Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

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Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Bill & Ted.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Stephen Herek
Produced by
Written by
Music by David Newman
Cinematography Timothy Suhrstedt
Edited by
  • Larry Bock
  • Patrick Rand
Distributed by
Release date
  • February 17, 1989 (1989-02-17)
Running time
89 minutes [2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$6.5 million [3]
Box office$40.5 million

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is a 1989 American science fiction comedy film directed by Stephen Herek and written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon. It stars Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, and George Carlin. The plot follows slackers Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves), who travel through time to assemble historical figures for their high school history presentation. [4]

Science fiction film film genre

Science fiction film is a genre that uses rtd-speculative, fictional science-based depictions of phenomena that are not fully accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial lifeforms, alien worlds, extrasensory perception and time travel, along with futuristic elements such as spacecraft, robots, cyborgs, interstellar travel or other technologies. Science fiction films have often been used to focus on political or social issues, and to explore philosophical issues like the human condition. In many cases, tropes derived from written science fiction may be used by filmmakers ignorant of or at best indifferent to the standards of scientific plausibility and plot logic to which written science fiction is traditionally held.

Comedy is a genre of film in which the main emphasis is on humour. These films are designed to make the audience laugh through amusement and most often work by exaggerating characteristics for humorous effect. Films in this style traditionally have a happy ending. One of the oldest genres in film, some of the very first silent movies were comedies, as slapstick comedy often relies on visual depictions, without requiring sound. When sound films became more prevalent during the 1920s, comedy films took another swing, as laughter could result from burlesque situations but also dialogue.

Stephen Robert Herek is an American film director. Herek was born in San Antonio, Texas. He attended the University of Texas at Austin.


Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure received generally positive reviews.


In 1988 San Dimas, California, slackers Bill S. Preston Esquire and Ted (Theodore) Logan would rather pursue their band the Wyld Stallyns than schoolwork. Ted's father, the local police chief, threatens to send Ted to military school if they should flunk their history class, ruining their dreams of success. The two struggle to assemble a final report for the class, which is to describe how three historical figures would see modern-day San Dimas.

San Dimas, California City in California, United States

San Dimas is a city in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County, California, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 33,371. The city historically took its name from San Dimas Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains above the northern section of present-day San Dimas. San Dimas derives its name from the Spanish name for Saint Dismas.

A slacker is someone who habitually avoids work or lacks work ethic.

In 2688, humanity has built a utopia thanks to the music of Wyld Stallyns. The supreme beings of this world instruct Rufus (Carlin) to travel back in time by a time machine disguised as a phone booth to give aid to Bill and Ted to ensure they pass their class. Rufus lands by the two as they work on their report near a Circle K. As he introduces himself, a second phone booth lands nearby and future versions of Bill and Ted come out, proving their identity to their younger selves and telling them to trust Rufus before they leave. Rufus offers to show the teens how the machine works, taking them to Austria in 1805 where Napoleon Bonaparte is commanding the French army. Assured the machine works, Rufus, Bill and Ted return to the present, though Napoleon, knocked back by an explosion, is caught in the phone booth's wake and dragged with them. Back at Ted's house, Rufus provides the teens additional instructions and then leaves. The two find Napoleon nearby, and come upon an idea of taking historical figures from the past to bring them to the present to complete their report. They leave Napoleon with Ted's younger brother Deacon and set out.

Utopia community or society possessing highly desirable or perfect qualities

A utopia is an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens. The opposite of a utopia is a dystopia. One could also say that utopia is a perfect "place" that has been designed so there are no problems.

Time travel is the concept of movement between certain points in time, analogous to movement between different points in space by an object or a person, typically using a hypothetical device known as a time machine. Time travel is a widely-recognized concept in philosophy and fiction. The idea of a time machine was popularized by H. G. Wells' 1895 novel The Time Machine.

Circle K an international chain of convenience stores

Circle K Stores Inc. is a Canadian-owned American multinational chain of convenience stores. Founded in 1951 in El Paso, Texas, the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 1990 and went through several owners, before being acquired by its current owner, Alimentation Couche-Tard, in 2003. It is present in most of the 50 U.S. states and is franchised in Asia and Latin America.

Separately, they gain the trust of Billy the Kid from 1879 and Socrates from 410 BC and bring them along. They next land in 15th century medieval England and see two princesses who flirt with them. In their attempt to see the princesses, they are caught by their father, the local duke, and ordered to be beheaded, but they are rescued by Billy and Socrates. In their escape, the phone booth's antenna is damaged by a knight's mace, and the booth starts running out of control. Bill and Ted initially take advantage of it by obtaining more historical figures for extra credit, including Sigmund Freud from Vienna, Austria in 1901; Ludwig van Beethoven from Kassel, Germany in 1810; Joan of Arc from Orleans, France in 1429; Genghis Khan from Outer Mongolia in 1209; and Abraham Lincoln from Washington DC in 1863. With no more space in the booth, they finally see the broken antenna, and they have to make a pit-stop in prehistoric times to make repairs. After a crude repair with chewing gum and pudding cups, Bill and Ted regain control of the booth, but they end up at the Circle K, witnessing their younger selves on the night before the report. They repeat their advice to them about Rufus, and then ask Rufus how to get to their present time, also alerting them that time is running short.

Billy the Kid American cattle rustler, gambler, horse thief, outlaw, cowboy and ranch hand

Billy the Kid was an American Old West outlaw and gunfighter who killed eight men before he was shot and killed at age 21. He took part in New Mexico's Lincoln County War, during which he allegedly committed three murders.

Socrates classical Greek Athenian philosopher

Socrates was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopher, of the Western ethical tradition of thought. An enigmatic figure, he made no writings, and is known chiefly through the accounts of classical writers writing after his lifetime, particularly his students Plato and Xenophon. Other sources include the contemporaneous Antisthenes, Aristippus, and Aeschines of Sphettos. Aristophanes, a playwright, is the main contemporary author to have written plays mentioning Socrates during Socrates' lifetime, though a fragment of Ion of Chios' Travel Journal provides important information about Socrates' youth.

Sigmund Freud Austrian neurologist known as the founding father of psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst.

Back in their current timeframe, with hours before the report presentation, Bill and Ted leave the historical figures at the local mall to experience San Dimas while they try to track down Napoleon, whom Deacon had ditched the previous night after an embarrassing night out. They find Napoleon at the Waterloo water park, but by the time they return to the mall, the historical figures have caused a commotion and are now in jail under Ted's dad's watch. They develop a plan to use the time machine after the presentation as to plant elements to help free the historical figures, and make their way to the school, barely arriving in time for their presentation. With the help of the historical figures, the two give an impressive presentation that assures they pass the course.

After returning the historical figures, Bill and Ted return to practice, when Rufus shows up with the two princesses in tow, having rescued them himself since he knows they will be their wives and bandmates in the future. As the band starts to play, terribly, Rufus explains to the audience "They do get better."



The film was shot in 1987 in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area, mostly in and around Scottsdale's Coronado High School. Coronado's auditorium was torn down during 2005-07 renovations, but its unique roof and intricate exterior mosaic, seen in an opening scene when Bill and Ted leave school in a red Mustang, was saved and moved, piece by piece, to the new auditorium. The interior shots of the auditorium were filmed inside the East High School auditorium, which was in Phoenix on 48th Street just north of Van Buren. East High School was demolished in 2002 as part of a redevelopment project. The production also shot a sequence on the Western Street on the back lot of Southwestern Studio in Carefree, Arizona. Odescalchi castle was used as Henry VI's castle.

Pauly Shore was among the hundreds of actors considered for the role of Ted before it was taken by Keanu Reeves, while River Phoenix, Sean Penn and then-upcoming actor Brendan Fraser reportedly auditioned for Bill. [5] [6] [7] [8]

The scenes at Waterloo are a combination of establishing shots at Raging Waters in San Dimas and shots with the actors at Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa, Arizona. The bowling alley was a Fair Lanes-branded alley at that time but is now the AMF Tempe Village Lanes on Rural Road at US 60, three miles south of Arizona State University. The mall was Phoenix Metrocenter, between Peoria and Dunlap Avenues at Interstate 17. It has since been renovated and no longer looks as it did in the film. The Circle K store is at the intersection of Southern and Hardy in Tempe. [9] [10]

The film also employs computer-generated imagery for the scenes where Bill & Ted are travelling through the 'Circuits of Time', created by the VFX house Perpetual Motion Pictures.

The film's writers, Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson, appear in the film's ice cream scene. Solomon is credited as the "stupid" waiter, and Matheson is credited as the "ugly" waiter. They are given similar credits in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey .

When Rufus plays his guitar solo, the hands in the close-up are those of Stevie Salas, who composed the film's guitar music. [11]

The film took nearly two years to make. Filming took place from February to May 1987 [12] and it was planned to be released in 1988. However, the film's original distributor, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, went bankrupt. Orion Pictures and Nelson Entertainment bought the rights to the movie in 1988, and it was released theatrically on February 17, 1989. [13]

It was followed in 1991 by a sequel, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey .

A longstanding urban legend has it that Reeves auditioned for Bill and Winter for Ted. According to Winter, the story emerged because the characters are so similar, and even he and Reeves sometimes became confused about who was who. [14]

Differences from original script

Page 1 of the handwritten first draft of the script Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, p 1 of script.jpg
Page 1 of the handwritten first draft of the script

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. [15]

In a 1991 interview, co-writer Ed Solomon said the characters of Bill and Ted were originally envisaged as "14-year-old skinny guys, with low-rider bell-bottoms and heavy metal T-shirts" who were despised by the popular kids at school. Casting Reeves and Winter changed the filmmakers' images of the characters because "...once you cast Alex and Keanu, who look like pretty cool guys, that was hard to believe". [16]

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. [14] Instead, despite the similarities to Doctor Who 's time machine, the TARDIS, the film's 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." [17]


Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
various artists
Genre Hard rock, heavy metal, glam rock, glam metal, pop rock, rock 'n' roll
Label A&M Records

The film's soundtrack was released in 1989. The tracks are as follows:

  1. "Play with Me" by Extreme
  2. "The Boys and Girls Are Doing It" by Vital Signs
  3. "Not So Far Away" by Glen Burtnik
  4. "Dancing with a Gypsy" by Tora Tora
  5. "Father Time" by Shark Island
  6. "Breakaway" by Big Pig
  7. "Dangerous" by Shark Island
  8. "Walk Away" by Bricklin
  9. "In Time" by Robbie Robb featuring Stevie Salas
  10. "Two Heads Are Better Than One" by Power Tool

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:[ citation needed ]


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. [18]

In 2010, Reeves indicated that Matheson and Solomon were working on a script for a third film, [19] confirming in April 2011 that a draft was complete. [20] 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. [21] 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. [22] In August 2012, Dean Parisot (director of the sci-fi/comedy film Galaxy Quest) signed on to direct the film, although MGM, which holds the rights to the Bill & Ted franchise, did not officially greenlight the film until some years later. [23] In an April 2014 article on the original film's 25th anniversary, Alex Winter reported that work on going ahead with the second sequel was still in progress. [16]

Bill and Ted Face the Music was officially announced to be in pre-production on May 8, 2018. On March 20, 2019 a video featuring Winter and Reeves was posted online which announced the third film in the franchise would be released in the summer of 2020. [24]


Two spin-off television series were produced; both were titled Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures.


DC Comics produced a tie-in comic following the plot of the first movie timed to coincide with that film's release on home video. [26] The sequel was adapted by DC's competitor Marvel Comics, published to coincide with the second film's release in theaters. Its popularity led to the ongoing Marvel series Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book by Evan Dorkin, which lasted for 12 issues. [27]

There was a weekly 2/4 page semi-adaptation of the animated series published for a year by UK's defunct Look-In Magazine from 1991 to 1992. [28]

Video games

There were also Game Boy, NES, and Atari Lynx games released, which were very loosely based on the film's plot. A PC title and nearly identical Amiga and Commodore 64 port were made in 1991 by Off the Wall Productions and IntraCorp, Inc. under contract by Capstone Software and followed the original film very closely.

Theme parks

The annual Halloween Horror Nights events at Universal Studios Orlando and Hollywood have featured since 1992 (Orlando) and 1997-1999/2007 (Hollywood) Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure, a show satirizing pop culture of the year with Bill & Ted as the protagonists fighting villains who steal their phone booth for their own schemes.

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. [29] [30] In 2013, the Hollywood version of the show was cancelled in the middle of its run following complaints of homophobic humor. [31]

On August 15, 2017, Universal announced that 2017 will be the final year of Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure in Orlando. [32] And on November 4, 2017, Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure came to a final close, but not before a surprise appearance of Rufus.


Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure grossed $40.4 million domestically on a budget of about $10 million. [33] The Washington Post gave the film a negative review, finding the script written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon as "made only the sketchiest attempts to draw their historical characters. They exist as foils and nothing else, and the gags that are hung on them are far from first-rate", and that if director "Stephen Herek, has any talent for comedy, it's not visible here. More than anything, the picture looks paltry and undernourished." [34] Variety wrote about each historical figure that Bill & Ted meet, stating that "Each encounter is so brief and utterly cliched that history has little chance to contribute anything to this pic’s two dimensions." [35] Vincent Canby of The New York Times referred to the film as a "painfully inept comedy" and that the "one dimly interesting thing about Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is the way the two teen-age heroes communicate in superlatives. We are about to fail most egregiously, says Ted to Bill, or maybe it's Bill to Ted. They are also fond of odd words, such as bodacious." [36] In the Los Angeles Times , Chris Willman was also unimpressed, concluding: "Make no mistake, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure […] is not a satire of mindlessness; it's unabashed glorification of dumbness for dumbness' sake. Bill and Ted are heroic in their ability to reduce some of history's great minds to their level. [4] However, writing for Radio Times , Alan Jones decided: "A nonstop giggle from start to finish, this beguiling grab-bag of time-travel clichés, hard-rock music and Valley-speaking cool dudes is a flawless, purpose-built junk movie". [37]

The film has a 78% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 46 reviews with an average rating of 6.49/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are just charming, goofy, and silly enough to make this fluffy time-travel Adventure work". [38] On Metacritic, the film holds a weighted average score of 44 out of 100, based on 7 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews". [39]

The successes of the film and the animated series spawned a short-lived breakfast cereal called Bill & Ted's Excellent Cereal. [40]

A phone booth used in the sequel was given away in a contest presented by Nintendo Power magazine, to promote Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure. It was won by Kenneth Grayson of Mississippi. [41] [42]

In 2010, the city of San Dimas celebrated 50 years of incorporation. The celebration's slogan was San Dimas, 1960–2010 – An Excellent Adventure. [43]

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure was selected as number 8 in Rolling Stone's '10 Best Stoner Movies of All Time' in 2013. [44]

Writing in The Guardian on the occasion of the film's 25th anniversary, Hadley Freeman found: "Of all the delightfully improbable scenarios depicted in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure – from Napoleon Bonaparte causing havoc on a waterslide to Billy the Kid and Socrates (a.k.a. "So-crayts", of course) picking up chicks in a California mall to George Carlin acting in a film alongside Keanu Reeves and a member of the Go-Go's – none would have seemed more unlikely on its release than the idea that one day, with much media fanfare, the public would be celebrating the film's 25th anniversary. By the time Bill & Ted was released in 1989, the 80s teen film explosion was starting to taper out. [...] Moreover, there had already been plenty of films about time-travelling teens by the time Bill & Ted rocked up in cinemas, such as Peggy Sue Got Married and Back to the Future . Few who were around then would have bet that a goofy movie about a pair of California metalheads skipping back through time in a phonebox collecting historical characters to bring back to 20th-century California for their history report would still be remembered today. But I am very much among those few". [16]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

In cultural analysis

Writing in British Sunday newspaper The Observer , Tom Holland noted,

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure does not tend to be rated as one of cinema's profounder treatments of the relationship between present and past. The story of two Californian slackers with a time machine who, for complicated reasons, have to assemble assorted celebrities from history in order to pass a high-school project, it is chiefly remembered for bringing Keanu Reeves to the attention of a mass audience. Classicists, however, will always cherish it as the only film ever to combine the music of Van Halen with Greek philosophy. When Bill and Ted embark on their quest, what should be their first destination if not classical Athens, and who should be the very first 'historical dude' bundled into their time machine if not a bald-headed man in a sheet whom they persist in calling 'Soh-kraytz'?" [46]

Holland continued:

Even to metalheads, then, the philosophy of ancient Greece serves as something that is both primal and emblematic of civilisation as a whole. Socrates, in particular, the 'lover of wisdom' who insisted that the most fundamental presumptions of his countrymen should be subjected to experimental investigation, and who ended up being made to drink hemlock for his pains, has always been admired as the very fountainhead of rationalism. Yet when it comes to identifying what he taught and believed, there is a problem, on which Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, rather unexpectedly, puts its finger. Socrates, transplanted to 1980s California, can only communicate with his abductors by gesturing and gurning – since Bill and Ted, it goes without saying, speak not a word of ancient Greek. Even the miracle of time travel, it appears, cannot serve to alter what is, for any historian, a most awkward fact: that it is impossible to be certain of what Socrates actually said. [46]

See also

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