Yes, E.T., the film about Elliott, the 10 year-old boy who finds an alien in his back yard and hides him in his bedroom. Despite the alien's bizarre appearance and behaviour, Elliott forms a deep friendship with him, along with a psychic connection which I would say represents an extreme form of affective empathy (feeling and experiencing what the other person feels and experiences). But it's not the psychic gags (and dangers) that make this an empathy film: it's Elliott's care for E.T.'s needs over his own wants, especially his understanding E.T.'s need to be reunited with his fellow aliens, effectively leaving Elliott bereft of his dearest friend. It seems that Spielberg intended for an empathic message to resonate throughout the story: in interviews he has suggested that the story's central alien-human friendship is an analogy for how real-world adversaries can learn to overcome their differences through mutual understanding. I first saw this film aged 11, and I'm waiting patiently to watch it again with my now five-year-old kids in a few years time. 

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Steven Spielberg
Film Category: 
United States