On its 20th anniversary, Spielberg re-released the movie in theaters in a new edition. To make the film more interesting, Spielberg changed several details. First of all, the sound and picture were digitally remastered. Furthermore, two new scenes were added.
In the first new scene, Elliott's mother searches for her children in the town on Halloween. In the other one, the relationship between E.T. and Elliott is shown in more detail. In the scene in the bathroom, Elliott explains many things about his world and the viewer is shown that E.T's race seems to prefer water as habitat. Spielberg had removed that scene in the original version because E.T. puppet looked too stiff to him.
Moreover, E.T. is digitally animated in several shots now, which, at some points, is very apparent. He has also been remodeled digitally. This can be seen at the beginning of the movie when he is fleeing from the hunters and jumps through the forest like a kangaroo. Later it becomes apparent that E.T's facial expressions have also changed, probably to show more emotions than the puppet was able to. Having said that, the changes only occur in 1/4 of the movie.
After September 11 2001, one conversation between Michael and his mother was also changed. In the original version, she told him that he wasn't allowed to go out dressed like a terrorist. In the Special Edition, the word "terrorist" was replaced by the word "hippie". Furthermore, the weapons that were worn by the security guards when they were following the children have been replaced with walkie talkies. Spielberg, looking back, found it simply inappropriate to have men with guns follow the children.
Years later, Spielberg revealed that he regretted making the changes and now prefers the film the way it originally was. The Special Edition DVD has since gone out of print as the original cut is the only version available on video, though the former still receives some TV airplay. A detailed comparison between both versions with pictures can be found here.