Ferris Bueller's Day Off

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"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it"
Ferris Bueller

Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a 1986 teen comedy movie written and directed by the legendary John Hughes. It's considered one of the best films of the eighties, and has been very influential.

The film follows Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), a senior in high school, who pretends to be sick and skips school for the day. He's able to convince his neurotic best friend Cameron and his carefree girlfriend Sloane to come along with him. The three of them take Cameron's father's prized car, heading out to Chicago to spend one more day together before graduation. However, his principal and his younger sister are hot on his trail, ready to prove that he's skipping school.

In 1990, a TV series based on the film began to air on NBC. Due to poor ratings, it was cancelled during its first season. Dueling show Parker Lewis Can't Lose was its Spiritual Successor (and some say was the real TV adaptation).

The movie was named to the National Film Registry in 2014. It also happens to be movie critic Richard Roeper's favorite film.


Tropes used in Ferris Bueller's Day Off include:
  • The Ace: Ferris has a bizarre, Mary Poppins-like ability to come out on top in any situation.
  • All There in the Script: Charlie Sheen's stoner character is named Garth Volbeck, though the film doesn't mention this.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Ferris and Jeannie were certainly not meant to be interpreted this way (their parents are as WASP-y as they come). But the fact is that they're both played by actors who both are Jewish and "look" very Jewish (until Jennifer Grey got her nose job, of course). And then there's the name "Bueller," which doesn't sound particularly goyish.
  • American Accents: The school secretary speaks in a delightful Minnesota/Wisconsin dialect.
  • Angry Guard Dog: The Buellers' family Rottweiler.
  • Angst Coma: Cameron, naturally.
  • Batman Gambit / Crazy Prepared: Ferris has his doorbell rigged to play a recorded message, just in case Rooney comes round...
  • Berserk Button: The car, for Cameron, who blows his gasket twice. Ferris lampshades the first incident.

Here's where Cameron goes berserk.

I heard that you were feeling ill
Headache, fever and a chill
I've come to help restore your pluck
Cause I'm the nurse who likes to [door slams]

  • Dean Bitterman: Rooney.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Ferris.
  • Eek! a Mouse!: Averted when Ferris threatens to do this in the restaurant.
  • The Eighties: One critic on the Internet Movie Database hails this film as a superb distillation of "the decade of grim optimism."
  • Eighties Hair: And clothes, and music.
  • Erudite Stoner: Charlie Sheen's One Scene at the police station. He nails Jeannie's problem in less than a minute, and is halfway towards nailing her when her mother shows up.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Ferris uses his sound synthesizer, which had coughing noises on it, to play "The Blue Danube Waltz".
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The whole movie takes place over the course of a day.
  • Follow the Leader: After this movie became hugely successful, many teen shows throughout the next decade or so (particularly those aimed at children) implemented a Ferris Bueller-like character (i.e. Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell, Ronnie Pinsky from Salute Your Shorts, Parker Lewis from Parker Lewis Can't Lose, etc.). Some of these were just shallow/one-dimensional caricatures of Ferris; others weren't.
  • For the Lulz: Why Ferris does anything. Ferris says he's doing it to give Cameron a fun day.
  • French Cuisine Is Haughty: The upscale French restaurant that Ferris and company visit has the requisite snooty maître d’.
  • Funny Background Event: When they go to pick up Cameron's dad's 1961 Ferrari 250GT California at the end of the day, they stand outside the parking garage talking... while, in the corner of the screen, we see the garage attendants bringing the car in through a different entrance after having spent the day joyriding in it.
    • You can also see the car pulling out of the garage right after the gang has dropped it off, and the second attendant jumps in and shouts "Go! Go!"
  • Fun with Subtitles: When Ferris is explaining to the camera the best way to fake an illness to get out of school.
  • Gossipy Hens: Simone Adamley. Grace (Rooney's secretary) is also a bit of this.
  • Gratuitous French: "Les jeux sont faits."
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Jeannie is jealous of the fact that Ferris can do whatever he wants, and get away with it, while she ends up getting in trouble for something she didn't even do.
  • Heel Face Turn: When Rooney finally nails Ferris at the end, it's Jeannie of all people who bails him out.
  • Heroic BSOD: Cameron undergoes one when, after thinking that maybe things won't go so bad after all, and maybe he's just being a worry wart, he notices the "slightly" increased mileage on the odometer on his dad's car, and proceeds to go catatonic.
  • High School Hustler: Ferris, naturally. (He was once one of the Trope Namers for that page.)
  • Humiliation Conga: The entire film is one for Rooney.
  • Impairment Shot: Despite the fact that the audience knows Ferris is faking, Jeannie knows Ferris is faking, and Ferris is lampshading that Jeannie knows Ferris is faking -- the camera still gives an out of focus view of Jeannie as she walks in to complain their parents are letting Ferris stay home.
  • Insert Cameo: In Cameron's first scene, we see his hand press a button on his speakerphone. The hand was actually that of John Hughes; Alan Ruck didn't get the movement quite right, so Hughes did it himself after everyone else had left for the day.
  • Inspector Javert/Lawful Stupid: Dean Rooney. Say what you will about Ferris being manipulative, but dropping a flowerpot on a dog's head and breaking into a student's house is taking things too far.
  • It's All About Me: "They could be fascist anarchists and that still wouldn't change the fact that I don't have a car."
  • Jerkass: Rooney and Jeannie.

Jeannie: Do you know anything? [hangs up phone]

  • Jerkass Has a Point: Yes, Rooney goes too far by breaking into the Bueller home and attacking their dog, but he has every right to be bothered by the fact that Ferris has skipped school at least nine times before.
    • Also, Jeannie gets arrested by the police for making a legitimate call about an actual intruder in her house.
  • Karma Houdini: Ferris.
  • Last of His Kind: Along with Pretty in Pink, which was released in the same year, and Some Kind of Wonderful, which was released a year later, this film pretty much marked the end of an era for John Hughes. After making those three films, Hughes decided that it was time for him to grow up cinematically, and thus he began cranking out films that were more oriented towards adults, such as Planes, Trains and Automobiles, She's Having a Baby, and The Great Outdoors.
    • He did, however, go on to write and produce Home Alone and several other slapstick children's films in the 1990s.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Cameron is either a diehard Detroit Red Wings fan or just plain asking for it by wearing a Detroit jersey in Chicago.
    • Or he's a Paul McCartney fan (his band Wings used the Detroit Red Wings logo for a while as their own).
  • Lovable Rogue: Ferris.
  • Love Triangle: Does Cameron have a crush on Sloane or not?
  • Manic Pixie Dream Boy: He does get Cameron to finally stand up for himself.
  • Monochrome Casting: As was ever the case with John Hughes films.
  • Mood Whiplash: Despite being a pinhead, Grace acts differently around Jeannie.
  • Naughty Nurse Outfit: The singing nurse.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Inverted at Chez Quis, more so after Ferris pulls off the trick, and partially justified as the maitre d' is a bit of a French Jerk (well, at least, it's a French restaurant). To be fair, Ferris started by trying to be nice, but that got nowhere.
    • Subverted with the parking lot staff. Ferris attempts to treat them well to get special treatment for the car, and they go and do the exact opposite.
      • Though perhaps they were just as insulted at being slipped a mere "fin" as the maitre d' was.
  • No Fourth Wall: Only for Ferris, anyway. Sloane doesn't even notice that he's talking to the audience.
  • Non-Giving-Up-School Guy: Rooney. It's a bit of a Deconstructed Trope though, since his single-minded mission to bring back Ferris led him to commit things like breaking and entering.
  • Obviously Evil: The parking attendant who took Cameron's car for a joyride.

Please, I'm a professional.

  • Oh Crap: Rooney, when Grace tells him that Ferris is on Line 2.
    • Again Rooney, when Jeannie produces his wallet.
    • Cameron, and to a lesser extent Ferris and Sloane, when the car gets kicked off the stand.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Ben Stein as the economics professor. (Technically two)
    • "Bueller? Bueller"?
    • Charlie Sheen as the druggie in the police station.

Druggie: You oughta spend a little more time worryin' 'bout yourself, and a little less time worryin' 'bout what your brother does...

Jeannie: SPEAK-A DE ENGLISH?! (slams phone down) DICK-HEAD!

Ferris: Here's where Cameron goes berserk.
Dr Insano: This is where Cameron's soul snaps like a Twix bar!
  • Scream Discretion Shot: Combined with a Skyward Scream to intensify Cameron's reaction to the high mileage count on his father's car.
  • Selective Enforcement: Jeannie is a victim of this from her and Ferris' parents, who seem completely oblivious to Ferris' antics.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: A lot of what Jeannie does to herself. Among other things she's ticked about why people seem to love Ferris and hate her... while Ferris treats everyone like his closest friend and she treats them all like dirt.
  • Shave and a Haircut: A florist truck continually blows its horn at Rooney, trying to get him to move out of Ferris' driveway. The flower deliveryman playfully honks the first five notes of "Shave and a Haircut", and Rooney gives the driver the finger in time to the last two notes.
  • Shout-Out: The Beatles receive several.
    • Ferris has a Cabaret Voltaire poster in his room
  • Sleeping Dummy: Ferris uses a very elaborate version of this.
  • Slo-Mo Big Air: Parodied with the garage attendants joyride.
    • And more famously with Ferris leaping over obstacles in his last dash home.
  • Society Marches On: A school administrator sees one of his students sucking face with someone he believes to be her own father, and dismisses it as unimportant?
  • Staggered Zoom: Adapted for the gratuitous detail shots of Seurat's Sunday Afternoon
  • Standard Snippet: This film firmly embedded Yello's "Oh Yeah" in the meme pool.
  • The Stinger: Rooney getting picked up by the school bus during the end credits.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Cameron is the character who experiences the most development.
  • Television Geography: The day in Chicago makes no geographic sense. They teleport from one side of the city to the other in moments, they change directions of travel every few seconds on Lake Shore Drive... surely a Chicago native can add even more detail.
  • That's All Folks: At the very end, Ferris asks the audience why they are still watching when the movie has ended.
    • To see if he'd do something funny, of course! And he did!
  • This Is the Part Where
  • Time Stands Still: Inverted for Ferris, whose landing off the trampoline is in excruciatingly slow motion, meanwhile Jeannie is racing home and rushing into the house in real time.
  • Totally Radical: Grace, Principal Ed's secretary, attempting to explain popular perception of Ferris, says "The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads - they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude."
  • The Unfavourite: Jeannie.
  • Villain Protagonist: The alternative character interpretation (and most likely canon, according to Word of God) puts Ferris as a selfish, spoiled, manipulative (if extremely likable) jerk. Jeannie certainly sees him as this in-universe. That is, until the end.
  • Watch the Paint Job: The 1961 Ferrari 250GT California.

Cameron: It is his love... It is his passion...
Ferris: It is his fault he didn't lock the garage.

"Drugs?"
"No, thank you."


Hey, Mr Rooney! What's goin' on? Did you get in a fight?
...You want a lift?

"...You're still here? It's over! Go home... Go."

Notes

  1. who, if you recall, loved the 1961 Ferrari 250GT California more than his own family