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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (free)

  • Memorial Union Terrace 800 Langdon Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

John Hughes' 1986 film is still one of that decade's most memorable joyrides. Info

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No director captured the angst, wonder, and giddy anticipation of being an American teenager in the 1980s like John Hughes. Hughes introduced us to the “Brat Pack” (Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, and Anthony Michael Hall, to name a few), not to be confused with the Movie Brats who ushered in the late 1960s American New Wave, and distilled the essence of the times without sacrificing emotional range. If Hughes' 1985 film The Breakfast Club painted a slightly bleaker portrait of life in the west Chicago suburbs, our hero Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) took us on one of the more joyous 103 minutes of our young lives in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).

In Chicago’s west suburbs, Ferris wakes up to a mid-70s day toward the end of the school year. Not one to squander such an opportunity, he convinces his morose friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) to embark on an epic day of baseball, art museums, and joyriding in Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari (the resolution of this latter plot point still makes me choke up a little to this day). Jennifer Grey has a role as Ferris’ sister, who seems to be the only person besides the horrible principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) who is on to Ferris and his schemes.

Hughes really did create something magical and special in films like Ferris, even if they represent only a tiny slice of suburban American life. There is something so relatable in many of his characters, many of whom still provide the basis for several archetypes of teenage films today, although they may be slightly more cynical. Hughes left an indelible mark on 1980s cinema and in creating Ferris Bueller he reminded us: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once and awhile, you might miss it.” —Edwanike Harbour

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