Fifty Years of John Waters: How Much Can You Take?
The career of John Waters—one of the most influential and beloved underground filmmakers in the history of American movies—has a symmetry to it ironically at odds with his films’ trashy chaos. His first six features are enduring staples of the midnight-movie circuit: maniacal exercises in high-camp shock humor, each with the emotional pitch of an opera and content that wouldn’t be out of place in a psychological text on sexual fetishes. His next six—made with bigger budgets and well-known stars—find Waters refining his style and burrowing deeper into his favorite film genres, but they unmistakably represent attempts to subvert Hollywood from within. On top of their oft-discussed self-conscious irony and thematic obsessions (sex, celebrity, social exclusion), Waters’s movies, starring his friends (David Lochary, Mink Stole, Mary Vivian Pearce, and the immortal Divine), are also odes to the rhythm and texture of life in Baltimore and improbably tender visions of domestic communities held together by their own unsentimental, idiosyncratic forms of affection. One of the characters in Multiple Maniacs, turning to his current object of desire, perhaps best sums up the spirit of Waters’s life and work: “I love you so fucking much I could shit.”
See more for less with a 3+ Film Package or get really filthy with a $99 Access Pass. Opening Night and Celluloid Atrocity Night are not included in the package or pass.
Wear your John Waters love with our bright pink tote, available for purchase online or in our theaters.
Plus, get Film Comment's digital anthology featuring John Waters's guilty pleasures, photography, and starlets for only 99 cents!
Q&A with John Waters on September 5 moderated by critic J. Hoberman.
This hysterical, full-throated assault on celebrity culture might be the fullest expression of Waters’s career-long interest in the relationship of beauty to transgression and crime.
Celluloid Atrocity Night!
On-stage conversation with John Waters moderated by critic Dennis Dermody.
Join us for a once-in-a-lifetime evening as John Waters presents his first two features, Mondo Trasho and Multiple Maniacs, along with early short The Diane Linkletter Story, all on 16mm. These exceedingly rare prints are from Waters’s personal collection, and probably screening for the last time ever!
Special Ticket Price: $25 General Public / $20 Member, Student & Senior
Early Shorts by John Waters
Free and open to the public!
Join us for free screenings of the young Waters's very first forays into filmmaking—Hag in a Black Leather Jacket (1964), Roman Candles (1966), and Eat Your Makeup (1968). Made in his late teens and early twenties, these embryonic, DIY shorts are wildly subversive and scandalously irreverent, a glimpse of an already prodigious talent.
Cecil B. Demented
Q&A with John Waters.
Stephen Dorff and Melanie Griffith star as, respectively, the leader of a guerrilla band of horny misfit filmmakers and the A-list movie star they kidnap in Waters’s freewheeling attack on the Hollywood star system.
Johnny Depp stars as the titular bad-boy hero of Waters’s raucous, exuberant salute to the teen rock ’n’ roll films of the 1950s.
Waters’s self-described “fairy tale for fucked-up children” was the last of his truly independent productions: a catalogue of horrors in which no taboo is left unbroken.
A Dirty Shame
For his last completed film to date, Waters combined the encyclopedic, freak-show flair of his earlier movies with the gentler tone of his later tributes to specific, defunct genres—in this case, the sexploitation film.
This affectionate, PG-rated tribute to growing up in early-1960s Baltimore gave Waters an unexpected breakthrough hit—and featured Divine’s final screen performance.
A send-up of the New York art world that is also a loving, detailed portrait of working-class life in Baltimore, and a sort-of allegory for Waters’s own rise to fame.
Pink Flamingos (1972) | Pers: Divine | Dir: John Waters | Ref: PIN026AC | Photo Credit: [ The Kobal Collection / Dreamland Productions ] | Editorial use only related to cinema, television and personalities. Not for cover use, advertising or…
For his typically subversive take on the Hollywood melodrama, employing his scintillating Odorama™, Waters shifted his focus from Baltimore’s urban crannies to its middle-class suburbs.
Introduction by John Waters and Kathleen Turner on September 5.
A conscientious mother of two casually takes up serial murder in Waters’s scathing suburban satire, a kind of spiritual sequel to Polyester.
Before I Forget
This wonderfully depressing movie about an older HIV-positive man is brave, funny, gayly incorrect, and smart as a whip. The shitting-in-your-pants-when-you-try-to-go-out-cruising scene is one I will never be able to shake.
A hilariously brilliant and erotic movie about car crashes and the sexual cultists who fetishize them.
Introduction by John Waters.
I’m a sucker for plane-crash scenes, and the opening of this “you can’t cheat death” nail-biter was so suspenseful and horrifying that it spawned four sequels (all good, too!). You’ll never tell anyone to “have a safe flight” again.
The best Russ Meyer film of the decade—only it’s directed by an 80-year-old William Friedkin, proving the adage “old chickens make good soup.” Gina Gershon, your performance here shocked me raw!
A recently widowed grandmother turns horny and has a secret affair with her daughter’s much younger, loutish boyfriend (played by pre-Bond Daniel Craig). Gerontophilia never seemed so exciting.
The Swedish art shocker that made board member Shirley Temple Black quit the San Francisco International Film Festival in protest over their refusal to pull it from the screening schedule.
Of Unknown Origin
The best rat movie ever. Period. End of discussion.
The insane life of nutcase Saint Theresa, told in a haunting, minimalist way. Yes, she was in love with Jesus—but does that make her a bad person? Catholic lunacy at its most disturbing.