Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985) - Rotten Tomatoes

Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)



Critic Consensus: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure brings Paul Reubens' famous character to the big screen intact, along with enough inspired silliness to dazzle children of all ages.

Pee-wee's Big Adventure Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

Co-written by Paul Reubens and Phil Hartman, Pee Wee's Big Adventure marks the debut of director Tim Burton, who stamps the entire film with his quirky trademark style. The premise: Pee Wee (Reubens), an overgrown pre-pubescent boy sporting a molded Princeton cut, blush, lipstick, and a shrunken gray flannel suit, lives an idyllic life in his bizarre home (some have compared the remarkable set design to the expressionistic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) until someone nabs his most prized possession: a fire engine-red customized bicycle. He then embarks on an epic cross-country search to find his lost love, not to mention more than a little adventure. Along the way, he makes friends with various oddball characters, visits the Alamo, endures various hallucinatory nightmares, and has a supernatural run-in with a spectral trucker. In this reprisal of his popular standup routine, Reubens is wonderful as the nerdy man child; he plays it silly, yet he manages to imbue the role with some sensitivity without ever seeming maudlin. The score by Danny Elfman is terrific -- as is the case in nearly every film Burton has directed -- and the script is fresh and inventive. Some of the most memorable moments: the opening sequence involving Pee Wee's morning activities is a stroke of genius (note the bunny slippers and talking breakfast), as are the scenes at the truck stop, and the "Hollywood" version of Pee Wee's story at the end (starring James Brolin and Morgan Fairchild in surprise cameos). In all, Pee Wee's Big Adventure is a delightful film, enjoyable for children as well as adults. ~Rovimore
Rating: PG (violence)
Genre: Comedy, Kids & Family
Directed By:
Written By: Phil Hartman, Paul Reubens, Michael Varhol
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 2, 2000
Warner Home Video


Paul Reubens
as Pee-Wee Herman
Mark Holton
as Francis
Judd Omen
as Mickey
Carmen Filpi
as Hobo Jack
Starletta DuPois
as Sergeant Hunter
Mark Everett
as BMX Kid
Bill Cable
as Policeman
Peter Looney
as Policeman
Ed Herlihy
as Mr. Buxton
Ralph Seymour
as Francis' Accomplice
Lou Cutell
as Amazing Larry
Raymond Martino
as Gang Member
Erica Yohn
as Mme. Ruby
Bill Richmond
as Highway Patrolman
Alice Nunn
as Large Marge
Ed Griffith
as Trucker
Simmy Bow
as Man in Diner
John Moody
as Bus Clerk
Alex Sharp
as Cowboy
Jason Hervey
as Kevin Morton
Bob McClurg
as Studio Guard
John Paragon
as Movie Lot Actor
Susan Barnes
as Movie Lot Actress
Lynne Marie Stewart
as Mother Superior
George Sasaki
as Japanese Director
Bob Drew
as Fireman
John Gilgreen
as Policeman at Pet Sho...
Phil Hartman
as Reporter
Michael Varhol
as Photographer
Milton Berle
as Himself [uncredited]
Tony Bill
as Terry Hawthorne
Twisted Sister
as Themselves
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Pee-wee's Big Adventure

Critic Reviews for Pee-wee's Big Adventure

All Critics (43) | Top Critics (5)

Reubens always lets us feel superior to his creation, and when his character slips, as it does more than once in this first feature outing, his own condescension shows through.

Full Review… | February 9, 2010
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Fair warning: this movie could induce terminal boredom in adults and rot the minds of the young.

Full Review… | February 9, 2010
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Children should love the film and adults will be dismayed by the light brushstrokes with which Paul Reubens (one of three credited screenwriters, but star-billed under his stage name, Pee-wee Herman) suggests touches of Buster Keaton and Eddie Cantor.

Full Review… | February 9, 2010
Top Critic

Fed by comic tributaries perhaps, but Pee-Wee Herman comes over as a delightful original.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

You have been warned.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

It's a true original -- a comedy maverick that looks and feels like no other movie I know.

Full Review… | July 31, 2015
Christian Science Monitor

Audience Reviews for Pee-wee's Big Adventure

Often too juvenile to bear, but for the other moments it's mostly just pure, exuberant fun. Full review later.

Thomas Bowler

Super Reviewer


Tim Burton's "Peewee's Big Adventure" is arguably scarier than it is funny, blending the darkness and lightness together, and I absolutely loved that contrast. The odd visuals and the bubbly soundtrack make this film a joy to watch, even though sometimes it forgets what kind of film it is trying to be, throwing in random jump scares. The story is simple, Peewee's bike is stolen and the film is his journey to bring it back. It is a very fun tale that many films after have clearly been influenced by. Some people may be turned off by it's two-sidedness, but I loved that about it. The art direction is really commendable and is what I'll remember this film most for, and of course, the Peewee character. This is an extremely fun movie!

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer


The start of Tim Burton's great directing career. "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" is odd, funny, and entertaining. So many iconic moments, from the Alamo to Large Marge to Pee-wee's trek through Hollywood. I also love how Danny Elfman's score perfectly syncs to the film. The screenwriters did a great job with the script by creating truly memorable characters and scenes. Add Burton's quirky directing skills and what we get is one humorous adventure.

Mickey: Well, I lost my temper and I took a knife and I uh-. Do you know those "Do Not Remove Under the Penalty of Law" labels they put on mattresses?
Pee-wee: Yeah.
Mickey: Well I CUT one of them off!

Market Man
Eric Shankle

Super Reviewer

Pee-wee's Big Adventure Quotes

– Submitted by Jazen H (15 months ago)
– Submitted by Jazen H (15 months ago)
– Submitted by Michael W (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Michael W (2 years ago)

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