Everything I Needed to Know I Learned by Watching “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”

Please watch this clip:

According to IMDB, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure hit theaters in 1989, so I suppose I saw it for the first time when I was nine or ten years old.  I’m sure I watched it, rolled my eyes, and said it was for idiots.  I was a pretentious twat of a kid, so by then I was entering my first (and sadly not last) phase of only watching movies with subtitles (probably, that seems like something I would have done).

A few years ago, though, nostalgia got the better of me.  I watched it, and something crazy happened.  I got to the above scene, and I cried.   This is a movie about lovable losers, who are collecting historical figures for something so mundane as passing a History report, But they go through their personal hero’s journey authentically, and in clip just under three minutes long, they learn that an entire society has become better because of them.

And when giving his words of wisdom, Bill S. Preston, Esq. says this:  “Be excellent to each other.”  Alex Winter, the actor who played Bill, could have done nothing since that movie, and he would still have said some of the most important words that anyone can hear.  (He’s actually done some voice work on one of my kid’s favorite shows, so good on him for that too.)

My title says that I learned everything I needed to know, and my theory is that “be excellent to each other” is only thing we really need to know.  Yes, there are other facts and skills to be had.  Trivia about culture and cooking techniques and tips on how to “leverage your value-add”, among others,  are important to the society we live in.

But at the end of the day.  At the end of our lives.  In a future we can’t even fathom, the most important thing we can do is be excellent to each other.  And in my title, I am a dirty filthy liar, because there are sure as shit days when I’m not excellent to very many people, and I’m very rarely excellent to myself.   I want to learn it.  I think I can.

Early in the clip, the elders of this imagined future remove their sunglasses and say, “It’s you.”

And if lovable losers who want to be rock stars but can’t play, and want to graduate high school but can’t without the help of George Carlin and a time-traveling phone box can be the “you” that makes the world a better place … maybe so can I.  And so can you.

And also (because I can’t be genuine for this long without my snark meter threatening to throw a rod) Napoleon Bonaparte taught me more cuss words during the scene in the bowling alley than I learned in four years of high school French.  I learned that too.

Be excellent to each other.



3 thoughts on “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned by Watching “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”

  1. Moment of silence for George Carlin and Clarence Clemmons.

    This? Is a fabulous post. I’m your age–maybe a year younger?–and I was very influenced by Bill and Ted. I’ve watched it a couple of times in the last few years, and I think it really does hold up as more than a piece of nostalgic kitsch.

    What did your subtitle-loving young self think of the Ingmar Bergman parody that was Bill & Ted’s Bogus journey?

    1. Jenn, I’ll admit that I enjoyed it, but only by pretending that it was a bizarre drug dream of a film that was in no way intellectually attached to the Excellent Adventure. And yes, George Carlin, Clarence Clemmons, you live on in Awesomelandia in my mind.

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