June 18, 2007 12:00 PM

With a $10 million budget and some child actors, director Steven Spielberg set out to make a movie inspired by his childhood (early title: A Boy’s Life). His tale of a boy who befriends a stranded alien—E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial—took audiences over the moon. “I never thought it would be such a sensation,” says Henry Thomas, who played Elliott. But it soon passed Star Wars to become the top-grossing film of all time (until Titanic). A quarter-century later, E.T. still lights up the hearts of kids and adults. “It’s our Wizard of Oz,” says Dee Wallace, who played the mom, “and will be lasting into centuries to come.”

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