E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in IMAX: 5 classic scenes to revisit on the big screen

Steven Spielberg's masterpiece E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial has turned 40 years old. The quintessential Spielberg story of a stranded alien and his new human companion is celebrating this special milestone with a dynamic IMAX presentation at Cineworld in September.

It's the first time that E.T. has been given the IMAX treatment and it promises to lend further scope and immersive majesty to Spielberg's poignant, heartwarming vision.

Be swept up in the profound story of E.T. and Elliot all over again as the film's IMAX screening draws you back into a childhood sense of wonder. Here are some classic E.T. sequences that demand to be revisited on the biggest screen you can find.


1. E.T. is left on Earth

The looming redwood forests of California make a haunting impression during E.T.'s opening sequence, looming in a monolithic fashion above the titular alien botanist.

Such images will be given more visual heft and splendour during the movie's IMAX presentation as height and scope become even more pronounced. 

Spielberg famously shot much of E.T. from the eye-line of child stars Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore and others. Therefore, seeing the movie in its expansive IMAX iteration is bound to enlarge one's sense of visual perspective and, by extension, one's sense of childlike awe.

2. E.T. levitates the toys

Sound is, of course, pivotal to our emotional understanding of E.T. and his desire to phone home. Veteran sound designer Ben Burtt utilised an array of different voices, including actor Debra Winger, to create the unmistakeable hybrid voice of the endearing alien.

Yet there are myriad other details bedded within the soundscape, and IMAX draws out these beautiful nuances. In particular, the relative peace and silence of the domestic scenes (barring the amusing moment where E.T. is first discovered by Barrymore's Gertie) helps draw out the more surrealistic flourishes.

This includes the whooshing effect of the toys circling in the air. E.T. does this to demonstrate to Elliot and his siblings that he hails from a different side of the galaxy, and it's a fine example of how objective sound can embolden our viewing experience.

3. Flying across the moon

If we're talking about how IMAX can embolden and enhance our primal experience to Spielberg's visual storytelling, then look no further than E.T.'s most famous sequence.

The shot of E.T. and Elliot cycling across the moon was designed by Spielberg as a loving tribute to Vittoria de Sica's 1951 movie Miracle in Milan. However, Spielberg puts his own stamp on proceedings, encapsulating a sense of childhood innocence and magic in his own inimitable way.

The final critical component is John Williams' extraordinary, Oscar-winning score which, in this sequence, presents one of the first full iterations of the main E.T. theme. The soaring wonder of the music only becomes more moving and powerful in the all-encompassing surround sound of IMAX.

4. Escaping the scientists

The movie's climactic escape sequence pits E.T., Elliot and the rest of their biker gang against the movie's invasive scientists. Interestingly, John Williams found it challenging to sync the music to the dynamic beats of the scene, so Spielberg encouraged him to compose the music as he saw it, later editing the movie around the music.

It's a remarkable demonstration of trust extended from artist to another. It's also another reason why E.T. continues to endure as an all-time classic: there is immaculate synchronicity between all facets of the production, from acting to direction to music, to create an all-encompassing adventure that speaks to audiences on a near-archetypal level.

5. E.T. says goodbye

The last 15 minutes of E.T. is as close as Spielberg has ever come to the realm of opera. Dialogue is largely discarded, allowing the intuitive visuals and Williams' empowering music to convey a remarkable amount of complex emotional information.

The movie's operatic sense of scale is heightened and strengthened in IMAX, allowing the visual canvas and the penetrating, devastating score to engulf viewers on all sides. We defy anyone to watch E.T.'s final goodbye, and the subsequent rainbow send-off, without tearing up. Those final Williams chords and timpani hits are still unbelievably powerful.

Click here to book your IMAX tickets for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The movie screens in Cineworld from September 2nd. Don't forget to tweet us your responses @Cineworld.