Today is the 32nd anniversary of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, one of my favorite movies of all time. Part of the reason I think I love this movie so much are the associations it has in my brain with important people in my life.
I’m sure this is true of a lot of things we all like. We feel strongly about them because they remind us of people we feel strongly about. Ferris seems to occupy that role for a lot of people though.
I was introduced to this 1986 film sometime in the mid-2000s. My mom found a DVD copy at the library, or Hollywood Video or some other place where you used to borrow physical media. She brought it home for my brother and I to watch with her because it reminded her of her brother. Everyone in the family always talked about how my uncle watched his VHS copy of Bueller until it broke.
What struck me on that initial viewing was (of course) all of the swearing. My mom hadn’t remembered that PG meant something very different in 1986 than it did in the 2000s. I felt incredibly cool for having watched a movie with so many bad words in it.
It was when I was given my own DVD copy the following Christmas that I got really into the film, as many middle and high schoolers had before me. I loved the fourth-wall breaking narration and the abundance of one-liners. I was too young to know who John Hughes was, but I still memorized most of the names in the opening credits.
I watched every special featurette, listened to the included commentary track multiple times and desperately searched for a soundtrack album1.
I joined a small circle of like minded nerds and we all bonded over our affinity for Ferris. On days off from school I would call my buddy Jake and we would sync up our DVD copies to re-watch together.
He could rattle off all of Cameron’s lines while I attempted to keep up with Matthew Broderick’s razor-sharp quips. Every time I see the prank call scene in the Bueller’s kitchen I fondly remember those snow days.
Over the next few years I dutifully packed that disc along through various dorm rooms and apartments in college where it always got at least one screening per year. Any faint reference was immediately met with a call-back to Abe Froman or Ferris being sick nine times.
It’s been a few years since my last viewing, but I still recall scenes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by the friends and family members who love them2. Images of their smiles and the sound of them speaking their favorite lines are more memorable than the work itself.
There’s just something about the instantly relatable characters of Hughes’ high school universes that grabs us in that way. Over time the films become the background players to the cast of our lives. And nowhere is that more true than in the 1961 Ferrari GT California, with the top down, on the streets of mid-80s Chicago on that last day off before graduation.
1 It is truly tragic how long the world had to wait for an official Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Soundtrack. It was eventually released in a limited run of 5,000 copies in 2016. However, this version was incomplete. It lacked three songs featured in the theatrical release most notably The Beatles’ cover of The Isley Brothers’ “Twist and Shout.” To be fair, though, it amazes me to this day that Hughes even got the rights to use that recording in the parade scene to begin with.
2 For the record, my favorite scene is when Cameron comes back from his catatonic state and sarcastically says “Ferris Bueller, you’re my hero” with that crazy glint in his eyes.