The Blues Brothers (1980) Screenplay Analysis

The Blues Brothers (1980), written by Dan Aykroyd John Landis, combines the universal love of music with wild action and farcical comedy to create a memorable script. Let’s analyze it.

Script Formatting Notes

  • Draft Read: Undated
  • Type: Scriptment (unclear)
  • Page Count: 52
  • Reading Speed: Fast
  • Setting(s): Illinois, Chicago
  • Plot Structure: Linear, Spanning multiple days
  • Genre(s): Comedy, Action
  • Theme(s): Religion, Music, Destiny, Justice
  • Protagonist Change: Significant

Overall Thoughts

A weird script indeed. It reads fast, because there’s almost nothing there, which leads me to believe it’s a scriptment. Yet, it’s the only easily findable version of the screenplay out there. Odd Note: Here’s an article pulled from Wikipedia which notes that Aykroyd had never wrote (or even read) a screenplay before taking on The Blues Brothers; and that the first draft was 300+ pages. I’d like to see it.

With that said, the bones to the story are mostly there. There are the classic scenes, sequences, themes and characters, such as getting the band back together, driving the Illinois Nazis off the bridge, the Good Ol’ Boys, just to name a few.

With that said, it cannot be understated how much Belushi brought to the final film. Yes, I focus on screenplays, but his character, Elwood, while developed, doesn’t quite have the wow factor that we see in the final film.

Script Strengths

None to note.

Script Neutrals

I wouldn’t go as far as to call the script episodic, but The Blues Brothers kind of sort of goes the opposite direction of Back to The Future (1985) in regard to sticking to the story. In other words, the plot almost comes secondary in the Blues Brothers antics. The pacing is a lot closer to something like Duck Soup (1933) than a modern screenplay. Granted and as noted, this script reads more as a scriptment, but if I recall correctly, the film follows the same general flow; that is, it goes down random subplots, such as the gig at Bob’s Country Bunker. Funny? Yes. Relevant to the story? Not particularly.

With that said, there is clearly a method to the madness here. Most of Act 2 (or since the acts don’t have strong breaks here, the middle of the story), is spent introducing new enemies of the Blue’s Brothers, such as the Illinois Nazi Party and The Good Ol’ Boys. This leads to a relatively strong third act in which each of them is eliminated in a high speed chase.

Script Weaknesses

None to note.


The plot’s actually pretty straightforward. Learn that the orphanage in which they grew up needs money fast. Get the band back together. Establish some enemies. Try to raise the money. Establish other enemies. Raise the money. Face your enemies. Save the orphanage.

Dare I even call the plot formulaic? In regard to many story elements (with some small exceptions) it feels that way. Regardless, it’s still great.


Jake and Elwood. A true bromance. Two characters that were already well-developed long before the movie was green-lit.

Dialogue & Pacing

The dialogue is just okay. There are some memorable lines, such as Elwood’s catchphrase, “We’re on a mission from God.” Of course, with such a strong relationship between Elwood and Jake, the dialogue doesn’t have to be quite so perfect. In other words, sure there isn’t much wit or just aurally pleasing dialogue, but it isn’t all that necessary.

There are some classic scenes that are described exactly how they are shot in the film. Here’s an excerpt from one (Page 33):

Jake holds up a crumpled cigarette packet very quickly as though it were an ID badge of some kind.


My name is Jacob Stein, the American Federation of Musicians Union local 200. I’ve been sent here to see if you gentlemen are carrying your permits.

Dumb, but funny.

No notes on pacing.

Emotional Impact

It’s a fun movie. There are some strong messages about doing what’s right and helping thy neighbor. In other words, strong Christian messages. But overall it’s a pretty lighthearted movie. Of course, the musical performances are classics.

Best Part of The Script

It has to be the performance at Bob’s. It’s quite the absurd side mission that doesn’t even make all that much sense (How were the Good ‘Ol Boys ~3 hours late to their own performance?). But it’s hilarious. Start on Page 28.