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Film / The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

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Buckaroo Banzai

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension is a 1984 film written by Earl Mac Rauch and directed by W.D. Richter that is one part B-Movie, one part Action-Adventure, one part comedy, and one part political satire.

It boasts some names that were quite famous in the 1980s and remain well known now:


Despite this rather auspicious listing of A and high B list actors, the movie was not well received in theaters. Once it was released to home video, however, it has since developed a cult following.

Brilliant scientist Buckaroo Banzai is a neurosurgeon who performs rock and roll (on multiple instruments, yet!) and studies the unknown. Surrounded by his faithful team of genius rockers, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, he travels the world pleasing the fans with music, and facing off against evil wherever he may find it.

In this adventure, one of many Shrouded in Myth, Buckaroo goes from surgery to the test of the dimension-hopping Jet Car, to a performance at New Brunswick NJ night spot Artie's Artery. As Buckaroo turns the mood mellow with a solo piano performance of "Since I Don't Have You", a gunshot fires. Penny Priddy was trying to commit suicide, but because Buckaroo has many enemies, a misunderstanding results in her being arrested for attempting to kill him. Meanwhile, the Black Lectroids have sent an agent to Earth to warn Buckaroo that their historic enemies the Red Lectroids will try to steal his invention the Oscillation Overthruster (which the Jet Car used to enter the 8th Dimension) and use it to release their comrades from interdimensional exile. To stop them from causing trouble back on Planet Ten, the Black Lectroids will then fire a particle beam from U.S. airspace to the USSR, which will start World War III, which will hopefully result in vaporizing the bad guys. This, needless to say, does not bode well for Earth. The U.S. Government also wants the Jet Car for military applications. Buckaroo has a lot on his plate, but will he manage to save the world, get the girl, and keep the Jet Car from being misused?


More recently, the rights to the property have found themselves in the hands of a certain Kevin Smith, who has announced plans to produce a Buckaroo Banzai television series, a lead-in from his stint working with The Flash (2014). Kevin Smith has stated that he will reboot the concept with the plot of the 1984 film functioning as the first season's story arc, leading to a projected second season based on the sequel-that-never-was, Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League.

Not to be confused with the likewise outrageously alliterative rock and roll action comedy: The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.

This film includes examples of:

  • The Ace: Barely acknowledged. Banzai is the world's foremost surgeon-rockstar-physicist-adventurer, but he treats everyone like an equal.
  • Acid-Trip Dimension: Buckaroo's trip through the 8th dimension.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Penny and Buckaroo have a quiet moment together before the battle against the Lectroids begins in earnest.
  • Aliens Speaking English: The Lectroids.
  • Alliterative Name: Buckaroo Banzai and Penny Priddy
  • All There in the Manual: The novelization and the DVD Commentary include a great deal of explanation and backstory.
  • Arch-Enemy: Hanoi Xan, leader of the World Crime League, is this to Buckaroo Banzai, despite never appearing on screen.
  • Ascended Fanboy
    • Buckaroo has a worldwide fan organization called the Blue Blazer Irregulars, who monitor the airwaves to answer the call from Buckaroo at a moment's notice. Casper Lindley and his son Scooter answer one such call and end up accompanying Team Banzai for the rest of the movie.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Banzai isn't a Japanese surname. It's a part of the famous Japanese "banzai charges" during World War 2, in which Japanese soldiers would shout "Tenno Heika Banzai!" which roughly means "Long live His Majesty, the Emperor!"
  • Audience Surrogate: New Jersey.
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: Everything from cowboy outfits to samurai stuff.
  • Back from the Dead: Penny Priddy, thanks to John Emdall.
    • According to Word of God Rawhide got better too.
    • The novel implies that Penny Priddy may actually be Peggy Banzai. Clues include: Captain Happen (a minor character in a flashback) screaming "Peggy's Alive!" before jumping out a window, Peggy's dug-up coffin revealed to be empty, and surgical scars ("the most skilled I've ever seen") found behind Penny's ears, suggesting brain surgery.
  • Backup Twin: Penny is suspected of being Buckaroo's late wife's identical twin. He develops a relationship with her as well.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds Broadcast wasn't a fake. He was trying to warn people about the actual alien invaders, until they brainwashed him into changing his story and saying it was a hoax.
  • Big Bad: Lord John Whorfin, leader of the aliens trying to return to the 8th Dimension.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Hong Kong Cavaliers storm the Yoyodyne facility using their band tour bus.
  • Big Electric Switch: Emilio Lizardo/Lord Whorfin uses them twice.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Penny Priddy is all battered and bruised when the good guys get her back from the bad guys, but we see no blood.
  • Blown Across the Room: When John Bigbooté spits a starfish at Sam, the Jet Car mechanic.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Buckaroo is half-Japanese, though he's played by a fully white man. His heritage is occasionally referenced through costuming, such as wearing a headband during his test flight and meditating in a samurai outfit.
  • Chewing the Scenery: John Lithgow as Lord Whorfin, a maniacal tyrant from the 8th dimension who is possessing Dr. Lizardo.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Whorfin using the Shock Tower on Buckaroo and Penny Priddy's torture.
  • Comm Links: Buckaroo and Rawhide each have one.
  • Cool Car: The Jet Car, and the Hong Kong Cavaliers' tour bus
  • Cow Tools: "Why is there a watermelon there?" "I'll tell you later."
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Lots of them.
  • Curtain Call: During the end credits, Buckaroo and all of the heroic characters assemble in a dry urban aqueduct to march together while synth music thumps to the rhythm of their steps.
  • Damsel in Distress: Penny Priddy spends most of the film captive and tormented by the villains.
  • Death Is Dramatic: Rawhide and Penny both.
  • Demonic Possession: A variant; the human Emilio Lizardo has been taken over by the alien John Whorfin.
  • Disposable Woman: Peggy Banzai, Buckaroo's dead wife.
  • Dope Slap: Whorfin to the guard who couldn't turn on the TV to show Penny's torture.
  • Down L.A. Drain: The setting for the closing credits.
  • Eject... Eject... Eject...: During the jet car test one of the mission controllers tells Buckaroo this.
  • Electric Love: Buckaroo has saved the world! Unfortunately, although he rescued his Love Interest Penny Priddy, it wasn't in time to save her life. Thanks to a little help from the alien John Emdall, though, what Buckaroo intended as a goodbye kiss is literally electric and behaves like a defibrillator. Penny revives, and they get to do their Big Damn Kiss.
    John Emdall: [sideye to the camera] ... So what? Big deal.
  • Final Speech: Rawhide.
  • Five Man Band Concert: The Hong Kong Cavaliers number greater than five, but there are five playing at Artie's Artery.
  • Flashback: Early scenes depict the tests of the Jet Car, and the accident that caused Lizardo to end up with Whorfin living in his head.
  • Flashback... Back... Back...: At the beginning of the flashback to Lizardo's accident.
  • Fruit of the Loon: See "why is there a watermelon there?"
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Buckaroo invented the Jet Car and (with Professor Hikita) the Oscillation Overthruster, among other things.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors:
    • Red Lectroids are evil, Black Lectroids are good. This works in both their human and native appearances. Red Lectroids are disguised as red-headed white humans and Black Lectroids are black Rastafarians with Jamaican accents.
    • In their human guises, Red Lectroids have bright, orangey red hair. When Lizardo gets possessed by Lord John Whorfin, his previously black hair suddenly turns bright red.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: John Emdall sends Buckaroo a Hologram recording that can only be viewed by wearing special Lectroid-made eyewear. Which looks suspiciously like bubble wrap.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The U.S. Department of Defense, in the form of its Secretary.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Hanoi Xan, leader of the World Crime League — mentioned on the novelization, the DVD Commentary and in the Buckaroo comic books. He engineered Peggy Banzai's murder.
  • Groin Attack: Buckaroo kicks a Red Lectroid in the groin after being discovered.
  • Gun Fu: In the climactic base invasion, Buckaroo shoots three Lectroids surrounding him by passing his gun behind his head twice.
  • Hachimaki: Buckaroo ties one around his head before the jet car speed run.
  • Hand Signals: During the infiltration of Yoyodyne, Perfect Tommy makes a "come on" signal to the rest of his team.
  • Headdesk: Perfect Tommy lightly bumps his head against the prison bars while Buckaroo is talking to Penny Priddy in jail. The expression on his face and later dialogue indicates that he's doing it out of disbelief that Buckaroo is wasting his time with a woman who tried to kill him.
  • Heroes "R" Us: the Banzai Institute, located in East Brunswick NJ is Buckaroo's headquarters and the place where the Hong Kong Cavaliers and the rest of Buckaroo's staff bunk between assignments/jobs/missions.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Buckaroo takes advantage of an unattended motorcycle to pursue the Red Lectroids. The owner shouts at him until he recognizes Buckaroo.
  • Hologram: The message from John Emdall, generated by a record player-like device.
  • Homemade Inventions: the Jet Car.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: Lord John Whorfin demands the Oscillation Overthruster in return for Penny Priddy's life. Penny actually had the Overthruster in her purse, but "this psycho Whorfin doesn't know that."
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The Eighth Dimension happens to be where the evil Red Lectroids were exiled as well as the dimension that vehicles using the Oscillation Overthruster to pass through solid matter wind up in. It's also apparently a combination of Jan Svenkmayer animation, electron microscopy, and nausea-inducing swerving.
  • I Have Your Wife: When they grab "Doctor" Penny Priddy, the first order of business is trying to get Buckaroo to submit to a hostage exchange for the overthruster. Penny puts up a brave front; Buckaroo tells her to get off the phone.
  • Insistent Terminology: On multiple occasions the Red Lectroid John Bigbooté has his name mispronounced. Lord Whorfin calls him "Bigbooty" and the U.S. Secretary of Defense calls him "Big Boot". Near the end of the movie he actually gets shot by Lord Whorfin because of his angry insistence that his surname be pronounced "big-boo-TAY".
  • Joisey: Almost all the Earthside action takes place in New Jersey.
    PA Voice: Warning: We are not in the Eighth Dimension. We are over New Jersey.
  • Large Ham: John Lithgow gorges himself on scenery as Lord John Whorfin. He admits as much in retrospective interviews.
  • Last Kiss: Buckaroo tries to give one to Penny Priddy after she dies, but it partially revives her. He finishes bringing her back with a True Love's Kiss.
  • Lie Detector: The Shock Tower that Lord Whorfin hooks Buckaroo up to.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: All Buckaroo media [the movie, the comics, the novels] are all supposedly based on the adventures of Buckaroo himself, who is not a character, but a real person.
  • Long Lost Sibling: Penny is the long lost twin sister of Buckaroo's dead wife, Peggy. Maybe.
  • MacGuffin: The perfected oscillation overthruster; after its use in the jet car test in the opening scenes reveals that it allows travel to the 8th Dimension, much of the plot is driven by the good guys having to keep it out of the hands of the villains. Tellingly, it isn't used again — not even in the climax. Lizardo/Whorfin loses patience with the search and declares the original overthruster will suffice for their needs. It doesn't.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Emilio Lizardo after he's possessed by Lord John Whorfin.
  • Meaningful Name: Penny Priddy.
  • Midair Repair: Buckaroo jumpstarts his borrowed Lectroid ship while it's in free fall.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Kidnapping and theft -> A plot to conquer a planet and the possible start of World War III.
  • Naïve Newcomer: New Jersey (the character so nicknamed, not the place).
  • Neck Lift: Lord John Whorfin to an insane asylum attendant and John Bigbooté to the Secretary of Defense.
  • Neck Snap: Lord John Whorfin to the attendant he Neck Lifted, and John Parker to a miniature Red Lectroid during the infiltration of Yoyodyne.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Musician-surgeon-physicist-commando-adventurers!
  • Noodle Incident: Practically half the script consists of offhand references to unseen adventures or bizarre events that are never expanded upon.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The Yoyodyne facility.
  • Novelization: The novel, by Earl Mac Rauch himself, provides so much fun extra material that it could count as a one-volume Expanded Universe all by itself.
  • Offhand Backhand: John Bigbooté does it to one of the hunters.
  • Offing the Annoyance:
    John Bigboote: We've had our chance! Your overthruster's for shit! We're lost!
    Lord John Whorfin: One more word out of you, Bigbooty...
    John Bigboote: [screaming] BIG-BOO-TAY! TAY! TAY!
    [Whorfin shoots him]
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Buckaroo Banzai is a neurosurgeon and physicist.
  • 1-Dimensional Thinking: Buckaroo tries to get away from a pursuing truck by running straight down the road. The road was fenced in on both sides. Some of the time.
  • One Steve Limit: Hilariously averted. ALL the Lectroids are named John. Including the women. It's the second major clue Team Banzai has that something's fishy at Yoyodyne.
  • Operator Incompatibility: Buckaroo has some difficulty flying the Red Lectroid Thermopod thanks to this.
  • Parody Sue: Buckaroo himself is a rock-and-rolling neurosurgeon, surrounded by other genius musicians who save the world regularly from the forces of evil.
  • Pistol-Whipping: a Blue Blaze Irregular knocks out John Parker while he's infiltrating Buckaroo's estate.
  • Planet of Steves: The Lectroids all have the first name "John". The novelization states that in the Lectroid language, it's not a name but something closer to an honorific — something somewhere between "Hey, you!" and "Mister".
  • Precision F-Strike: In the very beginning of the film, as Team Banzai testing the Oscillation Overthruster (without telling anyone else what the actual point of the experiment was), resulting in everyone being very confused when Buckaroo drives through a mountain:
    Chase One: We've got his tracks, they go right up to a wall of rock! Holy shit!
  • Pre-Insanity Reveal: When Dr. Emilio Lizardo first appears he's locked up in an insane asylum and acts crazy. While he's undergoing self-inflicted electroshock therapy there's a Flash Back of what happened to him. He was originally a scientist who worked with Professor Hikita to develop a prototype version of the Oscillation Overthruster. During a test of the device he was possessed by the Red Lectroid leader Lord John Whorfin.
  • Psychic Powers: Buckaroo is hinted at having them. He displays a bit of empathy, determining "someone isn't having a good time."
  • Power Walk: Averted in the end credits, though it can be thought of as an embryonic version.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: An armed John Bigbooté grabs Professor Hikita at the conference.
    John Bigbooté: Let those gunbelts hit the floor! Nobody follows, or the Prof is history!
  • Put Their Heads Together: The newly possessed Dr. Lizardo does it to two of his colleagues.
  • Ramming Always Works: Lord Whorfin's troopship vs. the Red Lectroid thermopod. Except it doesn't.
  • Recursive Canon: See Literary Agent Hypothesis.
  • Recycled Trailer Music: Buckaroo did poorly, in part, due to poor promotion. Movies made thereafter learned from this unfortunate mistake.
  • Renaissance Man: Buckaroo Banzai and his Hong Kong Cavaliers are scientists, paramilitary secret agents and rock stars all in one.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: they're Buckaroo's favourite weapons. He has a pair specifically for when he catches Hanoi Xan.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Dr. Emilio Lizardo's room in the asylum was covered in notes for the Overthruster he'd been working on at the time of the accident that caused him to share a body with an evil Lectroid.
  • Rousing Speech: Delivered in glorious, epically hammy style by Lord John Whorfin to the Red Lectroids as they prepare to enter the 8th dimension, free their trapped comrades, and seize control of Planet Ten.
    Dr. Lizardo: History! Is a-made at a-night. Character! Is a-what you are in-a de dark! We must-a work! While the clock! She is a-ticking! WHERE ARE WE GOING?
    Red Lectroids: PLANET TEN!
    Dr. Lizardo: WHEN?
    Red Lectroids: REAL SOON!
  • Rule of Cool: Hard-rocking scientists who make breakthroughs in all fields of scientific endeavor between playing gigs at dive bars and saving the world? Yeah, the film is made from the trope.
  • Running Gag: Mispronouncing John Bigbooté's name.
    John Bigbooté: "It's big-boo-TAY! TAY!"
  • Science Hero: Buckaroo himself. All the Hong Kong Cavaliers are implied to be this, though the only one shown doing any science in the film is New Jersey, who starts the film assisting Buckaroo with a complicated neurosurgical procedure, and Perfect Tommy, who hacks into Yoyodyne's employment records.
  • Scream Discretion Shot: the scene during which the Red Lectroids torture Buckaroo.
  • See You in Hell: Lord John Whorfin to Buckaroo just before Buckaroo blows him up.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: Used to prevent the Red Lectroids from capturing the Black Thermopod.
  • Sequel Snark: Talks about Buckaroo Banzai returning to fight the forces of Hanoi Xan. This was actually meant as a straight up Sequel Hook, but the film's failure scrapped those plans.
  • Shoot the Bullet: Banzai does this when one of the Red Lectroids spits at himnote .
  • Shout-Out: the name of Yoyodyne was inspired by a similarly named company in Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Buckaroo's early past involving his wife Peggy.
  • Sorry That I'm Dying: Rawhide
  • Spiritual Predecessor: To the Sailor Moon "Death Busters" arc, due to both involving a plot of a mostly one-gender group of heroes (the Hong Kong Cavaliers being this to the Sailor Guardians) up against an evil alien force led by The Quisling Mad Scientist (the Red Lectroids and Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin being this to the Death Busters and Professor Tomoe).
  • Spiteful Spit: Penny Priddy to Lord John Whorfin while he's interrogating her.
  • Static Electricity: The film gets a lot of mileage out of this, with Banzai giving practically everyone he meets a mild electric shock over the course of the movie. Only the Lectroids avoid it.
  • Stock Shout-Outs
    • The makers of some of the later Star Trek series liked making references to this film. The fact that a good chunk of the art department from Next Generation on through Enterprise previously worked on Buckaroo Banzai may have something to do with this.
    • The film's iconic "Why is there a watermelon there" scene is homaged in a 2012 Kitty Pryde/Tony Stark A+X story.
    • The mysterious Dr. B Banzai and his Banzai Institute are rather important minor characters in BattleTech.
  • Storming the Castle: The infiltration of and attack on the Yoyodyne facility.
  • Surprise Vehicle: Buckaroo and the ladder from the Blue Blaze Irregular helicopter.
  • Taking the Bullet: Rawhide, to save Buckaroo from the poisonous mini-starfish a Red Lectroid spat at him.
  • Tap on the Head: Red Lectroids do it to several humans, and one of Buckaroo's Blue Blaze Irregulars does it to the Black Lectroid John Parker.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: In a scene cut from the movie, but included in the DVD extras, while Team Banzai watch John Emdall's holographic message and Emdall threatens to fire a particle beam at Smolensk if Banzai fails to stop Whorfin:
    Perfect Tommy: That's an action that the Kremlin would most certainly misinterpret as an American first strike.
    John Emdall: That is correct, Perfect Tommy!
  • That's an Order!: Stock Phrase used by the state trooper when he tells the Yoyodyne employees to leave the Black Thermopod alone.
  • Theme Naming: all the Lectroids, Red or Black, are named John when their names are translated into Earth English. Even the females.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: New Jersey plays part of the movie's main theme on the piano.
  • This Ain't Rocket Surgery: Actually it is. Buckaroo is capable of both brain surgery and rocket science. And so are most of the Hong Kong Cavaliers.
  • Tracking Device: There is apparently one of these on the Oscillation Overthruster (or possibly Penny Priddy), as Buckaroo uses a signal detector to find her inside Yoyodyne.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: In the Red Lectroid bivouac and Pitt inside the Yoyodyne building.
  • True Love's Kiss: Buckaroo uses one to resurrect Penny Priddy.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The film practically defied classification when it was first released in 1984, but in hindsight, it can actually be seen as a Deconstructive Parody of the kinds of superhero franchises that would come to dominate Hollywood in the decades after its release. Part of the movie's gimmick is that it's a standalone film that's deliberately made to look like one installment in an expansive saga, complete with a complex backstory that's never fully explained, references to important characters who never appear, and even a Sequel Hook for a sequel that was never made; many of the jokes are essentially Mythology Gags for a mythology that doesn't exist. The movie was made decades before those very sorts of films—sprawling multi-part epics with Loads and Loads of Characters, constant Mythology Gags, and never-ending Sequel Hooks—actually became commonplace, but it manages to demonstrate how bizarre the average franchise film would look if it didn't have a franchise to go with it.
    • Even the infamous "watermelon gag" wouldn't be out of place in a modern Cinematic Universe film:
      Someone In The Batcave: Why is there a dinosaur over there?
      Batman: It's a long story.
      Audience: Any comic book fan knows why there's a dinosaur in the Batcave!
  • Unfortunate Names
    • Buckaroo is his real first name, owing to his father's enamorment with cowboys.
    • A significant number of the Red Lectroids had Unfortunate Names: John Yaya, John Smallberries, John Icicle Boy, John Bigbooté (whose name was pronounced Big Boo Tay, thank you).
  • Unusual User Interface: Apparently, the Lectroids have important controls operable using their feet. This normally wouldn't sound odd, but these controls happen to be levers rather than pedals. It gives Buckaroo a bit of trouble while he's trying to figure out how to pilot a Thermopod. The Black Lectroid with him does mention that the design is very bad.
  • Voice of the Legion: Lord John Whorfin.
  • Wait Here
    • When the Red Lectroids break into Buckaroo's mansion, he tells Penny Priddy to stay in his room. Of course she wanders off looking for him, which is both good and bad. Professor Hikita manages to pass the Oscillation Overthruster to her so the Red Lectroids can't get it from him, but then she's captured by them and used as a Hostage for MacGuffin.
    • Buckaroo tells the Hong Kong Cavaliers to wait outside Yoyodyne for thirty minutes, then to come in after him.
  • Waxing Lyrical: Some of Lord John Whorfin's more eccentric pronouncements are actually song lyrics. ("I feel so broke up, I want to go home.")
  • Widget Series: When Jeff Goldblum as a cowboy named New Jersey is only the tip of the weirdness iceberg, you're definitely a W(H)AT.
  • "Will Return" Caption: The film ended with the announcement that BB would return in Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League. The movie wasn't a success, so he didn't.
  • World of Badass: Part of the movie's appeal is that there isn't a single character who isn't quite the badass.
  • World of Ham: Surprisingly defied. Other than John Lithgow as Lord John Whorfin, everyone gives rather understated performances. . . which actually adds to the film's charm and hilarity. It's a completely silly film that takes its silliness completely seriously.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: New Jersey joins the Hong Kong Cavaliers in a ridiculous cowboy outfit.
  • Yellow Peril: Hanoi Xan, apparently.
  • Your Other Left: Buckaroo and John Parker are in a thermopod; John Parker is steering, and Buckaroo is navigating — while seated in a backward-facing chair: "Left! I said left! ... I meant my left, your right!"

Alternative Title(s): Buckaroo Banzai, The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension


Example of: