Fifty Years of John Waters: How Much Can You Take?

« Main Series Listings

Admission

  • $13 General Public
  • $9 Student & Senior
  • $8 Member
Films & Showtimes »

3+ Film Package

Get the Package


Access Pass ($99)

Get the Package

September 5-14

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!

In This Series

Female Trouble

Female Trouble

John Waters | 1974 | 89 mins

Opening Night

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.

Read more »

Friday, September 05

6:30pm

Wednesday, September 10

9:00pm
Celluloid Atrocity Night!

Celluloid Atrocity Night!

John Waters | 1969/1970 | 195 mins

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

Read more »

Thursday, September 11

7:00pm
Early Shorts by John Waters

Early Shorts by John Waters

John Waters | 1964-1968 | 102 mins

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.

Read more »

Friday, September 05

4:00pm

Saturday, September 06

5:00pm

Saturday, September 06

9:30pm

Sunday, September 07

6:30pm

Sunday, September 07

8:30pm

Thursday, September 11

5:00pm
Cecil B. Demented

Cecil B. Demented

John Waters | 2000 | 87 mins

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.

Read more »

Friday, September 12

7:00pm
Cry-Baby

Cry-Baby

John Waters | 1990 | 85 mins

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.

Read more »

Saturday, September 13

3:00pm

Sunday, September 14

8:00pm
Desperate Living

Desperate Living

John Waters | 1977 | 90 mins

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.

Read more »

Sunday, September 07

6:30pm
A Dirty Shame

A Dirty Shame

John Waters | 2004 | 89 mins

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.

Read more »

Saturday, September 13

5:00pm
Hairspray

Hairspray

John Waters | 1988 | 92 mins

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.

Read more »

Sunday, September 07

4:30pm
Pecker

Pecker

John Waters | 1998 | 87 mins

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.

Read more »

Sunday, September 14

4:00pm
Pink Flamingos

Pink Flamingos

John Waters | 1972 | 93 mins

Waters’s best-known and most controversial film, starring Divine as a trailer-park resident competing with her neighbors for the title of “filthiest person alive,” is a defiant laugh in the face of convention.

Read more »

Saturday, September 13

9:15pm

Sunday, September 14

6:00pm
Polyester

Polyester

John Waters | 1981 | 86 mins

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.

Read more »

Saturday, September 06

7:30pm
Serial Mom

Serial Mom

John Waters | 1994 | 95 mins

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.

Read more »

Friday, September 05

9:15pm

Saturday, September 06

3:00pm

JOHN WATERS PRESENTS: “MOVIES I'M JEALOUS I DIDN'T MAKE”

Here they are—eight extreme, astoundingly perverse, darkly funny, and, most importantly, supremely surprising films that turn me green with envy. Why oh why can’t I make films like these—ones that jolted me out of all cinematic lethargy? Exploitation, art, horror? There’s no such thing as genre when you’ve slipped to the other side of cinema-sanity. See for yourself the movies that drove me beyond the pale of normal movie madness. Jealousy over other directors’ careers is a terrible thing to waste. —John Waters

Before I Forget

Before I Forget

Jacques Nolot | 2007 | 108 mins

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.

Read more »

Sunday, September 14

1:45pm
Crash

Crash

David Cronenberg | 1996 | 100 mins

A hilariously brilliant and erotic movie about car crashes and the sexual cultists who fetishize them.

Read more »

Saturday, September 13

7:00pm
Final Destination

Final Destination

James Wong | 2000 | 98 mins

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.

Read more »

Friday, September 12

9:30pm
Killer Joe

Killer Joe

William Friedkin | 2011 | 102 mins

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!

Read more »

Sunday, September 07

8:30pm
The Mother

The Mother

Roger Michell | 2003 | 112 mins

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.

Read more »

Saturday, September 06

5:00pm
Night Games

Night Games

Mai Zetterling | 1966 | 105 mins

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.

Read more »

Saturday, September 06

9:30pm
Of Unknown Origin

Of Unknown Origin

George P. Cosmatos | 1983 | 88 mins

The best rat movie ever. Period. End of discussion.

Read more »

Wednesday, September 10

7:00pm
Thérèse

Thérèse

Alain Cavalier | 1986 | 94 mins

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.

Read more »

Sunday, September 07

2:30pm
Thank You to Our Sponsors