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, not to mention so stupid, 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 help literally drops from the sky. The time traveler Rufus (George Carlin) lives in a utopian future built upon the peace-bringing philosophies popularized by the music which these two good-natured dunderheads will eventually create. Rufus offers them the use of his time machine — disguised as an ordinary phone booth — so they can do the research needed to create a History project that will let them scrape by with a D. 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. Their carefree jaunt through time gives them the passing grade they need to stay together... and the mental focus they need to create the music that will produce the philosophy that will lead to the future that... well, you get the idea.
The film was followed by a sequel, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, in 1991.
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure demonstrates these non-heinous tropes:
- All Part of the Show: The faculty and students roll with the extreme special effects and historical figures presented at the history final.
- 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.) It was also "most tranquil."
- 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 Eater: For such a small guy, Napoleon sure can pack away a lot of ice cream.
- 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!
- Book Dumb: Bill and Ted are idiots. To Mr. Ryan's exasperation, the only thing they've learned in class all year is that Caesar was "a salad dressing dude." But when the chips are down, the boys are clever and resourceful. They repair the time machine's antennae with only pudding cans and chewed gum, kidnap or convince historical figures to get into a strange metal box with them, and learn how to manipulate time to their advantage and eventual success.
- 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.
- 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 make a triumphant video is to have Eddie Van Halen on guitar. They enjoy the paradox.
- Chekhov's Gun: Ted's dad lost his keys before the movie because Ted came back after the events of the movie to steal them.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Napoleon when he flubs a shot in bowling: he screams, "Merde, merde, merde, merde!" (lit. "Shit, shit, shit, shit...!") practically nonstop.
- Comic-Book Adaptation: DC produced an adaptation to coincide with the movie's release on video.
- 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. They're credited as "Ugly Waiter" and "Stupid Waiter".
- 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 in the Wyld Stallyns future, though not really shown.
- Deus ex Machina: Bill and Ted do this for themselves when they realize that, with a time machine at their disposal, they can go back afterward and set up everything they need to succeed. Items start magically appearing out of thin air at the exact moment they need them.
- Dumb Blonde: Missy is a ditzy but attractive trophy wife who is only a few years older than Bill.
- Epic Fail: At the beginning of the movie, Bill and Ted aren't just ignorant of history - their heads are filled with incorrect history.Mr. Ryan: As far as I can tell, all you've learned is that Caesar... was 'a salad dressing dude.'
- Eternal English:
- A minor example, in that the people of England in 1501 speak in modern English but would be speaking Early Modern English, which would be intelligible but sound quite archaic and have a completely different accent than modern British English.
- In a French version, Joan of Arc's lines are in standard modern French, when she actually spoke the somewhat different Limousin dialect.
- 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.
- Five Aces Cheater: Downplayed; Billy the Kid enlists Bill and Ted to help win more money in a poker game. (He gets all their winnings as well as his own.) The game goes wrong a few minutes in when Bill reveals that he has three aces, causing the other cowboys to suspect (correctly) that Billy cheated somehow.
- Freudian Excuse: In-universe, invoked by Freud himself, as an explanation as to why Ted's dad is so harsh with discipline. He is terrified of failing and has displaced all his anxiety about himself onto his slacker son.
- 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 awkwardly call each other "fag" before cheering back up again.
- 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 Trust Password: Invoked when Bill and Ted challenge their future selves:Ted: If you guys are really us... What number are we thinking of?
Future Bill and Ted: 69, dudes!
Bill and Ted: Whoa...
[quadruple air guitar]
- 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). They eventually have to tilt the booth onto its back and travel through time standing up through the open door in order to fit everyone comfortably.
- Hand Wave: When Ted falls down the stairs while messing around with the suits of armor, Bill reaches the bottom just in time to see a guard stab Ted through the heart. He goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, until Ted clocks the guard Bill is fighting from behind. When Bill exclaims that he watched Ted die, Ted shrugs and says that when he hit the kitchen floor, he fell out of his armor and hid while the guard stabbed an empty suit.
- Heel Realization: It's not dwelt on, but Freud's analysis of Ted seems to have helped Ted's father realize he was being too hard on his boy. After that scene, the threat of being sent to military school disappears.
- Historical-Domain Character: Including Abraham Lincoln, Ludwig van Beethoven, Billy the Kid, Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, Napoleon Bonaparte, Sigmund Freud, So-crates...
- Historical Villain Downgrade: Well, Napoleon is pretty rude, egotistical, and pompous, while Genghis Khan is pretty nasty, but here those traits are all Played for Laughs.
- 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." He then looks at his cards and immediately exclaims, "Whoa, 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.
- Iron Maiden: The Royal Ugly Dude threatens to put Bill and Ted in the Iron Maiden, which they do confuse with the heavy metal group.Bill and Ted: Iron Maiden? Excellent!
Royal Ugly Dude: Execute them.
Bill and Ted: Bogus...
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": When first meeting Socrates, Ted speaks about the philosopher while using the accepted pronunciation for his name but then turns to Bill and tells his friend to look Socrates up under "So-Crates".
- 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 (and late 20th century slang) pretty quickly, for which the boys praise him when they arrive in ancient Greece.
- A Little Something We Call "Rock and Roll": Beethoven enjoys what he hears of rock music.
- LOL, 69: Bill and Ted seem to have an affinity for this number.
- As a Trust Password, Bill and Ted ask their future selves what number they're thinking of, and they reply, "69, dudes".
- Bill says they went back to the year 1269 to pick up a Genghis Khan, though Khan actually died in 1227.
- An early version of the script had them time-traveling using a 1969 Chevrolet van, though the writers decided this too closely resembled Back to the Future.
- Man Hug: Bill and Ted exchange a hug when Ted turns out to be alive, then immediately feel awkward and call each other "fag" before cheering up again.
- MayDecember 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. In spite of his initial annoyance, he wears the sticker prominently alongside his medals for the rest of the movie.
- The Middle Ages: The only stop where the boys fail dismally to acquire a historical figure. On the other hand, babes.
- Mistaken for Profound:
- Socrates mistakes song lyrics for wisdom.
- It's unclear whether Wyld Stallyns actually have something to say or if future generations are just mistaking their "be excellent to each other" message as profound.
- Morton's Fork: Said by Billy the Kid before a poker match.Billy the Kid: What I win, I keep; What you win, I keep.
Bill and Ted: Sounds good, Mr. The Kid!
- Mundane Utility:
- The boys note that the Old West would be a good place to "remember" for future time travel, because beer is handed out without requiring ID.
- They discover that San Dimas Time doesn't prevent you from leaving cached items for your past self to use.
- Not only can the phone booth travel through time... it can also make phone calls, like the one "Deputy Van Halen" uses to lure Ted's dad out of the house.
- 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!"
- Napoleon Delusion: Ted's dad clearly thinks the historic figures are suffering from this, even thought they are authentic. Curiously enough, Napoleon himself avoids being arrested.
- 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!
- Odd Friendship: Of the historical figures brought together by Bill and Ted, the ones who get the most focus as friends are... Socrates and Billy the Kid? See Those Two Guys.
- Oedipal Complex: Name dropped by Bill when Freud offers to psychoanalyze him:Bill: No thanks, dude. Just a minor Oedipal Complex.
- Oh, Crap!: Several moments in the film.
- 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, 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.
- The Quiet One: Joan d'Arc speaks in prayer, but otherwise doesn't address anyone. Not that anybody speaks French (except Napoleon, and events keep those two characters apart.)
- Reality Is Unrealistic:
- Zigzagged in the Old West bar, where Bill and Ted, who are obviously teenagers, are given whiskey at the Saloon, given a lampshade by Ted. 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 a brutal beating, if not a bullet.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Bill and Ted's history teacher Mr. Ryan is strict, but fair. They've failed at every section of the class, but he's offering them one last chance.Mr. Ryan: Guys: this report had better be something very special.
- Retroactive Preparation: How to break historical figures out of jail 101: distract the guard with a recording played from a tape recorder, find the key to the jail, do the jailbreak... and after all is said and done and you have all the time in the world, create the tape recording, then go back in time to plant it in the right place at the right time, and also steal the key and hide it where your past self will find it.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: When trying to track Napoleon down, Bill and Ted figure he'd be naturally attracted to the local water slide, Water Loops. Napoleon was accidentally brought from 1805, ten years before the Dutch village of Waterloo began to concern Napoleon. But he was at the water slide anyway.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Bill lapses into one when he thinks a medieval dude killed Ted.
- San Dimas Time: The Trope Namer. To create a "ticking clock" for the plot, it's established that the boys only have one night of their subjective time to get their report done. They can't spend years gallivanting through time before getting around to it.
- Shout-Out: Numerous references to 80s culture.
- Bill and Ted dress up in knightly armor and swordfight to mock lightsaber noises.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. Doctor Who was huge in the UK (and in fact the classic series was on its last season at the time of this film), but since the internet was not a thing yet, it had a very niche audience in the US, to the point where most Americans weren't aware it even existed.
- Apparently, Ancient Greece "looks like Houses of the Holy, dude."
- Deacon has a poster for King Kong (1976) in his room. This film was originally intended to be distributed by that film's producer Dino de Laurentis until financial issues with his company DEG forced the movie to be shelved until Orion and Nelson came in.
- Bill and Ted dress up in knightly armor and swordfight to mock lightsaber noises.
- 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:
- Rufus comes from the future to ensure that the future comes into existence.
- Rufus never divulges his name. Bill and Ted learn it from their future selves, who learned it from their future selves, etc.
- Stockholm Syndrome: Seriously. None of the historic figures seem to mind being abducted by two nutty teenagers.
- Stylistic Suck: Bill and Ted's guitar skills, even by the end of the film. Rufus assures us, "They do get better."
- Sweet Tooth: Napoleon takes an instant liking to ice cream, and Genghis Khan to Twinkies.
- Tagline: "History is about to be rewritten by two guys who can't spell."
- Take Our Word for It: Wyld Stallyns' music is supposed to be so good that it changed the world into a utopia, so we never actually hear it. The boys still haven't even learned how to play their instruments yet.
- Those Two Guys: Besides the titular characters, Socrates and Billy the Kid kind of develop into a duo. They 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.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Missy is watering the flower bed in the back yard when there's a clap of thunder, a phone booth lands on the hose, and half a dozen extremely recognizable historical figures emerge from it. She welcomes them, offers them soda, and reminds Bill that he has to do his chores.
- Villainy-Free Villain: Ted's strict father is just trying to straighten up his slacker of a son and round up a bunch of crazies who claim to be historical figures, although he does arrange for Ted to go to military school before his big chance to redeem himself at the history presentation.
- 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. It's an appropriately "Freudian" symbol.
- Weirdness Search and Rescue: Rufus gives Bill and Ted the time machine, shows them how to use it, and tends to turn up for advice when the boys find themselves in trouble. He is from the future of prosperity, peace, and excellence that they ushered in, and has a vested interest in helping them because without them his future would not exist.
- We Will All Fly in the Future: The Three Most Important People In The World sit in midair, complete with Midair Bobbing.
- The Wild West: Where the boys abduct Billy the Kid.
- 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 that once this is over, they have to go back and place all that stuff!
- You Didn't Ask: Meta example. The boys want Eddie Van Halen to join their band. The real life Van Halen said he would have appeared in the movie if he was asked.