On July 30, the world got a lot less fun. Paul Reubens, best known for his Pee-wee Herman character, passed away after a secret six-year battle with cancer.
While he will live on as the funny children’s character, Reubens was a lot more than Pee-wee Herman. Though you might not have guessed it when watching his bow tie-wearing alter ego, Reubens could be just as dramatic as he was hilarious. In honor of Reubens, we’ve put together a list of some of his best performances outside the world of Pee-wee Herman (the Pee-wee-verse?).
Even if you didn’t grow up with Pee-wee, this list proves that we all grew up with Reubens. This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the times Reubens played a role in shows and movies that shaped our childhood. These are the nine best Paul Reubens roles you may not have known about, even if you are a secret word–screaming Pee-wee fan.
The 9 Best Paul Reubens Roles, Besides Pee-wee Herman
1. Lock (The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993)
We know this might be quite a shock, but Reubens was the voice behind the dastardly trick-or-treater Lock in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Meanwhile, Barrel was played by the film’s composer, Danny Elfman, while Shock was voiced by the incomparable Catherine O’Hara.
And while we’re bummed we never got to see Reubens’ on Schitt’s Creek, we did thankfully get to see these three reprise their roles live at the Hollywood Bowl in 2015. And that’s good enough for us, bébé.
2. Amilyn (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 1992)
If they give out Oscars for best death scenes, Reubens should’ve won one when he played the big bad vampire in 1992’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. Not to be confused with the TV show that came after, where, sadly, Reubens didn’t reprise his role. You know, because his character was dead and all.
Amilyn the vampire has a rough go of it in this film, and that’s putting it mildly. He gets his arm ripped off by Luke Perry’s Pike before later being staked by Kristy Swanson’s Buffy.
3. Derek Foreal (Blow, 2001)
Paul Reubens dealing drugs? Are you fo’ real?
Fans of Pee-wee Herman were likely shocked if they attended a screening of Blow thinking it would be another of Reubens’ comedic roles. Instead, they spent two hours watching the actor in one of his most dramatic roles to date, dealing the good ol’ Mary Jane (and some considerably less good cocaine. Not that we would know).
Even if you were slightly scandalized, you also had to come away admitting that Reubens was much more than a comedic actor. As the kids say, he has the range.
4. Penguin’s Father (Batman Returns, 1992)
Remember when you were 13 and told your parents they were The Worst because you still had a bedtime? Well, kid, your pops was Father of the Year compared to what Batman villain the Penguin put up with.
You were bummed not to get that Barbie Malibu Dreamhouse when you were a young’un. But you know what the Penguin got for his first Christmas? No, not coal (good guess, though). He was literally thrown away by his parents.
His father, played by Reubens, puts on a spectacular performance, despite barely saying a word throughout the film. Clearly, Reubens would’ve thrived during the silent film era.
5. Elijah Van Dahl (Gotham, 2014-2019)
But wait…there’s more. Reubens actually did a lot of work with DC movies and shows, including his time on the Batman-inspired Gotham TV series.
Can you guess who he played? If you said Batman, you probably didn’t watch the show. In fact, most people didn’t. We know because everyone we tried to talk to about it had never heard of it. Thankfully, Reddit exists.
But if you said he played the Penguin’s father again, bingo. Reubens reprised his role as the Penguin’s father, this time playing daddy to Robin Lord Taylor instead of Danny DeVito. And he actually does talk. In fact, he gives a monologue that truly should’ve earned him an Emmy. We heard Taylor Swift is on the committee now. She will right this wrong.
6. Mike the Spike (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, 2016–2022)
Okay, we promise this is the last DC role on this list, but Reubens actually did a lot more DC content. We couldn’t leave out his recurring role on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. It’s one of the more underrated of the CW’s Arrowverse, and it should be talked about more, gosh darn it.
Mike the Spike couldn’t take a hike to the afterlife no matter how much he’d like. Can you believe we got a B+ in rhyming?
As a serial killer, he couldn’t move on due to his evil ways and became a dybbuk, a malevolent spirit who has to inhabit an inanimate object. In this case, a doll. We don’t make the rules — Jewish mythology does. Though we only hear Reubens’ voice, he is such a doll in this role. More of a Chucky or a Megan, not like an American girl doll.
7. Mr. Vargas (The Blacklist, 2013–2023)
In another dramatic twist (with some comedy sprinkled in for good measure), Reubens had a recurring role in the second and third seasons of The Blacklist. In fact, the role was created around Reubens himself. Don’t you wish your boss did that for you?
Though Mr. Vargas learns what happens when you betray James Spader’s Raymond Reddington (spoiler alert: it ain’t pretty), he’s gone down in Blacklist history as one of the best recurring characters.
Turns out, even when Reubens is committing murder, you can’t help but love him. Not something you can say about many people.
8. FBI Agent (Matilda, 1996)
Paul Reubens must have been great to work with. Not only did Tim Burton want to work with him over and over again, but so did Danny DeVito. When the legendary actor went behind the camera for 1996’s Matilda, he cast Reubens to play an FBI agent keeping tabs on his character, Matilda’s villainous father, Mr. Wormwood.
We’re bummed that Reubens didn’t play DeVito’s father again for Matilda, though we totally understand it would have made zero sense. Still, he puts on a great performance as he tries to uncover Mr. Wormwood’s dastardly deeds.
When life gives you lemons, they end up in Mr. Wormwood’s used car lot. And it’s up to the FBI to tell Wormwood his goose, er, lemons… are cooked. We lost the plot on that metaphor, but you get the picture.
9. RX-24 (Star Tours, 1987)
The Star Tours rides in Disneyland and Walt Disney World used to be different from how they are now. While today, C-3PO is your pilot, the original Star Tours had a special pilot who was just getting used to his programming. Your pilot was named RX-24, better known as “Rex,” and he was voiced by Paul Reubens himself.
Rex is no longer a pilot, but he’s switched careers, and we love that for him. These days, you can see Rex (and still hear Paul Reubens’ voice) where he’s DJ-ing at Oga’s Cantina at Walt Disney World. Oh, but he goes by R-3X now. What? Everybody needs a good DJ name.
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