John Hughes was an incredible talent who left behind a vast and varied body of work riddled with absolute classics that redefined how films were made. But while he did direct films, he did so for a scant seven years of his 20-plus-year career as an active screenwriter and producer. However, as it turns out, some of his best material he kept for himself. Here's a list of the five very best films written, produced, and -- more often than not -- directed by the late, great John Hughes.
His directorial debut and the most shaky of his great films, Sixteen Candles still mostly holds up. It tells the story of a 16-year-old girl whose sister is getting married, causing her entire family to forget about her birthday. Meanwhile, the school hunk discovers that she harbors a secret crush on him and decides to talk to her, only to find his efforts foiled every time he has the chance. Clever, funny, iconic and still effective, the film’s one glaring flaw is its over-reliance on needless sound effects for laughs. I’ve wanted for a long time to see Hughes commission a re-edit of the sound to let the natural comedy come out on its own. Goofy as it is, it still doesn’t tarnish how heartfelt and honest this film is.
A holiday classic. No film so succinctly nails the chaos and craziness of the holidays as this one does. Steve Martin and John Candy have never been better than they were together on the screen for this raucous comedy gem. It is a film so good that it, along with the Hughes-penned National Lampoon’s Vacation, created a subgenre: the road trip movie. Whenever you watch a road trip film, whether it be Fanboys, Sex Drive, or … Road Trip, you’re watching this movie being ripped off. There’s no better compliment.
3) Pretty In Pink
The only film on the list not directed by Hughes and the whole reason for the preamble. This film is a classic teen romance about heartbreak, longing, and unrequited love. Molly Ringwald (who appears in three films on this list) plays a girl from the wrong side of the tracks in love with a boy from the right side of the tracks. Meanwhile, her goofball best friend, Ducky, is madly in love with her. Hollywood legend tells that the initial version of this film ended with Ducky getting the girl, but test audiences wanted a repentant boyfriend, and thus we have the classic we have now. Heartbreaking and sweet, Howard Dutch would helm this classic and do Hughes proud.
2) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
A John Hughes comedy classic, his most beloved film, and probably your favorite out of this list. I know it is mine. Hughes was very fond of breaking the fourth wall (which I discussed a few weeks ago here) but never did it so much as he did in this film, in which the hero, Ferris, talks us through the whole movie, even interrupting what’s going on to let us in on his thoughts. The film is inventive, brilliant, and endlessly quotable. It is also a perfect companion piece to the number one film.
1) The Breakfast Club
A Hughes masterpiece. No film so defined his career or touched the hearts of millions of teens the world over. He takes five stereotypes, puts them in a room together for nine hours of detention, and lets them bare their souls. By the end, you love each and every one of them, no matter how flawed, broken, prissy, or psychotic they are. They are the brain, the jock, the princess, the basket case, and the criminal. You see them how you want to see them. But they’re more than that. They are the Breakfast Club.
Throughout his films, Hughes presented a message of how parents were responsible for their children’s problems, and that theme is brought to the forefront here as we learn all of these kids are dysfunctional because of the pressure and attention paid to them (or not paid to them) by their parents. In Hughes’ follow-up, Ferris Bueller, Hughes would put forward the thesis that while your dysfunction is your parents' fault, it is your responsibility to overcome those faults and become the person you always wanted to be. Together, these films form the backbone of everything Hughes would go on to say throughout his career. The way he expressed these thoughts would never be so crisp, clear, and precise as they were in this film. It's the brightest star in his small, but incredible, body of work.
He will be missed.