When E.T. came out in 1982, it was an immediate sensation. It overtook Star Wars as the highest-grossing film in the US. It inspired countless thematic interpretations in newspapers and film journals. And its characters, dialogue, and imagery became ubiquitous in pop culture.
E.T. turns 40 this month in a very different world from 1982—a world where we can both experience and measure cultural phenomena online. And boy do Americans show that this movie is still on their minds.
In honor of this special anniversary, my team at getcenturylink.com researched Google search trends, by state, on Steven Spielberg’s entire body of work to see if any patterns emerged. Check out what we found below.
As the map shows, E.T. isn’t the most googled Steven Spielberg film by state.
By a wide margin, that honor goes to Saving Private Ryan. Nineteen states google the WWII film more often than any other Spielberg movie, and it’s the only movie to win a state count in the double digits. Second place goes to Schindler’s List, another solemn WWII-era film honoring the victims of the Jewish Holocaust.
E.T. is actually the third most searched Spielberg film, with 7 states googling it more often than any other Spielberg film.
Of the three top-searched Spielberg movies by state, two explore historical tragedies—and the third is a charming sci-fi children’s movie that draws out the tears for very different reasons.
So whether we’re scanning Google for Henry Thomas’s stunning audition for the role of Elliott, photos of what the cast looks like today, or just a perfect meme for the moment, the numbers are clear: E.T. will be right here.
Let us know in the comments: were you surprised by your state’s results? Any theories about why this Spielberg movie speaks to people in your area? Wild ideas welcome.
By Madeline Gearheart