Perhaps the greatest Saturday Night Live act to spin off from the show into the realm of movies. Back when Dan Aykroyd wasn't fat and John Belushi wasn't dead, they starred together in an occasional sketch-cum-musical-act featuring the two of them in dark suits and sunglasses as "The Blues Brothers"; Belushi was Jake Blues, and Aykroyd was Jake's silent brother Elwood. What made the skits good? The duo were skilled at both the comedy (obviously) and the music (which was surprising). Aykroyd and Belushi spun off their own band with established musicians (members of the SNL house band as well as experienced R&B musicians) and served as the frontmen, in character as Elwood and Jake; their 1978 album Briefcase Full of Blues was a big success in its own right, topping the Billboard album chart and producing a Top 20 hit single with their remake of the Sam & Dave classic "Soul Man".In 1980, they got a musical-extravaganza feature film — titled The Blues Brothers — that quickly and deservedly became a Cult Classic. "Joliet" Jake Blues has just been released from prison, with Elwood there to pick him up in a battered piece of crap that used to be a police car. (Elwood is not silent in this film—he gives some serious lectures.) Fulfilling a promise, the Blues go to the Chicagoland orphanage where they grew up and visit "The Penguin", the nun who runs the place; it is during this meeting that the brothers learn that the orphanage is about to be closed down unless its $5,000 property tax bill can be paid off.Wondering what they can do to save the orphanage, Jake sees the light — literally — while listening to a sermon from James Brown. During the lively service, he has an epiphany and receives a Mission from God: the Blues Brothers must get their band back together and raise the money to save their old orphanage no matter what. Along the way, they meet up with Cab Calloway, Carrie Fisher, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, John Candy, Twiggy, Frank Oz, Chaka Khan, John Landis, Paul Reubens and Steven Spielberg. Hilarity Ensues, and every last police car in the state of Illinois is destroyed.There was a sequel — Blues Brothers 2000 — in 1998. This film didn't go over as well as the original, in part because some important players — most notably John Belushi — had died in the interim. (The death was actually worked intothe film's plot, but it didn't really help. Though at the least it was respectful to Belushi.) Some admit that though the plot wasn't as up to snuff as the original, the music at least was pretty good. John Landis helmed the director's chair on both movies.
Tropes present in the films include:
Absurd Altitude: The Nazis chasing the Brothers are launched from an unfinished highway ramp... fly as high as the Sears Tower... and fall several miles away, just in time for the Blues Brothers to dodge the hole they made and another Nazi to fall into the hole.
Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Everyone knows church properties can't be taxed, but that wouldn't make for a plot. Or a nun on rails. Or the best car chase EVER.
There was actually a law being debated in the Illinois state legislature at the time the film was being written that would have made some church properties taxable, though it was completely dead by the time the film came out, making this movie a sort of Alternate History.
Acrofatic: John Belushi. The only thing they needed a body double for were the backflips in the church. Big Mack in the sequel.
The Alleged Car: Mystery Woman's banged up 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix. Which is odd, considering it's practically brand new.
The Bluesmobile in the original movie subverts this trope. It's a beat-up surplus police cruiser with a missing cigarette lighter (thanks to Jake throwing it out the window), but it can jump over an opening drawbridge and holds its own through several high-speed chases. It only falls apart when the brothers reach the tax assessor's office in Chicago.
All There in the Manual: Information about the brothers' background comes from the liner notes of their first album, Briefcase Full of Blues, while fictional backstories are included for the rest of the band members and some other characters found their way into a book written by John Belushi's wife.
Aluminum Christmas Trees: The Illinois Nazis might seem to a latter-day viewer to be a random bit of craziness. In fact those scenes were inspired by a Real Life Supreme Court case (National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie) in which the American Nazi Party won the right to march through the largely Jewish suburb of Skokie, IL. (The Nazis eventually marched through Chicago instead.)
Animated Adaptation: In 1997, 6 animated episodes were produced (with Peter Aykroyd and Jim Belushi) for the UPN network but were never aired.
Artistic License - Law: There's two things wrong with the scene where Elwood is pulled over, then chased around the mall:
The police who pull him over are State Troopers, not Chicago Police, so pulling someone over for running a red light within Chicago city limits is beyond their jurisdiction (they also go all the way to Wisconsin to arrest the Blues Brothers, which is even worse);
The light was yellow, and Illinois state law states that as long as the light is still yellow when the front tires cross the white line, the car has legally passed through the intersection. In this instance, the light did not change to red until after he had left the intersection. Elwood actually points this out, which suggests that the cops (and by extension the writers) knew just wanted to pull Elwood over and used that as an excuse.
Let's not forget the fact that he had over 50 traffic violations without ever going to jail for it.
A-Team Firing: Everyone's a crap shot, except when they're not aiming directly for the Blues Brothers. Vaguely justified with Holy Protection, but mostly played for Rule of Funny.
Backed By the Vatican: While not so during the production of the movie, in recent years they have admitted to finding it a good, religious movie.
Berserk Button: Do not use unacceptable language in front of The Penguin. Taking the Lord's name in vain is even worse.
Also, you shouldn't go to a country and western bar and try to play the blues. It never ends well.
Big "WHAT?!": The whole band delivered this when Curtis told them they need to raise the money for the orphanage.
Bittersweet Ending: The orphanage is saved, but the Brothers get tossed back into jail. The sheer hilarity of the buildup, however, overshadows it.
Makes it more of a downer in the sequel when its revealed the orphanage closed down during Jake's second stint in the clink making all their efforts pointless
Blood Brothers: According to supplemental materials, the brothers are not biologically related, but sealed their blood brotherhood at the orphanage by cutting their fingers with Elmore James' guitar string.
Bloodless Carnage: Despite the gazillions of dollars in property damage throughout the first movie, nobody dies. Even the Nazis only get slammed into a giant pothole, after flying a cartoonishly long height.
Book Ends: The first movie opens and closes with Jake in jail. He's just being released in the beginning and performing while re-incarcerated at the end.
Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Jake's personal effects, being returned to him at the beginning of the movie, include a used condom.
Brick Joke: Elwood mentions early in the film that he spoofed his address forms to show the address for Wrigley Field. Later in the film, the Illinois Nazis find his information and meet up to discuss tracking him down... in front of Wrigley Field.
During the mall chase, one of the officers in the flipped police car laments that he broke his watch in the chase. During the pileup on the highway shortly after dawn in the finale chase, one of the officers in the background is heard complaining of a broken watch as he climbs out of the wrecked car.
In the first film, Elwood's favorite meal is two pieces of dry white toast. He orders it at the soul food restaurant, tries to cook some in his apartment and even pulls some out of his pocket in Ray's music store to try out a toaster oven with. In the second film, the police invade Bob's Country Kitchen to look for the Blues Brothers, they notice the table where they were sitting. One of the plates has two pieces of dry white toast on it.
Bulletproof Fashion Plate: The boys' suits. True to the trope, ending up covered in mud signals that their situation has gone to hell.
Car Fu: Taken to an exorbitant amount in both films, as both contain 50+ car pileups.
The first film held the Guinness World Record for most cars destroyed in a single movie (reports vary, but the number's about 75 to 80) for 18 years, finally being surpassed by the sequel, (over 100, as reported by Guinness) for another 11 years. That's almost 200 cars destroyed and almost 30 years of car-totaling supremacy.
Elwood: It's a bargain. I picked it up at the Mt. Prospect City Police auction last spring. It's an old Mt. Prospect Police car.
Jake: Thanks a lot, pal. The day I get out of prison and my own brother picks me up in a police car.
Elwood: You don't like it?
Jake: No, I don't like it.
making a long story short, Elwood jumps the Chicago river with the car.
Jake: Car's got a lot of pickup.
Elwood: It's got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant. Cop springs. Cop shocks. Cop suspension. Cop tires. It was a model made before catalytic converters, so it runs on regular gas. What do you say? Is it the new Bluesmobile or what?
Jake: Fix the cigarette lighter.
Casting Gag: Paul Shaffer was the band's original keyboardist, but wasn't in the original film because — in addition to his SNL commitments — he was also working on Gilda Radner: Live from New York, a one-woman stage show which starred fellow former SNL regular Gilda Radner. He finally appeared in 2000 as Queen Mouset's assistant, and asks Murph if he wouldn't mind letting him have a crack at the keyboard.
Casual Danger Dialogue: While driving through the mall, Jake and Elwood remark on the variety of stores the mall has. "This place has everything."
Celebrity Star: Many famous musicians appear in various roles to sing their hits.
The Character Died with Him: John Belushi as Jake Blues and Cab Calloway as Curtis. Possibly John Candy as Burton Mercer, too, although that one isn't confirmed. Fittingly, the sequel is dedicated to these three actors.
It survives jump after jump, being driven through a shopping mall, and a high-speed chase with a thrown rod, among other things - and then it literally falls apart upon reaching the property tax office. Elwood briefly pauses to pay his last respects to the wreck while the cops are still chasing them.
Flat-out parodied, like everything else, in 2000 when Cabel tells Elwood to take his hat and glasses off in the office. The camera pans to Cabel, then back to Elwood - covering his eyes with his arm to avoid being blinded by normal indoor light.
Crashing Through the Harem: The brothers sneak through the window of a ladies' room to get into the Palace Hotel Ballroom for their gig.
Crazy Enough to Work: In the sequel, they shrug off a bunch of Russian gangsters chasing them by dumping out a bag of thumb tackscarpenter nailsdrywall nails, which they drive directly into. It works.
Crazy-Prepared: Elwood produces various props that are all exactly perfect for whatever needs to be done, from spare white bread for toasting to the materials needed to sabotage elevators and vehicles.
Creator Cameo: John Landis is the cop driving the second car that shows up to chase the Blues Brothers through the mall.
Description Porn: The famous scene when Elwood introduces the Bluesmobile to Jake after jumping the bridge.
"It's got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it's got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It's a model made before catalytic converters, so it'll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?"
Destructive Savior: Elwood and (to a lesser extent) Jake. To wit: the Blues cause what has to be several million dollars worth of damage to just the Chicago Police by wrecking all of their cars just to save an orphanage by paying a bill of $5,000.
Also heard by Cab in the sequel when he similarly has an epiphany.
Every Car Is a Pinto: Averted(!), and later becomes a full-blown subversion when the Illinois' Nazis red wagon (which actually is a Ford Pinto) lands in a sinkhole without ever being seen in demolished form, let alone exploding.
Fake American: Canadian-born Dan Aykroyd does a spot-on Chicago accent.
555: "KL 5" on the card that John Candy leaves for Elwood at the flophouse.
Foreshadowing: A weird case. The reason for the Brothers' murderous stalker is alluded to when one of them propositions a lady to meet after the big show - of course, he can't make it, on account of the murderous stalker and the cops.
Friendly Enemy: The police detective played by John Candy seems honestly amused by Jake and Elwood's ability to trick the police; he even insists on waiting to arrest them until he's heard them play.
Hell, even when he ends up with his car embedded in the back of a semi near the end, he doesn't seem the least bit angry about it.
Generation Xerox: Cabel Chamberlain sings and dances just like Curtis, and by the end of the second movie, Buster has turned into a mini-Elwood.
Ghostly Glide: At the end of the scene with the "Penguin" (Sister Mary Stigmata) and Jake and Elwood Blues, she moved back through an open door into a room as if she were floating on air. Along with the other magical effects she demonstrated earlier in the scene, this was the crowning moment of creepiness.
Glasses Pull: Jake does this to talk Carrie Fisher out of murdering them. It's the only time in the whole movie either of them take their glasses off.
Good Ol' Boy: The Good Ol' Boys band, and Tucker McElroy in particular.
Elwood Blues: "We're the Good Ol' Blues Brothers... Boys. Band."
Hammer Space: Elwood's briefcase and pockets. At various times he produces Cheez Whiz, plain white bread, Spray glue ("strong stuff") and all of the tools he needs to quickly disable an elevator including a fairly exotic Yankee spiral ratchet screwdriver.
Hatedom: An in-universe example; the regulars at Bob's Country Bunker don't react too favourably to "Gimme Some Lovin" (but they're placated by the theme song from Rawhide and "Stand By Your Man").
Hey Lets Put On A Show: To save the orphanage... twice, since the first time only netted them $200 (and a $300 bar tab, which they ran out on).
"No I didn't. Honest... I ran out of gas. I, I had a flat tire. I didn't have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn't come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood! Locusts!IT WASN'T MY FAULT I SWEAR TO GOOOD!"
I Need to Go Iron My Dog: After telling Bob that Elwood is in the car writing out a (nonexistent) American Express Travelers Cheque to cover the band's extensive bar tab, Jake says, "I'd better check up, see how he's doing. See, I have to sign it too...I usually sit in the car and write it out on the glove compartment lid." Then he beats a hasty retreat for the car.
Just Take The Poster: One of the Nazis brings a poster promoting the band's gig at the Palace Hotel Ballroom, which he had obviously torn off a wall somewhere, to the leader of the Illinois Nazi Party.
Leitmotif: The horn intro from "I Can't Turn You Loose", originally recorded by Otis Redding, could very easily be retitled "The Blues Brothers Theme" by now.
HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT
Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded by Willie Hall. "At least we've got a change of clothes, sucka. You're wearing the same shit you had on three years ago!"
Long List: In the second movie, Elwood runs down the list of musical genres the Blues Brothers are capable of performing. It includes just about every genre imaginable (except Caribbean music, for whatever reason).
Lounge Lizard: Murph turned into this. Steve, Duck and Bones seem to be mostly in it for the paycheck.
Mafia Princess: Carrie Fisher's character, which is why she wants to kill Jake for leaving her at the altar.
Magic Realism: The car, the Blues Brothers' invulnerability, etc.
The Men in Black: Jake and Elwood get mistaken for this after inquiring about one of the bandmates at his ex-landlady's apartment:
Landlady: Are you the police? Elwood:[Perfect deadpan] No ma'am. We're musicians.
Metallicar Syndrome: Played with by the "black and white 1974 Dodge Monaco". It sounds like it should be a straight example, but it's actually an ex-police cruiser still in CPD colours, and the lack of a light-bar or the emblem on the doors isn't immediately noticeable from some angles. This doesn't actually help very much in the end, though.
Mistaken for Special Guest: The band impersonate the "Good Ol' Boys" at Bob's Country Bunker, adding to yet another long-ass list of pursuers during the climax when both the Good Ol' Boys and the bar owner realize they've been had.
Motivational Lie: Elwood tells Jake that he's staying in touch with the band while Jake is in prison, this way Jake will have some hope to hang onto.
Motor Mouth: Elwood. In both movies (and indeed, in the gigs prior to the movie's creation)!
This is Dan Aykroyd's trademark, as a tribute to Jack Webb.
Orphanage of Love: St. Helen of the Blessed Shroud, where Jake and Elwood grew up and what they risked everything to save. More thanks to Curtis than the Penguin, though she seems fairly reasonable. Jake really needs to learn not to swear in front of a nun.
In The Blues Brothers, the Blues brothers escape the cops by driving into a mall.
In The Blues Brothers 2000, a Road Block has been set up; Elwood gets around it by driving under a river.
Rousing Speech: Blues Brothers 2000 has Buster verbally kicking Elwood's rear end, followed up by this gem:
Elwood: You may go if you wish. Remember this: Walk away now and you walk away from your crafts, your skills, your vocations; leaving the next generation with nothing but recycled, digitally-sampled techno-grooves, quasi-synth rhythms, pseudo-songs of violence-laden gangsta-rap, acid pop, and simpering, saccharine, soulless slush. Depart now and you forever separate yourselves from the vital American legacies of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Jimmie Reed, Memphis Slim, Blind Boy Fuller, Louie Jordan, Little Walter, Big Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson I (and II), Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Elvis Presley, Lieber and Stoller, and Robert K. Weiss.
Elwood: Turn your backs now and you snuff out the fragile candles of Blues, R&B, and Soul, and when those flames flicker and expire, the light of the world is extinguished because the music which has moved mankind through seven decades leading to the millenium will wither and die on the vine of abandonment and neglect.
Runaway Groom: Jake turns out to have left Carrie Fisher at the altar.
Running Gag: Lots of them ranging from the obvious ("We're on a mission from God") to the subtle (Jake constantly checking his watch, which was declared broken in the first scene). There's also the ones in the sequel referring to the first movie, from Elwood throwing the cigarette lighter out the window to all the cops being terrible shots.
"He broke my watch!"
"The Lord works in mysterious ways", said by Jake, becomes the running gag of 2000.
Elwood stealing things (the windshield wipers from the gas station in the first movie; the toilet paper from Bob's Country Kitchen in the second).
Shout-Out: When Carrie Fisher's character fires off a bazooka, the sound effect is the same as the blasters in Star Wars.
Slobs Versus Snobs: Jake and Elwood are deliberately crude at Chez Paul and threaten to come back every day until Mr. Fantastic rejoins the band.
Something Only They Would Say: Matt knows Jake and Elwood by their food orders: four fried chickens and a Coke for Jake, and dry white toast for Elwood.
Spontaneous Choreography: The crowd outside the music store breaks out into spontaneous dance once Ray Charles starts up "Shake A Tail Feather".
Stairs Are Faster: The brothers take the elevator up to the floor the Assessor's office is on, then disable the one elevator they came up in. The combined might of the Chicago Police, SWAT, National Guard, etc. try to follow up the elevator, but after waiting a few seconds they decide to charge up the stairway instead.
The Stoic: Both Jake and Elwood are, for the most part, utterly unflappable and deadpan. Except when singing.
Straight Gay: "I've always loved you." From a Nazi. Right before the car they're in gets smashed into the ground.
Take That/Affectionate Parody: The scene with John Popper in the sequel reads like an affectionate parody, verging on a Take That, of the fans and the unease felt by Landis and Aykroyd whenever blues fans and musicians tell them that the Blues Brothers are these really great blues musicians on par with B.B. King or other well known names.
Perhaps one of the most interesting ones being that they found a closed-off shopping mall (Dixie Square Mall) and set up some fake stores in it for that scene. The abandoned mall remained abandoned for over thirty more years until demolition commenced in 2012.
There Is No Kill Like Overkill: "Use of unnecessary violence in the apprehension of the Blues Brothers has been approved." This line alone annoyed the Chicago Police Department so much that they refused to be in any films for years afterwards.
Trademark Favorite Food: In addition to Elwood ordering dry white toast at Matt's diner, when he and Jake are in his SRO hotel room he heats a piece of white bread over a hotplate, and at Ray's pawn shop he gets distracted examining a small toaster-oven, the better to toast his white bread with.
He even pulls a piece of bread out of his pocket to try it out. Apparently he just carries white bread around with him.
When the police invade Bob's Country Kitchen in the sequel to look for the Blues Brothers, they notice the table where they were sitting. One of the plates has two pieces of dry white toast on it.
"Orange Whip? Orange Whip? Orange Whip?"
Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Somehow, despite being being only 106 miles away from Chicago at midnight, and traveling at a high rate of speed, the Blues Brothers do not arrive in Chicago until 8 a.m. or so when the Cook County Assessor's Office is open.
Vehicular Sabotage: On their way to sneaking in to their concert, Elwood makes Jake wait while he sprays glue onto the gas pedal of the Good Ol' Boys' RV and fills the police cars' tires with a gas that will expand and burst them (although the latter is a deleted scene that didn't quite fit the rest of the film).
Jake's murderous ex-fiancee disappears after the Blues Brothers make their escape from the big performance.
It's not obvious what happened to the other hotel occupants after the "Mystery Woman" blew the place up. Common sense would say that they all died horrifically, but there's a good chance that they survived since the Blues Brothers, the state troopers, and Burton Mercer all emerged from the rubble dazed but unhurt. The film, however, doesn't let us know either way.
The Windy City (They even got the accent right: "We're on a mission from Gaaahd.")
A Wizard Did It: A deleted scene was intended to Hand Wave why the Bluesmobile can do so many fantastic stunts. The Brothers parked it under a bunch of power transformers, allowing it to get "charged up". Since this scene was removed (and never really explained, even in versions that include it), Landis has offered the following explanation: "It's just a magic car."
Could possibly also be explained by Elwood simply being that much of a Badass Driver.
Woman Scorned: Taken to hilarious extremes by Jake's jilted fiancee, who's turned into a Pyro Maniac in the process and tries to blow the Brothers up several times. Just when it looks like Jake's about to take her back, he drops her. Again. This time, literally as well.
Your Favorite: Inverted. Jake and Elwood order a meal in a soul food restaurant. The cook, one of their former bandmates, recognizes the order (dry white toast for Elwood, four fried chickens and a Coke for Jake) and goes out front to greet them.