Set in the vast Mojave desert, the film tells the story of Travis, a man found aimlessly wondering the empty roads while suffering from memory loss; he is found by his brother and sister-in-law, who proceed to attempt to reunite him with his seven-year-old son, Hunter, who he hasn't seen in four years. Upon regaining his memory and bonding with his son, Travis decides to go looking for the boy's mother, whose whereabouts are unknown.
The film was a great critical success, earning the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival 1984 and several other awards, including the BAFTA's Best Director Award for Wim Wenders. Also of note is Robby Müller's breathtaking photography, portraying the vast expanses of the desert and its colorful bars, roads and motels.
Paris, Texas contains examples of:
- Adult Fear: Walt and Anne fear losing Hunter to Travis. Also their reaction when hearing that Travis took Hunter on a road trip to Houston without their consent.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Travis suffers from loss of memory which he successively recovers from. He is afraid of flying and displays some autistic behavior when insisting to continue their road trip in the same car they had before. The exact nature of his disorder is never revealed though.
- Chekhov's Boomerang: The walkie-talkies Hunter wants for the ride come in handy when they split out to look for Jane at the bank. Later Travis uses one to record a message to Hunter.
- Dark and Troubled Past: The film takes its time revealing what exactly had happened between the seemingly happy couple of Travis and Jane. It turns out he was abusive towards her and kept her locked in their home, and when she escaped, she tried to burn him alive along with the rest of the house.
- Easy Amnesia: Travis has some sort of memory loss at the start of the film, which goes away and is never mentioned again after he spends some time with his family and watches old homemade films.
- The End Is Nigh: The lunatic on the bridge spouting off about the evils of the world.
- Happier Home Movie: Travis watches a home movie of the time he and Jane were still together.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Travis hits a pub after his first encounter with Jane.
- The Lost Lenore: Jane, though technically she's not dead. At the beginning of the film she's been missing for four years, with the majority of Travis' actions being motivated by his memories of her and desire to reconnect.
- MayDecember Romance: Travis is over 35 years Jane senior, if not more. It'd be difficult to call it a romance though.
- Mysterious Past: It is never quite explained what Travis has been doing on his own for four years, or how he wound up walking around, nearly dehydrated, in the middle of the desert.
- Never Trust a Title: None of the film actually takes place in Paris, Texas, though the town is repeatedly mentioned in dialogue and acts as a recurring thematic motif.
- The Oner: The last scene in the stripper booth where Jane talks about her experience is done in one take of 8 minutes.
- The Place: Paris, Texas. Though we never get to visit the place.
- Platonic Prostitution: Jane and the other Sexy Nurse stripper mention that they are used just listen to their customers.
- Precious Photo: Travis kept a photo of himself and Jane which he later bestows to his son.
- Regional Riff: The film is set in Texas and the entire soundtrack consists of country-style slide guitar, courtesy of one Ry Cooder.
- Road Trip Plot: A quintessential one. Travis travel across West Texas and Southern California. Ironically though, they never actually reach Paris.
- Sweater Girl: The first time we see Jane, she is wearing a pink sweater. Likely invoked, since it's technically a costume for her job.
- Thirsty Desert: Travis collapses out of dehydration after crossing the dessert at the beginning.
- Title Drop: Several. First time it's Walt in the car when seeing the picture of the lot Travis bought.
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: Nastassja Kinski doesn't quite master her character's Texan accent, and periodically lapses back into her native German one, creating a kind of weird hybrid dialect that's impossible to pin down. It's more noticeable than it would be otherwise since she's the only one in the film with any notable accent whatsoever.