This month, the brilliant time travel slacker comedy Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure turns 25. While all the other responsible guys out there might be trying to choose a Nicholas Sparks movie to watch with their beloved, I will always lean towards this endearing classic. (As I learned then from my 1989 girlfriend, this was not an ideal choice for a Valentine’s Day movie.)
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure managed to help define the ’80s in film, even though it came out in the last year of the decade. Even more miraculous, the film had nothing to do with John Hughes, who seemed to almost single-handedly build the ’80s cinema playlist. It also helped make Keanu Reeves a household name before The Matrix galvanized him as an action star 10 years later.
With rumors of a possible Bill & Ted 3 continuously swirling around the interwebs, it’s a great time to look back at the time travel exploits of these two metalheads. Even with all the elements that seem to date it in the past (like pudding cups from a tin can, tape recorders, CDs from the future and phone booths), it’s still a watchable film with some seriously excellent moments in it, as we highlight below.
Party on, dudes!
In the early scenes of the film, the audience is allowed to see what heinous slackers Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Reeves) are. It’s clear why they need to get an A on their final history report because they have such a chaotic grasp of the time man has spent on this planet. From defining Julius Caesar as “a salad dressing dude” and Napoleon being “a short, dead dude,” Bill and Ted are in sore need of an education. However, unlike some other films of the day, this is played off as entirely their fault rather than making some grand political point about the public school system. This scene also features a hilariously deadpan Bernie Casey as their history teacher, Mr. Ryan.
Shut up, Ted!
What I dearly loved about the plot element of Bill’s high school crush Missy (Amy Stock-Poynton) marrying his father and becoming his unlikely stepmom is that I knew a couple girls from my own high school who might try something like that. I’m sure everyone knew a girl in their class who had the eyes for their peers’ fathers or dated teachers behind everyone’s back (or in front of everyone’s face). Even though Bill and Missy share no genetic material, the taboo of this scene plays as well as the taboo of Greg Brady having an off-screen romance with his stepmother.
Strange Things Are Afoot at the Circle K
Even though the Circle K was not a chain in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, my friends and I often referenced this scene when strange things were afoot. Granted, no one ever dropped out of the sky in a time traveling phone booth (a deft hat-tip to Doctor Who, one of my favorite TV shows as a kid), but I’m okay with that. Not only does this scene manage to pack in a ton of exposition to get the story moving, it manages to set the groundwork for a couple call-backs we know are coming later in the movie. George Carlin also shines in this scene, having some fun explaining the basics to the characters without stealing the scene. The optical ’80s effects may seem dated, but the overall delivery here is just perfect.
Not too long after Ted tells his earlier self to give his love to the princesses, we actually meet them. Part of why I love this sequence is that I had a huge ’80s crush on Diane Franklin who played the dark-haired princess. But beyond my own high school hormones, this scene manages to do multiple things almost seamlessly. Not only do the love interests get introduced, but they also introduce the “royal ugly dudes” who are the villains (at least for this slice of history). The scene also manages to employ some trailer-worthy jokes at the end.
Napoleon in San Dimas
Because YouTube has most non-triumphantly managed to take down all the posts of the historical figures wrecking the San Dimas Mall (though it can be found here), we are left with Napoleon’s experiences in town. That’s okay, because the little, dead dude has some great scenes. Not only did he eat the entire Ziggy Piggy, which is an homage to Farrell’s pig trough ice cream sundae (which my father managed to eat once before getting sick upon returning home). Before he’s ditched by Duncan Logan and his friends, Napoleon gives a lesson on French expletives at a bowling alley. He also manages to find victory at Waterloo, a local water park. Sure, we have to endure multiple shots of Napoleon’s hairy naughty bits visible through his giant wet T-shirt, but it’s worth it for the most bizarre music video of the decade (and that’s including all the stuff from Peter Gabriel).
Final History Presentations – It’s Computers
Much like the non-non-heinous absence of the mall scene from YouTube, there’s no embeddable link of Bill and Ted’s final history report. This is one of my favorite scenes of the film because it shows a great amount of heart with the title characters as well as all the historical figures they brought back with them. Plus, it’s a cool-ass light show, and that was all the rage in the ’80s. But instead of showing you that, the second-best history report (which only got a C- from Mr. Ryan) will have to do. San Dimas High School football rules!