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Honor Spielberg's 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial' on its 40th birthday with this deluxe visual history

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: The Ultimate Visual History
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: The Ultimate Visual History (Image credit: Insight Editions)

One of the most treasured movies in Hollywood history turned 40 this summer.

"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," the innocent sci-fi fable about a lonely California boy and his Reese's Pieces-loving alien friend, still affects kids and adults alike after 40 years.  

To commemorate this heartwarming feature that continues to evoke tears, smiles and laughter alike, Insight Editions has just released a prestige-format edition titled "E.T. the Extra-T (opens in new tab)e (opens in new tab)rrestrial: The Ultimate Visual History" (opens in new tab) for fans and cinephiles who can't get enough of the emotional tale that starred Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace, C. Thomas Howell, Robert MacNaughton, K. C. Martel, and Peter Coyote.

Written by author Caseen Gaines ("Inside Pee-wee’s Playhouse," "A Christmas Story: Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic"), this impressive 257-page hardcover represents the quintessential guide and companion volume to director Steven Spielberg's iconic film that entranced audiences when it was first released by Universal Pictures on June 11, 1982.

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E.T.: the Extra Terrestrial: The Ultimate Visual History was $60 now $53.61 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

Dive into the history of the iconic Steven Speilberg film "E.T." with this rich photo history book by Casseen Gaines for the film's 40th anniversary.

This absorbing retrospective explores Spielberg's initial inspirations for the story and screenplay, challenges of the actual shoot, the movie's blockbuster success and endearing longevity, and the invasion of pop culture merchandise it spawned.

"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The Ultimate Visual History" showcases exclusive interviews with major members of the cast and crew that deliver revealing insights into the complex production. Stuffed with a wealth of illuminating imagery, this collectible book book also contains rare and never-before-seen gems from the official Amblin Entertainment archives, including rare on-set photography, concept art, pre-production sketches, special effects secrets, and storyboards. 

Cover art for "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The Ultimate Visual History."  (Image credit: Insight Editions)
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And like the enchanting interiors of E.T.'s strange mothership seen in the opening forest scenes of the $10 million flick, this new book contains a wide array of surprises including removable insert materials like annotated script pages, intriguing studio memos, personal letters, preliminary sketches, and plenty more.

A look inside "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The Ultimate Visual History." (Image credit: Insight Editions)
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""E.T the Extra-Terrestrial" is such an important film, not only among Steven Spielberg's body of work, but to cinema history," Gaines tells Space.com. "I have written about a number of significant moments in popular culture history, and it's hard to think of a moment more significant than "E.T." I think the film still resonates because of how heartfelt it is. It still feels incredibly personal and intimate, like we are being let in on Elliott's secret and lucky to be an observer to this special relationship he has with a visitor from outer space. It almost doesn't feel like you're watching a film, but an extraordinary, yet believable, slice of life."

Gaines' research process for the book was exhaustive and he interviewed over thirty people, each one providing fascinating insights. 

"I don't want to spoil too much, but I think people will be surprised by the genesis of the film and the interesting path the filmmakers took before settling on the final design for the titular extraterrestrial," he notes. "It was a small film, but there were so many talented people working behind the scenes on this project. Some of them went uncredited in 1982, but I really made an effort to highlight as many people as possible and share as many never-before-told stories as I could."

A look inside "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The Ultimate Visual History." (Image credit: Insight Editions)
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Among the many indelible images seen in "E.T.," there is one particular shot that exemplifies the magic of Spielberg's sci-fi classic for Gaines.

"My instinct was to try and choose something beyond the iconic image of Elliott and E.T. flying past the face of the moon, but let's be real, that is the only acceptable answer!," Gaines adds. "There are many amazing shots in the film, but that is one of the most memorable moments in cinema history. When you see it, it takes you right back to the emotional heart of the film, and it reminds you that no one can create magic like Steven Spielberg and his collaborators."

Insight Editions' "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The Ultimate Visual History (opens in new tab)" is available now.

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Jeff Spry
Contributing Writer

Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.