Paul Reubens, the actor best known for developing the enduring Pee-Wee Herman character and playing him in numerous films, died at the age of 70 following a long, personal battle with cancer.
Of course, Paul Reubens provided millions of people with entertainment in roles other than Pee-wee, and we’ll cover all the finest of them in our list of Paul Reubens films and TV episodes that fans can now stream online in his honor. Let’s start, though, with some of the better ones starring our favorite man-child.
9. Mystery Men (2000) as The Spleen
The spleen is a small organ that helps with your immune system. The superhero known as The Spleen is a socially awkward unattractive man from Champion City. He was cursed by a gypsy woman at 13 with powerful flatulence and the ability to fart at will. He’s the grossest superhero in the Ben Stiller comedy Mystery Men (2000)
Paul Reubens’ career was on life support at this point and he was struggling to remake himself as a character actor. It had been almost a decade since his arrest in 1991. He had earned an Emmy for his recurring guest role on the popular television show Murphy Brown. This was his first movie role since Matilda (1996). When he wasn’t just a voice anyway. He threw himself into interviews as himself and made public appearances to promote the film.
While the movie was panned his role as the disgusting superhero is inspired. Besides the pimply skin, Reubens affected a hilarious lisp. The best part of the character is his supreme overconfidence despite having the worst superpower in the world. While the former Groundling was a brilliant character actor this character couldn’t save the film.
The next role had him play a far less nauseating character.
8. Gotham (2017) as Elijah Van Dahl
The Batman prequel series Gotham features a younger version of the classic comic book villain Oswald Cobblepot aka The Penguin. In the series, Cobblepot’s father makes an appearance on the show. The crime lord Oswald Cobblepot’s biological father was affluent socialite Elijah Van Dahl.
Elijah’s brief appearance revealed him to be a highly accepting and caring person. Elijah adored his son just as much as his mother did. He was delighted to learn that Oswald was his son and embraced him. Even after learning about Oswald’s troubled history, his father continued to accept his son, telling him that it didn’t matter what happened in the past since he loved him. In a wonderful bit of intentional irony, they cast Reubens who played The Penguin’s cruel father in Batman Returns.
This character could have been a breakout role but he has very few scenes racked up over a handful of episodes. He played the role with an intentional campiness that didn’t really fit match his acting skills. But it’s still memorable. You can watch a key scene from the show below.
Over the years he had many memorable voice roles. Here’s his most obscure one.
7. Star Wars Rebels (2014) as RX-24 (voice)
RX-24, also known as “Rex,” is a character from the Star Wars franchise. Introduced in the 1987 Star Tours ride at Disneyland, he is an RX-series pilot droid working for the fictional “Star Tours” travel company voiced by Paul Reubens. Rex’s appearances in Star Tours attractions are considered part of the Star Wars Legends continuity.
He was later introduced into the official Star Wars canon in 2014 with his appearance in Star Wars Rebels. Reubens gave the character a fun, friendly, bumbling quality that made him sparkle. You can watch a clip of his appearance in Rebels here. Here’s a fun video from a 2011 convention where he talked about his voice being removed from the ride.
Speaking of an obscure role let’s go to one of his many cameo roles on a popular television show.
6. Mork & Mindy (1981) as Dickie Nimitz
For the 1980–1981 season of Saturday Night Live, Reubens gave an audition, but he later claimed to Entertainment Weekly that Gilbert Gottfried, who was “the same type of performer,” was hired instead. He was bitter about losing the opportunity. He had been working on the character of “Pee-wee Herman” for the previous few years. So Reubens decided to establish his own show in Los Angeles using borrowed money. He called it “The Pee-wee Herman Show” and it became a cult hit. For four months the show was sold out. HBO noticed the success and ran a special.
In 1981, the same year The Pee-Wee Herman Show HBO special aired he earned a guest spot on the popular TV sitcom Mork & Mindy. The show was about an alien, played by Robin Williams, who lives with a human named Mindy. In the season four episode “Long Before We Met” Reubens plays an old high school classmate named Dickie. As with many of his roles, he plays a nerdy socially awkward character. At Mindy’s High School reunion, he tells Mork about how she dated Steve when she was a teenager. It makes the Orkan becomes so jealous he goes back in time to meet her at Mindy’s prom.
The role is small but memorable and even though the actor doesn’t have much to do he gives the role enthusiasm and manages to keep up with Robin Williams which is always a challenge. Mork & Mindy didn’t make him a household name but it did establish his acting career besides Pee-Wee.
There aren’t many clips out there but you can watch it on DVD, Amazon Prime with a subscription, or Pluto for free. What’s weird is that neither streaming option has the episode. Make of that what you will.
But it’s not the first time he played a nerdy role. Let’s talk about when he played a nerdy supervillain.
5. Batman: The Brave and the Bold as Bat-Mite (voice)
Bat-Mite is a DC Comics imp with near-infinite magical powers, using advanced technology from the fifth dimension similar to Mister Mxyzptlk. Unlike Mxyzptlk he idolizes his superhero target, Batman, and visits him to set up events. Bat-Mite is more of a nuisance than a supervillain and often departs upon angering his idol. Since his first appearance in 1959, he appeared in many comic books and animated shows.
Reubens gives Bat-Mite an almost childlike voice and attitude. His infectious enthusiasm shines in this role and it’s one of his best.
You can watch Batman: The Brave and the Bold on Max
Another nerdy character that Reubens voiced had an even smaller but more influential role.
4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) as Martin Milton/Sir Malachi (voice)
In 2014 Reubens played the villainous Mr. Vargas on the Blacklist. That same year he played the mutant sparrow Martin Milton, a.k.a. Sir Malachi, the sparrow wizard,” in the second season of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV show. He forces the turtles to play a role-playing game.
The Emmy-nominated comedian gives Milton a weak and vulnerable voice and elevates the episode to another level.
Paul Reubens does the voice of another bad guy but this time he’s not nerdy.
3. Tron: Uprising (2012) as Pavel (Voice)
After the sequel to the cult classic Tron was released an animated science fiction television program called Tron: Uprising aired. It’s tied into the wider Tron franchise. It takes place sometime after related tie-ins Tron Evolution: Battle Grids, Tron: Evolution, and Tron: Betrayal and is set between the Tron and Tron: Legacy movies. Between May 18, 2012, and January 28, 2013, Disney XD in the US produced and broadcast a total of 19 episodes.
Paul Reubens provides the voice for the evil Pavel. He’s General Tesler’s second in command and has a covert desire to succeed Tesler. Pavel is frigid and a sycophant. He rivals General Tesler in his delight of exercising control over others and surpasses him in his readiness to derez or exterminate Argonian individuals for no other reason than to relish their misery. In his plots to rise in power and position, he has been known to look for allies like Gorn and Link, but he views them as disposable, and he is quite willing to turn them against him for his own advantage or to get rid of an apparent threat.
Pavel is a psychopathic program, but he’s written so well that I get chills every time he’s on screen. Paul Reubens does an amazing job voicing the character and clearly enjoyed every minute of it. It’s the exact opposite of the beloved kid’s show host.
His second-best role is the one he’s best known for outside of Pee-Wee Herman even though he only takes up a few minutes of film.
2. Batman Returns (1992) as Tucker Cobblepot
Paul Ruebens’ greatest role was after one of the lowest points in his life. In 1991 he was at the top of his career. Pee-wee’s Playhouse was a top-rated children’s show and earned multiple Emmys. All this came crashing down in July 1992.
Reubens was arrested for indecent exposure at a Florida adult movie theater. While many voiced support for him his name became the subject of ridicule.
One person that threw his support behind him is Tim Burton. The director had his big break with Pee-Wee Herman’s first film Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. So when Burton was casting the minor role of Oswald Cobblepot’s father in Batman Returns (1993) he reached out to him.
Paul Reubens and Diane Salinger appear as Tucker and Esther Cobblepot, Oswald’s wealthy, elite parents. The two are horrified by their child’s deformity and throw him into a river to drown him. The small role is powerful and their gestures and cold performance spoke volumes and showed what a wonderful actor he really was.
Finally, we come to the actor’s greatest role and one that few people have seen or heard of.
1. Flight of the Navigator (1987) as Trimaxion/Max (voice)
Paul Reubens’ film, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) was a financial and critical success. His character quickly became a beloved figure. But a year after his first big movie he took on a voice role in a science fiction film. Flight of the Navigator is a 1986 American science-fiction adventure film starring Joey Cramer as 12-year-old David Freeman abducted by an alien spaceship in 1978 and returned 8 years later.
At this point, Pee-Wee Herman’s voice was hard to miss. He didn’t want to distract from the film. So he asked that the credits list him as Paul Mall and he uses his normal voice through most of the film. Near the end, he switches to his Pee-Wee voice.
Paul Reubens suffered from cancer for six years without telling the public. He was an intensely private person and, like his role in Navigator, he often hid behind a mask. His role as the alien computer pilot is his greatest role and one that will be remembered for generations. Even if many people may never see it.
You can watch Flight of the Navigator on Disney+
Which is your favorite role from Paul Reubens? Are there any roles we missed?
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