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WMG / Ferris Bueller's Day Off

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Ed Rooney is actually a CIA agent.
Back in the day, in England and Russia, occasionally government agents would pose as teachers at schools to keep an eye out for students who seemed to have a natural talent for cloak-and-dagger stuff. After graduation or during college, said student would usually be approached with a job offer (...Or So I Heard).

That's why Ed Rooney is such a hardass: He knows that the more he enforces rules, the more students like Ferris will rebel. As a result of his rulemeistering, Ferris is a vehicular expert/computer whiz/electrician.

  • A creative theory, but the parts where Rooney sadistically mutters to himself about how he's going to ruin Ferris' life so hard doesn't fit in very well.
  • It's his job. Doesn't mean he enjoys being torn up by dogs and covered in dirt. You'd probably wanna make Ferris miserable too, after all that.
    • Except that he muttered that particular line while sitting in his office at the beginning of the movie, before anything had happened to him.
    • He wasn't alone - he was with Grace. Just maintaining his cover, I spose.

The Bueller Club Theory

Cameron is hallucinating Ferris' existence. He is driving his father's car and wrecking havoc throughout the city with the girl he's fond of, all the while being chased by imaginary cartoonish authority figures.

  • This can be supported amusingly well. Doesn't it seem a little convenient that on the day Ferris just happens to decide to skip school, Cameron just happens also to be at home sick? Ferris doesn't even question it - he's not even in a hurry to ring Cameron's house in case Cameron leaves for school. Why? Because the 'phone call' is Cameron's internal monologue. Why is it that we never see Cameron's parents? Answer: we do, they're just referred to as 'Ferris'' parents. 'Ferris':Cameron = Tyler Durden:Jack, and the climax of the movie is Cameron's adoption of some of Ferris' traits, while also re-asserting his primacy and dismissing Ferris, who was only ever a coping mechanism and is no longer needed - "It is possible to stop Mr Ferris Bueller, you know."
    • But then how to explain Jeannie? Is she actually Cameron's sister? Or, most likely, is she Cameron's responsible side, the superego to the Ferris' id?
    • And at the end, we have Cameron saying he would take responsibility at the end, and then we get the played-out conflict between his superego and his id racing home, and his superego 'wins'...but changes her mind and doesn't turn him at the last second. Does that mean Cameron didn't to take responsibility for the car when his parents did get home?
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    • In a deleted backstory involving the drug addict played by Charlie Sheen (named Garth Volbeck), the drug addict was a friend Ferris tried to help, but failed (and thus he turned to drugs), so he was trying to help Cameron, and stop him from turning out like Garth.
  • Cameron's full name is Cameron Ferris Bueller, and he normally goes by "Ferris". He's actually fairly well-liked, but he has major impostor syndrome about that, his beautiful girlfriend, etc. He's created an idealized, happy version of himself that he thinks of as "Ferris", and he likes to imagine this version of himself as being cartoonishly popular and clever, even when facing enemies who are obsessed with him.
    • Everything we saw involving Jeannie (who's entirely imaginary), and everything with Rooney after the phone call with Ferris' mother was a running daydream Cameron had while driving or waiting for his dad to come home.
    • Rooney just shrugged at the apparent computer glitch and went about his day, then went home without incident. He's a blowhard, but doesn't actually have a Javert-like obsession with C. F. Bueller.

Is Sloane real or just in Cameron's mind? This idea was looked into in depthover here

  • Another theory is that Ferris and Sloane are real kids that attend the school, that Cameron wishes he knew, and the entire scenario is something he day-dreamed while being sick the day of the plot.
    • A twist on this theory is that Ferris is not only real, but Cameron's friend as portrayed, and the events of the day are either a fish tale that Cameron told long after the fact or an exaggeration of what really happened when he and Ferris (and Sloane) played hooky one day. The fact that Ferris seems blessed by fate (and beloved of the whole school) fits with the idea that Cameron perceives him that way rather than everything going so perfectly in reality, even while Ferris could be the sort of person who would convince his friends to go wilding in Cameron's dad's vintage car for the day.
The Bueller Club Theory is correct
...but Cameron is a hypochondriac, homeless orphan who goes to the same school as Ferris and Sloane, but thinks he is sick all the time. One day he sees the Ferrari and on an impulse steals it, prompting the day of joyriding we see in the movie. He does crash the car, and his resolution at the end to own up to it is really his resolution to own up to stealing the car and get help from social workers. The entire movie is his fantasy.

Everyone exists and the events more-or-less happened, BUT...
Bueller is an Unreliable Narrator and the events that show up onscreen are his version, greatly exagerrated in the retelling. They never had the entire city of Chicago paying attention to them, just a few people; they put a bad scratch in Cameron's dad's four-door Chevy Celebrity rather than wrecking a nonexistent vintage Ferrari, and so on.

The 'Bueller Club' theory is correct...but Ferris is the one hallucinating
Related to the above WMG: Ferris is actually hallucinating or dreaming about a day where he can crash the Von Steuben Day parade—which happens in the fall—on the same day as a real baseball game that happened in June 1985.

Not to mention:

  • Constant Breaking the Fourth Wall.
  • Hacking into the school computers to change his tardies.
  • Wiring his intercom to a tape recorder, and using other Homemade Inventions to aid him.
  • Making his principal look like an ass.
  • Getting EVERYONE in Shermer to adore him.
  • One-upping his twin sister.
  • The day culminating with him taking a dip in the pool with his attractive girlfriend, and his best friend finally standing up to his father.
  • Getting out of sticky situations in the nick of time.

Bottom line: it's a teenage escapist fantasy that never happened. Who knows: maybe he actually was sick, and he dreamed the entire thing, meaning the entirety of FBDO was seen Through the Eyes of Madness...

  • Cameron could be imaginary. We never even see his parents.

Ferris Bueller is the Antichrist.
He was either Switched at Birth or deliberately adopted by his parents at the behest of a cult. As he entered adolescence, he charmed the entire student body at high school (note Grace's observation that they all consider him "one righteous dude"). Note his pet Rottweiler - a clear Hell Hound - and his ability to sow the seeds of gentle anarchy in his peers - Cameron is inspired to tell off his dad, Jeanie starts off resenting her brother's godlike influence but ultimately ends up helping him. Ed Rooney was recruited to stop him, due to his position as principal of said high school. Ferris sees the danger Rooney poses to him, but prefers to toy with him a bit - note how badly fate (and the Buellers' dog) bites Rooney in the end.

Ferris Bueller's Chicago is also the Gotham City of Batman Begins.
And Ferris — a brilliant, manipulative, amoral trickster — grows up to become the Riddler. Or possibly even the Joker.

  • Ferris is definitely a young prototype of the Joker from The Dark Knight. They both have no rules and in spite of being rather unlikable (Ferris being a manipulative, ungrateful bastard and Joker a clearly violent and insane psychopath), have an inexplicable talent for being charismatic and getting people to follow their orders. (For the rest of this theory, see the relevant page.
    • This actually makes a lot of sense. Ferris' girlfriend Sloane was Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey (2002).

Ferris Bueller is an AU of Fight Club
Similar to the first one, Cameron is the MC, and Ferris is the equivalent of Tyler Durden.

Ferris Bueller got busted
His parents or someone else, watching the 6:00 news or reading the newspaper, saw Ferris catching the baseball or singing on the parade float. Ferris' little day off ends up torpedoing his reputation and costing him the countless things his parents spoiled him with.

Ferris Bueller goes to the same school as The Breakfast Club.
Some of the school hallway scenes for FBDO were filmed at the same time as those for The Breakfast Club, and both movies are set in the fictional suburb of Shermer, Illinois. Not to mention the fact that both movies were written and directed by John Hughes. It's not that much of a stretch to think that the two films share a universe.note 
  • This also means that Charlie Sheen's character (named Garth Volbeck) from FBDO could be John Bender's friend and/or drug connection. Maybe Jeannie knows of Garth through her friend Claire Standish, who is dating Bender.
  • Word of God confirms that The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Planes, Trains and Automobiles are indeed part of the same universe as Ferris.
  • The reason Ed Rooney is principal is that his predecessor, Dick Vernon, got fired for reading his co-workers' private files in The Breakfast Club.
    • Wasn't Rooney the truancy officer?
  • The outside of the front Shermer High School in both films are different. Why? Maybe because the one from The Breakfast Club was an older school building and that in between the films, the high school was relocated to a new building. This would account for why the front of the school looks different, and the hallways in FBDO looks like it's still new, as well as why the office looks different from TBC. The older school building was on it's last days of operation prior to the relocation.

Cameron is suicidal.
While Cameron wants to die, he doesn't have the courage to commit suicide, and doesn't want to leave knowing people won't miss him. That's why he fakes a drowning attempt at the pool earlier in the film, to see if Ferris would get genuinely upset. Cameron is unusually happy when his dad's Ferrari crashes through the garage, because in his twisted mind, he believes his Dad will literally kill him. As such, Cameron will finally be off of this planet he hates so much, and Ferris will feel extreme survivor's guilt, and perhaps finally learn that actions have consequences. Again, this is using Cameron's twisted suicidal logic.
  • Alternately, to fit in with the Character Development that Cameron gets, Cameron is convinced to live after his dad's Ferrari crashes, and to improve his quality of life. This means finally Calling the Old Man Out, and Cameron finally found the strength to do that.

Everything happens on June 5, 1985
The movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was released on June 11, 1986. The ballgame then must have been filmed either real early in the 1986 season or sometime during 1985. Looking at game logs from those seasons, we see that there was no game in 1986 in which Lee Smith (#46) faced the Braves at Wrigley Field. There were four such games in '85, though Smith left the Braves hitless in one of those. Of the remaining three games, it isn't hard to find the game we're looking for.

(I stole this from

  • Wait, that means Ferris was like... what, 10 days from graduation? And yet the economics class is talking about the Laffer Curve. Something that is taught in the first, what, month of an economics class.
    • They could be reviewing the material before the Final Exam.
    • And the parade is the Van Steuben Day Parade, which happens in fall (they just happened to be filming when it happened and couldn't pass up such a chance).
  • Turns out the game was in September.

Ferris Bueller grew up to be Jim McAllister from Election.
After people finally caught on to what a Manipulative Bastard Ferris really was, he changed his name and fled. After earning his teaching degree, he started his life anew, thinking he had gotten away scot-free. But karma caught up with Ferris, and he's finally having to pay for all the sins of his youth.
  • That was always my theory. And it also means Rooney won at the end:
    Rooney:Fifteen years from now when he looks back on the ruin his life's become...he is going to remember Edward Rooney.

The Universe loves Ferris
From his birth, all of existence has coddled Ferris. There's still free will for other people, which is why he doesn't have a car, but for the most part he gets what he wants, when he wants it. This is why everything works out for him so improbably, and why he's such a Jerkass: He's been given what he wants since birth, and never really missed anything: He got what he wanted, when he wanted it. He didn't have a car, sure, but when he really wanted one? He got a vintage Ferrari.

Ferris was either whacked or hired by Abe Frohman
Frohman's "Sausage King of Chicago" reputation is his cover/money laundering scheme to hide the fact that he's a high-level mobster. (A mobster? In Chicago? Impossible!) Either he's humiliated by Ferris and has him eliminated (possibly with Rooney's help), or he's impressed by Ferris' inventive thinking and brings him into the organization.
Ferris is not the bad guy or an illusion or the Anti-Christ or any of those things he is just tired of two things: the same routine every day and the suffering of his best friend.
Nuff said.
  • Is that really a wild mass guess or just stating canon?
his theory is that Ferris has already skipped school 9 times when we meet him. If anything, going to school would be a break from routine for him.
  • DUH.

Ferris is a Time Lord
  • He just needs a car to make into a TARDIS.

Cameron's dad disconnected the reverse mechanism on the odometer so he would know if Cameron was joyriding.
  • This doesn't fit with real life, at least. Virtually no odometer runs backwards when the car is in reverse, and the reality is that most teenagers don't know this so the movie situation is how it would likely play out in the real world.
    • Not exactly. Anti-tamper odometers were intruduced in the mid-'70s (long after the Ferrari was made, so it shouldn't have one). These are the kind that will not run backwards. Before that, they would run backwards when driven in reverse or connected to a drill (a common shady used car dealership trick and thus why the anti-tamper device was instituted).

The Fight Club theory is correct, but Cameron is the Tyler Durden.
Ferris is the real one; Cameron is his imaginary alter-ego. Think about it: the whole plot of the movie depends on Ferris being this popular, suave, cool guy who has his parents wrapped around his little finger, who is beloved by his classmates, and who is dating the beautiful Sloane. Otherwise, the whole plot makes no sense. Why would Rooney be obsessed with busting a loser like Cameron? He wants to get Ferris, because he is setting a bad example for the other students, which only matters because Ferris is so popular with the other students. And why would Jeannie resent Cameron so much? If you had a brother like Cameron, you'd either pity him, or feel a sense of solidarity with him if you also felt unloved and neglected. Likewise, would Sloane really be so eager to ditch school and spend the whole day alone with some guy she wasn't dating, and wasn't really interested in dating? In other words, for Ferris to be the imaginary one, and Cameron the real one, the whole movie has to be a delusion. On the other hand, if Cameron is the imaginary one, the basic plot can be preserved. Additionally, consider this: Ferris is cool, suave, and totally self-confident. How can he be so confident? Simple: he takes all his self-doubt, all his fear, and shoves it into this imaginary alter-ego he calls Cameron, so that he doesn't have to feel it himself. Note that when Sloane kisses Cameron on the mouth right in front of Ferris, Ferris does not get jealous at all. Why? Because he wants Sloane to kiss Cameron; that's his fantasy. He wants to to be able to be vulnerable in front of Sloane; he wants to show her his true self, but he worries that she won't want him if he does. So he fantasizes about Sloane loving Cameron.

The original version, where Charlie Sheen's character is named, is the correct one.
His character, called Garth Volbeck, was a friend of Ferris' in middle school. Ferris tried to help him, but failed, thus Volbeck turned to drugs.

Ferris decided to help Cameron, and is trying to keep Cameron from ending up like Volbeck.

Garth tells this to Jeanie in the police station, and how his family life was screwed up (like how his brother ate a bunch of artificial fruit just to see what it was like to have his stomach pumped).

Ferris Bueller is the Anthropomorphic Personification of "getting out of trouble".
It started as a joke: some student got out of trouble, but by doing so, they did something illicit, and got caught. Instead of fessing up to the illicit activity, they made up "Ferris" who did something not illicit that helped them out.

Rumor spread, and soon "Ferris" was being used by anyone who wanted to get out of something, but didn't want to get in trouble for it, and eventually "Ferris" became real because enough people spread rumors/started to believe in him.

How "Ferris" became a Bueller is unclear, but my guess would be that Jeannie blew off the idea of "Ferris" being real, and pointed out that, if he was actually real, and related to anyone, they'd hate him. Somehow that turned into the rumor that Ferris was Jeannie's brother, and she hated him, and the universe complied.

It's why Ferris is good at getting out of trouble/getting other people out of trouble, but he can't do everything, like get himself a car; his power is limited to avoiding getting in trouble, and getting the people he focuses on in trouble, not completely brainwashing people.

At the end, when Cameron says he wants to take credit for the Ferrari, he's not just saying he will take credit; he's swearing an oath, and Ferris cannot get Cameron out of trouble for this.

Cameron killed his father.
Not directly, but Cameron waited for his dad to come home. He saw the wrecked Ferrari and was about to go to town on him worse than he ever did in Cameron's life. Taking a few cues from Ferris, Cameron delivers an epic, "The Reason You Suck" Speech which drives his dad to jump out of the broken window of his garage.
  • Or, his father has a heart attack.

Edward Rooney is Principal Skinner's father.
Obvious Generation Xerox.

Ferris does get his comeuppance...
Just in a round-about way. When his sister almost hits him with her car, her mother is just mentioning how she (the sister) made her lose the case, and that she would use the money from the case to... buy Ferris a car, something he's wanted and desired for a long time. Ferris skipped school, took Cameron and Sloane with him, and indirectly wrecked a Ferrari - but he also made Cameron get out of his shell a little more, become more confident in himself, deal with his father's abuse, and have the best day of his life. So, the Universe pretty much gives him a pass for all the bad stuff he did, allowing him to get away with all the crazy insane stuff - but not entirely without punishment. He doesn't get the car, but doesn't get caught because of the good he did, as well as the bad.

Cameron was brutally murdered by his dad.
Morris didn't take the news too well. So he pushes Cameron out of the window and beats him to death with the Ferrari bumper. Til this day, almost 30 years later. Morris Frye hasn't been caught by the police or the FBI.

The day off happens because Ferris got Cameron out of Saturday detention.
In March of 1984, Cameron was supposed to go to Shermer High's Saturday detention for an infraction, but Ferris somehow weasels him out of it. However, that particular Saturday happens to be March 24, 1984, the day that The Breakfast Club met.

Seeing how the Saturday detention helped those five kids come to terms with and subvert their own screwed-up parents, Ferris realizes that Cam never got the chance to do just that, and that Cam's parental issues aren't going to be helped by conventional means. So Ferris comes up with the day off to help out his friend.

The entire film, save for the start and ending scenes with Ferris sick in bed, is a fever dream Ferris is having while really being sick.
I'm sure this may be seen as an alternative to the Bueller Club theory, but here's another possible interpretation: Ferris really was sick, and that the only real scenes that happened was the opening and ending scenes with his parents. Ferris may actually be a nerdy, Grade A student who is always worried about missing any school day and not getting perfect attendance. One night, while out, he actually gets food poisoning at Baskin Robins (it is possible to get food poisoning from ice cream), and it continues on into the next day. Ferris talks with his parents and after they leave the room, he falls asleep and begins to dream of the events of the film, with him breaking the fourth wall, imagining his friend Cameron as hypochondriac (whom he may actually not be and may be just as much of a nerd as he is and his father isn't a cruel sadistic bastard who loves a Ferrari. In fact, Cameron's father may not even own a Ferrari) to reflect his concerns on losing his best friend after graduating from school, dating Sloane (who he has had a crush on for years and considers her as his dream girl, and would explain why his father doesn't recognize her in the cab scene: because of the fact that Ferris has never shared that he has a crush on her with his parents) reflecting his regret on being unable to approach her, and having a "day off" and being a rather cool dude that everyone likes. The entire time, Ferris is asleep in bed, dreaming of every single thing, including Rooney breaking into his house to try to catch him skipping from school, his fear of not having a perfect attendance manifesting itself in the form of his principal. And due to Jeanie's cruel/joking remark to him before he fell asleep he imagines her as a bitch who wants to get him busted just as much as his Principal wants to bust him (when in fact she's actually a caring and cool sister most of the time, which is why she seems so cool helping him out at the end).

This would account for how he goes to a baseball game in June and a parade that takes place in September. The entire trip around Chicago is basically made up of places he read about and wanted to visit after he got out of school for the summer while imagining the school's reaction to him not being there, including the Economics class he was supposed to take a test on about the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act (which he memorized back and forth for the test, which explains why the teacher is answering questions he asked), Jeanie's day at school and her attempt to "catch" him skipping. The trip to the restaurant may have been inspired by him overhearing his father complaining to his mom about the maître d’ accidentally seating people at a table that was reserved for him and his two co-workers, one of them being Abe Froman. Ferris sleeps for a full day, not getting up out of bed while being in a fever dream. And in his fever dream, he hears the footsteps of his parents coming up the stairs, which triggers the end of the story with the wrecking of the Ferrari, Cameron getting the nerve to stand up to his dad, Ferris saying goodbye to Sloane, his mad dash to get back home, encountering Rooney at the back door and his mad dash to get into bed to keep his cover from being blown. It's then his parents wake him up, checking on him, that he's back in reality again, with his concern about missing school coming up because of his "close call" in his dream with Rooney. After his parents leave the room again, Ferris nods off for a brief moment, dreaming of his final monologue, Rooney catching a lift on a bus, and his closing "it's over, go home" line before awakening again by his mom delivering soup to him.

Essentially, the whole film with the exception of Ferris being sick in bed was just an awesome fever dream with some nightmarish moments with his family, friends, and people he knows as the cast.

ADDITIONAL EDIT: I've noticed one detail that many may try to use to disprove this concept, saying that Ferris was shushing Jeanie while she was complaining about how Ferris gets to stay home but she would still have to go to school "if blood was streaming out of (her) eyes." And I do have an answer for that. If you noticed, after Jeanie comes into the room, Ferris starts calling out her name and saying, "I can't see that far," there is a point of view shot of Jeanie where we see her going in and out of focus. Now, if Ferris wasn't really sick, it wouldn't be focusing in and out like it is. That focus in and out is often used to conveyed that a character is not feeling well or drugged. When Ferris falls back, that could be when he starts drifting in and out of his fever dream, only to be wakened up by his parents to tell him that they'd check on him, and then he falls fast asleep into his fever dream after that. Another detail that makes this hypothesis possible is also in this scene itself (if Ferris wasn't dreaming, and he's clearly shushing Jeanie and looking like he's okay while doing it, why did she scream "I KNEW IT!" when she came home from school to see if Ferris was faking his sickness? She clearly knows he's not sick and faking it, and wouldn't scream "I KNEW IT!" when discovering the decoy he set up, with the only exception that she knew he wasn't in the house, which makes no sense as to why she wouldn't suspect he's not there when he's skipping).

Also, Ferris's 4th wall breaks aren't to the audience. They're to himself. And his reiteration of "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it," may be his subconscious telling him to relax once in a while.

Jeannie lets Principal Rooney get away with something
Jeannie and Principal Rooney share a very Dark Secret: One day at school (some time before the events of the movie), Rooney got Jeannie alone — under the pretense of lying a trap to catch Ferris — and, massively turned on, began propositioning her. Jeannie got scared and tried getting away, but he managed to get in a kiss and touched her inappropriately before she got away, clothes torn. Jeannie tries calling the police and telling her parents, but ignore her for different reasons (but not because they think she’s lying that someone in a position of trust doing something to her, but because they’re preoccupied with fawning and cooing over Ferris).

So the day Rooney breaks into the house to try to incriminate Ferris (by seeking evidence he is a truant) but is knocked unconscious by Jeannie is her actually knowing who the intruder is and getting some revenge. And later, when she helps Ferris out in the climatic scene (Rooney stopping Ferris from getting into the house), it’s not so much Jeannie deciding to look out for her brother but — with her also revealing she found his billfold on the kitchen floor from earlier — her refusal to help out someone who tried doing something despicable to her. Her comments are such that, “You’re damned lucky you’re getting away with what you did. You should be in prison!"

In the end, Grace (Rooney's secretary) comes clean; in a rare show of Edie McClurg shedding her usual cheerful demeanor, she admits that Rooney has behaved this way several times toward attractive female students, and that he has threatened Grace with more than just the loss of her job if she approaches the authorities. In an era more than 30 years before #MeToo, having Ferris busted for truancy suddenly becomes the least of Rooney's concerns ... and finally, Tom and Katie Bueller shed their usual preoccupied, clueless personas to let Rooney know they plan to have him prosecuted to the greatest extent allowed by law.

: That said, much of Jeannie's refusal to help Rooney out may have to do with her own loss of patience with Rooney, his dictator style of governing the high school, not giving a damn about the students and allowing boring teachers who have no sense of teaching (other than dry lectures that bore the students), and that it has long since been time to find a new principal who will motivate students and help them actually achieve.


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