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In Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure toward the end of the film, the guys are trying to break the "historical figures" out of jail.

They decide to steal Ted's dad's keys by waiting until after their report, going back in time to when his father still had his keys and then steal them from him, then place them behind the sign outside of the police station for themselves to find later.

How can they wait until after the report to do this when they need the "historical figures" for their report in the first place? Unless they intend to just wait for the report to be over, fail it, and go back in time to fix the issue, but that doesn't seem very logical. If they were going to do that, why not just go back in time right then? Why wait until after the report is done?

I do understand that this is, more-or-less, a set up to show the viewer that the guys future selves had already been through all of this, and that they had already set everything up that they'd need done, (the guys finding the keys already behind the sign, the trash can falling on Ted's father's head, the recording in the police station, etc.) but it's still not very logical to me.

I'm not trashing the movie, either. I love it. It's just a legitimate question. :)

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I tried to give the question a more meaningful title, but I don't think I did a very good job. Maybe you or someone else can think of a way to sum this up better. –  atticae Mar 16 at 23:25

3 Answers 3

No version of Bill and Ted ever failed the report. This is an example of a causal loop. In time travel fiction where there's only one timeline, events in the future can be the cause of effects in the past. This violates our usual expectation, where cause precedes effect. Time travel here enables effect to precede cause, which feels intuitively impossible, but is a simple jaunt through time away.

In this case, the events of the film play out as you see them. After the report is completed, Bill and Ted no longer have the time pressure to accomplish everything before running out of time in the present, which kept marching forward as they collected the historical figures, brought them to the present, then lost them to the police, and then broke them out in time for the report. This future Bill and Ted then go back, and set the various things in place that their past selves needed help with, but didn't have time to pull off in the past.

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If we assume the majority of what we see in the movie is the natural progression of time leading to a future in which Rufus can come from: Bill and Ted do not fail and the world becomes utopia. Therefore, anything needing to happen would happen so that what we had seen up until then would be possible, i.e., time traveling phone booths in front of Circle-K's. Achieving this timeline only becomes possible with these knuckleheads once it has been made foolproof enough in every other. Like having amazingly true to life historical figures at your high school history report.

Bill: Whatever we do, we have to remember to go back in time after the report or else this'll never happen.

TED: But it did happen!

Because if it didn't we would not have been watching the correct timeline.

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In my opinion, the answer to your question is another logic matter in the movie :

Rufus: Gentlemen, you can do anything you want, as long as you remember this, no matter what happens, you must get to that report. Got it? All right amigos, (points) that book will tell you the number of any place you want to go. Now, most important, no matter what you do, no matter where you go, that clock (points to Ted's watch), the clock in San Dimas is always running. Got it? (they nod) All right, time for me to go.

Rufus states when he first comes that "real time" matters, and Bill and Ted can only travel through history until Ted's watch gives the true time of the report's deadline. That idea is wrong, since they can present their report pretty much any time they want, given that they have access to time travel.

Rufus's incorrect instructions about this are corrected by Bill and Ted when they unexpectedly use future selves to help them in present time, in the scene you described. Suddenly it appears pretty obvious that they could have taken as much time as they wanted to find historical figures, as long as any version of themselves (their present selves or their future selves) is at school with all the historical figures at the time of the report presentation.

The only consequence that "real time of San Dimas" has is Bill and Ted's biological age when they go back to the time of the report.

I've considered the possible reason why Rufus gave them these instructions to begin with and I've come to the conclusion that it's one of the two following :

  1. Rufus made it simple for them, so that they wouldn't lose focus that the main goal is the report (concentration doesn't seem to be their strongest suit...)
  2. Rufus is actually time-travel-dumb, and Bill and Ted surprisingly outsmart him :P (my personnal favorite)
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