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Ferris Bueller's Day Off Best Moments Ranked

The 1986 John Hughes comedy "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is one of those endlessly quotable and memorable movies from one's youth. The film stars Matthew Broderick as teenager Ferris Bueller, who plays sick one day and decides to have an adventure away from his life as a senior in high school. He lures his best friend Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) and his girlfriend Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) along as well.

Ferris and friends face some adversity along the way, mostly inflicted by Dean of Students Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), and Ferris' sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey), who both know that Ferris is skipping school and faking sickness just to get a day off. There are plenty of valid criticisms of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," mainly that Ferris is kind of a jerk, but the movie has become a classic teen romp with some pretty funny, touching, and wonderful moments. Here are the best of those moments ranked. 

14. Ben Stein's 'Bueller?' attendance call

"Bueller? ... Bueller?" How many times since 1986 has this phrase been used when someone is waiting for a response? The dry, nerdy, no-nonsense Ben Stein was perfectly cast in the role of Ferris' homeroom teacher. While he calls attendance, the kids in his class respond with epic annoyance and sarcasm, probably due to his monotonous manner of delivery.

But another comedic moment comes when, after Stein has said "Bueller" what seems like thousands of times, a girl named Simone offers up, "Um, he's sick. My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious."

As it turns out, Stein was the one who was really sick. "I had a bad cold, so I'd had all kinds of cold medicine, so I was woozy," Stein revealed during a webcast. "And I started reading the role off-camera, and the students laughed so hard that John Hughes said to me, 'Would you ad-lib a scene just as if you were teaching economics, and we'll see how it goes.' He said, 'Don't write anything down, just [say] something that's really interesting to you,' and I did the scene about tariffs and about voodoo economics, and the student extras applauded and laughed. I thought I'd taught them a good lesson about economics. They thought it was the most boring thing they'd ever heard."

13. Cameron's struggle

There's no denying that throughout the film, Ferris treats his supposed best friend, Cameron Frye, like absolute crap. It all starts right after Ferris convinces his parents he's sick and should skip school. Ferris doesn't have a car, so to avoid spending his day off stuck in his suburban Illinois house, he calls up his pal Cameron to bum a ride. Cameron drives his own crappy car, but he also has access to the multiple fancy automobiles owned by his wealthy parents.

The problem is, though, that Cameron is actually sick. From the crumpled tissues lying around his bed to the various pills and cough syrups adorning his bedside tables, it's pretty clear that it's a bad idea for Cameron to go out. But he knows Ferris is just going to keep calling him. Cameron pleads with the universe while still in bed, singing an old spiritual tune known as "Go Down Moses," but changing the lyrics to, "When Cameron was in Egypt's land, let my Cameron go!" It's pretty clear he wants to be free of his obligation to his friend: He fights with himself in the car, gets out, gets back in again, hits the seat, and kicks the ground before finally heading out to pick up Ferris.

12. Delinquent Charlie Sheen

One of the more delightful moments of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" involving Ferris' sister Jeanie features an early, baby-faced Charlie Sheen. After Jeanie's run-in with Mr. Rooney (another fun moment that's higher up on this list) she gets taken to the police station for phoning in a fake emergency. We all know it wasn't a fake call, but she's force to sit in the station and wait for her mom, while Sheen's leather jacket-clad delinquent stares her down. Their conversation starts out like this: "Drugs?" the guys asks. "Thank you, no, I'm straight," Jeanie replies. "I meant are you in here for drugs?" Sheen's character clarifies. "Why are you here?" she asks. "Drugs," he says again, perfectly straight-faced. Then, when the guy asks her why she doesn't just leave, Jeanie says, "Why don't you stick your thumb up your butt?"

But there's something about this guy that Jeanie can't shake, and his honesty, interest, and soft-spoken nature lure her in. After Mrs. Bueller walks out into the waiting room, Jeanie and the delinquent, in a total about-face, start full-on making out. Hey, at least Jeanie got a little something sweet after all the crap she had to deal with while Ferris was cutting school. 

11. The singing nurse

Over the course of the movie, Ferris' classmates of all ages, and even school faculty and staff members, express their sympathy for his illness: pooling money, sending flowers and get-well cards, and offering Ferris general well-wishes. The joke is that these reactions paint Ferris as a well-loved school celebrity, all while Rooney and Jeanie try to tear him down. But one funny-as-heck moment comes when Jeanie has finally made it home: She's waiting for the police to come after calling them about Rooney's invasion (which we promise we'll get to), and she opens the door to see an odd ensemble: a guy with balloons, another guy with flowers, a creepy masked character, and a naughty nurse.

It's not really clear if this nurse is just there to sing a funny song, if she's a stripper, or if she's an actual sex worker, but her little rhyme goes as follows: "I heard that you were feeling ill / Headache, fever, and a chill / I came to help restore your pluck / 'Cause I'm the nurse who likes to ..." Jeanie slams the door before the nurse can finish, but we all know what she was going to say.

10. The flying Ferrari

Cameron was right to be nervous about letting Ferris use his dad's 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California. He was even more right to be nervous about leaving it in a parking garage in Chicago. But Ferris thinks he's gotten into the parking attendant's good graces by tipping him a mere "fiver." But from the way that the attendant, played by actor Richard Edson, looks at the Ferrari when it first pulls in, you can tell he's going to take it for a ride.

The audience knows what's up as soon as Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane leave the garage. You can see the car pull out right behind them with another attendant jumping in and the two speeding off together. But the most hilarious part comes later when, seemingly randomly, the "Star Wars" theme by John Williams starts playing over a shot of the Chicago skyline. Suddenly, the Ferrari comes flying across the screen. The parking attendants' mouths are wide open in amazement, and the car acts like a ship blasting off into the sky.

9. Ferris saves Cameron in the pool

Another funny but heartfelt moment comes toward the end of the movie. When the trio realizes that the parking attendants have obviously taken the Ferrari out for a joyride, increasing the odometer by thousands of miles, Cameron has a little bit of a freak-out. He starts hyperventilating, goes catatonic, and doesn't speak. The gang stops at someone's pool for a dip to snap Cameron out of it.

Though this is the same home used for the front of Sloane's house at the end of the movie, writer and director John Hughes has said the characters just stopped at a stranger's house and broke into their pool. "We never identified where this was or whose house this was. I always presumed it was just someone else's house. It wasn't really Sloane's house, it certainly wasn't Matthew's house, and it wasn't Cameron's house. They just sort of stopped and used somebody's Jacuzzi," he says in the DVD commentary.

The catatonic Cameron eventually hurls himself off of the diving board and into the pool. Ferris thinks he's attempting to take his own life and jumps in to save him. Once he pulls Cameron out, his worried look, frantic attempt to revive Cameron, and concern for his best friend prove Ferris really does care about Cameron, even though he often treats him poorly. Cam's eyes pop open, and he gives Ferris a sarcastic look, saying, "Ferris Bueller, you're my hero."

8. The flying Ferrari, part two

After having a bit of an existential crisis but finally realizing he's done being afraid of his father, getting treated like crap, and living life in fear, Cameron decides he's going to face his dad about the miles put on his car and come clean about taking it out. "I gotta take a stand," Cameron says. "I put up with everything. My old man pushes me around. I never say anything ... I gotta take a stand against him. I am not gonna sit on my a** as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life." It's a powerful moment as Cameron realizes he's got to break out of his shell and become his own person. 

But Cameron takes it a few steps further and starts beating the crap out of the car. Since Ferris had put it on a jack and tried to reverse the odometer by driving the car backwards, the car is in a precarious position already. So when Cameron gives the Ferrari one last nudge, the jack breaks, and the car goes flying through the glass garage window and into a ditch behind the house. It's a fabulous wreck, and a powerful metaphor for the rocky road to finding yourself.

7. Art museum montage

On their day off, Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane visit the Sears Tower and the Chicago Stock Exchange, then take in a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field, and later, a street parade (which we'll get to in a bit). But the most cerebral and meaningful of their outings has to be the one they take to the Art Institute of Chicago.

This slower (in a good way) moment in the film follows the trio as they explore the museum and utilizes long shots of world-famous paintings, like "Nude Under a Pine Tree" by Pablo Picasso, "Nighthawks" by Edward Hopper, and "Greyed Rainbow" by Jackson Pollack. But the most poignant moment comes when Cameron stops in front of "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat.

Writer and director John Hughes explained himself in DVD commentary, Smithsonian Magazine reports, that as Cameron examines the painting deeper and deeper, "The closer he looks at the child, the less he sees with this style of painting. The more he looks at it there's nothing there. He fears that the more you look at him there isn't anything to see. There's nothing there. That's him." Eleanor Harvey, senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, adds, "Cameron could not have anticipated that this would be anything but a fun goofball day and in a sense that painting becomes our first concrete clue that Cameron is deeper than everyone else in that movie."

6. Abe Froman phone prank

Ferris Bueller is the master of a good phone prank. But he wouldn't be able to pull them off without his second-in-command, Cameron. And for this particular prank, Ferris also brings his girlfriend Sloane into the mix. Ferris drags the gang to a fancy restaurant for lunch and tries to sneak in under a reservation for three for "Abe Froman." When the maître d' questions whether Ferris really is Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chicago, Ferris stands his ground. The host threatens to call the police, but Ferris nonchalantly says he'll call them himself, using the restaurant's own multi-line phone for the prank.

As the maître d' heads to another phone, Ferris puts Sloane on to ask the man for Abe Froman, describing him exactly as Ferris looks and is dressed. Second-guessing himself, the stuffy maître d' hops onto the other line, where Cameron has taken on the role of Sergeant Peterson of the Chicago Police Department, using the same grandiose voice he uses as Sloane's dad earlier in the movie (a phone prank higher up on this list). With the maître d's bluff called, the next shot is of the three friends sitting down ready to order their meal. Something the movie never answers, however, is who pays for the expensive lunch!

5. Ferris runs home

Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane have a pretty amazing time, and it's actually quite miraculous that they manage to fit so much into one day. But once Ferris realizes it's about five minutes until 6 o'clock, the time when his parents usually get home, he has to book it from Sloane's house to his own ... without a car.

On the way, he almost gets hit by Jeanie driving their mom home, runs alongside his dad, darts through someone's backyard while they're having a picnic, races through someone's entire house, steals a can of soda from a guy grilling outside, stops to talk to some girls sunbathing in their yard, and still manages to jump on a kid's trampoline and make it home before his parents do.

There, he gets caught by Rooney, still waiting for him in his own backyard. But for some reason Jeanie vouches for him, claiming he'd tried to get home from the hospital by himself. Once Ferris is safely back in bed, he gives us his signature line: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it."

4. Jeanie vs. Mr. Rooney

After trying to bust Ferris both in school and out on the town, Mr. Rooney heads to the Bueller household to try and catch Ferris in a lie. He tries the doorbell, only to be subjected to a bit pre-recorded by Ferris. So he does what any normal person would do: He breaks in. 

Meanwhile, Jeanie, on her own quest to prove that Ferris is faking being sick, leaves school early and drives home, kicks Ferris' door open, and discovers the dummy he's rigged up as well as the recorded message playing for Rooney. Each unaware of the other, Rooney and Jeanie both suspect there's someone else in the house, and when they finally confront each other in the kitchen, Jeanie screams her head off and high-kicks Rooney in the face, knocking him out. While Jeanie's frantic dash up the stairs to call the police is pretty funny, too, Hughes' decision to replay the kick three times is the most immensely satisfying part of the scene.

3. Phone-pranking Mr. Rooney

Throughout the movie, as Dean of Students Ed Rooney tries to catch Ferris in a lie, Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane subject him to numerous pranks and schemes that help them get away with cutting school. None of the scenarios in which Rooney is lied to, beaten up, or humiliated are quite as funny as a phone prank that occurs early in the movie when Ferris and Cameron try to get Sloane out of school.

Cameron calls pretending to be Mr. Peterson, Sloane's dad, and tells Rooney's assistant that they've had a death in the family, so Sloane needs to come home. Rooney thinks it's Ferris, so he starts to insult, berate, and ridicule Mr. Peterson and his daughter, claiming they'd need to see the dead body in order for Sloane to be let out of school, all the while using plenty of profanity that a competent school official would never use with a parent.

But then the phone rings again, and it's Ferris Bueller calling to ask for his homework to be sent home with his sister. The look of absolute embarrassment and dread on Rooney's face is enough of a gut-buster, but what follows is absolute chaos as Rooney and his assistant Grace (Edie McClurg) try to rectify the situation with "Mr. Peterson" as Cameron goes on the offensive and berates Rooney over the phone.

2. The opening monologue

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" opens with Ferris brilliantly scamming his parents and convincing them he's sick, only to exclaim, once they've left the room, "They bought it." From here, Ferris turns straight to the camera and dives into an opening monologue that sets the fun, sarcastic tone of the movie. "One of the worst performances of my career and they never doubted it for a second. ... It's getting pretty tough coming up with new illnesses. If I go for [another day off], I'm probably gonna have to barf up a lung, so I'd better make this one count."

Ferris then offers adolescent audiences the perfect tricks for getting out of school. Clammy hands, he says, are the ticket — more reliable than a classic symptom like a fever, which could push nervous mothers too far and land you in the doctor's office. "It's a good non-specific symptom. I'm a big believer in it. ... You fake a stomach cramp, and when you're bent over, moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It's a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school. Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." The most timeless lessons of the film and the key parts of Ferris' worldview, like shirking responsibility and stopping to smell the roses, are all summed up in his opening monologue.

1. The parade

The most fun, most memorable, and all-around best moment of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" comes at about the one-hour mark. After leaving the museum and getting stuck in some serious Chicago traffic due to the city's Von Steuben Day parade, the gang decides to walk back to the parking garage. But Cameron and Sloane lose Ferris in the crowd, and Cameron naturally believes he's ditched them. That's when Ferris pops up on a parade float, surrounded by backup dancers, lip-syncing Danke Schoen by Wayne Newton.

As Ferris entertains the crowd, Cameron and Sloane elaborate on the divide between Ferris and Cameron: Cam comments on how Ferris can face any obstacle, while Cameron can't handle anything. None of them knows what they want to do in life, but at least Ferris isn't afraid, while Cameron has to learn to be brave. The realization is a big one, and the somber moment turns to happiness when the float's song shifts to "Twist and Shout" by the Beatles.

It's not really clear what Ferris said or did for parade officials to allow him to hop on the float, but an elaborate dance party erupts while Ferris is lip-syncing, and the whole parade — members, audience, and passersby, including an oblivious Mr. Bueller up in his office — enjoy a fun dance break. It's a true moment of whimsy and happiness in an already joyful film.