The Blues Brothers is a 1980 American musical comedy film directed by John Landis and starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as "Joliet" Jake and Elwood Blues, characters developed from the The Blues Brothers musical sketch on the NBC variety series Saturday Night Live.
It features musical numbers by R&B, soul, and blues singers James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and John Lee Hooker. The film is set in and around Chicago,Illinois, and also features non-musical supporting performances by John Candy, Carrie Fisher, Charles Napier, and Henry Gibson.
The story is a tale of redemption for paroled convict Jake and his brother Elwood, who take on "a mission from God" to save from foreclosure the Catholic orphanage in which they grew up. To do so they must reunite their rhythm and blues band and organize a performance to earn $5,000 to pay the tax assessor. Along the way, they are targeted by a destructive "mystery woman," Neo-Nazis, and a country and western band—all while being relentlessly pursued by the police.
Universal Studios, which had won the bidding war for the film hoping to take advantage of Belushi's popularity in the wake of Saturday Night Live, Animal House, and the Blues Brothers' musical success, soon found itself unable to control production costs. The start of principal photography was delayed when Aykroyd, new to film screenwriting, took six months to deliver a long and unconventional script that Landis had to rewrite before production, which began without a final budget. On location in Chicago, Belushi's partying and drug use caused lengthy and costly delays that, along with the destructive car chases depicted onscreen, made the final film one of the most expensive comedies ever produced.
Concerns that the film would fail limited its initial bookings to less than half those a film of its magnitude normally received. Released in the United States on June 20, 1980, it received generally positive reviews. It earned just under $5 million in its opening weekend and went on to gross $115.2 million in theaters worldwide before its release on home video. It has become a cult classic, spawning the sequel, Blues Brothers 2000, 18 years later.
"Joliet" Jake Blues is released from prison after serving three years for armed robbery. Jake is irritated at being picked up by his brother Elwood in the Bluesmobile, a battered former Mount Prospect police cruiser, instead of the Cadillac the brothers used to own.
The brothers visit their childhood home in Calumet City, Illinois, St. Helen of the Blessed Shroud, which is a Roman Catholic orphanage. They learn from Sister Stigmata, a.k.a. "The Penguin," that it is facing imminent closure unless $5,000 in property taxes is collected. They also are reunited with a man called Curtis who had been something of a father figure to Jake and Elwood in their youth and also influenced their tastes in music.
The brothers visit an evangelical church service where Jake is mesmerized by Rev. Cleophus James and has an epiphany; he and Elwood can legitimately raise the funds by re-forming their rhythm and blues band. From that moment on, they declare themselves to be on "a mission from God."
Elwood runs a red light and is pulled over by two Illinois State Police troopers, who learn of his suspended license. When they attempt to arrest him, he speeds off, escaping through the Dixie Square Mall. As the brothers arrive at theflophouse where Elwood lives, a mystery woman launches a bazooka attack that leaves them unharmed. Next morning, she detonates a bomb that demolishes the building, which miraculously fails to injure the brothers, but saves them from being arrested.
Jake and Elwood begin tracking down members of the band. Trombonist Tom "Bones" Malone and the rhythm section, (Willie "Too Big" Hall, Steve "The Colonel" Cropper, Donald "Duck" Dunn, and Murphy "Murph" Dunne), are playing in a nearly empty Holiday Inn lounge, and are easily persuaded to rejoin. Trumpeter Alan Rubin, a.k.a. "Mr. Fabulous", now Maître d’ at the fancy Chez Paul restaurant, is harder to sway, but Jake and Elwood engage in rude behavior and won't stop until he agrees.
En route to meet saxophonist "Blue Lou" Marini and guitarist Matt "Guitar" Murphy, the brothers drive through a rally of "Illinois Nazis," adding another enemy to the growing list. Marini and Murphy are at the soul food restaurant onMaxwell Street which Murphy owns with his wife. Against her advice ("Think"), the two musicians leave to rejoin the band. Instruments and equipment are sought from Ray's Music Exchange, where the owner (Ray Charles) is offered an IOU after demonstrating the merchandise ("Shake a Tail Feather").
Jake is unable to book a show, but the band stumbles into a gig at Bob's Country Bunker, a country bar. After a rocky start, the band wins over a bottle-tossing crowd ("Theme From Rawhide"). But not only is their bar tab greater than their pay, the brothers also infuriate the band that was actually booked, the Good Ol' Boys.
The Blues Brothers blackmail their old booking agent Maury Sline into securing a gig for them—a performance at the Palace Hotel Ballroom, located 106 miles (171 km) north of Chicago. After being driven all over the area promoting the concert, the Bluesmobile runs out of gas, making Jake and Elwood late. In a packed ballroom, concertgoers are joined by the Good Ol' Boys and scores of law enforcement officers. Curtis keeps the impatient audience entertained with his own crowd-pleasing musical number ("Minnie the Moocher").
Jake and Elwood sneak in and perform a set. A record company executive offers them a cash advance on a recording contract, more than enough to pay off the orphanage's taxes and Ray's IOU. He also tells them how to slip out unnoticed.
As the brothers escape via a service tunnel, they are confronted by the mystery woman, whereupon it is revealed she is Jake's ex-fiancée whom he had ditched at the altar. She is armed with an M16 rifle, but Jake charms her, allowing the brothers to escape. They drive back to Chicago with dozens of state and local police, the Good Ol' Boys and the Illinois Nazis in hot pursuit. Jake and Elwood eventually elude them all, leaving piled-up police cars in their wake.
Jake and Elwood arrive at the Richard J. Daley Center, where the Bluesmobile literally falls to pieces. They rush inside the adjacent Chicago City Hall building, followed by hundreds of police, state troopers, SWAT teams, firefighters,Illinois National Guardsmen, and the Military Police. Finding the office of the Cook County Assessor, the brothers pay the tax bill. Just as their receipt is stamped, they are arrested at gunpoint by countless armed officers. Jake, Elwood, and the rest of the band are sent to prison where they perform for fellow inmates ("Jailhouse Rock").
- Cab Calloway as Curtis
- Carrie Fisher as Mystery Woman
- Aretha Franklin as Mrs. Murphy
- Ray Charles as Ray's Music Exchange Owner/Himself
- James Brown as Reverend Cleophus James
- John Candy as Burton Mercer
- Kathleen Freeman as Sister Mary Stigmata, "The Penguin"
- Henry Gibson as Head Nazi
- Steve Lawrence as Maury Sline
- Twiggy as Chic Lady
- Frank Oz as Corrections officer
- Jeff Morris as Bob
- Charles Napier as Tucker McElroy
- Steven Williams as Trooper Mount
- Chaka Khan as Choir soloist
- John Lee Hooker as musician on Maxwell Street
- John Landis as State Trooper
- Stephen Bishop as police officer with broken watch
- Paul Reubens as Chez Paul waiter
- Steven Spielberg as Cook County Assessor's Office Clerk
- Pinetop Perkins as Luther Jackson
- Jeff Cahill as Orphan
The Blues Brothers BandEdit
- John Belushi as "Joliet" Jake Blues, lead vocals
- Dan Aykroyd as Elwood Blues, harmonica and lead vocals
- Steve Cropper as Steve "the Colonel" Cropper, lead guitar, rhythm guitar and vocals
- Donald "Duck" Dunn as Donald "Duck" Dunn, bass guitar
- Murphy Dunne as Murphy "Murph" Dunne, keyboards
- Willie Hall as Willie "Too Big" Hall, drums and percussion
- Tom Malone as Tom "Bones" Malone, trombone, tenor saxophone and vocals
- Lou Marini as "Blue Lou" Marini, alto saxophone and tenor saxophone and vocals
- Matt Murphy as Matt "Guitar" Murphy, lead guitar
- Alan Rubin as Alan "Mr. Fabulous" Rubin, trumpet, percussion and vocals