Of all of John Hughes’ beloved 1980s movies, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has always been my favorite. There are a million different reasons to love this movie, but one thing I’ve always appreciated is how straightforward the plot is: Ferris fakes sick to skip school and then heads to Chicago with his best friend, Cameron, and girlfriend, Sloane, to have a fun day in the city.
And hoo boy, does everyone’s favorite freewheeling high schooler make the most of his titular day off. Ferris pulls off going to a fancy lunch, catching a foul ball at a Cubs game, and taking over a German pride parade — all in time to make it back home before his parents get home from work.
It’s a packed schedule, to say the least. Maybe a little too packed? I mean, is it even possible to fit all of those activities in a single day?
My inner Ferris told me to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. But my inner Cameron couldn’t shake the feeling that Ferris may have overextended himself in an attempt to make sure his day off was perfect. And so, I did the only reasonable thing I could think of: I scheduled out Ferris’ day as carefully as possible in order to determine whether or not his day off was, in fact, achievable.
Here’s what I found…
7 to 8 a.m.: The movie starts with Ferris’ parents letting him stay home, much to the chagrin of his twin(?) sister Jeanie. Now, we aren’t told what time this is, but let’s say school starts at 8 a.m., which is around the average time high schools begin in Chicago. So this scene probably takes place at around 7 a.m. Moreover, just before he heads to work, Ferris’ dad says that he will be home at “6 sharp.” This means that Ferris’ entire day needs to fit into approximately 11 hours.
In terms of that first hour, with everyone else gone, Ferris uses it to hop into the shower and set up his sick-day contraptions, including the sleeping dummy and doorbell recording.
8 a.m. to 8:55 a.m.: Homeroom begins. As his classmates are all starting their days of boredom, Ferris is drinking some sort of tropical concoction by the pool. He then calls Cameron to convince him to come pick him up (since Ferris famously doesn’t have a car). He spends the rest of the class period badly playing clarinet and doing some charmingly awful dancing in his room.
8:55 a.m. to 9 a.m.: After first period ends, Jeanie is in the hall where a concerned classmate asks her about her brother. Meanwhile, Ferris starts spreading the word about his nonexistent illness by pretending to puke his guts out while talking to a couple of gullible freshmen and a girl who shares a striking resemblance to a young Lindsay Lohan.
9 a.m. to 9:55 a.m.: Second period begins, and Ferris starts to really put his plan into place. He calls Cameron to make sure he’s coming over, then briefly talks to his dad. After some deliberation, Cameron reluctantly heads over (we can assume it’s a close drive since Ferris is able to walk home later in the movie). The two then manage to pull Sloane out of school with the old “fake dead grandmother” trick.
But before they head to school to pick her up, they stop by Cameron’s house to take a joyride with his dad’s 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder. Next, they grab Sloane and head into the city. How long would it take them to drive into Chicago? It’s impossible to determine an exact time since the movie takes place in Shermer, a fictional town created by Hughes.
But Shermer is based on Northbrook, a Chicago suburb and Hughes’ hometown. It takes an estimated 35 minutes to drive from Northbrook to Chicago, so we can assume it would take around the same amount of time to drive from Shermer.
9:55 a.m. to 10 a.m.: Just as the trio are getting into the city, second period ends. From this point on, the school schedule is much less relevant.
10 a.m. to 10:05 a.m.: Ferris drops off the Ferrari at a parking garage on West Madison Street.
10:05 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.: Ferris, Cameron and Sloane walk to the Sears Tower, which according to Tripline is about a 10-minute jaunt from the parking garage.
10:15 a.m. to 11 a.m.: The trio head up to the top of the building and spend a few minutes there once they arrive before Ferris rushes them to their next location.
11 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.: They head to the Chicago Board of Trade, which is only about a six-minute walk.
11:10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.: They arrive at the Chicago Board of Trade and briefly watch traders do whatever the hell they do. Once Ferris is done casually proposing to Sloane, they leave.
11:45 a.m. to 12 p.m.: They take a quick cab ride and grab lunch at Chez Quis (this isn’t a real restaurant, but we can estimate the time based on its real-life location). How do we know they have lunch at noon? Because the reservation book shows that’s when Abe Froman’s reservation is scheduled.
12 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.: The gang enjoy a fancy lunch at Chez Quis and narrowly avoid running into Ferris’ dad.
1:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.: They hop into another cab and head to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play. Thanks to the internet, we know the Cubs game started at 1:20 p.m. (that was also more or less the first pitch of every Cubs day game back then). But I don’t think any of these three would mind missing the opening pitch.
1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.: Now this is where things get tricky. Initially, I assumed that Ferris and company would stay at the game for only about an hour, especially since the pizza maker tells Rooney that the game is tied “nothing-nothing” when Ferris famously catches the foul ball. But we know that the trio stay at the game for a while, because when we see him catch the foul ball, the announcer notes that the game is past the fifth inning.
Furthermore, Larry Granillo of Baseball Prospectus hypothesizes that the catch happens in the 11th inning, based on the stats for the rest of the game. Realistically, this is almost certainly just a continuity error, but Granillo makes a compelling case that this all happens at around 4 p.m. So we have to assume the gang is feeling cocky; they stay for the majority of the game.
4 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.: They take a cab to the Art Institute of Chicago.
4:15 p.m. to 4:35 p.m.: Sadly, the length of the baseball game means they couldn’t have spent much time at the Art Institute.
4:35 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.: They take a cab to North Dearborn Street to crash the Von Steuben Day Parade. How do we know it’s at North Dearborn? You can see the statue in the background as Cameron and Sloane walk near the parade.
4:45 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Ferris takes over the parade and serenades the entire city by lip-synching “Danke Schoen” and “Twist & Shout.” The cutoff time of 6 p.m. is rapidly approaching, so these must happen quickly.
5 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.: The group heads back to the parking garage to pick up the Ferrari.
5:15 p.m. to 5:35 p.m.: Cameron has a breakdown after realizing how much mileage they’ve racked up on his dad’s car, and Ferris and Sloane try to calm him down at Glencoe Beach. Ferris quickly tries something else because they are really running out of time.
5:35 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.: They make the short drive back to Shermer.
5:45 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Ferris and Sloane enjoy a stranger’s jacuzzi (confirmed by Hughes) before Ferris saves Cameron from fake drowning.
6 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.: They all head back to Cameron’s house, where he then destroys the Ferrari.
6:15 p.m. to 6:20 p.m.: Ferris walks Sloane home.
6:20 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.: Ferris runs home and arrives at his back door.
6:30 p.m. to 6:32 p.m.: Rooney confronts Ferris, but Jeanie saves him. Ferris makes it to bed just before his parents find him.
So does Ferris’ day add up?
Not at all. Even giving him the best-case scenario in terms of time spent with each activity, there’s simply no way he could have been home by 6 p.m.
Except he does.
In the movie, when Ferris gets Sloane home, he checks her watch and sees that it’s 5:55 p.m. before beating both his parents’ cars on foot. How the hell is this possible? If anything, I’m way too generous with Ferris’ schedule, and even I can’t figure out a way for him to get home at 6 p.m.
I posit that this concludes once and for all that Ferris Bueller is magic. The idea that he’s just a figment of Cameron’s imagination also explains how the “Save Ferris” campaign makes it to Wrigley Field within a couple of hours and why the real Abe Froman never shows up to claim his reservation at Chez Quis.
For the rest of us, life moves pretty fast. But for Ferris, it seemingly moves as slowly as he sees fit.