Study Guide

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Ferris Bueller's Day Off Introduction


Release Year: 1986

Genre: Comedy

Director: John Hughes

Writer: John Hughes

Stars: Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara, Alan Ruck


Have you ever had one of those days where you just want to steal a Ferrari, skip school, catch a ball game, marvel at priceless works of art, munch on some pancreas, and hijack a parade? 

Yeah, us too. 

Fortunately, we can live this glorious experience vicariously in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, in which Ferris takes his brooding BFF Cameron deep into Chicago in an attempt to break him out of his existential funk.

Released in the summer of 1986 by Paramount Pictures, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is the third installment in writer-director John Hughes' teen trilogy that also includes Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. Simply put, Hughes "got" teenagers. Like its predecessors, Ferris Bueller captures the timeless qualities of being a teen—angst, rebellion, hatred of gym class—all while putting a uniquely '80s spin on them.

With its memorable soundtrack handpicked by Hughes himself, as well as its unconventional storytelling style that sees Ferris repeatedly breaking the fourth wall to talk to the audience, Ferris Bueller's Day Off captured the attention of American filmgoers. Bueller recouped its $6 million production budget in its first weekend in theaters and went on to become one of the ten highest grossing films of 1986, raking in a cool $70 million.

  

In the decades since its release, Ferris Bueller's popularity has never faltered, and it retains a fierce fan following. Bueller buffs annually make pilgrimages to Chicago to reenact Ferris and his friends' day off; film theorists endlessly debate whether or not Ferris actually exists (he does); and it's a safe bet that somebody, somewhere, is quoting Hughes' script for the film—which he churned out in just six days—right now.

For some, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, with its message to make every sick day count, isn't merely a movie.

It's a way of life.

What is Ferris Bueller's Day Off About and Why Should I Care?

Cameron's Day Off is more than just another teen comedy. It's more of—wait, what's that? We got the name of the movie wrong? 

Our bad.

But come on. It's an honest mistake: Ferris Bueller isn't actually the protagonist of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off is Cameron's story. He's the one that evolves. 

In this way—and in a move we're sure rebellious Ferris Bueller himself would appreciate—the movie manages to be a pillar of the teen comedy genre while also subverting its conventions.

You want emotional dialogue, hilarious clashes with authority, and young love? You got it. You want an all-encompassing high school setting with typical prom-night antics? Too bad, sport. You won't find those conventions in Ferris Bueller.

Still, the movie remains monumental in the teen comedy genre. Writer-director John Hughes built a career on his skillful, soulful representations of being a teenager, a tortuous time when, according to Hughes, "it feels as good to feel bad as it does to feel good" (source).

And Ferris Bueller's Day Off is that career's high point.

Trivia

Love was in the air on set. Matthew Broderick (Ferris) and Jennifer Grey (Jeanie) began dating during filming and were later engaged. The actors who played their parents, Lyman Ward and Cindy Pickett, also started dating and eventually got married.
(Source.)

That's writer-director John Hughes's hand, not Alan Ruck's, that hits the speakerphone button on Cameron's phone when we first meet him.
(Source.)

Charlie Sheen's "Boy in the Police Station" was named Garth Volbeck, and the whole Volbeck family originally had a sizable part in the movie. Their subplot was ultimately scrapped, but eagle-eyed viewers will spot that the company that tows Rooney's truck away is Volbeck Wrecking Service.
(Source.)

Did you catch those children's drawings on the fridge in the Buellers' kitchen? In the original script, Ferris and Jeanie had younger siblings. Their scenes got cut, but their artwork stayed.
(Source.)

Modena Design built, in their words, "two-and-a-half" red convertibles for the film. The half refers to a fiberglass shell on wheels that was used for the pivotal scene where Morris Frye's Ferrari takes a dive.
(Source.)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off Resources

WEBSITES

Ferris Bueller's Day Off Tumblr
A fan-run blog with gifs (both animated and non), links, and fan art.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off Recreated Live on Twitter and Foursquare
In 2010, an anonymous Bueller buff, or buffs, reenacted the entire day off.

TV ADAPTATIONS

Ferris Bueller's Day Off: The Pilot Episode
In 1990, NBC premiered a TV show based on the movie. It debuted in August and was canceled in December. John Hughes wanted nada to do with it.

ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS

Entertainment Tonight Interviews the Cast of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1985)
Mia Sara and Alan Ruck take a break from twisting and shouting to talk to E.T. Jennifer Grey weighs in from a leafy undisclosed location.

Vintage Ferris Bueller: The Lost Tapes (1985)
Matthew Broderick and Alan Ruck interview each other during a break in filming.

"The Isle of Langerhans" (Lost Scene) (1985)
So, that's what the pancreas thing was all about.

Matthew Broderick on the CBS Morning News (Summer 1986)
In which a pre-"Mrs. Terminator" Maria Shriver asks him a bunch of questions.

Roger Ebert's Review (June 11, 1986)
Spoiler alert: He liked it.

Nina Darnton's Review (June 11, 1986)
Spoiler alert: She didn't like it as much as Ebert did.

"Sincerely, John Hughes" (August 6, 2009)
Allison Byrne Fields's teenage fan letter to John Hughes turned into a two-year pen pal relationship and a life-long friendship.

"Edward McNally, Rumored Inspiration for Ferris Bueller, Remembers John Hughes" (August 12, 2009)
John Hughes's childhood friend explains the inspiration behind Ferris to The Washington Post.

"Sweet Bard of Youth" (March 2010)
A thorough, thoughtful profile of John Hughes by Vanity Fair contributing editor David Kamp.

"Save Ferris: The Ultimate Map Guide to Ferris's Bueller's Day Off" (October 7, 2014)
Use this to recreate Ferris's day off the next time you're in the Windy City. (Ferrari optional.)

"The Teen Streets of John Hughes's Chicago" (December 17, 2014)
Freda Moon's New York Times article explores John Hughes' relationship to his adopted hometown.

VIDEO

Original Theatrical Trailer
Previewing "one man's struggle to take it easy."

Ferris's Opening Monologue
The first of many.

"Bueller…? Bueller…?"
Um, he's sick.

"He's a Righteous Dude."
Grace keeps it real.

The Sausage King of Chicago
Shmooper, meet Abe Froman.

"Danke Schoen"/" Twist and Shout"
John Hughes's favorite sequence to shoot. It's easy to see why.

"Ferris Bueller, You're My Hero"
Seriously. Whose pool is that??

"Life Moves Pretty Fast"
Ferris unleashes one of the central themes of the move.

Matthew's Day Off
A 2012 Honda CR-V commercial starring Matthew Broderick that debuted during the Super Bowl and is as close to a Ferris Bueller sequel as we'll probably ever get.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off—Recut Trailer
For a while, re-cutting the Ferris Bueller trailer to change the film's tone was all the rage. This popular chop gives the movie the Garden State-style indie treatment.

AUDIO

John Hughes's "Long Lost" 1999 DVD Commentary
The only DVD commentary that John Hughes ever recorded—not just for Bueller, but for anything.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off Soundtrack
An official movie soundtrack was never released, but if you want to groove on some '80s alterna-pop handpicked by John Hughes, check out this YouTube playlist that rounds up most of the songs used in the movie.

IMAGES

The Movie Poster
"Leisure rules."

Ferris, Sloane, and Cameron Promo Photo
Which may have been taken at a Sears Portrait Studio. Perhaps it was an Olan Mills instead.

John Hughes and Matthew Broderick On Set
"This mullet's pretty rad, isn't it?" "Sure is, John."

Photo Tour of Cameron's House
It sold for $1.06 million in 2013 (after a significant price drop).

"Faking Out Parents"
A screenshot of Ferris's tips for taking a sick day. Not that we're encouraging you to take a sick day, of course. We'd hate for you to miss your test on European socialism.