Study Guide

Ferris Bueller's Day Off Hero's Journey

Hero's Journey

Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)

Ordinary World

We first meet Cameron in his family's lavish suburban Chicago home. It's essentially a glass tree house. Cameron's bundled up in his bed, sick.

Call To Adventure

Ferris literally calls Cameron and insists that he accompany him on an adventure into Chicago. So, as far as calls to adventure go, this one's pretty obvious, Shmooper.

Refusal Of The Call

Cameron repeatedly refuses Ferris's call to join in his day off. His chief excuse is that he's sick. Ferris disagrees, and says that being sick is all in Cameron's head.

Meeting The Mentor

Cameron gives in to Ferris's demands and goes over to his house. Ferris immediately gives Cameron an important task: impersonate Sloane's dad and fool Rooney into excusing Sloane from school for the day.

Crossing The Threshold

Here's another step in our hero's journey that skews pretty literal. Ferris drives the Ferrari out of the garage, encouraging Cameron to "live a little." And, after blessing himself, Cameron crosses the garage's threshold and joins Ferris in stealing the car and hitting the city.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

Cameron's first test is leaving the Ferrari in the parking garage downtown. He's thoroughly skeptical, but he ultimately overcomes his anxiety and consents to parking the car there.

Cameron's second round of tests consists of him not bailing on activities that an ordinary teenager playing hooky would find fun. Things like visiting Sears Tower and the Chicago Board of Trade, dining at Chez Quis, attending a Cubs game, and visiting the Art Institute of Chicago. Cameron repeatedly says that he wants to go home or that he's not having fun, but he sticks it out.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

Cameron's inmost cave is the parking garage. As he returns with his friends, he's refreshed after some quality Von Steuben Parade dancing. What he doesn't yet know is that his biggest challenge lies within, in the form of a Ferrari with 175 extra miles on it.

Ordeal

Ordeal? How about a total emotional breakdown? As Ferris puts it, "This is where Cameron goes berserk." Spotting unauthorized mileage on the odometer plunges Cameron into a deep inner crisis where he's unable to move or speak.

Reward (Seizing The Sword)

After deliberately falling into some stranger's pool, Cameron breaks out of his catatonic state and explains that he's had an epiphany. We're paraphrasing here, but basically he's decided that it's ridiculous to go through life being afraid all the time, so he's not going to do it anymore.

The Road Back

Cameron crosses back over the garage threshold, returning the car, and hopefully taking the offending mileage off by running the car in reverse. Things don't go smoothly, though, and he hits a major speed bump when the miles refuse to come off. Cameron prepares to deal with his dad head-on later that night.

Resurrection

This step is all about Cameron's final battle and subsequent rebirth. His battle? The runaway Ferrari. Cameron anticipates getting in trouble for borrowing the car; he doesn't foresee the Ferrari lying broken in the woods. He wins the battle, therefore, by not losing his cool when Ferris informs him that he killed the car. Old Cameron would've gone berserk again—new and improved Cameron 2.0 keeps his head.

Return With The Elixir

Cameron insists that he's going to take the heat for the heap of totaled sports car behind the garage, even when Ferris says he'll take it. Cameron's responsible, he's confident, and his catharsis is complete.