Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1980)

Genre: Adventure, Comedy | Age: 8-9


Ages 4 & under No
Ages 5 to 7 For A Few
Ages 8 to 9 Yes
Ages 10-12 Yes
Ages 13-15 Yes
Ages 15-17 Yes

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1980)

COMEDY: 1989, PG. Hopelessly inept and air-headed teenagers Bill & Ted are flunking their high school history class. People from the future send a mysterious time machine to help them with their history report. They time travel in a phone booth (unabashedly borrowed from Dr. Who) to Napoleon’s invasion of Austria in 1805 where they accidentally kidnap Napoleon and bring him back to the present. With an adventure in each era, they manage to gather Billy the Kid, Genghis Kahn, Abraham Lincoln, Freud, Beethoven, Joan of Arc and Socrates (whose name they insist on mispronouncing, “sock-rates”). In the future, they find their rock band has become the basis of all future culture. Thus, if they flunk out, the future won’t exist. Meanwhile, Napoleon has a series of misadventures at a shopping mall and a water park. In the mall, Joan leads an aerobics class, Beethoven plays rock and roll. Arrested, Bill & Ted break them out of jail just in time to make their history report. Since they have the “real thing,” they get A’s and pass their classes.
VIOLENCE/SCARINESS: Western barroom brawl, a sword fight, all comic and with no blood.
CRIMES: Jail-breaking (U), Theft (U), Kidnapping (U).

MORALS, ISSUES & VALUES: Some sexual innuendo and scatological humor. Joan of Arc seems to mistake Bill & Ted for a religious vision. Napoleon cheats while bowling. Ted steals his policeman father’s keys to break their historical figures out of jail. While they get an A+ on their history report, they seem unaffected by the meeting with major historical figures. Nor is the morality of “passing” a class without really learning anything questioned. According to the film: Contemporary teenage values, like rock & roll, are the basis of the future. Parents just don’t understand, nor do they have any values that really matter. Given half a chance, all of history would enjoy what teenagers today enjoy, thus validating contemporary teen values.

SEXUALITY & GENDER ISSUES: Nuclear family. Bill’s stepmother is only a few years older than he is and he constantly ogles her but feels guilty. At one point, their father asks the boys to leave so he can “make out” with her in his son’s bedroom.

SUBSTANCES: In the Wild West, Bill & Ted order beer and smoke cigarettes.

COMMENTS: This delightful teenage fantasy turns potential drop outs into heroes. It even features a number of historical figures who might turn kids on to history as part of their education. However, rather than Bill & Ted being elevated to the level of these august figures, the film lowers them to the teenage idiom. Even so, the bottom line is “be excellent to each other … and party on, dudes.” Bill & Ted are true friends who always take care of each other. Inflated teen values save the world.

STARRING: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, Bernie Casey, Amy Stock-Poynton, Terry Camilleri, Dan Shore, Ted Steedman, Rod Loomis, Al Leong, Robert V. Barron.


Nudity 0
Sex 1
Physical Violence 2
Emotional Stress 1
Blood 0
Language/Profanity 1
Immorality 3
Parental Guidance 1
Watchability for Adults 1
Overall 3
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Copyright Arthur Taussig 2024