL: Why don't you go as a goblin?
ELLIOTT: Shut up.
When Elliott first encounters E.T. in the backyard, Michael and his friends latch on to the idea that it's a goblin and run with it. And if you can't count on your older brother to mercilessly mock you for finding an alien in your backyard, whom can you count on?
MOM: All we're trying to say is, maybe, you just, probably, imagined it.
ELLIOTT: I couldn't have imagined it!
It's nice that Mom's trying to choose her words very carefully, but the bottom line is still that she doesn't believe her own son.
ELLIOTT: Dad would believe me.
MOM: Maybe you ought to call your father and tell him about it.
ELLIOTT: I can't. He's in Mexico with Sally.
GERTIE: Where's Mexico?
Even though Pops skipped town with Sally, Elliott holds out hope that his deadbeat dad will believe him. Why? And where is Mexico anyway?
GERTIE: Is he a boy or a girl?
ELLIOTT: He's a boy.
Elliott is adamant that E.T. is a boy, just like him, finally giving him somebody with whom he can identify. Aw.
TYLER: Hey, Elliot. Where's your goblin?
MICHAEL: Shut up.
STEVE: Did he come back? […]
ELLIOTT: Yeah, he came back, but he's not a goblin. He's a spaceman.
STEVE: Ooh, as in extra-terrestrial!
TYLER: Where's he from—Uranus? Get it? Your anus?
That Tyler is a regular laugh riot. Here's the thing: His jokes may be stale, but that doesn't make them contribute to Elliott's sense of isolation any less.
E.T.: He came to me! He came to me!
This whole "He came to me!" thing is a real sticking point for Elliott, and here's why: It means that E.T. chose Elliott as a friend. For a kid who's largely ignored or made fun of, that's a pretty big deal.
KEYS: Elliott, he came to me, too. I've been wishing for this since I was ten years old. I don't want him to die. What can we do that we're not already doing.
ELLIOTT: He needs to go home; he's calling his people. And I don't know where they are, but he needs to go home.
In order to live, E.T. needs to return to his community, to where he fits in. In other words, his alienation is killing him. That's deep.
ELLIOTT: E.T., stay with me. Please.
E.T.: Stay… together.
ELLIOTT: I'll be right here. I'll be right here.
When Elliott and E.T. are dying, they take care of each other, and it's important for Elliott that E.T. knows he's not going anywhere. For a kid who's been isolated and even abandoned, sticking around is super-important.
ELLIOTT: You should give him his dignity. This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen.
Friends don't let friends dress in drag against their will.
ELLIOTT: I want to save you! Let's get out of here! Get out! I gotta let him go!
Elliott may be in science class, but is he really talking about a frog here? For starters, what's all this "Let's" stuff?
MICHAEL: You know, Elliott, he doesn't look to good anymore.
ELLIOTT: Don't say that. We're fine.
Wait—what? When Michael asks Elliott about E.T., Elliott drops a big, fat "we" on him, suggesting Elliott and E.T. share more than just a love of Reese's Pieces.
ELLIOTT: Is he here? You've gotta find him, Mike.
MICHAEL: Where is he?
ELLIOTT: In the forest. The bald spot. You gotta find him
We have two friendships on display here, Shmooper: First, Elliott's spent the night sick and sleeping in the words in a hunchback costume, but the wellbeing of his pal E.T. is the most important thing on his mind. Second, we have Michael's loyalty to Elliott, shown in his understanding of Elliott's concerns and his willingness to help. Sometimes big brothers aren't so bad.
ELLIOTT: We're sick. I think we're dying.
There's that "we" again.
ELLIOTT: Leave him alone! I can take care of him.
Even as he himself is dying and hooked up to a bunch of strange machines, Elliott's a fierce protector of E.T. He's also confident that he knows what's best for him.
KEYS: Elliott, that machine—what does it do?
ELLIOTT: The communicator? Is it still working?
KEYS: It's doing something. What?
ELLIOTT: I really shouldn't tell. He came to me. He came to me.
Elliott remains loyal to E.T. right up to—what appears to be—the end. Keeping secrets from adults? Totally a hallmark of friendship.
ELLIOTT: You must be dead. Because I don't know how to feel. I can't feel anything anymore.
On a scale of 1-10, Elliott and E.T.'s empathetic connection is a 28.
E.T.'s an alien of few words, but the words he does use convey a lot. "Ouch" is repeated several times throughout the movie, but never as poignantly as it is at the very end when E.T. is leaving earth. E.T.'s not talking about physical pain—he's talking about heartache. Elliott gets it.
E.T.: I'll be right here.
Each time this statement is uttered in the film, it picks up new significance. At the end, it's basically a friendship bomb, as E.T. promises Elliott that he'll stay in his heart. Cue sobbing.