Forget film history, it’s nearly impossible to imagine what the culture of the ’80s and ’90s would have looked like without the work of John Hughes. The writer-director-producer, who tragically passed away earlier today, is responsible for some of the most memorable characters in cinematic teenage lore, not to mention some very disgruntled heroes as well.
In his honor, I’ve compiled a list of my five personal favorite characters written by the late, great John Hughes.
JOHN BENDER (“The Breakfast Club”): There’s no shortage of beloved miscreants in “The Breakfast Club,” but John Bender decisively takes the crown for most memorable. Judd Nelson’s portrayal as the smart-mouthed tough guy — with an apparent proclivity for popular redheads — is the shining spot in a movie filled with top notch performances from Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald and Paul Gleason.
Crowning Achievement: Bringing the phrase “eat my shorts” into popular culture, a saying that’s been judiciously utilized by Bart Simpson ever since.
FERRIS BUELLER (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”): Even Bender would have to bow down to the master of mischief, none other than Ferris Bueller himself. Easily Matthew Broderick’s crowning achievement, Bueller practically wrote the book on how to drive your high school principal insane, all while enjoying a jam-packed day of hooky in windy Chicago.
Crowning Achievement: Bestowing the “clammy palms” trick to children everywhere. Speaking for myself, it worked every time.
PRINCIPAL ED ROONEY (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”): You might not know Jeffrey Jones by name, but you’d certainly recognize him by that unmistakable red hair and mustachioed face. As Principal Ed Rooney in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Jones proved himself to be one of the most watchable antagonists of the 1980s, offering poetic gems like “Pucker up, buttercup” and the sing-songy “Niiiine tiiiiimes.” Ben Stein’s “Buuuuueeeeller… Buuuuueeeeller…” may be more quoted, but it’s Ed Rooney that we all love to hate.
Crowning Achievement: Helplessly shouting for his assistant (“Graaaace!”) at the unwitting mercy of Mr. Bueller and one Cameron Frye. Also, being practically maimed in his pursuits of the same.
CLARK GRISWOLD (“National Lampoon’s Vacation”): The Griswold patriarch and stalwart “Vacation” hero is easily one of Hughes’ most memorable characters. Whether in Europe, at Wally World or spending Christmas at home, accompanied by his nuclear family or his imbecile of a brother-in-law (Randy Quaid), Clark Griswold — played flawlessly by Chevy Chase — is the everyman father that every man wants to be nothing like, but most are at one point or another.
Crowning Achievement: Successfully convincing Frank Shirley to reinstitute his Christmas bonus policy. Sure, it took a harrowing hostage situation to accomplish, but all’s well that ends well!
KEVIN MCCALLISTER (“Home Alone”): The quintessential holiday hero, Kevin McCallister proved to children everywhere that being home alone can be cool, while simultaneously providing a cautionary tale to parents around the world: if you leave your kid at home by himself, he’s likely to destroy the house and nearly kill two criminally-minded adults in the process. But don’t worry, because he’ll get everything fixed up — except his big bro’s room — before you get home. Both John Hughes and Macaulay Culkin can never be thanked enough for this character.
Crowning Achievement: What can I say, other than… *face-smack* Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!
Who are your favorite Hughes-penned characters? Let us know in the comments section or upload your video reactions to Your MTV.