#110) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

#110) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

OR “Hooky of the Year”

Directed & Written by John Hughes

Class of 2014

This is a revised and expanded version of my original “Ferris Bueller” post, which you can read here.

The Plot: On the verge of graduating high school, Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) fakes an illness to have a day off with his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara). Their whirlwind day in downtown Chicago is in constant danger of being thwarted either by Dean of Students Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), or Ferris’ jealous sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey). It’s a story of teenagers in Chicago who are way smarter than every one-dimensional adult, with a great soundtrack and frank discussions of teenage angst that…bingo! I got John Hughes Bingo!

Why It Matters: The NFR calls the film a “career highpoint” for John Hughes, and cites “the ‘everyman’ appeal” of Matthew Broderick.

But Does It Really?: How can you hate “Ferris Bueller”? Most movies are a relic of their time, and while “Ferris Bueller” embraces its ’80s-ness, it still succeeds as a fun teen escapist comedy, aided by a never-better Matthew Broderick and a plethora of iconic/quotable moments. I’m glad the NFR found a spot on the list for “Ferris Bueller”.

Shout Outs: Quick references to “Dirty Harry“, “Star Wars“, “Alien” and previous Hughes film “The Breakfast Club”.

Everybody Gets One: Cast members Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Edie McClurg, Ben Stein, and most surprisingly, Jennifer Grey. Where’s “Dirty Dancing”? This list loves ’80s nonsense. Also, blink and you’ll miss Louie Anderson as a flower deliveryman. Truly, everybody gets one.

Wow, That’s Dated: Among the film’s ’80s-ness: pay-phones in school, and a shoutout to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. Also, while the Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower) was the tallest building in the world in 1986, that record was beaten by Malaysia’s Petronas Towers in 1998.

Seriously, Oscars?: No Oscar love for Ferris Bueller (or any of John Hughes’ movies), but Matthew Broderick did receive a Golden Globe nomination for his performance, losing to Paul Hogan for “Crocodile Dundee”.

Other notes 

  • When John Hughes pitched the idea of “Ferris Bueller” to Paramount Studios, they liked it, but were worried about an impending picket from the Writers Guild of America. As a result, Hughes wrote the entire screenplay for “Ferris Bueller” in six days.
  • Shoutout to Matthew Broderick, whom Hughes wrote the role of Ferris Bueller for. In the hands of any other actor, Ferris Bueller would be a manipulative jerk, but Broderick’s charm (along with his excellent chemistry with Ruck and Sara) makes you go along with his whole scheme.
  • That being said, Ferris Bueller benefits from the fact that his parents are incredibly gullible and apparently lack any peripheral vision.
  • As always, fuck you Jeffrey Jones. If you don’t know about Mr. Jones’ criminal record, let’s just say he’s on another national registry. While this information makes it difficult to fully appreciate Jones’ performance as Ed Rooney, it does, however, make it way more fun watching the character get his comeuppance again and again.
  • Rooney’s early scenes are nicely balanced by Edie McClurg as his secretary Grace. There are few things funnier than a Minnesotan accent saying the phrase “righteous dude”.
  • As pointed out in the movie, Cameron’s car (the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder) is one of only 100 ever made. A real Ferrari was used for insert shots, and replicas were made for the more dangerous driving shots.
  • I’m with Cameron: I don’t know if I would trust my car with the guy from “Stranger Than Paradise“.
  • The appeal of “Ferris Bueller” is similar to a James Bond movie: you know he’s going to get away with this, but you don’t know how. John Hughes was always good at getting his characters in over their head, and then getting out of it by either good luck or a clever callback.
  • Did the real Abe Froman ever show up for his lunch?
  • I’ve always liked Mia Sara in this movie, and I’m willing to admit she was an early childhood crush for me. That being said, she freaked me out in “Legend”. What a weird movie.
  • You have to wonder how much easier Ferris could have orchestrated this whole day using digital technology. Heck, just having one of those doorbell camera apps would have saved him some trouble.
  • I appreciate the film’s detour into the Art Institute of Chicago, apparently a safe-haven for John Hughes during his childhood. If nothing else, Cameron comes out of it with a finer appreciation for pointillism.
  • As I’ve said before “Ferris Bueller” is the finest Von Steuben Day movie ever made. Ferris’ performance of “Danke Schoen” is a highlight, but is quickly overshadowed by the infectious cover of “Twist and Shout”. I love this scene so much I don’t even mind it’s low-key ripping off the “Shake a Tail Feather” number in “The Blues Brothers”.
  • Ah, Charlie Sheen. I was going to make a “Tiger’s blood/winning” joke here, but then I remembered that all happened ten years ago. I really have to update my references.
  • It’s not a John Hughes movie until every teen character faces some sort of existential crisis. It’s these heartfelt moments that separate John Hughes’ teen comedies from others of the era, and here it gives Alan Ruck his moment to really shine. This is also your reminder that Alan Ruck was 29 when he played Cameron!
  • Is anyone else bothered that no one believes Jeanie when she calls the police about an intruder?
  • Where does “Ferris Bueller” sit in the history of mid/post-credits sequences? I know it wasn’t the first (“Airplane!” maybe?), but I suspect it was the first to get it right.

Legacy 

  • While “Ferris Bueller” was one of John Hughes’ last teen comedies of the ’80s, his next movie is just as revered among movie lovers: “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. While his directing career more or less ended, John Hughes would go on to write “Home Alone”, among many others family comedies.
  • Everyone’s career got a boost thanks to the success of “Ferris Bueller”, most surprisingly Ben Stein, a political speech writer whose monotone reading of “Bueller?” gave him a second career as a character actor.
  • “Ferris Bueller” still holds a strong place in pop culture, with various elements and dialogue from the movie still getting referenced 35 years later. Bonus points as always for getting an original cast member involved, so here’s that Super Bowl commercial Matthew Broderick did some years back.
  • The TV spin-off series “Ferris Bueller” aired in late 1990, and had little to do with the actual movie it was based on. Oddly enough, rip-off series “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” fared better, running for three seasons on Fox.
  • After meeting on the set, Bueller parent actors Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward married shortly after filming, and were married for six years. In a similar vein, Matthew Broderick and Jennifer Grey briefly dated in the mid-80s. So that’s how it is in their family.
  • The cast of “Ferris Bueller” was one of many to reunite virtually during the 2020 COVID shutdown. In an episode of “Reunited Apart”, the cast (minus Jeffrey Jones) share anecdotes, quote lines, and basically confirm items on this movie’s IMDb trivia page.
  • “Ferris Bueller” has had an interesting impact on the music scene. Two different rock bands are named after elements from the movie: Rooney and Save Ferris.
  • And last, but far from least, this movie is the reason the band Yello is still performing to this day. Oh yeah.

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4 thoughts on “#110) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)”

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