Friday, July 26, 2019

10 Years after John Hughes Death, here are his Top 10 Films

When I read recently that on August 6, it will have been 10 years since John Hughes passed away of a heart attack, I just shook my head in disbelief.  He was only 59.

Maybe John Hughes didn't create award winning films, but for people of a certain age, he wrote films that impacted our lives like no one else.  Films about middle class teens in middle America.  Young boys crushed on Molly Ringwald and teen girls gushed over Emilio Estevez.  We were inspired to seize the day by Ferris Bueller and wondered if it was possible to create a woman like Kelly LeBrock.

Hughes did spread his wings to movies that featured feel good actors like John Candy, but his early teen based films weren't just his bread and butter, they were his jam. 

For the decade from 1983 to 1993, Hughes wrote nearly two dozen films.  Let's celebrate the anniversary of his passing by looking back at this writer's opinion of his top 10 pictures.

10. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Christmas is all about tradition and nothing says holiday spirit more than Chevy Chase trying to orchestrate the perfect family gathering.  In the best of the "Vacation" movies, Clark W. Griswold goes on the best 30 second rant ever about his boss being, among other things, "a dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, fat-ass, worm-headed sack of monkey sh!t."  It is priceless and helps to earn Christmas Vacation a spot on the rankings.

9. Mr. Mom

While the premise of this movie would not play well in today's politically correct climate, for 1983 this was comedy at its finest.  Michael Keaton losing his job and turning into a stay at home mom is filled with endless laughter, proving that being a mom really is a full time job especially when you think that feeding chili to a baby is appropriate.

8. Pretty in Pink

Best friend who is in love with a girl, tries to persuade said girl from not falling in love with the rich kid who is influenced by his rich friend that she is not worthy because she is poor.  It doesn't sound like much on paper, but add Andrew McCarthy as rich kid, James Spader as his friend, Molly Ringwald as the girl and John Crier as her friend and you have an '80s gem.  You really do feel bad for Duckie and his bolo tie not getting the girl, but when Blane stands up to Steff at the dance and defends Andie's honor all set to If You Leave, the feel good part of the movie feels really good.

7. Home Alone

Once you suspend your disbelief that an 8 year old could possibly be left home alone over Christmas vacation, and then that he could defend his home against professional burglars by drawing up a battle plan, you can't help but love this John Hughes film.  Arguably one of the handful of Christmas movies that you don't mind watching ever December on loop while you roast the duck and trim the trimmings.  The cameo from John Candy is part of the solid working relationship that Hughes had with Candy in which we see him in a number of his films.

6. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Likely a movie that you have forgotten about for 30 years, Planes Trains and Automobiles is a classic slapstick comedy featuring Steve Martin and John Candy in their prime.  The scene where they are cuddling in bed accidentally and Candy's hand is "between two pillows" is priceless. As Thanksgiving becomes the forgotten holiday with the mass marketing of Christmas, let's not forget John Hughes film about a man who just wants to get home but must do so with a shower curtain salesman full of surprises.

5. Sixteen Candles

You could argue that John Hughes made Molly Ringwald's career.  In Sixteen Candles she plays the girl in love with the senior boy who doesn't know she exists, all while everyone has forgotten that it is her birthday amidst her sister's wedding planning.  The humor can be a little sophomoric at times with a drunk Long Duk Dong and Ringwald giving her panties to geeky Anthony Michael Hall so he can prove his popularity.  But when dreamy Jake is standing in front of the sports car in his sweater vest at the end waiting for Samantha, you get the cheesy moment that you've been waiting for.

4. Weird Science

Anthony Micheal Hall and make a girl on their computer.  But not just any girl, but the gorgeous Kelly LeBrock.  Then she comes alive.  But this story is really about two geeky teens who gain the confidence they lacked before Lisa awakens it from them.  Battling an overbearing older brother and a mutant biker gang that crashes their party, unpopular Gary and Wyatt live out the dream of every young boy to have a beautiful older woman in her panties appear from thin air.  John Hughes gives us 94 minutes of silliness that we just can't get enough of in this underdog, coming of age film.

But not just any

3. Some Kind of Wonderful

Keith (Eric Stoltz) thinks he wants to date Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson) the most popular girl in school.  What he doesn't realize is that his best friend Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) is really the one for him as she secretly pines for him the entire film.  Stoltz believes that just getting a date with the popular girl will change his life.  Will Stoltz pick the long haired prom queen or the short haired tom boy best friend?  Before he can decide, Keith must battle the secret plot from Amanda's ex boyfriend to take him down.  Most of Hughes other films are pure comedy but Some Kind of Wonderful is a more drama which shows his versatility.

2. The Breakfast Club

Shermer High School.  Shermer, Illinois.  Five kids from different walks of life are all stuck in Saturday detention staring the brat back of 1985.  This John Hughes film works on so many levels, but most of all because no matter who you are, you can identify with certain traits of every character.  While their labels are the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal, they prove that they are all under similar pressures as teens in the north Chicago suburbs.  Hughes passion for the climax in the final scene is no better than bad boy Judd Nelson walking across the field and pumping his fist as Brian reads the letter to Mr. Vernon telling him that he can see them as whoever he wants.

Honorable Mentions

Before we get to the top spot, here are a couple of films that just slipped out of the top 10.

She's Having a Baby

Kevin Bacon becomes overwhelmed with the commitments of marriage and then freaks out when his wife Ally Sheedy becomes pregnant.  100% feel good.

Uncle Buck

John Candy as a clueless, unemployed bachelor babysits for his brother's kids (who include Macaulay Culkin) when a last minute family emergency arises.   Disaster looms in every scene but Candy proves he is parent material, in his own special way.

1. Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Bueller.  Bueller.  Bueller.  Three teens skip school and have the time of their lives in Chicago, all in a single day.  While Ferris embodies the term carpe diem, Cameron is so risk adverse and conservative that he can never loosen up and enjoy life.  Hughes best film reminds us to stop and smell the roses, even if it means being absent from school 9 times.  9 times?  9 times.  Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a timeless classic that still holds up today and deserves to be at the top of our list.