For John Waters, there were never limits. King par excellence of bad taste cinema (in the best sense of the expression), the Baltimore filmmaker created a unique universe (the ‘traverso’?) In which personalities of all kinds (especially the iconic Divine, a regular in his filmography) lived their lives without complexes fighting to see who did the biggest nasty or the most terrible crime. His filmography is full of films of offensive sleaze, with vulgar versions of classic melodrama that would make Douglas Sirk cry and irreverent stories where no aspect of sexuality is taboo and all minority cultures are represented. His work has always been an ode to the different, to the ‘underground’, to the freedom of being and doing above all else. Although his irreverent career as a director ended practically at the beginning of our century, it is time to look back and put his best films in the order in this ranking of must-have titles.
- 1 12 – Mondo Trasho (1969)
- 2 11 – Cecil B. Demented (2000)
- 3 10 – A Dirty Shame (2004)
- 4 9 – Desperate Living (1977)
- 5 8 – Pecker (1998)
- 6 7 – Multiple Maniacs (1970)
- 7 6 – Cry-baby (1990)
- 8 5 – Serial Mom (1994)
- 9 4 – Female Trouble (1974)
- 10 3 – Polyester (1981)
- 11 2 – Hairspray (1988)
- 12 1 – Pink Flamingos (1972)
One of the first films of John Waters, before entering his successful career in the 70s with ‘Pink Flamingos’ or ‘Things of females’ (which we comment below). With a somewhat confusing plot, a very low budget, and pointing to cinematographic ways that were not yet fully cooked. The film tells the story of a woman harassed by a guy obsessed with feet and who ends up meeting a young Divine, who has appearances of the Virgin Mary. It sounds strange? And it is. Waters has once confessed that it is the film that least convinces him of his filmography and that it should have been a short film. Even so, it is a film that tells us about its beginnings.
11 – Cecil B. Demented (2000)
With this horny title (which refers to the legendary filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille ), John Waters told us the story of a Hollywood actress (played by Melanie Griffith ) who combines her public side as a sweet girl with her private life as an absolute diva, and that one day she is kidnapped by a group of terrorist filmmakers who want her to act in one of their movies. An insurmountable starting point, which ends up becoming a mockery of that Hollywood that the filmmaker has never been a part of through the figure of the renegade Cecil B. Demented. He doesn’t want to make ‘mainstream’ movies – he wants a raw, unsweetened reality. A declaration of intent that, even so, is not one of his best works. Griffith was nominated for a Razzie for her performance.
10 – A Dirty Shame (2004)
This was his last film as a director (not counting the rereading of ‘Pink Flamingos’ in ‘ Kiddie Flamingos ‘ in 2015) and in it, he made it clear that his style, although varying in form and genres, had always remained with the same essence. The ‘trash’ returned to walk on the limits of cinematographic decency with a story that confronts two antagonistic and polarized groups: one very sexual and the other extremely puritanical. The objective is to ask what is really a perversion and how socially that has always been incumbent on the former and not the latter, who will reveal themselves more frustrated than they think. A reflection in the form of a crazy comedy, as usual, with a lot of sex and some scenes not suitable for all audiences.
John Waters continued to explore his crazy and trashy style in the 70s with this film. One of the few from the era in which Divine did not appear. Instead, Mink Stole plays a housewife who kills her husband and suffers the consequences alongside her maid ( Jean Hill ). To avoid jail, both decide to be exiled to Mortville, the most terrible and disgusting place on the planet, full of “deviants”, as purist society calls them, and where they will live all kinds of depravities already common in the filmmaker’s works. For example, a trans woman who cuts her penis with scissors and feeds a dog. Don’t miss out on comedy.
John Waters ‘style has been changing over time. And it was shown in this late’ 90s movie that he no longer had anything to do with his Divine stage. In it, Eddie Furlong plays a young photographer who rises to fame when an art expert discovers his work and appreciates his talent. But that success is a double-edged sword and ends up turning the lives of his family upside down, now constantly exposed in the media. Both a critique of the toxicity of fame and a portrait of class differences in America, ‘ Pecker ‘ is a film that continues to maintain the rebellious ‘Watersian’ essence while exploring other avenues of filmmaking.
The John Waters film that opened the 70s already showed signs of his style before the ‘Pink Flamingos’ revolution. It was one of his first feature films. And the quality of the image and the story are not as strong as they would be later. But we still have the opportunity to see Divine again being the queen of the universe. And see that the filmmaker, still without the necessary means, he was capable of surprising. The film follows a director of a weirdo circus ( La Cabalgada de la Perversion ) who captures her audience in the streets to take them to her show and then steal everything they have at gunpoint. From there, the perversions will be happening one after another, with sex, murder, and rape of many kinds. And even a giant lobster.
A very young Johnny Depp stole our hearts in this 1990 film (the same year as ‘ Edward Scissorhands ‘), a ‘camp’, and a musical version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by William Shakespeare. It seems that John Waters took a liking to the musical after ‘Hairspray’ a couple of years before and launched into this great film fueled by Depp’s success in the series ‘New Cops’, and in which he plays a young rebel (nicknamed ‘cry baby’ because he can only cry through one eye) in the 50s he falls in love with a girl from the street gang who is contrary to his own. Classic. Shake ‘ West Side Story ‘. The film gives off vibes from movies like ‘ Rebel without a cause ”, but always in his own way.
After succeeding with films like ‘ Fire in the Body ‘ or ‘ After the Green Heart ‘, Kathleen Turner teamed up with John Waters to sign one of his funniest films. The actress plays a seemingly normal suburban middle-class mother (a recurring interest for the filmmaker) who is, in reality, a serial killer. A secret that she carries with all the discretion and elegance. And that allows her to kill all those people who do not meet the educational requirements that she demands. For example, a boy who has left her daughter lying on a date is charged. That is not done. A crazy movie that, as he has said once, John Waters considers his favorite movie.
Shortly after the success of ‘Pink Flaming0s’ came this wild female-dominated comedy that continued to expand on the ‘Divine-verse’. It all starts because the main character’s mother, Dawn (Divine) refuses to buy her heels because, according to her, good girls don’t wear those kinds of shoes. Wow, only the filthy ones. And the following can be expected: the daughter destroys all the gifts. Throws the Christmas tree on her mother, and goes to live life in her own way. Your path in that quest will have sex, childbirth, violence, and death, all in unmistakable John Waters style. According to the filmmaker, one of his great inspirations was the Manson family, which only five years earlier had murdered Sharon Tate and other people on Cielo Drive.
Those typically North American melodramas from the middle-class suburbs and intense love affairs had the best possible parody in ‘ Polyester ‘. We hope Douglas Sirk took it well. The movie itself was great, but what was really amazing at the time of its premiere was that during the screening some cards were dealt that the spectators had to scratch to obtain different smells (such as pizza, grass, glue, or even farts) during the film. viewing. A fun way to get the audience into the film, which tells the story of a woman with addiction problems who decides to redirect her life, take the reins, and find herself a good dream lover. Divine played the lead, and Taib Hunter, to her husband.
Do you remember the ‘ Hairspray ‘ by Zac Efron in haircut and John Travolta in transvestite? Well, the original movie wasn’t exactly like that. Get ready for an irreverent, anti-racist, and tremendously fun musical. And, even if it is from John Waters, suitable for all audiences. Set in the 1960s, it tells the story of a young woman who dreams of becoming a dancer on the Corny Collins television show. When he succeeds, tensions will rise in front of his great enemy. Who represents the supporters of racial segregation of the time, and who will steal the boyfriend and the leading role. The movie (where, of course, Divine appears, in what would be his last film before he passed away) was a success turned into a stage musical in 2002. But the film is wonderful and completely changed Waters’ career: from here. His qualification of King of ‘Trash’ is it expanded considerably to other genres and styles.
1 – Pink Flamingos (1972)
We couldn’t put another one first. ‘ Pink flamingos ‘ put John Waters on the map in the early 1970s. And in which, Divine became a global icon with her flamboyant and overpowering personality. She was never more fun, noisy, and transgressive than in this story. In which her character declares herself “the dirtiest person alive”. And lives with her mother (who is obsessed with eggs and sleeps in a crib). In a caravan surrounded by plastic flamingos. Surrounded by other characters who seem to compete to see who is the most nauseating. The world hallucinated. And now, almost half a century later, we still enjoy it. Yeah, even that infamous ending where Divine eats dog poop. Long live the ‘trash’!