Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of the most beloved of 80s movies. The antics of Matthew Broderick as a kid who bunks of school for the most incredible adventure ever is something that every kid wanted to emulate, and some of his techniques are still in use by parents wanting to get out of a day at work.
However, the hero of the titular teen movie is not the light-hearted and charismatic rebel you remember, but rather a disloyal friend, flaky boyfriend and all-around spoilt brat who really should have gotten a detention. Here’s why Ferris Bueller is actually an awful person.
20. He takes advantage of his parents
Ferris Bueller’s parents seem to be the kindest people in the world.
Most parents, especially if their children are in high school, will respond to their kid saying they’re sick with suspicion, or at the very least demand they go to school anyway.
Ferris’ parents are nothing like that. Not only do they believe him immediately, and seem concerned rather than mad, but they leave out soup for him to heat up and even tuck him into bed.
They even make sure to check in with him throughout the day, making sure he’s taking care of himself and doesn’t need them to come home.
Most children would love to have an understanding family like that, but Ferris only sees his parents as stupid props to trick and help him get away with things.
19. He ruins his girlfriend’s high school career
Ferris deciding to have one last huge blowout before knuckling down and getting ready to graduate is at least kind of understandable.
Students always tend to tire out in the last year of school when they’re getting ready to graduate – that’s why there are so many proms, events, yearbook committees and trips in that time.
With that said, Sloane is a whole year younger than Ferris, and has plenty of high school ahead of her.
We also get the impression that she’s pretty smart and ambitious, so skipping school could have actual consequences for her.
All this would be okay if Sloane had actually chosen to take a day off, but she’s roped into Ferris’ plan and pulled out of school without her permission, or even her knowledge.
18. He tricks the entire student body
Whenever there’s a triumphant moment in a high school movie from the eighties, it’s usually because an underdog has finally gotten the happiness they deserve.
Most of the classic movies of that era, from The Breakfast Club to Pretty in Pink to The Goonies, all focus on misfits and underdogs that finally beat the system, get the girl, or just get taken seriously.
The problem is: Ferris Bueller is not an underdog. He comes from a well off family, is dating the hottest girl in school, and has the whole student body eating out of the palm of his hand.
Would the whole school set up a “Save Ferris” fund if he wasn’t considered to be the coolest guy there? Of course not!
The whole campaign just shows that the other kids who idolise Ferris are, to him, just as much pawns to be manipulated as his parents are.
17. He makes his best friend third wheel all day
Right from the beginning of the movie, Ferris frames his latest adventure as an attempt to cheer Cameron up, who seems to be bedbound from some combination of hypochondria and actual depression.
This seems like a kind thing to do, but we soon learn it’s actually got nothing to do with Cameron, and he’s mostly just there because Ferris needs someone who can do a convincing impression.
As soon as Ferris blackmails and gaslights Cameron into agreeing to leave his house, Ferris uses him to get Sloane out of school, and then makes him tag along on their couple’s adventure together.
While Cameron sits in the back of the car, Ferris and Sloane indulge in nothing but classic dating cliches – going to an art gallery, seeing a parade, even enjoying a fancy meal in an upscale restaurant.
All the time Cameron is just… there, probably regretting the day he let Ferris Bueller into his life.
16. He ruins an entire parade
Speaking of the parade, Ferris’ classic rendition of Twist and Shout which he sings on top of a parade float, is clearly the most iconic moment in the movie, and maybe one of the most famous scenes in all of teen movie history.
However, when you stop to think for more than a second about what is actually happening in the scene, it takes on an entirely different tone.
For the sake of a cheesy pop song in a truly terrible vest, Ferris ruins the choreography of half a dozen professional parade performers.
They probably had to deal with serious consequences from their boss for letting some random guy take over the show, and might not even have even been paid since they didn’t actually do any work.
Ferris breaks copyright law, since you definitely can’t do karaoke as part of a public parade that people are paying to see, and his outfit totally breaks the theme of whatever they were actually celebrating.
15. He makes his girlfriend hit on his dad
Ferris Bueller playing a character and acting to deceive people is one thing; in fact, it’s what most people watch the movie for.
Ferris Bueller forcing his girlfriend to act convincingly on the spot, and in some surprisingly gross ways? That’s less fun to watch, and even harder to justify.
Not only does Ferris’ plan to get Sloane out of school rely on him posing as her father, which is gross, but he then breaks the illusion by fully making out with his ‘daughter’ in front of the school principal.
That probably had serious consequences for the poor guy if he ever actually went back to the school, and definitely affected Sloane’s treatment when she got home.
Then, as if that whole exchange wasn’t gross enough, Ferris makes Sloane pose as an older woman and hit on his own father, just so they don’t get found out. Yikes.
14. He’s the reason his sister has a crush on a drug addict
Out of all the characters in the movie, Ferris Bueller’s sister Jeanie is one of the hardest to sympathise with.
She’s jealous, she’s bratty, she’s overbearing – but most of that is entirely understandable frustration from seeing her brother get away with absolutely everything under the sun.
Most of her anguish, including getting assaulted by the school principal, is a direct result of Bueller’s own actions, and the cherry on top is when she ends up in the police station because of him.
That would already be a bad day, but while in the police station she has a super flirtatious encounter with a drug-addled bad boy played by Charlie Sheen, which no doubt is the beginning of a serious spiral of bad choices.
That already sounds bad, but it actually gets even worse, because Jeanie also gets in trouble with her mother for making out with him. Meanwhile, Ferris gets in trouble for absolutely nothing, except maybe for not resting enough.
13. He ruins Cameron’s relationship with his parents
We’ve already made the argument that Cameron is the most put-upon character in the entire movie, but the extent of Ferris Bueller’s damage goes way beyond just forcing his ‘best friend’ to play third wheel for a day.
Ferris also borrows Cameron’s dad’s most prized possession, then runs the mileage completely into the ground beyond compare.
This results in Cameron careening his father’s car through a third-story window, just in anticipation of the serious rage he will face when the man himself gets home.
As for Cameron’s mother, it’s implied she won’t be able to shield him from the immense wrath he’s going to have to deal with, his relationship with both of his parents irreparably destroyed.
Cameron does seem kind of happy in the face of this situation, but only in the way where you can tell he’s not processed what’s about to happen at all.
12. He proposes to his girlfriend as a joke
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off isn’t exactly a rom-com, but it does technically have a romance in it, even if what we see of Ferris and Sloane’s relationship isn’t exactly ideal.
Sure, they seem to have fun together getting into trouble and committing to elaborate characters just to fool waiters, but it doesn’t seem like they’re going to last in any serious way.
Even when he proposes to Sloane near the end of the movie, it’s clear Ferris doesn’t mean it in any serious way and probably wouldn’t commit if she actually said yes.
He even says elsewhere in the movie that he’s going to struggle to not forget about her once he’s in college and she’s still in high school, which is hardly the most romantic thing in the world.
In short: she’s way too good for him, and should probably get a boyfriend in college that takes her more seriously.
11. He forces his best friend into shock
Neither Cameron being made a third wheel nor Cameron self-sabotaging his relationship with his parents are the worst thing to happen to the character thanks to his proximity to Ferris.
Ferris actually almost causes Cameron’s death, when he floats to the bottom of the pool thanks to Ferris Bueller-induced shock.
It’s unclear how much of this is Cameron playing around, and how much of it is just a complete shut down in response to the antics Ferris has gotten him into.
Either way, there are more than a few moments of the movie when Ferris is forced to contemplate that his irresponsible nature has just killed his friend.
Does that trigger any self-reflection in Mr Bueller? Of course not.
10. He commits identity theft (and steals food!)
Ferris’ close calls only get more and more dramatic as the movie goes on, with the stakes increasing throughout to make his final dive into bed even more satisfying.
The one unfortunate consequence of this is that one of Ferris’ earlier stunts gets overlooked, and that’s his whole audacious production at the fancy New York restaurant.
It’s easy to sympathise with Ferris here just because he’s nowhere near as bad as the snooty waiter, but the fact is that he impersonates a real-life businessman, and is so rude to the staff and other restaurant patrons that the unfortunate guy’s reputation is probably ruined forever.
Not only that, but Ferris essentially embezzles his way into a free meal, cajoling and threatening in turn in order to be allowed into the restaurant, and then fleeing before it’s time to pay the bill.
Ferrus steals an identity, steals a whole bunch of expensive food, and ruins the ability of the actual sausage king of New York (whatever his real occupation is) to show up to his own restaurant reservation.
9. He’s ungrateful
Ferris might seem like a pretty nice guy for most of the movie, but the more times you watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Of the more obvious it becomes that what seems like kindness is actually just a blinding charisma.
He might be smiley and easy-going, but when it comes to what Ferris actually thinks and feels when he’s not scheming, he’s guilty of being seriously ungrateful.
Despite living the middle-class American dream, Ferris envies Cameron’s huge house and cars, and even the fact that his parents are semi-estranged from him despite living in the same house.
Also, when given a computer by his parents in an age where computers were a total dream, Ferris is mostly just annoyed that none of his friends can also afford one.
We haven’t even mentioned the fact he treats his girlfriend, his long-suffering sister and his parents like he’s definitely not grateful for everything they do for him.
8. He squanders his talents
Ferris really is the contemporary incarnation of a Renaissance man. Not only can he dance and sing, but we also see him play guitar and the clarinet, both of which he definitely owns and practices.
Ferris also has an extensive keyboard set-up that he definitely knows how to play, even if he only has the sounds keyed in to various vomit and coughing noises throughout the movie.
That brings a non-exhaustive list of Ferris’ talents up to: singer, dancer, multi-instrumentalist, computer hacker, voice actor and inventor – which is a serious amount of skills for one person to cultivate.
However, he doesn’t use any of these talents to do anything but mischief, and he doesn’t seem to try to get better at any of them either.
Ferris could be performing in parades legitimately or changing the world with a musical comedy one-man show, but instead, he’s playing Chopsticks using burp noises. Nice.
7. He’s going to get the principal killed
Ed Rooney isn’t just one of the most dislikable characters in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – he’s also one of the most dislikable characters in all of teen movie history.
Rooney is more patronising than the detention officer in the Breakfast Club, smarmier than preppy love interest James Spader in Pretty in Pink, and somehow manages to be pathetic and seriously intimidating at the same time.
With that said, Rooney is technically trying to do his job for most of the movie, and although it looks like he’s committing crimes like assault and breaking and entering, it’s all by accident.
Not only that, but it seems a bit extreme that the principal should both be arrested and savaged by a dog just for trying to prevent truancy, even if he is going a little bit overboard.
In short: Home Alone and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off might be the only two movies where the bad guys are cartoonishly vindictive but are also tortured so much by the heroes that you almost feel sorry for them. Fun fact: John Hughes was responsible for both.
6. Where does the money go?
This problem isn’t technically something Ferris actually does in the movie, but it’s an unresolved question we definitely need an answer to, and it’s a result of his own actions throughout the movie.
By lying about being sick, Ferris sets in motion a rumour that consumes the whole student body, that he is on death’s door and is in need of immediate medical attention.
As a result of this rumour, the whole student body start fundraising to keep him alive, painting the slogan “Save Ferris!” absolutely everywhere and collecting change from what looks like every pupil in the school.
Presumably, that money is delivered to Ferris at his house sometime after the inappropriate singing nurse arrives or is given to him at some other point after his return.
The question is, what happens to the money? Ferris never faces any consequences in the movie, so it’s unlikely he’d get in trouble and have to return it. The best-case scenario is that he gives it to Cameron to pay for a new car, but most likely it goes straight into a fund for Ferris to cause more trouble.
5. He pretends to be a totally different person
It’s bad enough that Ferris genuinely commits identity theft throughout the movie, but that’s not the only time that he pretends to be somebody he’s not.
Throughout the film, Ferris acts like a completely different kind of person when he’s around his parents, just to be able to manipulate them more effectively.
Around his parents, he is childlike, innocent and loving – and even acts as though he’s a little on the dumb side.
Around his friends, he is quick-witted, sharp-tongued and energetic, not to mention scheming and deceptive.
This huge divide means he’s essentially living two different lives, and will graduate without his parents actually learning who he is.
4. He’s definitely lying about the car
Ferris stealing Cameron’s dad’s car is one of the most obviously terrible things he does in the movie, especially since it leads to his friend having a nervous breakdown later down the line.
However, what makes it even more sinister is that he has to do some serious rationalisation to get Cameron to agree, and most of the excuses he gives are definitely lies.
For example, he believes he can run the mileage back down on the car just by driving it in reverse, and he manages to convince Cameron that’s definitely how it works.
The thing is, Ferris might be overly-confident, reckless and deceptive – but he’s definitely not stupid. In other words, he definitely knows better than to think that would actually work.
Rather than make a genuine mistake, Ferris directly lies to Cameron and pretends to feel bad about it later, when he knew all along the plan would never work in the first place.
3. He shouldn’t be allowed to graduate
Right at the beginning of the movie, Ferris explains that this has to be his last big adventure before focusing on his schoolwork, so he can graduate.
However, we also know that he has the power to change the number of absences that show up on the computer, so he probably could push things even further if he wanted to.
With that said, there’s no telling how many absences he’s already deleted in the past, or how many times he’s shown up to school just to get an attendance mark, before managing to go on adventures in some other way.
In other words, he definitely hasn’t been in class enough to have gained the amount of knowledge he needs to graduate, even if he manages to squeak by and finish the year on a technicality.
Though he’s looking forward to an even more care-free time at college, it’s more likely Ferris gets a rude awakening when he realises just how much studying there is to do, and how much he still needs to catch up on.
2. He’s the reason the secretary is being treated so badly
Most of Ferris’ school is portrayed as evil at worse and excruciatingly boring at best, with every member of staff seeming either incompetent or downright unhinged.
The exception to this is Grace, who mostly seems like a well-meaning, if slightly overwhelmed and bumbling, secretary.
However, despite her being one of the few totally inoffensive adults in the movie, Grace is constantly screamed at, demeaned and talked down to.
This is because, thanks to Ferris’ antics, the principal becomes more and more irrational in his behaviour the more he fails to catch him, and that includes his treatment of Grace.
Obviously Grace deserves better regardless, but it’s got to be acknowledged that if Ferris wasn’t such a trying individual, Grace probably would have been a whole lot less stressed.
1. He doesn’t want anything
We’ve already established that Ferris has a lot of bad qualities that he needs to work on. On top of the constant lying and scheming, he’s flighty, reckless and manipulative, while also being entirely too optimistic for his own good.
He takes all the good things in his life for granted, from his girlfriend to his parents to the huge amount of tech he owns, and never tries to do anything productive or for other people.
Worst of all though, he doesn’t seem to want anything. He doesn’t want to change or improve, and he’s excited about college providing for him the exact same opportunities for mischief as high school had.
He doesn’t seriously want to evolve his relationship with Sloane, and he seems to wish he could bring Cameron along with him to college too.
It seems like Ferris’ ideal life is one where he gets to stay in high school indefinitely: never graduating, never growing up, and never even moving on to a higher calibre of pranks than creating a fake temperature.
That makes Ferris a terrible protagonist, since at the end of the day, we’re supposed to watch the main character grow and evolve, and he just… doesn’t.