Nerd Processor

E.T. Is Secretly the Scariest Movie of All Time

Steven Spielberg didn’t create the universe’s most beloved alien. He created a nightmare.

Photo: Archive Photos/Getty

YYes, the much-anticipated Halloween reboot recently murdered its competition at the box office. But I regret to inform you that Michael Myers is not the most frightening monster in cinema. No, it’s not Friday the 13th’s Jason, nor Freddy of Elm Street infamy. Nor is it the Alien and Predator of Alien and Predator (respectively), Jack Nicholson in The Shining, Regan in The Exorcist, or any other traditional movie monster. I’m not afraid of any of them. That’s because I have seen the horrid, shriveled face of true cinematic evil and the inhuman, glowing finger that accompanied it.

I do not like E.T. No, check that: I loathe E.T. I hate E.T. to the core of my being. If I came home one day to find my family brutally murdered, E.T. covered in their blood, and using said blood to write “ROB BRICKEN IS AN ASSHOLE” on the wall, I would not find him more awful than I do already. Yet, somehow, countless others love E.T. His eponymous movie is regarded as one of the best family friendly films ever made, and among Steven Spielberg’s crowning achievements.

I knew E.T. was evil from a very early age.

It should go without saying that everyone is wrong, and have all been tricked by Spielberg and his malformed creation into believing E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is wholesome and heartwarming, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Chances are, you are one of these tens of millions of misguided souls. If so, read on, because I have an unassailable argument for why this so-called lovable alien should be feared and hated, beginning with this undeniable fact: E.T. looks like male genitalia.

I don’t say this to be crass. I absolutely do not like that he looks this way, but it cannot be denied. His large torso is a brownish, wrinkled sack atop two small feet. His head is bulbous, and upsettingly lies atop a long neck which E.T. extends whenever he is excited. It is a bleak truth, but a truth all the same. The proof is now that you’ve been made aware of it, you will never be able to unsee it, no matter how many times you watch the film.

But even if E.T. looked as comfortably human as Spock from Star Trek, it wouldn’t excuse what is considered one of the film’s most charming scenes: When E.T. gets a child drunk. After inviting an alien into his home, 10-year-old Elliott leaves for school the next morning; once alone in the house, E.T.’s almost immediate action is to consume alcohol.

He pounds a six-pack in about five minutes, which would be problematic enough. However, E.T. has formed a psychic connection with Elliott that the boy neither asked for nor consented to. So, while the alien drunkenly rampages through the house, the equally inebriated Elliot tries to free all the frogs scheduled for live dissection that day in class. Most heinously of all, when E.T. sees a couple kiss on TV, he sends poor, prepubescent Elliott the command to harass one of his female schoolmates by kissing her, too. This is not heartwarming.

It could be argued that at this point E.T. has not realized the symbiotic connection he’s formed with Elliott, and I can’t prove otherwise. However, the alien has no excuses for what follows. After having the idea to “phone home” while bombed, E.T. mysteriously starts falling ill. That night, the alien forces his young, devoted friend to take him to the forest to make his call, and sleep there on the ground, in the cold, overnight. When Elliott’s older brother Michael arrives, he discovers not only that Elliott has become severely sick, but he sees one of the most horrific sights in all of cinema: The bloated, fish-belly-white body of the terminally ill E.T, screaming in agony. This is simply awful to behold.

Now that E.T. and Elliott are both dying, Michael brings them back to the house, where another horror awaits — the silent, masked government men in protective suits. My feelings on the film aside, I know for a fact that this scene traumatized many a child of the ’80s, even those who now claim to enjoy the movie, especially after the scientists pull the screaming E.T. and Elliott away from each other. But that’s neither here nor there.

Here’s the secret, horrifying truth: E.T. was going to murder Elliott.

Don’t laugh, because I can prove it. First of all, we must examine why E.T. gets sick when his spaceship leaves. And just as importantly, why E.T. gets better as the spaceship approaches Earth again. Clearly the aliens’ life forces are tied to each other, or their ship, in some way that’s not strictly physical. It’s only when E.T.’s spaceship and his people approach — or rather, get within a certain proximity — that he returns to life in that creepy little body bag as Elliott sobs over his corpse (and again, what a charming family film this is). Elliott theorizes this in the movie, and E.T. agrees, so we may accept this as fact.

The proof is now that you’ve been made aware of it, you will never be able to unsee it, no matter how many times you watch the film.

Now, it’s arguable that E.T. might not have known he needed his ship/people to live, and didn’t realize it until his resurrection, but this is a race that has mastered interstellar travel; it seems unlikely that they would somehow take these trips without being aware of the danger of getting separated or left behind. They’re scientists, they’ve come to Earth to study the flora; it seems absurd that they’re ignorant about what they need to survive. Also, E.T.’s urgency in constructing the device to “phone home” is indicative that he knows his death is nigh.

Why, then, would he psychically bond with a human child when he’s knowingly been given a death sentence? Why would he choose to tie a child’s life to his own, especially after he realizes he has so little time left? At best — at best — this is a horrifying, callous disregard for Elliott’s life. At worst, E.T. enters into a murder-suicide pact with Elliott that he never informs him of.

E.T. is dying, he knows he’s dying, and decides he’s going to take Elliott’s life with him when he goes. How do we know that the psychic bond between the two is something E.T. can control? Because after bringing Elliott to the brink of death, E.T. finally relents and releases Elliott from his psychic bond, allowing the boy to get better. But if E.T. could release him, why wait so long? Why watch Elliott suffer? Why get so close to actually killing him when it was clearly not at all necessary, and well within E.T.’s power to stop?

There’s your lovable alien in your beloved family flick. A creature who, knowing he’s about to die, decides to needlessly take a child out with him, only to change his mind at the last minute.

Happily, at this point in the film, E.T. dies; unhappily, he’s resurrected by the approaching spaceship of his people, who have been “phoned” and guilted into picking up the comrade they accidentally (?) left behind. All that’s left is for Elliott to spirit E.T. away from the scientists who saved his young life, speed back to the forest while chased by government agents, and for E.T. to use his powers to levitate the bikes of a large group of children trying to get him back to his spaceship, in a truly magical, iconic moment of immense child endangerment.

II knew E.T. was evil from a very early age. When my mother first took me to see the film in 1982, I was five, and realized almost instantly that E.T. was a malevolent being from space. The rest of the film only confirmed my initial assessment and, to my young mind, indisputably proved the following facts about aliens:

  • They exist.
  • They target North American suburbia.
  • They are either moderately interested in or looking specifically for young, human boys.
  • Even the friendliest-seeming aliens will probably kill you.

Thanks to this so-called family friendly movie, I immediately developed a fear of aliens that endured into my teens, because my circumstances were just like Elliott’s. The aspect that terrified me most was the prospect of E.T., or a similar alien, abducting me because it thought I was its friend. Somehow, that misunderstanding was worse than all the evil aliens and movie murderers combined. I would still rather be attacked by Halloween’s Michael Myers, because at least you know where you stand with him.

What if E.T. thought I wanted to go to outer space, and dragged me with him? After all, an alien wouldn’t know human communication cues — it might mistake my screams of terror for a desire to be dragged into a spaceship, away from my friends and family forever. The aliens might even think that I wanted to be vivisected, and I’d consider it a huge favor if they started removing my organs. If I’m their first human friend, it doesn’t matter how nice they are, if I’m the one they need to gruesomely murder to figure out. “So, it turns out humans need to keep all their organs on the inside. Somebody write that down for next time.”

From the age of five, I lived in mortal terror that aliens would abduct me, and no one could convince me otherwise. All it would take was a light to move past my window to convince me an alien ship was here and looking for me. I can’t imagine how many hours I spent terrified in bed, afraid to move or make a noise because I was completely confident the aliens’ scanners would detect me. Also, thanks to a babysitting session, overseen by my less than hands-on grandmother, I was somehow allowed to watch the original 1983 V miniseries — you know, the one where the human-seeming aliens rip off their faces to reveal that they are horrible, hamster-eating lizard people — so I wasn’t entirely sure my parents weren’t also secret hamster-eating lizard people from outer space.

I blame E.T. for all this. If it hadn’t been for that slimy, disgusting monstrosity I might have been all right. Instead, I had to live in a world where it seemed like only I recognized the fact that E.T. was a goddamned horror film.

Now, I know: I am not alone. The internet has helped me find other souls who have been similarly traumatized by this alien asshole. We know the truth, and we take solace in that, and each other. I don’t know if history will ever recognize that we’re right — because again, we totally, completely are — or if future generations will somehow ignore this alien’s murderous ways, his diabolical actions, and his testicular appearance. Perhaps most people will be forever blinded to E.T.’s heinous evils by the light of his long, iconic, red-glowing finger.

You know. The one he uses to touch children.

The former editor of, Rob Bricken has been a professional nerd since 2001. He also often cries at children's cartoons.

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