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John Hughes: A Few of My Favorite Films

posted by Ellen Leventry

sixteen-candles.jpgIt goes without saying, I believe, that every thirty-something American would call “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” one of their favorite John Hughes movies. And I’ve never really found the post-1990, post-”Home Alone” Hughes oeuvre platable, so an entire decade of productivity is automatically excluded from a list of favorites. With those stipulations in mind, I offer my fave John Hughes films (in no particular order) and the one film I never quite took a liking to.

Sixteen Candles (1984): I spent one entire summer watching and rewatching this Molly Ringwald vehicle. Anthony Michael Hall’s hilarious geek and the hunky Michael Schoeffling were perfect bookends to Ringwald’s Samantha Baker, a birthday gal whose special day had been forgotten by her family and friends for her sister’s wedding. Populated by wonderfully eccentric characters, the groping grandmother, the wacky foreign exchange student, the out-of-it-sister, the story was also entirely relatable: Who hasn’t felt invisible at some point in their life? Memorable line: “Can I borrow your underpants for ten minutes?”

The Breakfast Club (1985): This Brat Pack-rich movie about five teens forced to spend Saturday detention together, getting to know each other and themselves, is the template upon which all teen movies would be built. Would MTV’s “The Real World” or “The Hills” exist without the clearly defined archetypes–the jock, the burnout, the nerd, the princess–Hughes defined? Most memorable quotes: “Could you describe the ruckus, sir?” and “Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?”

Pretty in Pink (1986): I once had a guy call me up and try to ask me out by claiming that he was “my Duckie.” Anyone who has seen this 1986 film knows why that relationship was dead at the start. The tale of a gal (Molly Ringwald) and a guy (Andrew McCarthy) from opposite sides of the tracks falling for each other not only featured the brilliant Psych Furs title track, but a smokin’ hot, pre-Boston Legal-bloat James Spader as the nefarious Steff. Most memorable line: “His name is Blane? Oh! That’s a major appliance, that’s not a name!”

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989): The original “Vacation” may have had more memorable one-liners, but I’ll watch “Christmas Vacation” any day of the year. Chevy Chase (“Clark Griswold”) perfectly channels the zeal of the X-treme X-mas celebration, organizing an old-fashioned Christmas for his entire family, surprising his family with a spectacular gift, and plastering his house with so many lights that the electric company has to create more energy. Per usual, Clark aims for perfection only to find himself amid hysterical chaos. Memorable line: “Squirrel!”

Uncle Buck (1989): A bit of a dark horse on this list, this story of a slovenly bachelor who is called in to look after his brother’s kids when a family emergency arises is one of those movies I will always leave on, should I find it while channel surfing. “Uncle Buck” is perhaps best known for launching Macaulay Culkin’s career, thanks to a dialogue with John Candy (“Uncle Buck”) that is a master class in comic timing. But, for me, it’s Buck’s hilarious over-the-top intimidation of his niece’s boyfriend that keeps me coming back for “Buck.” Memorable line: “Take this quarter, go downtown, and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face! Good day to you, madam.”

Honorable Mentions:
Weird Science (1985)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

The One I Still Can’t Sit Through:

Some Kind of Wonderful (1987): This is the film that most of my friends immediately began reminiscing about when they heard of Hughes’ death. I couldn’t commiserate since I have never been able to get through this Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Lea Thompson vehicle. The story of a tomboy with short blonde hair and a crush on her best friend should have been very attractive to me, seeing as I was a tomboy with short blonde hair, but to this day, I have not seen the film in one sitting. It’s the usual Hughes tortured romantic triangle, so the pattern should work, but it just doesn’t for me.

What are your favorite John Hughes films? What are your favorite lines?

John Hughes



  • OneLevelIn

    I understand not getting certain movies for whatever reason – usually no particular reason, but it’s interesting that Some Kind of Wonderful is the one you can’t get into. Aside from your own parallels (and maybe those are the deciding factors), this is really Pretty in Pink flipped around and done better.
    Don’t get me wrong. I’ll take an Andrew McCarthy/James Spader vehicle over most movies featuring Eric Stoltz, but this movie wins with its third act. Keith goes all out for the wrong girl, then realizes it too late. Watts’ heart is broken, and she’s almost too tough to show it. This is pure 80s adolescent gold.
    Maybe the problem is that SKoW’s comedic lines are darker than some of the other movies’. They don’t smooth out the teen heaviness like many of the one-liners from The Breakfast Club or Sixteen Candles, or even Pretty in Pink. At least McCarthy has a sense of humor.
    But, I think that’s why I liked SKoW so much. It’s acidic qualities made it more real for me.
    Kudos on the Uncle Buck mention. I thought I was the only one who enjoyed that one.

  • Julie

    Some Kind of Wonderful is, to me, the penultimate Hughes film- it’s not a sitcom, I believe the kids really exist, and give me an Eric Stoltz/Mary Stuart Masterson film over Andrew McCarthy and James Spader anytime. It’s like the real kids vs the creeps!
    Ferris Beuler is one very long joke, and maybe it’s 20./20 hindsight, but Matthew Broderick is forever in my mind as the slighly overweight wife of Carrie Bradshaw.
    I like “She’s Having a Baby’ too, it had a sweetness about it.
    Breakfast Club? Sixteen Candles? Pretty much anything with Molly Ringwald didn’t do it for me, I don’t know why.
    Uncle Buck was fun. John Candy rocked.

  • stacey

    Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink are my favorites. Seeing them brings back the good parts of high school and makes me nostalgic for my college years that followed.
    So many lines to quote, but from these movies, my standouts are:
    “Show Dick some respect!” Bender, Breakfast Club (my college buds and I still use that line…)
    “Do I offend?” *said while sniffing arm pits* Ducky, Pretty in Pink

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