Film / Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure


The first Bill & Ted 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 an ordinary 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 first movie demonstrates these non-heinous tropes:

  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Played straight, for obvious reasons. Notice that in almost every scene Freud appears in, he's holding some kind of phallic object—a cigar, a corndog, etc. And then there's Bill's attraction to his "Mom."
  • Ancient Greece: It looks like the cover of the Led Zeppelin album "Houses of the Holy". (Allegedly.)
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: In this case, Royal Ugly Dudes Are Bogus
  • 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.
  • Big "Shut Up!":
    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.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: Bill keeps accidentally calling his step mom Missy before correcting himself (though the first time she corrects him).
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: Played for Laughs at the beginning of the movie. Bill and Ted argue that they need a "triumphant" music video to get Eddie Van Halen to join their band, but also say the best way to get Eddie Van Halen is to make a music video.
  • 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.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Napoleon when he flubs a shot in bowling: he goes "Merde, merde, merde, merde!" (lit. "Shit, shit, shit, shit...!") practically nonstop.
    • 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,.)
    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.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Suggested, though not really shown.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: This exchange, from the beginning of the movie.
    Bill: Ted, while I agree that, in time, our band will be most triumphant, the truth is, Wyld Stallyns will never be a super band until we have Eddie Van Halen on guitar.
    Ted: Yes, Bill. But I do not believe we will get Eddie Van Halen until we have a triumphant video.
    Bill: Ted, it's pointless to have a triumphant video before we even have decent instruments.
    Ted: Well, how can we have decent instruments when we don't really even know how to play?
    Bill: That is why we NEED Eddie Van Halen!
    Ted: —And that is why we need a triumphant video!
    (Both are puzzled, beat, air guitar)
  • Eternal English: Averted with Beethoven, Joan of Arc, Socrates, Napoleon, and Genghis Khan 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. 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.
    • Since Sigmund Freud is among the historical figures and Freud spoke fluent German and French, he would have been able to communicate with Beethoven, Joan and Napoleon easily (though Beethoven's deafness could have created some additional barriers). He also spoke Greek, which may have allowed at least some ability to speak to Ancient Greece native Socrates.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: In this case, Everything's Better With Royal English Babes:
    Bill: We gotta go. It's a history report, not a babe report.
    Ted: But, Bill, those... are historical babes.
  • Exty Years from Now: Rufus dates the future scenes to 2688, just about 700 years after the movie came out.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Ted's dad.
  • Freudian Excuse: In-universe, invoked by Freud himself, as an explanation as to why Ted's dad is so harsh with discipline.
  • The Full Name Adventures
  • 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.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • 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.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Including Abraham Lincoln, Ludwig van Beethoven, Billy The Kid, Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, Napoleon Bonaparte, Sigmund Freud, So-crates...
  • Hollywood History: Consciously and unashamedly.
  • 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.
  • I Owe You My Life: Billy the Kid, who later returns the favor.
  • 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."
  • It's Been Done: Amusingly Double Subverted in the film's production. The time machine was originally going to be a 1969 Chevrolet van, but when they realized the similarities to another science fiction film, they decided to change it... to a phone booth.
  • Like a Duck Takes to Water:
    • 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.
  • A Little Something We Call "Rock and Roll"
  • 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...
  • Man Hug: See Gay Moment, above.
  • May-December Romance: Missy and Bill's father.
  • Mega Meal Challenge: Apparently an ice cream dish called the Ziggy Pig is one of these. After Napoleon Bonaparte finishes it, the garishly dressed employees make pig noises and give him a sticker.
    • He apparently is proud of this "decoration," because he wears it prominently alongside his medals for the rest of the movie.
  • The Middle Ages: Briefly.
  • Mistaken for Profound: Socrates mistakes song lyrics for wisdom.
    • Justified In-Universe, what with the whole "Rock-n-Roll Utopia" theme.
  • Morton's Fork: Said Billy the Kid before a poker match, "What I win, I keep; What you win, I keep."
    Bill and Ted: Sounds good, Mr. The Kid!
  • My Future Self and Me: As below, the future boys stop in the recent past to give themselves a pep talk, including the line from Future Ted, in response to Ted's, "No way!": "Yes way, Ted!"
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet: Defied. Hell, them encountering their future selves near the start of the film is actually a plot point in advance.
  • The Not-So-Harmless Punishment: The guys enthusiastically embrace the King's order to "put them in the Iron Maiden" with a positive "EXCELLENT!"
    King: Execute them!
    Bill and Ted: BOGUS!
  • The Power of Rock: 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, is 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.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Bill and Ted, obviously teenagers, are given whiskey at the Old West Saloon. Ted lampshades this. At that time, pretty much anyone older than ten could drink, especially out in the outer regions like New Mexico Territory. However, a bartender most certainly would never give the whiskey to two strangers without getting his money first.
    • Billy turns over the table and starts a fight rather quickly, just after the other guys suspect he's cheating. In The Old West, being accused of cheating was a very grave accusation. It could lead to you getting shot, or at least beat up.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Bill lapses into one when he thinks a medieval dude killed Ted.
  • Shout-Out: Numerous references to 80s culture.
    Ted: I'm Darth Ted!
    Bill: Oh, yeah? Well, I'm Luke Bill, and you're not my father! You!
    • After they tell Socrates that "All we are is dust in the wind, dude", he quotes the tagline for Days of Our Lives.
    • Bill also says, "Let's reach out and touch someone" before they use the booth for the first time, an old slogan for Bell System Phone Company.
    • Although it seems like the time travelling phone booth is a MASSIVE shout out to Doctor Who, it is actually just a coincidence. (See It's Been Done above)
  • Single Precept Religion: The (future) Church of Bill and Ted has but one single commandment "Be excellent to each other and party on, dudes."
  • Stable Time Loop:
    • 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.)
  • Stylistic Suck: Bill and Ted's guitar skills.
    Rufus (to viewers): They do get better...
  • Tagline: "History is about to be rewritten by two guys who can't spell."
  • Those Two Guys: Besides the titular characters, Socrates and Billy the Kid kind of develop into this. (Who also qualify as a Fat and Skinny pair.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Wild West
  • 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!"

Alternative Title(s): Bill And Teds Excellent Adventure