On February 17, 1989, something happened that changed the course of human history. On that most excellent day, the world was introduced to two of the most iconic movie characters ever: Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan. Through the power of their music, these two young men were destined to bring world peace, end hunger and poverty, and make everything awesome.
Yet, the odds were stacked against the heroic and bodacious duo. First, they needed to ace their final assignment and pass their history class. Failure was not an option, as it would result in separation and an end to their band, “Wyld Stallyns.” The difficulty was compounded by the fact that our two heroes were substandard students and musicians. To achieve their goal they needed a helping hand and a time machine from the future. With this time machine, Bill and Ted travel the world and the past hoping to learn enough to pass their final history class assignment.
And yes, the movie is just as awesome as that brief description implies. The movie is quintessential 80s – the vernacular, the clothing, and the music. If you are a child of the 80s, this movie likely hit you with sniper-like precision. It is absurd, nonsensical, hilarious, and triumphant. More so, the film is packed with deep, philosophical wisdom. Too often, we miss those more important life lessons because we are too enamored with everything else that is transpiring in the film. I mean to correct that and show you how “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” has everything you need to know to live a successful and happy life.
1. Anything worthwhile takes hard work.
Bill and Ted are failing history class. Unless they ace their final exam, an oral report, Ted’s Dad will send him to military school in Alaska, thereby ending their band. The problem is, they are failing this class because they are not good students. Bill and Ted are not bad guys, but they are lazy and undisciplined. Fortunately, Rufus, a man from the future, offers them a second chance. This is a second chance to pass their class and to start taking steps towards their most glorious future.
To their credit, Bill and Ted do not take this second chance for granted. They use their limited historical knowledge and some dumb luck to track down various famous characters from the past. Even better, they put together the best class presentation to ace their final exam with excellence. It is true the duo gets some timely help and more than a few convenient fixes with the time machine, yet they are rewarded for their efforts.
Excellent Life Lesson Number 1: If it is worth achieving, it is going to take hard work.
2. Learning from other cultures is essential.
Prior to their excellent adventure, Bill and Ted live a rather mundane life in San Dimas, California, surrounded by people who look like them. Their time-traveling adventure puts them in direct contact with multiple races, ethnicities, and cultures. It is a life-changing experience for the two of them and no doubt shapes their future as well as the music they will create which will help bring about a time of peace.
Excellent Life Lesson Number 2: Insulated living is no living at all. We must do our best to learn from other cultures, people, and societies.
3. Historical literacy is vital to a well-rounded individual.
To say that Bill and Ted were historically illiterate before their adventure is a massive understatement. They thought Marco Polo was “just a water sport.” Ted in particular was out of his depth when it came to historical knowledge. He erroneously believed George Washington chased Moby Dick. Bogus indeed!
By the end of their journey, they become knowledgeable in ancient Greek philosophy, Freudian psychology, Napoleonic battle strategy, the Hundred Years’ War, classical music, and the Mongolian Empire.
Excellent Life Lesson Number 3: Understanding the past paves the way to a successful future.
4. Building and fostering a strong support system is invaluable.
Based on what the film tells us, Bill and Ted do not have a large or strong support system when the film begins. They have strained relationships with their families and there is little evidence they enjoy a strong friend group.
Starting with Rufus showing up and offering them help, they add friends along the way and, through that new support system, are able to achieve great things. Without the help of their new friends Abraham Lincoln, Billy the Kid, Joan of Arc, Socrates, and many others, Bill and Ted would most assuredly fail their final exam. And that would be most heinous indeed.
Excellent Life Lesson Number 4: Friends matter. Build a strong support system and do everything you can to keep it strong.
5. Be excellent to each other.
This one is easy. At the climax of the film, Abraham Lincoln closes the history presentation with a speech. He utters some timeless words of wisdom. His final advice is something that should permeate every aspect of our lives. “Be excellent to each other.” He is simply rephrasing the great teachings of Jesus himself, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If this most triumphant wisdom is good enough for Jesus, Lincoln, Bill, and Ted, surely it’s good enough for the rest of us.
Excellent Life Lesson Number 5: In all things and at all times be excellent to each other. It’s just that simple.
There you have it. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is not just a dumb late ‘80s movie, is it? We would all do well to learn the lessons Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan have for us. Perhaps if we do, an awesome future with cool sunglasses, tranquil music, and floating seats would become a reality. Party on, dudes!