Regular readers know that I rarely post about the lives and deaths of celebrities here. But I was sad to hear that writer-director John Hughes died yesterday of a heart attack. I don’t know much, if anything, about the man himself. But I am one of many whose memories are bound up in his films, some of which I consider to be just as classic as Casablanca or The Wizard of Oz. While my generation and older folks are well acquainted with his work, I thought I’d give a brief summary of my favorite Hughes films for the younger crowd…
The name John Hughes is pretty much synonymous with the term “Brat Pack” and the name Molly Ringwald. Ringwald starred in what were probably the most famous and beloved of Hughes’ films: Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club.
Sixteen Candles – in which Molly plays a teenage girl whose parents forget her birthday – is my least favorite of the trilogy. It’s funny and quotable (“Auto-mo-bile”, “I can’t believe my grandma actually felt me up”), but lacks the emotional impact of the other two Ringwald movies.
Pretty in Pink is the sappy one. Molly plays a poor, artistic outcast who falls for a rich kid (Andrew McCarthy). However, it is not this central romantic plot that made the movie so memorable. Rather it was the adorable, quirky, Otis Redding lip-syncing, unrequited loving sidekick character Ducky (Jon Cryer) that burned the film into so many of our hearts.
Despite my undying love of Ducky, it is The Breakfast Club that remains my favorite John Hughes movie, is one of my favorite films of all time, and truly deserves to be called a classic. The movie throws five stereotypical high school students (“a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal”) together for one Saturday in detention. It is even more hilarious and quotable than Hughes’ other movies, but is also at times painfully realistic in depicting the various social classes (and clashes) in American high schools. Though the archetypes portrayed in the film are too general to represent every individual, most of us can relate to at least one of the characters. It also features one of my favorite movie quotes: “It’s sorta social. Demented and sad, but social.”
Hughes also wrote one of my other favorite films of the 1980s, Some Kind of Wonderful. I and many others felt that Hughes righted a certain Pretty in Pink wrong with the ending of Some Kind of Wonderful. Like Pretty in Pink, the movie involves a poor kid (Eric Stoltz) pining for a rich one (Lea Thompson) and the most interesting character is the protagonist’s sidekick, spunky tomboy Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson). Watts inspired me to coin the term “best friend girl” to describe any supporting character who is tragically overlooked by their beloved in favor of a less worthy object of affection – this term applies to girls (Joey on Dawson’s Creek, Willow on Buffy) and guys (Ducky, Brian on My So-Called Life). But my personal favorite part of this particular film was Duncan (Elias Koteas), the skinhead with a heart of gold.
Other ’80s flicks I like that John Hughes was involved in creating include Weird Science (silly comedy about geeks creating their dream woman), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (silly comedy about a kid skipping school for the day), and Planes, Trains and Automobiles (silly but poignant comedy about two strangers thrown together while travelling).
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