The first film features Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted "Theodore" Logan (Keanu Reeves) as two air-headed rocker kids from San Dimas, California. They're so focused on their wannabe rock band Wyld Stallyns (and so dumb) that they're in danger of failing History class and being held back. To make matters worse, Ted's authoritarian police chief father says that if that happens, Ted will be shipped off to a military academy in Alaska, breaking up the band.Things look bleak for the two until they meet Rufus (George Carlin), a time traveler from a utopian future built upon the teachings of Wyld Stallyns. Rufus offers them the use of his time machine — disguised as anordinary phone booth — so they can do the research needed to pass their final assignment. When a brief trip to France causes Napoleon to follow them back to the present, Bill and Ted decide to stage the ultimate oral report by getting the historical figures themselves to present it. Over the course of the film they not only learn a lot about history from interacting with them but they even come to master the nuances and possibilities of time travel.The movie ended up being an unexpected comedy classic, credited with launching Keanu Reeves' career (a more snarky troper might contend that the dopey Ted is his best role ever). Because of this, as well as the contrast between this and Keanu Reeves' later roles, Bill and Ted is frequently used to mock other movies: The Matrix is quite comedic when you redub Neo with dialogue that sounds like Ted. It is also noteworthy for being one of the few buddy comedies where the friends don't get mad at one another and split up for some amount of time. Also for an unexpected level of internal consistency, despite the wacky attitude.
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)
The popularity of the first film prompted Nelson and Orion to release a sequel two years later. Chuck De Nomolos (Joss Ackland), a rebel from Rufus' utopian future, wants to replace it with a militaristic Crapsack World. He plans to accomplish this by sending Evil Robot duplicates into the past, where they will kill the boys, then deliver a disparaging speech worldwide at a "Battle of the Bands" concert contest and destroy Wyld Stallyns' reputation forever.With a minimum amount of effort, the robots succeed in killing off the two titular protagonists. However, their spirits refuse to go quietly into the good night and face off against the Grim Reaper (William Sadler). While the evil robots make time with the guys' princess babes, the ghosts of Bill and Ted need to find a way to resurrect themselves, defeat the evil robot "us-ess" and stop Chuck De Nomolos. To do so, they must go through Heaven and Hell (literally, plus Kirk's Rock) to face their personal demons and gather allies to their cause.As far as sequels go, "Bogus Journey" was reasonably well-received for the shift in plot and still delivering on the laughs. It references the plot of the first and even some of the gags while making its own story. Roger Ebert even lamented that he didn't take the opportunity to see the first film, favorably comparing it to Wayne's World for how it at first seems like a generic stoner flick only to aim a bit higher.
In September 2010, news of work on a third movie was announced. Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves are signed on for it, as are the series' creators and writers, Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon.According to Alex Winter, the movie will evoke the spirit of the originals without succumbing to "retro cynicism", and that they've found a way to continue the story beyond the apparent Happily Ever After at the end of Bogus Journey. Early information suggests that the plot will revolve around the fact that Bill and Ted haven't changed the world yet and are trying to write the song that will create Rufus' utopian future.
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The following most triumphant tropes appear in multiple Bill and Ted works:
Adaptation Name Change: In the script for The Musical, Princess Joanna is renamed "Princess Mary," possibly to avoid confusion with Joan of Arc. On the cast album, she's "Sarah."
In the second film, the evil B&T develop a "stealth" version (twiddling their fingers as if strumming) after Chuck De Nomolos shoots them a Death Glare for doing the real thing. They continue to use it throughout the movie.
The Dividual: Bill and Ted are of the Twindividual variation; even if they're not actually related and look completely different, they have almost the exact same personality (Bill seems to be slightly more practical-minded and Ted slightly more carefree, but the differences are minimal) and in the plots they're important as a duo, not as individuals.
Joanna and Elizabeth are even more of an example; they're never seen apart and don't seem to have separate personalities at all. Given that they are sisters and seem to be the same age, they may even be actual (non-identical) twins — though this is never confirmed or denied.
Garfunkel: Alex Winter, though this is largely because he retired from acting in 1993 to begin a directing career.
Genius Ditz: Despite being uncomplicated slackers, Bill and Ted have a natural instinct for mastering the causal and paradoxicaleffects of time travel. Also, while their use of the English language is most unconventional and egregiously unorthodox, their vocabulary does seem to be more well developed than most teenagers, or for that matter most anyone.
Try reading that in their voices. IT FITS.
Bill not only knows what an Oedipal Complex is, he can recognize he has a minor case.
Idiot Heroes: While they have an intuitive understanding of San Dimas Time, their basic response to everything is almost always (a) tell a dumb joke, (b) make a rock music reference, (c) going along with what someone smarter suggests, or (d) some combination of the above.
Ink-Suit Actor: In "The Birth Of Rock And Roll" animated episode, Little Richard voices himself.
May-December Romance: Missy definitely seems to have a thing for men who are old enough to be her father; first marrying Bill's dad, and later Ted's dad. A newspaper headline suggests she later marries Chuck DeNomolos.
Missing Mom: Neither of the boys' mothers are ever so much as mentioned, let alone explaining where they went. Possibly because digging into that would take the funny out of the running gag with Missy.
Satellite Love Interest: Joanna and Elizabeth, the Royal Princess Babes. While this was somewhat justified in the first movie due to their brief screen time, they remain featureless in the second movie, even with their more prominent role in the heroes' lives.
Saving The World With Art: The future is apparently built on the rock and roll of Wyld Stallions. In this utopia, the air is clean, the water is clean, even the dirt is clean, bowling scores are way up, and minigolf scores are way down.
Arguably the first film did this with the absurd number of people they cram into the thing, subtly drawing attention to the fact that it is most assuredly notBigger on the Inside. (Although you'd be surprised how many people you can fit into a phone booth. There's a reason why it was such a popular prank.)
Surfer Dudes: Bill and Ted are from Southern California, so their speech includes a lot of So-Cal surfer slang even though they're not surfers and San Dimas is a fair distance inland.
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Both are far on the Idealistic End, even if 2 is Darker and Edgier, in its belief that love and friendship and make the world a nicer place. Now we can only wait and see if "3" makes good on its promise that it will stay idealistic without succumbing to "retro-cynicism."
Stacy's Mom: Bill (and later Ted's) stepmom, Missy. It helps that she's only three years older than Bill and Ted. Ted even asked her to the prom. It's lampshaded in the first movie, when Freud offers to psychoanalyze Bill during the history report, and he responds, "Nah, just got a minor Oedipal complex."
Take That: In the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, Bill and Ted run into Rufus at a record store, where a Take That to then-hot teenybopper group New Kids On The Block (who had a cartoon show then as well) is delivered:
Rufus: I was just checking out this new album by New Boys On The Corner.
Bill, Ted: And?
Rufus: They stink.
Timey-Wimey Ball: There's no consistency in how time travel works in the Bill And Ted universe. They have a limited time to prepare for their history report in Excellent Adventure despite having a time machine (out of universe, this explains why they don't screw around with the infinite possibilities of time travel; in-universe, no good explanation is given), yet in Bogus Journey, they are able to undertake 16 months of intense guitar training in an unspecified time period and arrive back at the concert moments after they left.
Actually, that one is pretty easy to explain. In the first movie, Rufus points out that they were off by one number when they meet themselves. This means that they can reach any allotment of time by dialing that number, and since time moves forward at a constant pace, all they had to do was wait until they could dial up the exact time they had taken off, which keeps the San Dimas Time rule solid.
The "time game" is circular. 'After you win'', you'll grab what you need to win in the first place? It makes sense - relatively - that only the winners can play the game, but we're never told what Bill and Ted did to make them the winners, ie why Chuck De Nomolos couldn't say "no, I set up the key and the gag gun just to give you false hope before I vanquish you".
Trophy Wife: In Excellent Adventure, Bill's dad has divorced his mother and gotten married to Missy, who is only three years older than his son. In Bogus Journey, they have split up and now Ted's dad is the one married to Missy.
Big Damn Heroes: When Bill and Ted are about to be executed in the medieval times, it turns out that Billy the Kid and Socrates switched places with the executioners, freeing the duo so they can make an escape.
Ted: Now your Dad's getting it on in your own room! Bill: Shut up, Ted. Ted: Your stepmom is cute, though. Bill: Shut up, Ted. Ted: Hey, remember when I asked her to the prom? Bill: SHUT UP, TED!
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Rufus addresses the audience directly at the start of the film to explain the situation, and again at the end to reassure us that Bill and Ted "do get better" vis-a-vis their terrible music skills.
California Doubling: Strangely inverted. The first movie is set in California, but was filmed primarily in Phoenix.
Chekhov's Gun: The keys that Ted's Dad lost at the beginning of the movie turns out to have been stolen by Ted who came back from the future after the movie.
Still true in the TV edit: "Zut, zut, zut, zut!" (lit. "Damn, damn, damn, damn...!")
Creator Cameo: Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, who created the characters and wrote the script, appear as the annoying waiters serving ice cream to Napoleon.
Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: The police interrogator assigned to Sigmund Freud gets progressively more irritated as he talks to him. (One probably wouldn't go so far as to say he's going crazy, though.)
Policeman: What makes you think that you are Sigmund Freud?
Sigmund Freud: What makes you think I'm not Sigmund Freud?
Policeman[exasperated] Why do you keep asking me these questions?
Sigmund Freud:[leans in closer] Tell me about your mother.
Eternal English: Averted with Beethoven, Joan of Arc, Socrates, Napoleon, and Genghis Kahn being unable to speak a word of English.
Justified in Socrates' case, since Bill & Ted would not have been able to understand Ancient Greek and the earliest form of the English language didn't exist until the 5th Century, some 8 centuries after Socrates' death.
Invoked when they visit England 1501 and meet the Royal Princess Babes, however. While both sets of characters technically spoke English, you have sixteenth century Britons speaking to modern American valley-guys. While a handful of references and words were misunderstood on either side, in reality, they would sound like they were speaking in a bizarre Stage Irish accent — see Shakespeare in original pronunciation.
Also, Joan of Arc's lines are in standard modern French, when she actually spoke the Limousin dialect which is somewhat different.
Funny Background Event: Billy the Kid left in charge of Bill and Ted's backpack while they sought out Socrates. When they were seeing the princesses, Billy and Socrates were debating on who should look after it, which degrades into a game of catch.
In something of a Funny Foreground Event, Napoleon begins to sidle closer to Missy (likely intending to hit on her) in her car while Bill and Ted make their way back to it. Napoleon promptly pulls back when they appear beside the passenger's side window.
Gay Moment: Bill and Ted hug after Ted turns out to have not been killed by that medieval dickweed, then promptly let go and jokingly yell "Fag!" to one another.
When Freud is coming on to some girls, he tells them that they "seem to be suffering from a mild form of hysteria."
Combined with God Test: Invoked when Bill and Ted challenge their future selves:
Ted: If we're you, and you're us... What number are we thinking of?
Future Bill and Ted: 69, dudes!
Bill and Ted: Whoa...
[quadruple air guitar]
Hammerspace: It seems to be a common ability here. Where did Billy the Kid get the lariat he used on Freud? Kind of hard to say. Another example, Genghis Khan enters the booth carrying only a club, which he later discards; in an even later scene, he has a pole-axe weapon, and no explanation where it came from. Also, Joan of Arc is somehow able to change out of her armor before she and the others are arrested, and then change back into it after the duo spring them, with no explanation of where she put it. Hammerspace is really the only explanation.
Of course, there's also the booth itself. Not exactly something that could fit nine (and later ten) people easily, (although Ted did say they were "running out of room" when there were only nine.
Hypocritical Humor: When Bill and Ted get drafted into Billy the Kid's poker game, Bill gently admonishes Ted to "have a poker face, like me". Not ten seconds later he looks at his cards and exclaims "Woah, three Aces, dude!"
Improbable Weapon User: Genghis Khan is impressed by the military potential of modern sporting equipment. He dons some football armor, arms himself with an aluminum baseball bat, and charges off on a skateboard.
Informed Ability: Played for laughs. Bill and Ted are supposed to be the greatest musicians of all time. They stink.
Lampshaded by Rufus - Who pulls off a stunning solo and then assures us in a fourth-wall breaking moment that they do get better as Bill and Ted make horrific noise whilst their new girlfriends from the past awkwardly test their own instruments.
It Makes Sense in Context: It happens at least twice in the film. The first one is Rufus' claim that these two dumb kids will be important in the future that ends with, "Don't worry, it'll all make sense. I'm a professional." Second time is when Bill and Ted meet themselves in past after we already saw this encounter and Ted notes, "That conversation made more sense this time."
Logic Bomb: Wyld Stallyns won't be a good band until they have Eddie Van Halen, and they won't have Eddie Van Halen until they have a triumphant music video, and they won't have a triumphant music video until they have good instruments, and they won't have good instruments until they know how to play, and they won't know how to play until they have Eddie Van Halen...
The Power of Rock: And how — the music of Wyld Stallyns ushers in a worldwide golden age of peace, harmony, and awesomeness.
Rufus: San Dimas, California, 2688. And I'm telling you, it's great here. The air is clean, the water's clean... even the dirt, it's clean. Bowling averages are way up, mini-golf scores are way down. And we have more excellent water slides than any other planet we communicate with.
If Wyld Stallyns would have broken up without Rufus' intervention, how did his timeline come into existence in the first place?
Rufus never divulges his name. Bill and Ted learn it from their future selves. Maybe it was in that phonebook?
Stockholm Syndrome: Seriously. None of the historic figures seem to mind being abducted by two nutty teenagers. (Freud objects at first, but he gets over it quickly. Long story short, it's a weird movie.)
Tagline: "History is about to be rewritten by two guys who can't spell."
Timey-Wimey Ball: Parodied like everything else. Okay, the boys have to leave on their journey, but their time moves at the same pace as them so they can't just spend comparatively weeks worth of preparation using time travel when they have to accomplish their history report by the next day. And when they are in a jam trying to get that accomplished, they figured that they could use the time booth to manipulate things to their advantage now, which they would have to recreate after they finished their history report... And it works.
Title Drop: Abraham Lincoln refers to Bill and Ted bringing them on "a most excellent adventure."
Earlier at the Circle K, Future!Ted tells Present!Ted that they're about to "embark on an excellent adventure through time."
Totally Radical: Tongue-in-cheek about it, and subverted in that it actually caught on.
The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer: Most of the historical people adapt pretty quickly to the twentieth century, such as Beethoven mastering electronic synthesizers.
Billy the Kid picks up the intricacies of time travel pretty quickly, for which the boys praise him when they arrive in ancient Greece.
Visual Pun: When Sigmund Freud is trying to chat up the girls at the mall and being shot down in the process, you can see the corndog he's holding go from being 'erect' at the beginning of the conversation to being 'limp' at the end.
Weirdness Search and Rescue: Rufus gave Bill and Ted the time machine, showed them how to use it, and tended to turn up for advice when the boys found themselves in trouble. He was from the future of prosperity, peace, and excellence that they ushered in, and had a vested interest in helping them because without them his future would not exist.
Ye Goode Olde Days: Our heroes travel to — and pick up hitchhikers from — ancient Greece, ancient Mongolia, and medieval Europe (among other eras), yet any and all unpleasant hygienic issues are ignored.
You Already Changed The Past: One of the signs that Bill and Ted are clever if not book smart is their recognition of this trope; they realize that to solve a problem in the present, they can use their time machine to plant helpful items in the past, and then they'll be there for their present selves to discover - and they keep reminding each other "Once this is over, we have to go back and place all that stuff!"
Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey
The second movie features the following totally metal tropes:
Adolf Hitler In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, when Bill and Ted are in Hell, you can hear, "Sieg Heil".
Burger Fool: Off-screen, Bill and Ted work for "Pretzels and Cheese" in order to support the band.
Butt Monkey: Death of all people. He is repeatedly humiliated, first when Bill and Ted wedgie him to escape. Then he undergoes a series of embarrassing defeats at board games, is forced to appear before God in drag, suffers repeated comedic injuries on earth, and finally he can't even catch a break when he becomes part of the band that saves the world (It Makes Sense in Context). His solo albums fail spectacularly.
Bill: That was non-non-non-NON-heinous! note i.e. it was heinous
Counter Zany: "How do we defeat evil robot usses?" "By building good robot usses to fight them!"
Covers Always Lie: Parodied when they complained that rock albums inaccurately portrayed hell.
"We got totally lied to by our album covers, man."
Creation Sequence: Station assembling the Good Robot Usses in the back of a moving van.
Creative Closing Credits: The end credits resolve the story, showing their rise to fame, and ending with the band heading off to perform on Mars.
Crystal Spires and Togas: subverted in the sequel, where we learn that not everyone is happy to live in a future founded by a pair of hard rockers.
Curb-Stomp Battle: The "Good Robot Us'es" created by Station own the "Bad Robot Us'es" created by Chuck De Nomolos. They uppercut their heads off their bodies, and a follow-up punch to the torso causes them to explode.
Evil Bill: Evil Ted, I think we may have met our match.
In a less literal sense, their Battle of the Bands entry also counts. They had the most insane intro in the history of rock music, with robots and time travel, and their band has aliens, robot backup dancers, and Death himself. Which was everyone, as it had been specifically stated that Wyld Stallyns would be the last to perform that night. One could assume that the other bands would go on to either be Blessed with Suck or Cursed with Awesome depending on how they looked at it, as they would forevermore be known as "the opening acts of the greatest band in the world".
Darker and Edgier: Whilst Excellent Adventure is a feel-good romp, Bogus Journey has the title characters a) facing robot terrorists from the future and b) dying and going to hell, even if it is still played for laughs and they get better eventually.
Drill Sergeant Nasty: Colonel Oates, the head and namesake of Oates Military Academy where Ted's dad is threatening to send him in the first movie. He's only mentioned in the first film. He first appears in the sequel and doesn't seem too bad initially. However, when the duo goes to hell, the first punishment they go through is being in military school with him where he's this trope in full force and demands that they "get down and give me infinity". Then again, they are in HELL...
Earth Is the Center of the Universe/Humans Are Special: Mocked when Bill and Ted ask God for help in protecting their girlfriends, and are sent to meet the smartest man in the universe... who turns out to be two squat, large-nosed Martians. Or one big one, depending....
Death: Did you assume that the most brilliant scientist in the entire universe would be from Earth?
Evil Mentor: Subverted with De Nomolos, although the viewers are meant to think he was this to Rufus for most of the film, as Rufus calls him "my old teacher" in the opening scene and the villain responds by calling him "my favorite pupil". As Rufus later explains at the end of the film, however, De Nomolos was actually his old gym teacher.
Happily Ever After: The end credits of the film feature a montage of newspaper headlines chronicling Bill & Ted's rise to fame and their music bringing about world peace and a new scientific renaissance while playing the song "God Gave Rock And Roll To You" by KISS. It's a very happy ending.
Homage: The second movie parodies the Ingmar Bergman film The Seventh Seal where a Knight plays chess with the Grim Reaper for his soul. Bill and Ted play him with classic board games and Twister.
It's Been Done: The plot is a blend of Terminator and, of all things, KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park - which featured Kiss battling Evil Robot Kiss. Seriously.
Kick the Dog: Evil Bill and Ted repeatedly try to kill animals.
The Evil Robots' groping of the heroes' (rather chaste) princess girlfriends also counts in various ways
Kirk's Rock: Lampshaded: Just before the boys meet the Evil Robots, they're watching that particular episode of Star Trek on TV. When the Robots drag the boys up to the rock to kill them, we even get a recreation of the dramatic zoom out from Trek.
Larynx Dissonance: Evil Bill changes his voice to one of the medieval babes to give Bill and Ted a fake breakup call, in order to lead them into the trap where they will be killed.
May-December Romance: Missy and Ted's father, who's even older than Bill's father from the first movie. And then she hooks up with Chuck De Nomolos at the end of that movie. The girl Really Gets Around.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Ties in with the Stable Time Loop. Chuck De Nomolos decides to broadcast his defeat of Bill and Ted live to the world. After he's defeated, this only ensures that Bill and Ted broadcast their first performance live all over the world, hence beginning the cycle of their music creating the future Utopia.
Out-Gambitted: The climax of the film. Both sides' plans rely on the premise that they won the current battle in the present, which would allow them to manipulate time afterwards and rig the battle in the present to their favor. "The future belongs to the winner."
Pokémon Speak: The Stations use the word "Station" for everything.
The Power of Rock: Taken Up to Eleven, as the effects of Wyld Stallyns' music are shown via a newspaper montage at the end of the film (set to KISS's "God Gave Rock 'n Roll To You"):
Wyld Stallyns Tour Midwest; Crop Growth Up 30% Bill & Ted Tour Mideast; Peace Achieved Stallyns Use World Nuclear Arsenal to Fuel Amplifiers Air Guitar Found to Eliminate Smog Bill & Ted Named Sportsmen of the Decade Rumored W.S. Split; DOW Drops 600 Points W.S. Split A Hoax - DOW To Record High Bill and Ted: The Movie Wyld Stallyns to Play Mars - "Station!"
Really Gets Around: Missy was married to Bill's Dad in the first film, but has left him and married Ted's Dad by the sequel. She also flirts with Col. Oates, and the end credits reveal that she has left Ted's Dad for Chuck De Nomolos.
Ridiculously Human Robots: The Evil Robot Bill and Ted, who can apparently get "full-on robot chubb[ies]" from looking at a picture of the guys' girlfriends.
Robot Me: There are Bill and Ted's evil robot copies from the future, and then Station improvises another robot Bill and Ted to counter them.
San Dimas Time: Interestingly, the sequel seems to throw this out by allowing Bill and Ted to spend 16 months to get guitar lessons, then return to the present to win the concert. This could be explained by assuming that Bill and Ted have to jump 16 months into the future after they win the concert.
Plausible explanation: Bill and Ted take the booth sixteen months into the future, get out, and allow Future Bill & Ted (who have been in intense training ever since the concert) to get in and take the same booth back to the Battle of the Bands, while Bill and Ted wait in the future. Once their set is over, Future Bill & Ted get back in the booth, go back to their own time, and let Bill and Ted have the booth back, whereupon Bill and Ted travel back to their present San Dimas and begin sixteen months of intense training.
First movie they had to "dial one number higher" to get to the right day. So presumably, they jumped to some other point in time, and had to dial "16 months worth of numbers lower" to get back to the same point.
(Later, after Bill & Ted have won three out of three...)
Bill: Best of seven?
Death: Damn right! The boys best him at Battleship, Clue, Electronic Football (with magnetized players on a metal field) and finally Twister, after which Death finally gives up.
Word of God is that this was intended as a Chekhov's Gun in the original script. The Evil Robot Usses were supposed to kill Bill and Ted at the Battle of the Bands, whereupon the boys would invoke their wins against Death to get resurrected. This part does appear in the comic book adaptation of the movie, which was based on an earlier draft of the script.
Squick: An in-universe example; Death gets jealous of all the praise Station is getting and starts fishing for compliments. When Ted says he has "an excellently huge Martian butt", Death asks "What about my butt? Reaping burns a lot of calories, you know." Bill and Ted visibly shudder at this.
You Already Changed The Past: The entire climax is Bill, Ted, and Chuck De Nomolos performing dueling versions of this. Except that, as Bill points out, only the winner can change history, so all the things the villain thought he planted were just decoys B&T placed to lull him into a false sense of security.