I was just nine years old when I got my first look at a Reese’s Pieces eating guy that was afraid, totally alone and three million light years from home. It was the Summer of 1982 and his name was E.T.
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was released into the movie theaters on June 11, 1982. Happy 30th Birthday E.T.
E.T. was not the only character that we were introduced to that summer that left an impact on American culture. We also met a barbarian, a madam, a red headed orphan, disgruntle ghosts, some fast moving teenagers, a couple of androids, some mice and rats and another alien that was not quite as nice as E.T. We were also reunited with some of our favorite characters from past films. We saw the return of Rocky, Jason Voorhees, Captain Kirk and Spock, and Mad Max as the Road Warrior.
Several critics have said the Summer of 1982 was the best summer of movies ever. If anything, it took audiences on a whirlwind tour of locations, from the Antarctica in The Thing, to the inside of a computer program in Tron and then into outer space with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Here is a list of movies that kept audiences in the theaters that summer compiled by John Sanchez , a Yahoo contributor, in an article published May 1, 2007. Now grab your popcorn, Goobers, and a large coke and enjoy!
CONAN THE BARBARIAN (Universal; Director - John Milius) This action packed adventure film gave Arnold Schwarzenegger his name in movies before he became a superstar with his next film "The Terminator." Here Ah-nold plays the title character, a warrior seeking revenge on those who destroyed his village and enslaved him. This was a violent and brutal R-rated film with terrific photography and a terrific musical score that critics dismissed but clicked with audiences. The film wasn't a major hit but made a respectable $22 million and spawned a lesser sequel.
DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID (Universal; Director - Carl Reiner) Those of us old enough to remember know that Steve Martin was a hugely successful film comedian in the late 70's through the late 80's. This was Martin's first comedy after his successful starring debut in 1979's "The Jerk" and his disastrous serious turn in the musical "Pennies From Heaven." Here director Reiner fashioned (along with Martin) an interesting gimmick to go with a story of a private detective trying to solve a totally uninteresting mystery. The gimmick was having the detective interact with clips from several film noir and mysteries from the 40's. The film was shot in glorious black and white but the one joke note starts out fun but gets old quickly and without an interesting original story the film runs dry, especially in its last 30 minutes. Die-hard Martin fans came out in droves but the film only appealed to true film buffs and the film only grossed a disappointing $17 million.
ROCKY III (MGM/UA; Director - Sylvester Stallone) The third film in the enormously popular series saw our title hero take on nasty Mr. T while former foe Apollo Creed became his manager after the death of Mickey (Burgess Meredith). The winning formula for the series was starting to wear a little thin here but audiences made it another smash at the box office as it was one of the highest grossing films of the year taking in $66.2 million.
ANNIE (Columbia; Director - John Huston) The smash Broadway musical made it to the big screen with veteran director Huston an odd choice to direct a musical, a genre he had never before attempted. Huston made the immediate mistake of casting a little girl in the title role who came off as cloying and annoying and Carol Burnett as the villainess who comes off as cartoonish instead of threatening. Albert Finney nearly saved the day as Daddy Warbucks but the film faltered because the musical numbers were mostly forgettable while being lifelessly directed by Huston. Critics weren't kind to the film but audiences showed up to the tune of $37.8 million. The problem was the over inflated budget crept up to $50.5 million making this musical a flop.
AUTHOR, AUTHOR (20th Century Fox; Director - Arthur Hiller) Al Pacino found himself in his first career slump having bombed in 3 consecutive films (Bobby Deerfield; And Justice For All; Cruising). Pacino decided to take a different path in his career by playing in this comedy in which a playwright suddenly finds himself a single parent of several kids (all of hers from a previous marriage) after his wife walks out on him. The film wants to be a funny version of "Kramer vs. Kramer" while still trying to make serious points about parenting and marriage but fails in all counts. Pacino is hopelessly miscast in the role after having become one of our great actors playing brooding, dark characters. Critics and audiences agreed and the film bombed taking in only $10.6 million.
BLADE RUNNER (Warner Bros; Director - Ridley Scott) No film has divided audiences more then this Sci-Fi adventure/thriller starring Harrison Ford (fresh off the original "Raiders") as a futuristic former cop assigned to hunt down androids who have made their way to Earth. Based on Philip K. Dick's story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? "Blade Runner" is a triumph of visuals and music but has a difficult script that makes the film hard to follow. While the film did make a respectable $27.6 million and is now a cult film, there are as many detractors as fans. Director Scott released a director's cut in the 90's that eliminated Ford's narration (which was added by the studio to try and eliminate some of the confusion), added deleted scenes and included a vastly different and very abrupt ending. True fans of the film hail this cut as an improvement.
E.T. (Universal; Director - Steven Spielberg) How many of you guessed that this was the film that supplanted "Star Wars" as the highest grossing movie of all time? Spielberg's classic about the relationship between a stranded extraterrestrial and a little boy warmed the hearts of children and adults alike with seemingly each screening ending in wild applause. The film would play in first run right up to the Christmas movie releases and played in second run until the following spring. The final box office take was $228 million.
FIREFOX (Warner Bros; Director - Clint Eastwood) The Clint film of the summer was this espionage thriller about a pilot who is hired and trained to go into Russian territory and steal its new prototype plane. This was an unusually silly but action packed Eastwood movie and back then most Eastwood movies made good money no matter what the reviews. The reviews for this film were generally negative but the box office take was an impressive $25 million.
GREASE 2 (Paramount; Director Patricia Birch) Don't you look at the title and just how this film turned out? Birch, the choreographer on the original made her directorial debut and promptly returned to choreography never to direct again. The film is filled with mostly unattractive and lifeless characters (remember the dynamic that John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John brought to Danny and Sandy?) with Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield (who?) taking on the leads. The musical numbers are forgettable and the paper-thin story simply borrows from the original. Critics and audiences could smell this turkey months before its release and it bombed with a $6.5 million gross.
HANKY PANKY (Columbia; Director - Sidney Poitier) Gene Wilder starred in this comedy/thriller about an everyman who is mistakenly accused of murder and has to go on the run to clear his name. Richard Pryor was originally signed to co-star with Wilder (it would have been the third time) but had to bow out after his tragic burning incident and the part was re-cast for comedienne Gilda Radner, who would fall in love and later marry Wilder. The film was a pleasant mix of thrills and laughs and received generally positive reviews from critics. Oddly, despite the good reviews and the popularity of its two lead stars, the film tanked at the box office earning a mere $10 million. The film had the bad luck of opening the same weekend as "Poltergeist" and "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan" and one week before "E.T." It is generally acknowledged that the film simply got lost in the shuffle of three big hits.
POLTERGEIST (MGM; Director Tobe Hooper) This adult ghost story was surprisingly rated PG to attract a bigger audience and the results show it worked. It's the simple story of a suburban family whose lives are turned upside down when their youngest daughter disappears seemingly at the hands of vengeful spirits. With Steven Spielberg's name on the film as producer audiences flocked to see the film and see if they would be frightened out of their seats. The film fell somewhat short of ultimate scares but provided good entertainment. The behind the scenes story seems just as interesting as the film itself. Though it has never been officially admitted to it is widely known that Spielberg was unhappy with horror master Hooper's humorless direction of the film and took over directing duties himself while Hooper remained on set as more of a consultant. Spielberg cannot ever confirm this as he was also directing "E.T." at the same time and had to split his time between the two films - an official no-no with the director's guild. Hooper has never publicly commented and has never taken part in any programs in regards to the movie. Spielberg's touch is seen throughout the film, especially in the first half as we see the suburban family life. The film went on to gross over $38 million and spawned two lesser sequels and a television show.
STAR TREK: THE WRATH OF KHAN (Paramount; Director - Nicholas Meyer) The second in the successful series was considered a major step up to the 1979 original and is regarded as one of the best films in the series. "Khan" (note that in its release there was no "2" in the title) tells the story of Khan (Ricardo Montalban) taking his revenge on Captain Kirk, who was left abandoned on an isolated planet by him in the original television series. The film appealed not only to the most fervent fans (Trekkies) but also to general film fans and became a hit making over $40 million.
THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS (Universal; Director - Colin Higgins) Based on the hit Broadway musical, director Higgins wisely chose superstar Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton (fresh off her smashing debut in "9 To 5") to head the cast in the story of a sheriff being pressured to close a local Chicken Ranch whose madam is his love interest. The musical has its moments but suffers from not being quite naughty enough considering its title and being based on the bawdy play, and the fact that its two appealing leads have much less screen time then expected. This fact is a bigger shame when you consider that the few scenes Reynolds and Parton have are the best in the film. Despite this and mostly negative reviews, the film was a big hit grossing over $47 million.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SEX COMEDY (Orion; Director - Woody Allen) A Woody Allen movie opening in the heart of summer? Allen's films are designed for specific audiences and summer is the last place you'd expect to find one. He did have marginal success in 1979 with one of his masterpieces, "Manhattan," but this is one of his minor films that is fun but no classic. The film centers on 3 couples spending a summer weekend in the country circa 1900. Still the older crowd came out and took a film with a $2 million budget and grossed $9 million.
AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN (Paramount; Director - Taylor Hackford) The sleeper hit of summer was this love story for adults that seemed better suited for a fall release but found its audience with a terrific set of reviews and leading performances by rising stars Richard Gere and Debra Winger. This hard and properly R-rated film told the tale of an outcast who dreams of being a fighter pilot and goes through training to become an officer while falling in love with a local girl who wants to make him a gentleman. The film clicked on all levels and received a terrific set of reviews and would receive 6 Academy Award nominations including one for Winger and a win for Best Supporting Actor for Lou Gossett, Jr. as the drill instructor. The film also features an Award winning song (Up Where We Belong) and one of the best endings to any movie ever made. The film came out of nowhere to be a smash hit and grossed $55.7 million.
THE SECRET OF NIMH (United Artists) The only animated family film of the summer was this non-Disney film about a young widowed mouse that comes across a society of rats of advanced intelligence. The film was created by a group of former Disney animators who left to form their own company and the result is a film that is nice to look at but thin on story. Children (along with most critics) appeared bored and frightened by the film and it grossed a disappointing $14.7 million.
THE THING (Universal; Director - John Carpenter) "The Thing From Another World," (1951), was remade by "Halloween" director Carpenter into this stylish and bloody tale of a group of scientists in the Antarctic where a creature comes in the form of a dog and soon starts to take over the humans one by one and makes monsters out of them. The theme of trusting your fellow man is illustrated well here and the reviews were mixed, mostly due to Carpenter's excessive use of violence. Universal decided to release this film in July instead of October and, sadly, this film bombed at the box office despite having a huge cult following today. The film grossed $13.8 million.
TRON (Walt Disney; Director - Steven Lisberger) In 1982 Walt Disney pictures announced its intention to become hip with today's audience by creating this PG-rated adventure about a computer programmer (Jeff Bridges) who gets sucked into one of his video games while trying to save his programs from being stolen by a greedy businessman (David Warner). While inside the game he has to fight for his life playing on various levels as he tries to escape. This was the directorial debut for 32 year-old Lisberger who announced himself with this film as a director to watch. Sadly he has never lived up to that billing. "Tron" was a sleeper hit that critics mostly adored and the film grossed over $33 million.
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP (Warner Bros; Director - George Roy Hill) If any film belonged in the fall releases and not in summer was this adaptation of John Irvin's novel about a young man's unusual journey through life - a life made all the more unusual by his mother (Glenn Close). Along the way Garp bites the ear off a dog that has bitten him, witnesses a plane flying into a house he then insists on buying, becomes close friends with a transsexual former pro football player (John Lithgow), and becomes a novelist only to see his mother write a book that becomes a phenomenon. Robin Williams showed his true talent in the dramatic role of Garp in this brilliant adaptation directed by George Roy (Butch Cassidy; The Sting; Slapshot) Hill. Both Close and Lithgow were nominated for Supporting Oscars but the film failed to find its audience no doubt due to the odd marketing ploy of trying to make it look funnier then it was and for releasing it in July when it should have come out in October or November.
FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (Universal; Director - Amy Heckerling) One of the earliest successful teen sex comedies was this surprisingly smart comedy based on the novel by Cameron (Almost Famous; Say Anything) Crowe, who wrote the script. The film tells multiple stories of teenager in a California community and uses frankness in covering such issues as teenage pregnancy, sex, masturbation, drugs and abortion. The film introduced us to the talents of such future stars as Sean Penn (priceless as Jeff Spicoli), Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Nicolas Cage, Judge Reinhold, Anthony Edwards and Eric Stoltz among others. Crowe based his book on events he witnessed when enrolling in high school in his 20's and being able to pass himself off as a student. The film clicked with its intended audience and grossed $27 million.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 (3-D) (Paramount; Director - Steve Miner) The third installment in the never ending series with mass killer Jason Voorhees stalking his human prey on a campsite benefited from the recent re-birth of 3-D. The 3-D effects in this film turned out to be some of the best of all the films made in the process at this time and the film was a big hit amongst the teenage crowds clamoring for murder and mayhem. The film, with a $3 million budget, went on to gross an amazing $33 million.
NIGHT SHIFT (Warner Bros; Director - Ron Howard) Howard left Happy Days to become a film director and brought along co-star Henry Winkler for this comedy about a city morgue clerk forced to take the night shift and soon relishes the quiet until his new rambunctious assistant comes in and livens things up by scheming for them to become pimps. Michael Keaton made his film debut as the new assistant and promptly stole the movie and became a star in the process. Winkler gives his best big screen performance here in the subtler role wisely allowing Keaton his space. The film had more negative reviews in a mixed batch but the film still eeked out a mildly respectable $23.6 million but nowadays there are few people who admit to not having seen it and even fewer that dislike it.
THE ROAD WARRIOR (Warner Bros; Director - George Miller) This high powered, action packed sequel to the cult hit "Mad Max" starred still relative unknown Mel Gibson as Max who, in this film, aids an oil producing community against a band of baddies out to steal the oil. The film is filled with amazing stunts and chases but failed to find its potential audience in 1982 despite strong reviews. The film only grossed $11 million but soon became a cult hit on video and would lead to another sequel in 1985.
SIX PACK (20th Century Fox; Director - Daniel Petrie) This was the film fans were clamoring for that wanted to see country singer Kenny Rogers as a stock car racer who winds up with a clan of kids. This is strictly family fare for those not minding an unoriginal script and seeing children's antics over and over. The film received mostly scathing reviews but still made a respectable $20 million.
SUMMER LOVERS (Filmways; Director - Randal Kleiser) Kleiser, director of two previous smash hits (Grease; The Blue Lagoon), finally got tripped up with this ill-conceived and mostly sexual teasing drama about three friends on summer vacation on a Greek island who constantly hint at having a threesome and then spend 90 boring minutes consistently teasing the audience. The photography was stunning but there was little else to enjoy, as audiences dislike being frustrated for longer then a few minutes at a time. The film was a bomb at the box office.
THINGS ARE TOUGH ALL OVER (Columbia; Director - Thomas Avildsen) Believe it or not but back in 1978 Cheech and Chong, two comedians whose forte was drug comedy, became movie stars with their film "Up In Smoke." From then on moviegoers were treated to one movie a year from C&C until their humor became a thing of the past. This was their fourth and least successful movie and indicated what was about to come when each subsequent movie would gross less then the one before it. Here C&C play duo roles, their usual roles plus Arab brothers (with make-up so convincing you barely recognize them) in the story of two idiots who drive a Cadillac from Chicago to Las Vegas not realizing there is $5 million in the car. Not surprisingly there is little more to the story that depends on the two leads to carry the humor with stupid comments and situations. Not surprisingly critics savaged the film but it still made a nice $21 million considering the budget was just over $3 million.
YOUNG DOCTORS IN LOVE (20th Century Fox; Director - Garry Marshall) "Airplane" in a hospital is the best way to describe this comedy that is all over the map with gags flying at you left and right. Depending on your mood probably depended on your opinion of the film. Yes it is stupid but in the right frame of mind you might never stop laughing. This film really divided critics with some lauding its audacious humor and some resentful at its silliness. A bonus for moviegoers was that many soap opera stars (including a pre-fame Demi Moore) make cameo appearances throughout the film. With its meager budget, the film turned a healthy profit grossing over $30 million.