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Film / The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
aka: The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension

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"Remember, no matter where you go, there you are."
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, physicist, music star, spiritual guru, commando squad leader, globetrotting adventurer, and geopolitical consultant who fights hostile aliens, performs rock and roll (on multiple instruments, yet!), test drives interdimensional experimental vehicles, advises world leaders on how to prevent nuclear war, 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, New Jersey 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?

In 2016, Kevin Smith, announced plans to produce a Buckaroo Banzai television series, a lead-in from his stint working with The Flash (2014). He would have rebooted 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. Unfortunately, rights issues got in the way, as Rauch and Richter, the original creators, brought to attention that they may still retain the rights to Buckaroo Banzai, along with the TV rights, which led to lawsuits between MGM and the two creators, and Kevin Smith decided to walk away.

A sequel to the novelization based on Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League was released in 2021, gaining mixed reviews from readers and critics, in large part due to its shock-value elements, unstructured and rambling plot, and its "warts and all" approach in its homage to classic pulp science fiction.

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. One with a massive fan club and fan base, at that. Not to mention Banzai is so absurdly overpowered that he can singlehandedly start a nuclear war if he ever chooses to - but he treats everyone like an equal.
    • Banzai and Perfect Tommy briefly discuss how Tommy is, indeed, perfect, with neither treating this as anything other than obvious fact.
  • 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.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of B Movies and pulp science fiction.
  • The Ageless: It doesn't get brought up but Dr. Emelio Lizardo doesn't age a bit after he's possessed by Whorfin, even though fifty years pass.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: While Whorfin is a genocidal maniac, even the aliens who are ostensibly the good guys are willing to goad Earth's two main political powers into nuking each other and everyone else to smithereens if it means getting rid of Whorfin.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: Most of the alien action takes place in and around New Jersey. (The place, not the Jeff Goldblum character). Leading to the wonderful line "We are not in the eighth dimension! We are over New Jersey!"
  • 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.
  • Alternate History: In the novelization's sequel, it's suggested that Buckaroo Banzai invented his world's equivalent of the iPhone and that there is a second U.S. President James Monroe who may or may not be related to the first.
  • Ambadassador:
    • John Parker, the only surviving representative of the Black Lectroids on Earth, claims to be a diplomat (who failed flight school) and doesn't carry a weapon, but he manages to learn how to fly quickly and snaps a few Red Lectroid necks in battle.
    • Buckaroo Banzai himself is both Lectroid factions' main point of contact with Earth, in lieu of any appointed representative - which is probably a good thing, given that nearly all of the government officials in the film are incompetent buffoons.
  • And the Adventure Continues: In Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League. Naturally, that never happened.
  • Arch-Enemy: Hanoi Xan, leader of the World Crime League, is this to Buckaroo Banzai, despite never appearing on screen.
  • Artist and the Band: Buckaroo is in a band with several members of his inner circle. They go by Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers.
  • Artistic License – History: A major plot point in the film involves the revelation that Orson Welles' famous 1938 radio drama adaptation of The War of the Worlds was actually a real news broadcast documenting the Red Lectroids' arrival on Earth. This is based on the longstanding rumor that Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast accidentally fooled the American public into believing that Earth was actually being invaded by aliens—but that's just an urban legend. In reality, the program began with an introduction clearly stating that it was just a radio drama (Welles even read the introduction from the novel), and only the first half was framed as a news broadcast. There's also basically zero chance that Orson Welles would have ever made a news broadcast about anything, as he wasn't a journalist: in 1938, he was the founder and artistic director of the Mercury Theatre, an independent theatre company based in New York (his War of the Worlds broadcast was done for their radio show).
  • Ascended Fanboy: Buckaroo has a worldwide fan organization called the Blue Blaze Irregulars, who double as essentially Buckaroo's private militia. They 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!" Amusingly, the film also invokes the trope with Buckaroo's first name, which was chosen by his Japanese father based on his love of the American West (he was evidently unaware that "Buckaroo" wasn't a real American name).note 
  • Atom Punk: Unabashedly blends a 1980s Cold War setting with aliens and ray guns. In the silliest deadpan manner possible.
  • 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.
  • Bad Boss: Lord John Whorfin, who notably is quite fond of dissing his men, particularly John Bigbooté.
    Shut up John Bigbootè you coward! You are the weakest individual I have EVER KNOWN!
  • 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.
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: The President and his cabinet - even the folksy, personable Secretary of Defense - are easily overwhelmed and buckle under pressure. On top of that, the President himself is an invalid in an iron lung. Thankfully, they have Team Banzai to rely on for any heavy lifting.
  • 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.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Naturally, much of Banzai's team, due to their oddball variety of backgrounds and diverse roles:
    • New Jersey, as Reno comments in the novelization, is easily confused and often prepares less than appropriately for new occasions (as shown by him wearing a cowboy outfit to his first day on the job and getting the roles and names of the other members of Team Banzai confused). In spite of his Cloud Cuckoo Lander tendencies, he's the first one perceptive enough to connect the Lectroids to the War of the Worlds hoax. He's also a neurosurgeon of a skill level comparable to Buckaroo, who studied alongside him in college.
    • Perfect Tommy dresses like an eccentric dandy whose Vogue model image is out of place in any other professional environment. He's actually one of the most competent fighters and tactical minds the Banzai Institute has.
    • Reno himself, according to the novel, used to have a background as a policy consultant in Washington D.C. While the most serious and down-to-earth member of the team, he could easily be mistaken for a wisecracking lounge lizard.
    • Penny Priddy is.... less than emotionally stable... but still manages to pull off a few moves that save the team, including hiding the overthruster in plain sight and not giving up its location even when literally tortured to death. She gets better.
  • 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.
    • Similarly, Team Banzai is mentioned in the dialogue as being made up largely of "foreigners, some of 'em" who "come from all over." Yet with the exception of Hikita, two members of the Blue Blaze irregulars, and one character loosely coded as Latin American (who never appears in the movie), almost anyone we see in any significant role is white and speaks with a North American English accent.
  • 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.
  • Combat, Diplomacy, Stealth: The Black vs. Red Lectroid conflict on Earth calls for Banzai and his team to draw on all of these at their discretion. Thankfully, Team Banzai is skilled at all three.
  • 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." Two reasons: In-Universe, Team Banzai had a Zany Scheme to end world hunger via air-droppable watermelons, and only realized they'd blown a fortune after successfully cultivating a watermelon that required industrial equipment to cut. Out-of-universe, the production staff got so tired of the Executive Meddling they started shooting crazy scenes just to wear them out. Once the watermelon scene came and went with no fanfare, they realized they had Protection from Editors and could proceed to go absolutely bananas. Or watermelons, as the case may be.
  • 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.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: New Jersey plays part of the movie's main theme on the piano.
  • 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.
  • Evil Plan: Lord John Whorfin, an extradimensional tyrant who was banished to Earth after being overthrown, seeks to steal a machine so he can return to his homeworld and take his throne back.
  • Experienced Protagonist: At the start of the film, Buckaroo Banzai has already earned enough clout, knowledge, experience, and connections to be a widely sought-after experimental scientist and physician, is the frontman of a well-known multi-genre music ensemble, was a close confidante (and likely more) of a European monarch, and has enough expertise on international (and interstellar) politics to have the ear of the President of the United States and his cabinet.
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: John Whorfin's past is explicitly compared to Hitler's role in World War II. The later tensions between the Black and Red Lectroids in their fight over Earth are parallel to the Cold War and its numerous proxy wars.
  • Final Speech: Rawhide.
  • Five-Man Band Concert: Buckaroo Banzai and The Hong Kong Cavaliers are both a crime-fighting and a music band. They give a concert at "Artie's Artery". The Ace and Leader Buckaroo rocks it on the electric guitar, Reno is the trumpeter, Perfect Tommy plays the bass, Rawhide is the pianist. There is a couple of extra characters playing the guitar and the trumpet as well, so it's more like a seven-man band concert. Later, when Buckaroo asks Dr. Sidney "New Jersey" Zweibel to join the group, their rise their numbers. The numbers sadly decrease when Rawhide dies.
    Reno: You want it, Artie? You got it (drum beats start to be heard).
  • 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?"
  • Funny Background Event: When Scooter runs out to tell his dad that Buckaroo is in trouble, the dad is standing by a stack of couches for sale, outside, in the dark, with a woman sitting on the couch and some random vaguely-pimp-looking man standing next to them.
  • Funny Foreigner: It's briefly alluded to in the dialogue that Buckaroo's international team has a reputation for including a lot of these. However, the only identifiably foreign character on the team is Hikita, who aside from a strong accent isn't particularly stereotypical or exaggerated in his cultural differences.
  • 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.
  • Grand Theft Me: Lord John Whorfin crosses into our dimension by possessing the body of Dr. Emilio Lizardo. Presumably, the good doctor's consciousness was wiped out in the process, as the possibility of saving him is never brought up and no hints are given that he's even still in there somewhere.
    • In the novelization, Lizardo's original consciousness is still present, but can only assert itself when Whorfin is starved of electricity. He wants to use this moment of control to commit suicide and stop Whorfin, but isn't able to.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Humans Are Diplomats: It takes Earth's Banzai Institute/Hong Kong Cavaliers to finally resolve the conflict between the Black and Red Lectroids, with Buckaroo as an informal ambassador for Earth.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: John Bigbooté (pronounced "big-boo-TAY"!), Lizardo's right-hand-man and head of operations at Yoyodyne, is deadly in combat, methodical, smart, and sick as hell of Earth and working for an obviously unhinged slob. Unfortunately his boss doesn't really give a shit about his advice and winds up shooting him dead.
  • 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.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Penny is sitting at a table at Artie's Artery, and was about to blow her brains out with a revolver, but a server bumps into her, knocking the weapon upwards just as she was firing... causing the Hong Kong Cavaliers to do a Quick Draw.
  • Large Ham: John Lithgow gorges himself on scenery as Lord John Whorfin. He admits as much in retrospective interviews.
    Laugh while you can, MONKEY BOY!
  • 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.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: This is probably why the aliens are called "lectroids," as they have a lot of weird technology that revolves around electricity (the rest of it is Organic Technology). Their Perception Filter works off electric fields, John Emdall sends a coded message to Banzai through the phone into his brain with a shock of electricity, they use it as a lie detector, and so on.
  • 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.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Quite literally. Throughout the film the main cast perform surgery, host a question and answer session at a hotel conference, play a live show in a multi-instrument, multi-genre band, expose a conspiracy involving a shady aerospace corporation, negotiate with alien diplomats, raid an enemy compound to stop a plot to destroy Earth, travel through solid matter, prevent a nuclear catastrophe, and discover the eighth dimension. And much of that is just Buckaroo Banzai himself.
  • Meaningful Name: Penny Priddy.
  • Midair Repair: Buckaroo jumpstarts his borrowed Lectroid ship while it's in free fall.
  • Mildly Military: One of the many hats the Hong Kong Cavaliers wear is as an independent paramilitary strike team with no apparent chain of command, and apparently (from what we see of their interactions with the President and Defense Secretary) no real answerability to any governmental authority. It can be jarring seeing them go from musician-scientists in a variety of eccentric costumes to commandos in camo, bullet proof vests, and war paint.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Kidnapping and theft -> A plot to conquer a planet and the possible start of World War III.
  • Mission Control: Banzai has one at the start of the film while testing the Oscillation Overthruster, as well as near the end - where a dangerously incompetent member of Banzai's Mission Control team mistakes Banzai's orders not to fire as a last-ditch call for a first strike on Russia. Thankfully, the plot is resolved before much damage can be done.
  • Mythology Gag: Parodied. The movie constantly references past characters and events in passing that would no doubt make sense within the context of an established long-running franchise... but the movie isn't attached to any greater franchise, so the "references" are all intentionally nonsense with no context.
  • 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.
  • The Needs of the Many: John Parker explains that the Black Lectroids more or less believe they've found the answer to the trolley problem - why, yes, you should let some billions of strangers die if it means getting rid of your world's most murderous villain.
  • 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. Even considering it was built by aliens, it was built by aliens who have lousy engineering skills.
    John Parker: It looks like one of our thermopods, but it’s a very bad design.
  • 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.
  • A Nuclear Error: It's made very clear that Buckaroo Banzai, despite holding no official political office, has just as much power as the respective leaders of the USA and USSR to "push the red button" and launch a global thermonuclear war if he ever feels like it's the right call. One of the film's darkest moments of humor comes when he refuses to launch nuclear weapons at Russia and has his instructions misunderstood to mean the opposite by a subordinate.
    "The President's calling, he wants to know if everything's okay with the aliens from Planet Ten or if we should just go ahead and destroy Russia.
    "Tell him 'yes' on one, 'no', on two."
    "Which was yes, 'destroy Russia' or. . . number two?"
  • 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!
    [Whorfin shoots him]
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: Most of the Red Lectroid technology is cobbled together from junk, which justifies stuff like Buckaroo finding jumper cables in the thermopod to get it going.
  • 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.
  • Organic Technology: Most Lectroid technology seems to be organic in nature, at least partially. The Reds on Earth have had to make do with whatever they can scrounge up so their stuff has a lot more Earth implements in it.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: The President in the movie appears to have some kind of bizarre condition requiring him to recline in a spinning wheel in a gravity-defying position while on the job.
  • Overt Operative: Team Banzai is completely authorized to conduct a stealth raid on a compound controlled by hostile forces - despite the fact that they're all about as conspicuous as you can get, to the point of being world-renowned celebrities.
  • Pen-Pushing President: The President appears to have some kind of bizarre illness, injury, or disability that leaves him unable to do much more than sign documents under pressure, without much will of his own.
  • 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.
  • Perception Filter: This is how the Lectroids assume human form on Earth. According to some technobabble they emit bacteria and/or an electrical wave that makes humans see them as one of their own, though for some reason it also works long-distance via TV and other recordings (the MS T3k Mantra may apply here).
  • 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.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: 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".
  • Proxy War: The Lectroid factions are more than happy to start one on Earth to resolve their own conflict, which is where Team Banzai comes in to put a stop to it.
  • Psychic Powers: Buckaroo is hinted at having them. He displays a bit of empathy, determining "someone isn't having a good time."
  • Purple Prose: Reno's writing style as the main narrator of the novelization and its sequel echoes that of early 20th century pulp writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • 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.
  • Quick Draw: The Hong Kong Cavaliers do this immediately due to Penny's Interrupted Suicide.
  • Ramming Always Works: Lord Whorfin's troopship vs. the Red Lectroid thermopod. Except it doesn't.
  • 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 him.note 
  • 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
  • Space Cold War: The plot of the film involves the Earth becoming a bargaining chip in one. Ironically, with the real Cold War powers as proxies.
  • 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.
  • Storming the Castle: The infiltration of and attack on the Yoyodyne facility.
  • Super-Strength: The Lectroids, Red and Black, all seem much stronger than humans, able to snap necks and lift monkey boys off their feet with ease. Even John Whorfin, who is in a human body, can do it. But they're not super-invulnerable, so just shooting them with bullets works just fine (and they are susceptible to a neck snap themselves).
  • 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!
  • Technobabble: Everything leading up to Banzai's speed test is pure gibberish.
  • Telecom Tree: Buckaroo Banzai has the Blue Blaze irregulars, a group of various people who help him out of tight spots, no matter what it is or who they are.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Troperiffic: The opening crawl lets us know what we're in for. Buckaroo Banzai is a neurosurgeon who got tired of medicine and studied martial arts and now he travels the world with the Hong Kong Cavaliers. He's a guitar playing half-Japanese half-American ninja science cowboy. IN SPACE
  • 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 a huge cast, 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.
      • Justified in that Buckaroo Banzai is itself an Affectionate Parody of old superhero and science fiction film serials from the 1930s-1940s that had a similar marketing model to today's blockbuster ensemble franchises.
    • 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!
  • 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.")
  • "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.
  • 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