Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)
June 7, 2022 3:02 AM - Subscribe

Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves), high school buddies starting a band in 1980s Southern California, get help from Rufus (George Carlin) to help them complete their final history presentation. Silly time travel shenanigans ensue.

This film spawned sequels, an animated TV show, and at least one board game, and inspired a two-part Film Reroll. By the way: Cowritten by Chris Matheson, son of I Am Legend and Twilight Zone writer Richard Matheson.
posted by brainwane (18 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I recently rewatched this and was struck by how sweet the pair are, especially Ted, and by how refreshing it is to have a 100% goofy time travel story that pays absolutely no attention to nitpicking details around, like, "how do we try to fit in with the locals" or similar stuff.
posted by brainwane at 3:12 AM on June 7, 2022 [8 favorites]

Every time I watch this movie, I'm struck by how wonderfully well-mannered Bill and Ted are.

For example, politely introducing all of the historical figures to Missy, one by one, using full names. It's played for comedy with the silly aliases, but the manners are on point. Nobody is forgotten, everyone feels welcome.
posted by champers at 4:31 AM on June 7, 2022 [14 favorites]

I prefer "Be Excellent to Each Other" over the old school golden rule because it imposes a positive obligation.
posted by whuppy at 5:53 AM on June 7, 2022 [35 favorites]

This movie is so, so much smarter than it has any reason to be, and the deep knowledge of cinematic history on display is just absurd.

My favorite detail is the shot of Joan of Arc in the jail cell, which recreates a shot from Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc from 1928, with the sunlight falling across her eyes just so.
posted by thecaddy at 6:26 AM on June 7, 2022 [19 favorites]

My favorite part.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:01 AM on June 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

One of the things that has struck me in hindsight about the Bill & Ted movies--and I am this years old in that I saw it in the theatre as a kiddo--is what others have observed upon rewatch. They are pretty wholesome, pretty kind, and it's rare that two buddies from that 80s comedy time period just have a genuinely non-toxic affirming friendship. I am here for it. "Be Excellent to Each Other" is soooo much better than the Golden Rule.
posted by Kitteh at 7:13 AM on June 7, 2022 [12 favorites]

This movie has the best and most self-consistent version of time travel in the history of movies. The rest of it is also excellent, but you can put up the "science", such as it is, against your Backs to the Future and your Timecops and your Abouts Time. "Oh, but those are also fundamentally Unserious mooovies," I hear you say, "What about filllms such as my Primers and my Tenets?!"

Nope. The time travel in those isn't as good. The only competitor B&TEA really has is Palm Springs, and that's a time loop movie, which is sufficiently different that I remain confident in declaring Bill & Ted still the best.
posted by Etrigan at 7:52 AM on June 7, 2022 [5 favorites]

B&TEA is the comedic time travel ideal. The drama/thriller version is Timecrimes.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:56 AM on June 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

(By the way -- there is 1, maybe 2, time that Ted and Bill use a homophobic slur at each other immediately after hugging, about halfway through the film -- warning to anyone who's about to go watch this based on the praise in this thread! This also happens in the sequel, Bogus Journey.)

Etrigan, I appreciated your pluralizations.

Thank you, test audience of viewers recruited from shopping malls, for getting distribution companies interested in this movie after the first distributor went bankrupt!

During my rewatch, I realized that B&TEA is a bit like Clueless: a fundamentally kind Southern California protagonist whom others would deride as airheaded uses creativity to bring people together and increase joy. Also there's no particular villain.
posted by brainwane at 8:55 AM on June 7, 2022 [14 favorites]

This also happens in the sequel, Bogus Journey.

In Bogus Journey at least it's the evil doppelgangers doing it.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 10:27 AM on June 7, 2022

One of the things I didn't notice about this movie as a kid but I really appreciate now is that it kind of makes the case for alternative learning models? Bill and Ted are played as idiots, but I'm not sure they are - they're experiential learners in the cloistered and unstimulating environment of 80s suburbia. On their adventure they do a lot of on-their-feet problem solving, show unfailing moral judgement, and adapt to wild situations really quickly. Rufus didn't put together their presentation for them, he gave them access to a mode of learning that their schooling wasn't providing, and once they had that support, they were brilliant.

It's sort of the Wizard of Oz thing right? They always had what they needed, just took a little validation.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 2:34 PM on June 7, 2022 [14 favorites]

This is the first movie that I remember having a "69!" joke (which I didn't understand at the time, but later figured out). Pretty cool that B&T are also into mutually satisfying sexy times with their medieval princess babes; yet another entry in the "positive male role-model" column.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:48 PM on June 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

Upon watching this movie I remarked to my mom, "Mother, I have noticed that this number 69 comes up a lot in films and on television, it must be some kind of 'funny number'. I wonder why." And she was like, "ahem, uh, here's this book..."
posted by Horkus at 3:22 PM on June 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

A really post-80's thing for me was how Alex Winter the character archetype was the "leader" of the friendship in contrast with Ted's more easygoing go-with-the-flow 70's holdover, but Keanu Reeves the actor ended up in the stratosphere and Winter whimpered out.

Bill S. Preston/ Ted 'Theodore' Logan : Cheech Marin/ Tommy Chong is attractive to consider, but the dynamic is a lot different, and financially Marin must be ok and Chong's chugging along - and went retail for a bit, and then the law/IRS, but I think he's ok nowadays.
posted by porpoise at 9:49 PM on June 7, 2022

Metafilter: test audience of viewers recruited from shopping malls

Either that or it's my new sockpuppet.
posted by whuppy at 5:50 AM on June 8, 2022

I think it is a little unfair to say that Winter's career "whimpered out." Certainly he hasn't achieved the fame of Reeves, but afaik he went more into directing, and while he's not a household name, he's had some success there. It seems like he just had different priorities than Reeves. (Also, I don't think there was ever the animosity between him & Reeves that there was for a long time between Cheech & Chong.)
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:07 AM on June 8, 2022 [8 favorites]

I literally (no, really!) just got the soundtrack CD in the mail.
posted by wintermind at 10:49 AM on June 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

I think it is a little unfair to say that Winter's career "whimpered out."

Definitely, check out his IMDb page; just looks like he moved into directing rather than acting following the second B&T movie in 1991. As a producer/director, his recent run of documentaries is impressive:

The YouTube Effect (in post-production, 2022)
Zappa (2020)
Showbiz Kids (2020)
Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain (2018)
The Panama Papers (2018)
posted by LooseFilter at 11:26 AM on June 13, 2022

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