13 Halloween movies for people who don’t like horror

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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), screenshot courtesy of Universal Pictures

12. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

You know the story by now: Elliott, a soft-spoken boy living in the suburbs, befriends a stranded alien who wants to go home. Since it delighted audiences in the summer of ‘82, E.T. has not only defined director Steven Spielberg’s career, establishing him as a kid-at-heart crowd-pleaser, but also spawned numerous imitations/homages, from J.J. Abrams’s Super 8 to the recent Netflix TV series Stranger Things. Nonetheless, the magic of the original remains undiminished; if anything, it’s grown stronger, enhanced by nostalgia. The sight of the spaceship, the flying bicycles, and E.T.’s glowing finger still elicit awe (and, perhaps, tears), despite the antiquated special effects technology.

Something often overlooked about E.T. is that, for all the family-friendly schmaltz, it’s genuinely eerie at times – and not just because puppets that expressive shouldn’t be allowed. It does, after all, take place on Halloween, the one day a year when children and adults alike are encouraged to indulge in macabre fantasies. John Williams generates anticipation throughout the dialogue-free opening scene using a moody score that contains shades of Bernard Herrmann’s work on Psycho. Like he did with the shark in Jaws, Spielberg keeps the shady government agents that spy on Elliott obscured, showing them as limbs, shadows, and, most hauntingly, masked astronauts. Few movies capture the excitement and loneliness of growing up with such accuracy or compassion.

Similar movies: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)