In September and October, the Cinematheque is proud to present a selection of five features from the decade that has seemingly produced more enduring cult movies than any other: the 1980s. We begin with Pee-wee’s Big Adventure in tribute to the late, great Paul Reubens. On Saturdays in October, the Cinematheque’s screen will be aglow with John Carpenter’s genre-splicing action favorite Big Trouble in Little China; the musical-horror-comedy Little Shop of Horrors; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Tobe Hooper’s highly satirical sequel to his 70s drive-in classic; and David Cronenberg’s brilliant 1986 remake of The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum.

  • Fri., Sep. 1 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

In the strange but wonderful story of Pee-wee’s search for his beloved bicycle, the late, great Reubens made his leading man(child) debut, becoming one of the iconic figures of the 1980s. Director Burton and screenwriters Reubens, Phil Hartman, and Michael Varhol managed to craft a narrative and emotional atmosphere that constantly surprises and pays homage to all kinds of cinema, from Godzilla to James Bond to Italian neorealism.  

  • Sat., Oct. 7 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Russell stars as truck-driving Jack Burton, who, along with his sidekick Wang Chi (Dennis Dun), fights sorcerers and kung fu masters to rescue Wang’s kidnapped fiancée in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Carpenter’s satirical variation on Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu stories adds dazzling special effects, brilliant martial arts choreography, and loads of humor, resulting in one of the most beloved of 80s cult movies. Presented as part of the 2023 Asian American Spotlight, with the support of Asian American Studies at UW-Madison.

  • Sat., Oct. 14 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Skid row florist’s apprentice Seymour (Moranis) discovers an exotic new plant and soon finds fame, fortune, and love with co-worker Audrey (Greene). The Faustian twist is that Seymour’s plant is a mean, green mother from outer space who feeds on fresh, human blood. The musical movie version of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s off-Broadway and Broadway smash, itself adapted from Roger Corman’s 1960 low budget comedy horror cult classic, was originally released with a more upbeat ending demanded by test audiences. This slightly longer Director’s Cut retains the stage version’s original conclusion, a sequence featuring brilliant and elaborate special effects.

  • Sat., Oct. 21 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

An FM radio DJ (Williams) and a former Texas ranger (Hopper, at his most unhinged) are drawn into the web of the cannibalistic family at the center of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. With a sharp screenplay by L.M. Kit Carson (Paris, Texas) and fearless performances by all involved, director Hooper amped up the gore and the satire and defied the odds to come up with a worthy sequel to his 1974 horror classic. (BR)

  • Sat., Oct. 28 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Experimenting with teleportation, brilliant inventor and scientist Seth Brundle (Goldblum) accidentally splices his genes with those of a common house fly. Initially becoming a physically powerful sex addict and sugarholic, Brundle and his new love, journalist Veronica (Davis), must eventually reckon with his deterioration and transformation. Director and co-screenwriter Cronenberg’s superb remake of the 1958 sci-fi classic skillfully blends operatic levels of gore and make-up effects with a touching and tragic love story. 35mm print courtesy Chicago Film Society.