E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Ending Explained – Why does E.T. have to go home?

Don’t go E.T.! Please don’t go!

But leave us he does. At the end of Steven Spielberg’s classic 1982 movie, he gets back into his spaceship and heads off home.

This ending is super-emotional and it still has the power to break our hearts, over 40 years after the movie’s original release.

So why did E.T. have to go home? Why couldn’t he stay on Earth and live out his days with Elliot and his family?

Let’s take a closer look at this heart-warming and heart-wrenching movie.

Why did E.T. come to Earth?

If E.T. hadn’t come to Earth, Elliot wouldn’t have had to say goodbye and we could have been saved from that tearjerking ending. But much to the good fortune of handkerchief sellers the world over, come to Earth he did. Why? well E.T. is an interplanetary botanist and he comes to our planet to collect plant specimens.

He isn’t alone as his team of plant-gatherers are scouring the California forests with him. But when agents from the US Government turn up to track these space visitors down, E.T. is suddenly left alone when his crewmates flee back to their ship and take off without him.

How do E.T. and Elliot meet?

The startled E.T. flees the forest and takes refuge in a tool shed. That shed belongs to Mary Taylor, a single mother struggling to raise her three kids, Elliot, Michael, and Gertie, at her home in the San Fernando Valley.

10-year-old Elliot is the first to meet the friendly alien. He first encounters E.T. in his mom’s shed when the alien returns the baseball he has just thrown, but he doesn’t get a close-up glimpse of him at this point.  Later that night, he goes outside with his flashlight to investigate further and discovers E.T. in the cornfield.

After getting over his initial shock of meeting this strange creature, he lures E.T. into his home using candy and hides him in his closet. The next day, after feigning sickness so he can stay off school, he introduces his newfound friend to his older brother Michael and his younger sister Gertie.

What do we learn about E.T.?

We know that E.T. isn’t from our galaxy as he levitates several balls to represent a different planetary system when Elliot and his siblings ask him about his origins. We aren’t given any more information about his planet but in the spin-off novel that was released after the movie was made, we discover his homeworld was a green planet called Brodo Asogi.

E.T. doesn’t only have the power of levitation. He also has the power of healing, which we find out when he places his glowing fingertip on a small cut on Elliot’s finger.

When Elliot is at school the next day, he appears intoxicated. He hasn’t been drinking alcohol but E.T., who has been left alone at the house, has been drinking beer and is a little bit tipsy. When E.T. watches John Wayne kiss Maureen O’Hara in The Quiet Man, Elliot suddenly kisses a girl he likes, much to the astonishment of his teacher.

What’s going on here? Well, the two are telepathically linked, and it can be assumed that E.T. mentally bonded with Elliot during their first encounter. This appears to be ET’s way of surviving his time on Earth, as the only way he can sustain himself is to mentally connect himself to another. Previously, he was connected to the hive mind of his species but when they left, he needed somebody else to latch onto.

How does E.T. phone home?

Not only is E.T. a skilled botanist but he’s also a talented engineer. How else can we explain his ability to create a telecommunications device using Gertie’s Speak & Spell toy?

After creating a makeshift phone, E.T. and Elliot dress up on Halloween night and cycle to the nearby forest where they find a place where E.T. can phone home. The call is made but before E.T.s crew arrives to pick him up, the alien falls ill, as does Elliot because of their telepathic link.

Why does E.T. die?

Government agents discover the dying E.T. and his poorly pal and they take them back to Mary’s house to treat them.

During treatment, the mental connection between the two breaks and as E.T. needed this connection to survive, he seemingly dies! This is a traumatic moment and is the reason why children around the world (and their parents) likely broke down in tears when watching this movie for the first time in theatres.

Of course, E.T. doesn’t stay dead. The movie would be rather depressing if he did! Elliot recovers after the link is broken but is understandably distraught when he thinks he has lost his friend. The tearful boy tells E.T. that he loves him and moments later, the alien’s heart starts to glow. He’s alive again but he hasn’t been resurrected because of the boy’s love for him. He returns to life because his people are returning and he has regained a psychic link to them.

Why does E.T. have to go home?

E.T is sick and tired of Elliot and his siblings dressing him up in silly clothes and taking him on exhausting bike rides. As far as he’s concerned, the sooner he can get off this infernal planet, the better!

We are joking, of course. He presumably enjoyed his time on Earth and the bond he made with the friendly family who welcomed him into their lives. So, why didn’t he just stay on our planet forever?

Well, as we discovered earlier in the movie, E.T. would likely die if he stuck around. While he is able to establish a temporary telekinetic link to Elliot, this isn’t as potent as the one he forges with his own kind, which has the power to keep him alive. As such, E.T. needs to go home, as he isn’t physically compatible with Earth.

Before he boards the spaceship, he embraces Elliot and tells him “I’ll be right here.” He then places his glowing finger on Elliot’s forehead.

What does this mean? It might mean that he is able to stay telepathically linked to Elliot. But as his planet is far away from our own, this theory isn’t particularly logical. The more likely explanation is that E.T. is telling Elliot that the memories of their time together will live on in the boy’s consciousness. Of course, this isn’t enough to stop our tears from flowing as, like Elliot and his family, we don’t want him to leave.

But it’s a good job that he does get into his spaceship and fly back home as otherwise, we would have seen him die a second time. And if that had happened, we would have been traumatised by the movie all over again!

Those are our thoughts. But what did you think of the movie and its ending? Let us know in the comments below.


Read More: 10 Best Steven Spielberg Movies

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