The Blues Brothers

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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"They'll never catch us. We're on a Mission from God."

Perhaps the greatest -- and certainly the most successful -- Saturday Night Live act to spin off from the show into the realm of movies. Back when Dan Aykroyd wasn't fat and John Belushi wasn't dead, they starred together in an occasional sketch-cum-musical-act featuring the two of them in dark suits and sunglasses as "The Blues Brothers"; Belushi was Jake Blues, and Aykroyd was Jake's silent brother Elwood. What made the skits good? The duo were skilled at both the comedy (obviously) and the music (which was surprising). Aykroyd and Belushi spun off their own band with established musicians (members of the SNL house band as well as experienced R&B musicians) and served as the frontmen, in character as Elwood and Jake.

In 1980, they got a musical-extravaganza feature film -- titled The Blues Brothers -- that quickly and deservedly became a Cult Classic. "Joliet" Jake Blues has just been released from prison, with Elwood there to pick him up in a battered piece of crap that used to be a police car. (Elwood is not silent in this film--he gives some serious lectures.) Fulfilling a promise, the Blues go to the Chicagoland orphanage where they grew up and visit "The Penguin", the nun who runs the place; it is during this meeting that the brothers learn that the orphanage is about to be closed down due to a tax bill that is unable to be paid.

Wondering what they could do to save the orphanage, Jake sees the light -- literally -- while listening to a sermon from James Brown. During the lively service, he has an epiphany and receives a Mission from God: the Blues Brothers must get their band back together and raise the money to save their old orphanage no matter what. Along the way, they meet up with Cab Calloway, Carrie Fisher, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, John Candy, Twiggy, Frank Oz, Chaka Khan, John Landis, Paul Reubens and Steven Spielberg. Hilarity Ensues, and every last police car in the state of Illinois is destroyed.

There was a sequel -- Blues Brothers 2000 -- in 1998. This film didn't go over as well as the original, in part because some important players -- most notably John Belushi -- had died in the interim (the death was actually worked into the film's plot, but it didn't really help, although at the least it was respectful to Belushi). Some admit that though the plot wasn't as up to snuff as the original, the music at least was pretty good.

John Landis helmed the director's chair on both movies.

The Blues Brothers was named to the National Film Registry in 2020.

The Blues Brothers is the Trope Namer for:
Tropes used in The Blues Brothers include:
  • A-Team Firing: Everyone's a crap shot, except when they're not aiming directly for the Blues Brothers. Vaguely justified with Holy Protection, but mostly played for Rule of Funny.
  • Absurd Altitude: The Nazis chasing the Brothers are launched from an unfinished highway ramp... fly as high as the Sears Tower... and fall several miles away, just in time for the Blues Brothers to dodge the hole they made and another Nazi to fall into the hole.
  • Acceptable Breaks From Reality: Everyone knows church properties can't be taxed, but that wouldn't make for a plot. Or a nun on rails. Or the best car chase EVER.
    • There was actually a law being debated in the Illinois state legislature at the time the film was being written that would have made some church properties taxable, though it was completely dead by the time the film came out, making this movie a sort of Alternate History.
  • Acrofatic: John Belushi. Damn, that man could dance...
    • Then again, it took a stuntman for the flips in the church scene.
    • Big Mack in the sequel
  • Actually Pretty Funny

Mercer: You know, I kinda liked the Wrigley Field bit.
Mount: Yeah. Real cute.

  • All There in the Manual: Information about the brothers' background comes from the liner notes of their first album, Briefcase Full of Blues, while fictional backstories are included for the rest of the band members and some other characters found their way into a book written by John Belushi's wife.
  • Animated Adaptation: In 1997, 6 animated episodes were produced (with Peter Aykroyd and Jim Belushi) for the UPN network but were never aired.
  • Backup Twin: Jim Belushi filled in for his late brother in a handful of live shows. Averted in the sequel, where he wasn't cast, due to scheduling and contract issues. It could have worked quite nicely.
  • Bash Brothers: They don't fight a lot, but when they do...
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Elwood's "puffball bacteria". John Goodman's intentional hamming it up and Evan Bonifant's over-the-top screaming is hilarious, but the rest of the band completely ignoring them is what sells it.
  • Big "What?": The whole band delivered this when Curtis told them they need to raise the money for the orphanage.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The orphanage is saved, but the Brothers get tossed back into jail. The sheer hilarity of the buildup, however, overshadows it.
    • Makes it more of a downer in the sequel when its revealed the orphanage closed down during Jake's second stint in the clink making all their efforts pointless
  • Blood Brothers: According to supplemental materials, the brothers are not biologically related, but sealed their blood brotherhood at the orphanage by cutting their fingers with Elmore James' guitar string.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Despite the gazillions of dollars in property damage throughout the first movie, nobody dies.
  • Berserk Button: Do not use unacceptable language in front of The Penguin. Taking the Lord's name in vain is even worse.
    • Also, you shouldn't go to a country and western bar and try to play the blues. It never ends well.
  • Book Ends: The first movie opens and closes with Jake in jail. He's just being released in the beginning and performing while re-incarcerated at the end.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Jake's personal effects, being returned to him at the beginning of the movie, include a used condom.
  • Brick Joke: Elwood mentions early in the film that he spoofed his address forms to show the address for Wrigley Field. Later in the film, the Illinois Nazis find his information and meet up to discuss tracking him down... in front of Wrigley Field.
  • Bullet-Proof Fashion Plate: The boys' suits. True to the trope, ending up covered in mud signals that their situation has gone to hell.
  • Butt Monkey: The Illinois Nazis; all of them.
  • Car Fu: Taken to an exorbitant amount in both films, as both contain 50+ car pileups.
    • The first film held the Guinness World Record for most cars destroyed in a single movie (reports vary, but the number's about 75 to 80) for 18 years, finally being surpassed by the sequel, (over 100, as reported by Guinness) for another 11 years. That's almost 200 cars destroyed and almost 30 years of car-totaling supremacy.
  • Casting Gag: Paul Shaffer was the band's original keyboardist, but wasn't in the original film because -- in addition to his SNL commitments -- he was also working on Gilda Radner: Live from New York, a one-woman stage show which starred fellow former SNL regular Gilda Radner. He finally appeared in 2000 as Queen Mouset's assistant, and asks Murph if he wouldn't mind letting him have a crack at the keyboard.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: While driving through the mall, Jake and Elwood remark on the variety of stores the mall has. "This place has everything."
  • Catch Phrase: "We're on a Mission from God."
  • Celebrity Star: Many famous musicians appear in various roles to sing their hits.
  • Chase Scene: Several times. The last half of the first movie is one giant Chase Scene.
    • "We're in a truck!"
  • Check, Please!: Bob's Country Kitchen in the second movie.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The benefits of a cop car prove necessary.
  • Chez Restaurant: Mr. Fabulous is maître d' at Chez Paul, which (at the time) was the name of an actual high-class restaurant in Chicago.
  • Closer to Earth: Aretha Franklin's character, who tries to dissuade her husband from rejoining the Blues Brothers in both films.
  • Concept Video
  • Cool Car: At the beginning of movie, it's What a Piece of Junk!; at the end of movie it's The Alleged Car.
    • It survives jump after jump, being driven through a shopping mall, and a high-speed chase with a thrown rod, among other things - and then it literally falls apart upon reaching the property tax office. Elwood briefly pauses to pay his last respects to the wreck while the cops are still chasing them.
  • Cool Old Guy: Curtis, the janitor at the orphanage played by Cab Calloway, who taught Jake and Elwood about the blues.
  • Cool Shades: Which they almost never take off.
    • Flat-out parodied, like everything else, in 2000 when Cabel tells Elwood to take his hat and glasses off in the office. The camera pans to Cabel, then back to Elwood - covering his eyes with his arm to avoid being blinded by normal indoor light.
      • What light?
  • Crazy Enough to Work: In the sequel, they shrug off a bunch of Russian gangsters chasing them by dumping out a bag of thumb tacks carpenter nails drywall nails, which they drive directly into. It works.
  • Critical Existence Failure: As soon as Jake and Elwood exit the car at the end of the Chase Scene, it literally falls to pieces. Elwood even takes off his hat as a gesture of respect.
  • Dance Party Ending: To the Jailhouse Rock, of course.
  • Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes: See Cool Shades
  • Debut Queue
  • Description Porn: The famous scene when Elwood introduces the Bluesmobile to Jake after jumping the bridge.

"It's got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it's got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It's a model made before catalytic converters, so it'll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?"

  • Destructive Savior: Elwood and (to a lesser extent) Jake. To wit: the Blues cause what has to be several million dollars worth of damage to just the Chicago Police by wrecking all of their cars just to save an orphanage by paying a bill of $5,000.
  • Determinator: Do not mess with the Blues Brothers when they're on a Mission from God, because they will kick your ass.
  • Dream Team: The Blues Brothers band in-universe, as well as the Louisiana Gator Boys in the second film.
  • Drives Like Crazy: "ELWOOD."
  • Driving Into a Truck: Literally. A police squad car jumps off the side of a freeway, smashing into the side of a passing truck.
  • The Elevator From Ipanema: A John Landis trademark.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Averted(!), and later becomes a full-blown subversion when the Illinois' Nazis red wagon (which is actually a Ford Pinto) lands in a sinkhole without ever being seen in demolished form, let alone exploding.
  • Fallen-On-Hard-Times Job: Most of the band is recruited from one of these.
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: John Belushi as Jake Blues.
  • Fast Roping: How the SWAT team comes in near the end of the first movie. "Hut hut hut hut!"
  • Fat and Skinny: Jake and Elwood.
  • Femme Fatalons: Carrie Fisher in the original.
  • Friendly Enemy: The police detective played by John Candy seems honestly amused by Jake and Elwood's ability to trick the police; he even insists on waiting to arrest them until he's heard them play.
    • Hell, even when he ends up with his car embedded in the back of a semi near the end, he doesn't seem the least bit angry about it.
  • Generation Xerox: Cabel Chamberlain sings and dances just like Curtis, and by the end of the second movie, Buster has turned into a mini-Elwood.
  • Good Ol' Boy: The Good Ol' Boys band, and Tucker McElroy in particular.
    • Elwood Blues: "We're the Good Ol' Blues Brothers... Boys. Band."
  • Hammerspace: Elwood's pockets can have this quality. At various times, he can be seen producing Cheez Whiz, plain white bread, and tools suspiciously well-suited to disable an elevator from them.
  • Hatedom: An in-universe example; the regulars at Bob's Country Bunker don't react too favorably to "Gimme Some Lovin" (but they're placated by the theme song from Rawhide and "Stand By Your Man").
  • Hey, Let's Put on a Show: To save the orphanage... twice, since the first time only netted them $200 (and a $300 bar tab, which they ran out on).
  • Hollywood Police Driving Academy: And how. If the cops' driving were any worse, they would burst into flame as soon as they got in.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Queen Mouset in the sequel.
  • If My Calculations Are Correct
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The police, the Nazis, the Good Ol' Boys, and the crazy woman trying to kill Jake are all terrible shots. Especially funny in the case of the crazy woman, who's played by Princess Leia.
    • Subverted or spoofed or ... something ... by letting Ray Charles fire a gun with incredible precision.
  • Improbable Parking Skills
  • Iron Butt Monkey / Iron Woobie: A rare live action film example. The boys manage to take a house collapsing on them and dust it off. Their shades are that cool.
  • Just Got Out of Jail: The movie begins with "Joliet" Jake Blues being released from Joliet State Penitentiary.
  • Jukebox Musical
  • Lame Excuse: After telling Bob that Elwood is in the car writing out a (nonexistent) American Express Travelers Cheque to cover the band's extensive bar tab, Jake says, "I'd better check up, see how he's doing. See, I have to sign it too...I usually sit in the car and write it out on the glove compartment lid." Then he beats a hasty retreat for the car.
    • Later Jake gives an entire Hurricane of Excuses to Carrie Fisher's character about why he stood her up at their wedding.
  • Leitmotif: The horn intro from "I Can't Turn You Loose", originally recorded by Otis Redding, could very easily be retitled "The Blues Brothers Theme" by now.
  • Lemming Cops: And how! Leads to spectacular car crashes.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded by Willie Hall. "At least we've got a change of clothes, sucka. You're wearing the same shit you had on three years ago!"
  • Long List: In the second movie, Elwood runs down the list of musical genres the Blues Brothers are capable of performing. It includes just about every genre imaginable (except Caribbean music, for whatever reason).
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "Jailhouse Rock" in the first movie, "New Orleans" in the second movie.
  • The Men in Black: Jake and Elwood get mistaken for this after inquiring about one of the bandmates at his ex-landlady's apartment:

Landlady: Are you the police?
Elwood: [Perfect deadpan] No ma'am. We're musicians.

  • Mickey Mousing
  • Mission from God: Trope Codifier. The phrase did exist long before, but the film put it into pop culture, and nowadays, using Mission from God can be a reference to this film.
  • Mistaken for Special Guest: The band impersonate the "Good Ol' Boys" at Bob's Country Bunker, adding to yet another long-ass list of pursuers during the climax when both the Good Ol' Boys and the bar owner realize they've been had.
  • Motivational Lie: Elwood tells Jake that he's staying in touch with the band while Jake is in prison, this way Jake will have some hope to hang onto.
  • Motor Mouth: Elwood. In both movies (and indeed, in the gigs prior to the movie's creation)!
    • This is Dan Aykroyd's trademark, as a tribute to Jack Webb.
  • The Musical: Not to extent of most stage musicals, but...
  • Natural Spotlight: Lampshaded.
  • No Ending: The second film ends with Elwood and Buster on the run from authorities; whether they escape is uncertain.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Parodied; after the car crash in 2000, every police officer is shown climbing safely out of the mountain of wrecked cars.
  • No Name Given: Carrie Fisher's stalking killer is never referred to by name. The script refers to her as "Mystery Woman."
  • Nuns Are Spooky: Parodied. The Penguin floats, and the doors leading to her office open and close completely by themselves.
    • And it even gets a laugh from the Vatican, who've called it a Catholic Classic.
  • Oh Crap: Jake and Elwood, when their car starts breaking down during the epic chase at the end.
  • One-Scene Wonder: As noted, several examples, the most memorable perhaps being Kathleen Freeman's "Penguin."
  • Orphanage of Love: St. Helen of the Blessed Shroud, where Jake and Elwood grew up and what they risked everything to save.
    • More thanks to Curtis than the Penguin, who is way too eager to use physical discipline for minor infractions.
  • Overly Long Gag: The car chase in the second movie.
  • Overly Polite Pals: The brothers invoke this trope when they go into Mr. Fabulous' restaurant, taking each others' arms.
  • Performance Video
  • Plot Armor: They get at shot with rockets, caught in a collapsing building, an exploding phone booth, and shot at point-blank range with an automatic rifle and never get wounded. And five seconds later their suits are clean and pressed again.
  • Produce Pelting: Although it's beer bottles instead of vegetables.
    • And that's even after they please the crowd!
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Jake's wife, who he dumped at the altar. Seriously. This one packs a four-barreled ROCKET LAUNCHER.
  • The Power of Rock: The original R&B in this case.
  • Puppy Dog Eyes: Jake Blues make have executed the most epic use of this trope ever.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: The boys are on a Mission from God, and would like to remind you that "the Lord works in mysterious ways."
  • Real Place Background: "This is definitely Lower Wacker Drive."
    • "1060 West Addison? That's Wrigley Field."
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Imagine the prop people handing Ray Charles, a blind man, a pistol with blanks, and telling him to fire it in the direction of two actors, a cameraman, assorted production staff...
  • Refuge in Audacity
  • "Ride of the Valkyries": Played by the Nazis, no less!
  • Rousing Speech: Blues Brothers 2000 has Buster verbally kicking Elwood's rear end, followed up by this gem:

Elwood: You may go if you wish. Remember this: Walk away now and you walk away from your crafts, your skills, your vocations; leaving the next generation with nothing but recycled, digitally-sampled techno-grooves, quasi-synth rhythms, pseudo-songs of violence-laden gangsta-rap, acid pop, and simpering, saccharine, soulless slush. Depart now and you forever separate yourselves from the vital American legacies of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Jimmie Reed, Memphis Slim, Blind Boy Fuller, Louie Jordan, Little Walter, Big Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson I (and II), Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Elvis Presley, Lieber and Stoller, and Robert K. Weiss.
Duck Dunn: Who is Robert K. Weiss?
(Duck, Cropper and Bones Malone shrug)
Elwood: Turn your backs now and you snuff out the fragile candles of Blues, R&B, and Soul, and when those flames flicker and expire, the light of the world is extinguished because the music which has moved mankind through seven decades leading to the millennium will wither and die on the vine of abandonment and neglect.

  • Runaway Groom: Jake turns out to have left Carrie Fisher at the altar.
  • Running Gag: Lots of them ranging from the obvious ("We're on a mission from God") to the subtle (Jake constantly checking his watch, which was declared broken in the first scene). There's also the ones in the sequel referring to the first movie, from Elwood throwing the cigarette lighter out the window to all the cops being terrible shots.
    • "He broke my watch!"
    • "The Lord works in mysterious ways", said by Jake, becomes the running gag of 2000.
    • Elwood stealing things (the fireworks from the gas station in the first movie; the toilet paper from Bob's Country Kitchen in the second).
  • Saving the Orphanage: The basis for the entire plot.
  • Scenery Porn: This is the film that put Chicago back on the map. Averted though in the exterior shots of the orphanage.
  • Senseless Violins: A Russian gangster at the country fair hides his sniper rifle in a guitar case.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Elwood's Rousing Speech to the band in 2000 takes this one Up to Eleven.
  • Shoplift and Die: It's a risky proposition at Ray's Music Exchange.
  • Shout-Out: When Carrie Fisher's character fires off a bazooka, the sound effect is the same as the blasters in Star Wars.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Jake and Elwood are deliberately crude at Chez Paul and threaten to come back every day until Mr. Fantastic rejoins the band.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Matt knows Jake and Elwood by their food orders: four fried chickens and a Coke for Jake, and dry white toast for Elwood.
  • Stairs Are Faster: The brothers take the elevator up to the floor the Assessor's office is on, then disable the one elevator they came up in. The combined might of the Chicago Police, SWAT, National Guard, etc. try to follow up the elevator, but after waiting a few seconds they decide to charge up the stairway instead.
  • The Stoic: Both Jake and Elwood are, for the most part, utterly unflappable and deadpan. Except when singing.
  • Invisible to Gaydar: "I've always loved you." From a Nazi. Right before the car they're in gets smashed into the ground.
  • Summon Backup Dancers: Though they were often there before.
  • Sunglasses at Night: More like sunglasses ALL the time.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Averted by John Goodman in the sequel, who distinguishes himself from Belushi in his performance and his singing.
  • Spin-Off
  • Take That/Affectionate Parody: The scene with John Popper in the sequel reads like an affectionate parody, verging on a Take That, of the fans and the unease felt by Landis and Aykroyd whenever blues fans and musicians tell them that the Blues Brothers are these really great blues musicians on par with B.B. King or other well known names.
  • Television Geography: Averted; most of the exteriors really were shot in Chicago.
    • Perhaps one of the most interesting ones being that they found a closed-off shopping mall (Dixie Square Mall) and set up some fake stores in it for that scene. The abandoned mall is still there, but it's been abandoned ever since and has been left to rot and decay.
      • Final structural demolition of Dixie Square Mall began February 15, 2012.
  • Ten-Minute Retirement: Elwood gets an unconvincing one in the sequel.
  • Thememobile: The Bluesmobile.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: "Use of unnecessary violence in the apprehension of the Blues Brothers has been approved." This line alone annoyed the Chicago Police Department so much that they refused to be in any films for years afterwards.
  • Those Wacky Illinois Nazis: We hate them.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: In addition to Elwood ordering dry white toast at Matt's diner, when he and Jake are in his SRO hotel room he heats a piece of white bread over a hotplate, and at Ray's pawn shop he gets distracted examining a small toaster-oven, the better to toast his white bread with.
    • He even pulls a piece of bread out of his pocket to try it out. Apparently he just carries white bread around with him.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: On their way to sneaking in to their concert, Elwood makes Jake wait while he sprays glue onto the gas pedal of the Good Ol' Boys' RV. Later during the big Chase Scene, the driver's foot becomes stuck to the pedal (and the pedal stuck to the floorboard), causing him to go out of control and crash.
  • Video Credits: And a great song, too!
  • The Voiceless: Sort of. Elwood was initially introduced in the SNL sketches as Jake's "silent brother." He later sang back up and, by the time of the first film, had graduated to a full speaking role.
  • The Windy City: They even got the accent right: "We're on a mission from Gaaahd."
  • A Wizard Did It: A deleted scene was intended to Hand Wave why the Bluesmobile can do so many fantastic stunts. The Brothers parked it under a bunch of power transformers, allowing it to get "charged up". Since this scene was removed (and never really explained, even in versions that include it), Landis has offered the following explanation: "It's just a magic car."
    • Could possibly also be explained by Elwood simply being that much of a Badass Driver.
  • Woman Scorned: Taken to hilarious extremes by Jake's jilted fiancee, who's turned into a Pyromaniac in the process and tries to blow the Brothers up several times. Just when it looks like Jake's about to take her back, he drops her. Again. This time, literally as well.
  • Worthy Opponent: John Candy's character.
  • What Could Have Been: Aykroyd's original script is said to have been phonebook-sized and included special recruitment scenes for each band member. Considering the size of the band, this could have elevated things to unfeasibly epic proportions.
  • Your Favorite: Inverted. Jake and Elwood order breakfast in a soul food restaurant. The cook -- their former band mate -- recognizes the peculiar order and comes out to greet them.