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Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure may be one of the best time travel movies ever.
It’s a fun 80s comedy about two loveable idiots who travel through time in a phone booth, kidnapping historical figures for their history report so they can keep their band together. It’s quirky, it’s hilarious, it’s quotable, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it mixes in just enough historical fact to suspend our disbelief while still having fun with these characters.
You could say it goes deeper, offering hope that our future will be better thanks to these two and their music (which gets better, we promise). But it’s kind of a stretch to believe that even the most bodacious rock band could align the planets, let us talk to household pets, and lead to an increase in excellent waterslides. It’s just a fun, goofy movie. Or is it?
Think about it…
The historical figures in this film did great things, but their lives weren’t so great. Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated, dethroned, and exiled. Billy the Kid was caught and gunned down by the law two years after his time-traveling exploits. Socrates was condemned as a menace to Greek society and sentenced to drink poisonous hemlock. Sigmund Freud died of cancer from smoking too many of his iconic cigars. Ludwig van Beethoven was already losing his hearing when Bill and Ted picked him up, and he eventually went deaf. Joan of Arc was tried on a trumped-up charge of heresy and burned at the stake. We don’t know for sure how Genghis Khan died, but it may have been the lingering effects of injury or infection, and he never saw his empire reach the peak of its glory. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated after a long and cruel war.
All these people were destined to suffer tragedy in their own personal futures. They would never see the results of their efforts, never know what all the hard times were for. Or would they?
Suddenly, Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted Theodore Logan drop into their lives and took them to a far distant time. Napoleon got to experience the child-like joys of Neapolitan ice cream and waterslides. Billy the Kid got one last grand adventure, one he never would have thought possible. Joan of Arc saw a world where women were equals, where they could join together in their own army of sorts, even if only for aerobics. With his last vestiges of hearing, Beethoven heard the future of music. Socrates, accused of corrupting the minds of youth, got to meet the teens yet to be born who would learn his wisdom thousands of years after his execution. And Abraham Lincoln witnessed his Union, still intact and stronger than ever.
All these people got a brief glimpse of a world they had only dreamed of. Some marveled over wondrous experiences and technologies, while others saw the future of their work and knew their work was not in vain. And when they met their tragic fates, perhaps their minds flashed back (or forward) to a place and time that was full of promise, a world they helped to create.
At the end of the movie, Ted tells Bill that their time travel adventures haven’t changed them. “Look at us. Nothing’s different.” Maybe not, but your new historical friends are definitely different. They have hope. And that, my friends, is indeed most excellent. *insert guitar riff*
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is owned by Orion Pictures.
Everyone has at least one movie character who has stuck with them long after the credits roll, someone in whom we see ourselves, someone we want to be like, or someone we just like for no adequate reason at all. So here are my top ten movie characters I just can’t forget. Keep in mind, this is purely opinion, drawn from my own experience.
10. Gizmo – Gremlins
This one’s a bit of a guilty pleasure for me since this little Mogwai made it onto my list mainly for his cuteness factor. But how can you not love that little fluff ball? He’s clever, he’s good-hearted, he has a great singing voice, and he’s not a bad action hero when it comes right down to it, driving race cars and putting an end to his evil offspring. He even builds a makeshift bow and flaming arrow in the sequel. Perhaps not the best-written character, but I wouldn’t mind having him around the house … as long as he stayed dry.
9. Roy Neary – Close Encounters of the Third Kind
I’ve talked about Neary’s spiritual journey before, but I love how the man embodies faith. He has an experience with a higher power, something no one else understands, and he lets nothing stand in the way of returning to that power. His frustration is palpable, his excitement is thrilling, and his dedication is inspiring. It only takes Richard Dreyfuss bringing the man to life in one of his best performances to land Roy Neary in my Crown Jewels.
8. Rachel Dawes – Batman Begins
Interestingly, I seem to be in a minority here, since most people seem to prefer Maggie Gyllenhaal from The Dark Knight in this role. To me, though, she just came off as a jerk most of the time. Katie Holmes was a fan of tough love, sure, but even when she was being hard on Bruce, it was clear she cared about him. She could be your best friend and then turn around and talk down a corrupt cop or bureaucrat. And she tased Scarecrow in the face. Enough said.
7. John Hammond – Jurassic Park
I have always been fascinated with the idea of Disney gone wrong, and John Hammond fully captures that concept. The man does the impossible by bringing dinosaurs to life, but neither power nor profit go to his head. His focus is always on making children happy, and he’ll do anything to make their dreams come true. Unfortunately, he gets carried away and messes with forces of nature beyond his control, and the park goes to pieces around him. His inner child is what makes this character loveably tragic and memorable.
6. Ted Theodore Logan – Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Everybody has a pair of loveable idiots, from Tim Conway and Don Knotts to Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. For me, it’s Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted Theodore Logan of Wyld Stalyns. Whether they’re mispronouncing the names of Greek philosophers, acting out Star Wars in suits of armor, or playing air guitar riffs and shouting “Excellent!”, these two are always fun to watch. It’s hard choosing just one since these two are so inseparable, but I have to go with Ted simply because he is the last character Keanu Reeves played with an emotional range.
5. Jack Sparrow – the Pirates of the Caribbean series
Captain Jack Sparrow has carved his dirty face into entertainment history in only a few short years. Everyone recognizes his staggering walk, his witty yet incomprehensible retorts, and his constant flailing. And yet, no matter how bumbling he looks, he always seems to know exactly what he’s doing and pulls it off with a flair lacking in many more sophisticated men. He’s mischievous and a bit amoral, but underneath he has a good heart. Jack Sparrow is, in fact, the only reason I continue to watch Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, because even when everything else fails, he will still be hilarious and intriguing.
4. Belle – Beauty and the Beast
A Disney princess who can fend for herself and who knows the value of reading. How often do you get that combination? Well, more often these days, but Belle is the one who started it all. She’s independent, strong, and doesn’t blindly depend on a man (especially not one like Gaston), but she’s also kind and caring, looking out for her eccentric father and constantly putting everyone else’s safety ahead of her own. No matter how many people cry “Stockholm Syndrome,” she’ll always be my favorite Disney princess. At least until I see Frozen.
3. Kaylee Frye – Serenity and the Firefly TV series
Most of the women on my list are strong and independent, and Kaylee certainly fits that category in her own way. But what really cements her place on this list is her tender heart. She always sees the good in people, and she can be shy yet sincere when it comes to romance. She knows her ship down to the last circuit, but at the same time, she’s not afraid to be girly, and she can appreciate the simple pleasures of strawberries. She almost feels like the little sister of the Serenity’s crew, the one you want to protect at all costs.
2. Hermione Granger – the Harry Potter series
If this young woman were real, I would marry her, no questions asked. Hermione is a genius; she loves to read and knows the answer to every question. She’s as much a stickler for rules as I am, and as many have pointed out, her wide knowledge bank, impressive skill set, and general preparedness make her the single most useful character in the series. But more importantly, she’s a great and loyal friend. She’s never deserted Harry, even bringing him toast when everyone else, including other best friend Ron, had deserted him. She fights social injustice and evil wizards with equal fervor. And, of course, she’s played by the lovely and talented Emma Watson. What’s not to love?
1. Indiana Jones – the Indiana Jones trilogy
Dr. Jones is one of the most iconic film characters of all time. Everyone recognizes the hat, the jacket, the shoulder bag, the whip, and the theme song. He knows a dozen different languages and nearly every culture on earth from ancient times to the 1930s. He is as much at home in the desert or the jungle as he is in the classroom, and he’s never short of adoring women. He has friends all over the globe, most of whom are loyal until death. And no one makes archaeology look as cool as this man does. I wouldn’t like his life for reasons I’ve gone into before, but I have no reservations in calling him my favorite movie character of all time.
There you have it, my Crown Jewels of movie characters. Let me know some of your favorites in the comments, and come back next week for a special anniversary edition of Based on the Trailer!