There's a lotta things about me you don't know anything about, Dottie. Things you wouldn't understand. Things you couldn't understand. Things you shouldn't understand.
-Pee-wee, describing himself
The 1985 big-screen adaptation of Paul Reubens' nightclub comedy act (which later inspired Pee-wee's Playhouse), starring Pee-wee Herman As Himself.One day, Pee-wee's treasured bike is stolen by a rival Man Child. Desperate to get it back, he embarks on a cross country journey, meeting many bizarre characters along the way (and considering the sort of guy Pee-wee Herman is, that's one hell of a mouthful).Notable for launching the careers of Tim Burton and Danny Elfman (his film composer career, anyway), though Reubens was the real person in-charge. A lesser-known factoid is that much of the film's atmosphere is based on the 1982 no-budget cult film Forbidden Zone: Burton and Reubens were both huge fans of the film, and their decision to hire Danny Elfman was based on his work with the Forbidden Zone group. The movie was written by Reubens and the late great Phil Hartman.
Pee-wee's Big Adventure contains examples of the following tropes:
Apathetic Citizens: The movie clearly establishes the strip mall Pee Wee visits is busy - with hordes of people walking around, riding bikes and skateboards. However evidently no one seems to have said anything about a person cutting a hundred pounds of chain off of a bike and leaving with it.
Artistic License - Law: Pee Wee tries to sneak a file to Mickey at the end of the film. The police officer who catches it merely says "nice try", though actually attempting to break someone out of jail is fairly serious.
Especially considering that the whole story of the "tag removal" was thought up by Mickey at the last second to cover up whatever he really did with the knife.
California Doubling: Most of the "Texas" scenes are shot in California. The Dinosaur Park is located in Cabazon, while the rodeo scenes were shot at the L.A. County Fairgrounds. Scenes done inside The Alamo were shot at The Mission San Fernando Rey de Espaņa in Mission Hills but the shots of Pee-Wee entering and exiting The Alamo are of the real McCoy.
Lead biker: I say, we kill him. Rest of the gang: Yeah! Biker #2: I say we hang him then we kill him. Rest of the gang: Yeah! Biker #3: I say we scalp him! Gang: Yeah! Biker #3: Then we tattoo him! Gang: Yeah! Biker #3: Then we hang him! Gang: Yeah! Biker #3: And then we kill him! Gang: Yeah! Pee-Wee(in a tiny voice): I say we let him go. Biker gang: NO!
Disguised in Drag: Pee Wee. Both the policeman and Mickey seem to like what they see.
Disproportionate Retribution: Subverted. Pee-wee hitchhikes with a guy on the run from the law, and helps him sneak through a police roadblock. When asked what his crime was, he begins to talk about doing something terrible with a knife, then realizes that he's frightening Pee-wee, so he claims that he cut the tag off his mattress. The naive Pee-wee nods in sympathy, saying, "I always thought that was the dumbest law."
The main plot plays it straight. Francis, the spoiled rich kid, has Pee-wee's custom bike stolen just because Pee-wee wouldn't sell it to him. After he sees Pee-wee's determination to get his bike back, he pays the thief he hired extra to get rid of it.
Informed Loner: A running gag has people who try to ditch someone claim to be "a loner, a rebel..." Pee-wee says it to worm out of a date with Dottie, which is mirrored in the Film Within A Film. Mickey also ditches Pee-wee with the same words in an Ironic Echo.
Innocent Innuendo: Simone, the Greasy Spoon waitress, is overheard by her boyfriend talking to Pee-wee, and he assumes something else "Everyone I know has a big 'but' [read: excuse for not following their dream] Come on, Simone, let's talk about your big 'but.'"
Jail Bake: Not in a cake, but in a footlong hot dog.
Lemming Cops: The security guards at Warner Bros., who take chase (and crash rather impressively), rather than just cutting off all the studio exits.
Line-of-Sight Name: How Pee-wee gets duped by a fortune teller into going on a wild goose hunt to the Alamo.
Man Child: Pee-wee and his archnemesis Francis Buxton.
Santa Claus: Santa Claus and Godzilla. Together at last!
Shout-Out: Large Marge is an homage to the classic ghost story of Big Joe (also the subject of an old song called "Phantom 309"). Unlike Marge, Joe is a friendly fella who doesn't try to scare his passengers and gives them money to eat at the diner where he drops them off.
Spell My Name with an S: In the DVD commentary, Reubens points out that Pee-wee's flyer incorrectly capitalizes the "W" in "Pee-wee."
Survivors Guilt: During the scene when Pee-wee is wheeled out of the bike shop on a gurney, actress Elizabeth Daily's face went completely white. After filming the scene, Reubens asked her what was wrong and she replied to him that the scene had brought back painful memories of seeing her then-boyfriend, Jon-Erik Hexum, being wheeled off of a set on a gurney after accidentally and fatally shooting himself.
Too Dumb to Live: Pee-wee, in a bar full of murderous bikers: "Shhhh! I'm trying to use the phone!"
Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: One of the animals sold in the burning pet shop are snakes, which Pee-Wee is rather squeamish about touching. When there's no other animals left to be saved (except for the fishes), he grabs as many as he can and runs out of the building screaming.
Work Off the Debt: Pee-wee washes dishes for his meal at a diner after discovering that he left his wallet at Madam Ruby's.