One of a handful of films which epitomizes the 1980s decade, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off captured the imagination of high school kids all across America as they dreamt of mimicking the title character’s ability to manipulate the authority figures in his life. Written and directed by John Hughes, the brains behind The Breakfast Club (1985) and numerous other 1980’s cult classics, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off launched Matthew Broderick’s acting career into another dimension. In fact, Broderick garnered a Golden Globe nomination for his outstanding performance. It’s a nomination more than worthy of mention, because it’s the strength of the Ferris Bueller character that made this film such a smash hit.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off follows a day in the life of high school senior Ferris Bueller. Nearing graduation, he’s intent on living his life to the fullest (although preferably outside the confines of school). So Ferris takes a planned day of vacation with his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara), and after a little coaxing, his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) joins them. Against Cameron’s better judgment, the three drive his father’s prized Ferrari into the windy city of Chicago for a day of fine dining, baseball, museums, and spontaneous fun. Meanwhile, Ferris may have successfully fooled his parents into believing he’s deathly ill, but high school principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) and Ferris’s jealous sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey) are not so easy. Intent on shattering his golden boy image, each one is hot on his trail, anxious to expose his web of deceit once and for all.
With a number of hilarious scenes, such as Cameron’s feeble attempt to reverse the mileage on his father’s Ferrari, the film earns its reputation as an elite classic of the 80’s, on par with hits like Back To The Future (1985), The Breakfast Club (1985), and Weird Science (1985). The film does have its off-the-wall moments, such as when Ferris takes over a parade and starts singing while thousands of spectators engage in synchronized dancing. You wouldn’t see such a sequence in a contemporary film, and like similar scenes from The Blues Brothers, it tends to date the film. But the strength of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is not its timeless humor, but the likeability of Ferris Bueller himself. Ferris is a cool guy. He doesn’t put anyone down, but only looks for the best in people. More importantly, he manipulates his parents into thinking he’s the perfect embodiment of innocence while he skips school and goes joyriding! Every child of the 80’s wanted to be Ferris Bueller, and the wide appeal of his life philosophy is timeless, which is why the film continues to enjoy success with each new generation.
Further solidifying the movie’s status as a landmark of its decade is the soundtrack, which is certainly one of the more diverse and interesting of its time. Where else can you find The Beatles, Wayne Newton, the theme to Star Wars, and the 80’s classic ‘Oh Yeah’ by Yello all wrapped up into one movie which moves seamlessly from one scene to the next? Throw in a few future Hollywood stars in Kristy Swanson, Ben Stein, and Charlie Sheen (who stayed awake for over two days so he could achieve the desired drugged out expression for his character), and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off transforms into the quintessential cult classic. Even after two decades, this film is just as entertaining as when it first premiered.