Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a beloved cult classic that is highly recognized for its ridiculous humor and likeable protagonists, with fans often quoting the film’s iconic dialogue. Directed by Stephen Herek, it stars Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter as the titular duo who embark on this wild adventure of assembling a group of historical figures through time travel in order to hopefully save both their future and humanity. It sounds completely ridiculous, but that’s what makes this movie surprisingly unique and clever. It has a strong message of positivity, making the audience root for these two characters from start to finish. Their bond is unquestionably the highlight of the entire movie, but it also becomes a compelling story about how their strong camaraderie can change the future. More importantly, the power of friendship can reshape our history.
Time travel is a strong form of storytelling that deals with consequences. Whatever you do in the past and present will ultimately change your future. To add some more context without spoiling anything, Bill and Ted are essentially the future saviors of humanity. While watching the film, there’s an interesting sense of postmodernism by placing these two slacker buddies from the 1980s into separate eras of time. When they are traveling to the past and recruiting historical figures like Joan of Arc, Socrates, Abraham Lincoln, and Beethoven, they’re ready to learn and adapt during these different time periods. Bill&Tedis showing us that it’s important to embrace and acknowledge the past, while still hopefully looking forward to the future. By accomplishing their mission, they are willing to do whatever it takes to save humanity by sticking together as best friends. Unity is a very prominent theme, and it’s able to accomplish anything, no matter what obstacles stand in your way.
Time travel movies, especially from the 80s and 90s, have had this noticeable feeling of regret and fear. If you think about it, time is a very scary concept in terms of forever changing the world for better or worse, because actions have consequences. In films such as Back to the Future(Robert Zemeckis, 1985) and The Terminator(James Cameron, 1984), there is a feeling of existential crisis with the lead protagonists who have to make sure their future will not be threatened by something that’s coming after them. However, in Bill&Ted, there’s a sense of childlike wonder that is heavily present from beginning to end. They portray the importance of making the best out of bad situations, while still remembering to have some fun with their lives. Even if things go horribly wrong for them, they try to stay positive no matter what happens. Whenever these two guys are on screen, you can’t help but smile, because they spread good vibes wherever they go. The future they help create is filled with positivity and peace, and they plan to keep it that way.
As a buddy movie, the dynamic and believable friendship between Reeves and Winter helps elevate the film. Both actors first met each other during their auditions, which helped develop their chemistry with one another. The screenwriters Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson originally planned for both Bill and Ted to be “14-year-old skinny guys, with low-rider bellbottoms and heavy metal T-shirts,” who are also hated by the popular students at their school. They ultimately decided to change their minds after casting Winter and Reeves in the roles, so they made them “cool guys,” instead (Freeman 9). According to The Hollywood Reporter, Winter has mentioned that he and Reeves had a lot in common. He compared these characters to commedia dell’arte, because they are facing an inevitable tragedy, while staying exuberant throughout. He also claimed that while figuring out how to play these particular roles, “Keanu and I [agreed], they have to be human beings that we can play. It can’t just be caricatures and they can’t have a kind of a comedic aloofness to them. They have to genuinely care about the things that are happening to them. The way that Keanu and I played the characters was sort of a mix of hyper-real and totally sincere” (Weiner 11-12).
The two protagonists are undeniably known to be dumb slackers, but the actors still wanted to give them a ton of energy, even if they were facing something that will totally jeopardize their future and friendship. Their sincere closeness is apparent when they are on screen together, because their performances have a remarkable amount of heart. Optimism is certainly an ideal word to describe these two.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure shows us why it’s a comedy classic even if it was released theatrically decades ago. It brought a ton of joy to the fans, while showcasing some important themes that you might not easily notice the first time you watch it. You can do anything you want as long as you stay close with the people who mean a lot to you. Remember to be excellent to each other. And party on, dudes!
Freeman, Hadley. “Bill & Ted’s 25th Birthday: Party on, Dudes!” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 17 Apr. 2014, www.theguardian.com/film/2014/apr/17/bill-and-ted-25th-birthday-party-on.
Weiner, David. “’Bill & Ted’ at 30: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter on How ‘Excellent Adventure’ Nearly Fell Apart.” The Hollywood Reporter, 19 Feb. 2019, www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-features/how-bill-teds-excellent-adventure-fell-apart-1186988/.