Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is a 1989 American science fiction comedy buddy film and the first film in the Bill & Ted franchise in which two slackers travel through time to assemble a menagerie of historical figures for their high school history presentation.
The film was written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon and directed by Stephen Herek. It stars Keanu Reeves as Ted "Theodore" Logan, Alex Winter as Bill S. Preston, Esquire, and George Carlin as Rufus. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure received reviews which were mostly positive upon release and was commercially successful. It is now considered a cult classic. A sequel, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, was released two years later. An untitled third film is in development.
In 2688, humanity exists as a utopian society due to the inspiration of the music and wisdom of the Two Great Ones: Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted "Theodore" Logan (Keanu Reeves). Rufus (George Carlin) is tasked by the leaders to travel back to San Dimas, California of 1988 using a time machine shaped like a phone booth to ensure that the Bill and Ted, then dim-witted high school students, successfully pass a history class. Should they fail, Ted's father, police captain Logan (Hal Langdon), plans to ship Ted to the Oats military academy in Alaska, ending Bill & Ted's fledgling band, the "Wyld Stallyns", and altering the future.
Rufus finds the two teenagers struggling to finish their history paper, which tasks them to describe how three historical figures would view San Dimas of the present, trying to obtain help from customers at a local Circle K convenience store. Rufus initially has difficulty convincing the two of his help when a copy of the phone booth time machine arrives, and versions of Bill and Ted from some hours in the future step out. They are able to convince their earlier selves that Rufus can be trusted by correctly guessing the number the two were thinking of, sixty-nine. The future Bill and Ted briefly discuss their situation with Rufus out of earshot from the present Bill and Ted before disappearing.
Rufus offers the pair a demonstration of the time machine, taking them back to 1805 where they find Napoleon Bonaparte (Terry Camilleri) leading his forces against Austria. As Rufus, Bill and Ted depart back to the present, Napoleon is thrown by a cannonball explosion into their wake, and is dragged through the time circuits to the present. Rufus takes a moment to explain that time will continue to progress normally for Bill and Ted and they cannot miss their class presentation the next day, and then departs, leaving the empty time machine for the two. As Bill and Ted discuss where to go next, they discover Napoleon stuck in a nearby tree. This gives them the idea of kidnapping historical figures as to bring them to the present to complete their report. They leave Napoleon with Ted's younger brother Deacon (Frazier Bain) before travelling but Captain Logan grounds Ted, ordering him to pack his luggage for the Oats Military Academy while he looks for a lost set of keys. Bill uses the phone booth in a conventional manner, calling Captain Logan saying the keys at the station, so he and Ted can time travel to capture more historical figures for their history report. In the present day, Deacon and his friends show Napoleon around 20th Century San Dimas with such areas as an ice cream parlor and bowling alley, but decide to ditch Napoleon after he is kicked out of the bowling alley for being a sore loser and not paying.
The two are able to successfully befriend Billy the Kid (Dan Shor) from 1879 and Socrates (Tony Steedman) from 410 B.C. (whom they refer to as "So-crates" /ˈsoʊkreɪts/), before stopping in 15th century England, where they become infatuated with Princesses Elizabeth (Kimberley Kates) and Joanna (Diane Franklin). This leads to them getting in trouble with their father the King, who has arranged political marriages for his daughters with uglier older men, and sentence Bill and Ted to a public execution. As Bill and Ted are about to executed, the executioners reveal themselves as Socrates and Billy who help them make their escape, though the booth is partially damaged on their departure. They end up in the far future, discovering the society based on their influence, and are inspired to take their report seriously. Since the phone booth is still haywire and going into random epochs, they go for "extra credit" by kidnapping additional historical figures: Sigmund Freud (Rod Loomis) from 1901, Ludwig van Beethoven (Clifford David) 1809, Genghis Khan (Al Leong) from 1209, Joan of Arc (Jane Wiedlin) from 1429, and Abraham Lincoln (Robert V. Barron) from 1863. After a brief stop in prehistoric times, the booth cannot fit any more historical figures, so Bill and Ted make crude repairs on the machine and program it to return to the present, but end up outside the Circle K on the night before, where Rufus was introducing himself to them. Bill and Ted convince their earlier selves of Rufus' trustworthiness, and the earlier unheard conversation is now revealed to be where Rufus is instructing them how to get to the correct day.
When they arrive, Ted learns that Deacon had ditched Napoleon. They leave the other historical figures at the local mall to learn about San Dimas while they seek out Napoleon at a local water park, "Waterloo." While gone, the historical figures unknowingly get into trouble and are arrested by Captain Logan. Bill and Ted execute an escape plan based on using the time machine in the future to set up what they need now. With all their historical figures recollected, the two give their presentation to the school, which is a rousing success, allowing them to pass the course and the two send the historical figures back to their own time periods.
Some time later, Rufus returns to Bill and Ted, presenting them with the two princesses before they were committed to a pre-arranged marriage, noting that the two women will also be part of Wyld Stallyns. Rufus asks to join the group as they play, but upon hearing their cacophony of music, admits to the audience that "they do get better".
- Keanu Reeves as Ted "Theodore" Logan.
- Alex Winter as Bill S. Preston Esq.
- William Sadler as Grim Reaper
- George Carlin as Rufus
- Terry Camilleri as Napoleon
- Dan Shor as Billy the Kid
- Tony Steedman as Socrates
- Rod Loomis as Freud
- Al Leong as Genghis Khan
- Jane Wiedlin as Joan of Arc
- Robert V. Barron as Abraham Lincoln
- Clifford David as Beethoven
- Hal Landon Jr. as Captain Logan
- Bernie Casey as Mr. Ryan
- Amy Stock-Poynton as Missy/Mom
- J. Patrick McNamara as Mr. Preston
- Frazier Bain as Deacon
- Diane Franklin as Princess Joanna
- Kimberley LaBelle as Princess Elizabeth
The film was shot in the Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area, mostly in and around Coronado High School in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1987. The school itself is near Oak St. and Scottsdale Road. Much of Coronado went through a renovation between 2005 and 2007 and the auditorium setting for the final-report scene was torn down. However, the intricate mosaic (seen in an opening scene when Bill and Ted leave from school in a red Mustang) on the outside of the auditorium was saved piece by piece and moved to the new auditorium along with unique design of the gym roof.
The scenes at Waterloo are a cross between establishing shots at Raging Waters in San Dimas, CA and shots with the actors at Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa, Arizona. The bowling alley was then a Fair Lanes branded alley, but is now the AMF Tempe Village Lanes located on Rural Road at US 60 freeway, three miles south of Arizona State University. The mall was Phoenix Metrocenter located between Peoria and Dunlap Avenues at Interstate 17. The mall has since been renovated and no longer looks as it did in the film. The Circle K store is located at the intersection of Southern and Hardy in Tempe.
Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson make appearances in the film during the ice cream scene. Ed is credited as the "stupid" waiter, and Chris is credited as the "ugly" waiter. They are given similar credits in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.
During the shot of Rufus' hands playing his guitar solo, the actual hands are those of Stevie Salas, the composer of all the guitar work featured within the film.
The film took nearly two years to materialize. Filming took place from February to May 1987 and it was originally planned to be released in 1988. However, the film's original distributor, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, went bankrupt before it could be released. Orion Pictures and Nelson Entertainment bought the rights to the movie in 1988, and it was released theatrically on February 17, 1989. As a partial result of the delay, certain dates in the film originally scripted as "1987" had to be redubbed as "1988". The copyright date of this film is 1989, while 1988 incorrectly appears on the DVD cover (though some copies still note 1989 as its release date). It was followed in 1991 by a sequel, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey.
Differences from original scriptEdit
In earlier drafts of the script, Rufus was 28 years old and historical figures Bill and Ted plucked from history included Charlemagne (whom they referred to as "Charlie Mangay"), Babe Ruth and a non-famous medieval person called "John the Serf". John is listed in the credits.
Originally, the time machine was to be a 1969 Chevrolet van, but the idea was abandoned as being too close in concept to the DeLorean used in the Back to the Future trilogy. Instead, despite the similarities to Doctor Who's time machine, the TARDIS, the time machine was styled after a 1960s American telephone booth, though a newer model Ford van would be used as the rock concert "band wagon" for the sequel.
In April 2013, Winter commented on Carlin's casting: "He was a very happy accident. They were going after serious people first. Like Sean Connery. And someone had the idea, way after we started shooting, of George. That whole movie was a happy accident. No one thought it would ever see the light of day."
The film's soundtrack was released in 1989. The tracks are as follows:
- "Play with Me" by Extreme
- "The Boys and Girls Are Doing It" by Vital Signs
- "Not So Far Away" by Glen Burtnik
- "Dancing with a Gypsy" by Tora Tora
- "Father Time" by Shark Island
- "I Can't Break Away" by Big Pig
- "Dangerous" by Shark Island
- "Walk Away" by Bricklin
- "In Time" by Robbi Robb
- "Two Heads Are Better Than One" by Power Tool (Aka the Rock Band - Nelson)
These tracks are ordered for the album differently than they are in the movie. In the movie, the songs show up in the following order: "I Can't Break Away", "Dancing with a Gypsy", "Father Time", "Dangerous", "In Time", "Two Heads Are Better Than One", "The Boys and Girls Are Doing It", "Play with Me", "Walk Away", "Not So Far Away" and "Two Heads" (reprised over the credits).
The following songs appeared in the film but were not included in the soundtrack:
- "No Right to Do Me Wrong" by Range War
- "Party Up" by Rori
- "Bad Guitar" by Stevie 'He Wonder' Salas
- "Carlins Solo" by Hands of Flutes
- "Game of War" by Warrant
A theatrical sequel, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, was released in 1991.
A third theatrical film in the Bill & Ted franchise was planned, and a screenplay was written, though it never got past the pre-production phase. Although rumors claimed that the script was adapted into the 1996 film Bio-Dome, Alex Winter has said that it was not.
In 2010, Reeves indicated that Matheson and Solomon were working on a script for a third film, confirming in April 2011 that a draft was complete. Winter said in March 2012 that he and Reeves both liked the finished script, which revisits the two characters after the changes of the past twenty years. The current script does not feature the return of the Grim Reaper from Bogus Journey, but since actor William Sadler has expressed interest, the writers are considering ways to include the character. In August 2012, Dean Parisot (the director of the sci-fi/comedy film Galaxy Quest) signed onto the project as a director, although MGM (the studio which holds the rights to the Bill & Ted franchise) has yet to give the movie an official greenlight.
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure was a financial success, grossing $40.4 million domestically on a budget of about $10 million. It has become something of a cult classic. The film has an 80% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 33 reviews.
Both the success of the film and the animated series spawned a short-lived breakfast cereal called Bill & Ted's Excellent Cereal.
The phone booth used in this film was given away in a contest presented by Nintendo Power magazine (in honor of Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure), won by a boy in Mississippi.
Since 1992, "Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure" has been performed at the Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood every October during Halloween Horror Nights. The show differs from year to year, with spoofs of various pop culture icons. The main plot involves Bill and Ted being threatened by an evil villain from a popular film of that year, with appearances by a host of villains, heroes, and celebrities. The show usually includes elaborate dance numbers, stunts, and multiple double-entendres for the late night event crowd.
In 2010, the city of San Dimas celebrated 50 years of incorporation as a city. The theme for the celebrations was San Dimas, 1960-2010 An Excellent Adventure.