MRR's Movie of the Week: Matthew Broderick and the Long Shadow of Ferris Bueller

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Matthew Broderick stars as Ferris Bueller, a smart aleck who is determined to have a day off from school, despite his suspecting principal.
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
January 25th, 2013

MRR's Movie of the Week: Matthew Broderick and the Long Shadow of Ferris Bueller

Fifty-year-old Matthew Broderick has been acting professionally since the age of seventeen. He is one of the few actors with a successful stage and film career that has spanned decades. Over thirty-three years in the acting business, this movie veteran has had a number of Hollywood hits and misses, but he is best known for his role as the title character in the 1986 cult classic "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Although the Ferris Bueller role would likely be the first of Broderick's many roles to come to mind when his name is mentioned, he has had success playing other characters in movies over his decades-long career.

Any listing of Matthew Broderick's best-known films would have "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" in the number one position. The movie follows high school senior Ferris Bueller as he and his friends decide to skip school and spend their day off in downtown Chicago. Although the film debuted over twenty-five years ago, it is still considered one of the classic coming-of-age comedies of the 1980s. The movie is regularly ranked as one of the funniest comedies of all time, coming in fifty-fourth on Bravo's list of "100 Funniest Movies" and tenth on Entertainment Weekly's list of the "50 Best High School Movies." In 2005, Empire magazine declared "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" the number one teen movie of all time.

Broderick has been quoted saying that his role as Ferris Bueller has eclipsed everything he has ever done. As recently as the 2010 Oscar award ceremony, Broderick stated, "For the past twenty-five years, nearly every day someone comes up to me, taps me on the shoulder and says, 'Hey, Ferris, is this your day off?'" As a nod to the cultural significance of the film, it was spoofed by Honda in a television commercial that debuted during the 2012 Super Bowl. In the commercial, Broderick reprised his Ferris Bueller role, faking an illness to skip work so he could enjoy downtown Los Angeles.

While "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" may be the seminal film in Broderick's career to date, he has been involved in other memorable movies. His first big hit was the 1983 sci-fi movie "WarGames," in which Broderick played the role of David Lightman, a teenage computer hacker from Seattle. The movie was one of the first to feature hacking and computer firewall technology. It was a critical and commercial success, and its continued cultural popularity has sustained talks of sequels and reboots.

In the '80s, Broderick starred in three other films that are still popular with today's audiences. In 1985, Broderick played Philippe Gaston in "Ladyhawke," a fantasy film directed by Richard Donner and starring a young Michelle Pfeiffer. While the movie was not a critical success, it remains a fantasy cult classic. In 1988, Broderick also starred in the movie adaptation of "Torch Song Trilogy," and in1989, he played an American Civil War officer in the Oscar-winning movie "Glory."

Matthew Broderick came out of the 80s with a reputation as a respectable comedic actor with lots of boyish charm. In the '90s, he received the most recognition for his roles in two dark comedies. He starred with Jim Carrey in the 1996 comedy "The Cable Guy" and with Reese Witherspoon in the 1999 comedy "Election." While neither role came close to matching the iconic success of the Ferris Bueller character, the movies were two of the most popular comedies from that decade.

The '90s also saw Matthew Broderick playing the title role in the 1999 children's film "Inspector Gadget" and in the 1998 commercial blockbuster "Godzilla." He is also known for lending his voice to Disney's animated blockbuster "The Lion King" as Simba.

Broderick has had, perhaps, more success on the Broadway stage than in Hollywood. He has won three Tony Awards for his theatrical work, and he is the youngest winner of the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play. One of his best-known feature film roles in recent times comes from his Broadway role in the play "The Producers." Broderick played the role of Leopold Bloom, an accountant who co-produces a musical designed to fail in the 2005 film adaption of the play.

As the son of parents who were both actors, Matthew Broderick has parlayed his connection to the entertainment business into a robust career that spans three decades of performances on film and stage. While he will likely always be best known for a character that he played when he was only twenty-three years old, his career is peppered with many memorable roles and films.