Although John Hughes departed unexpectedly in 2009 at the age of 59, his influence as a director lives on. The fact that he has continued to make sequels to some of his biggest hits (such as 2015’s “Vacation” and this year’s “Home Sweet Home Alone”) indicates that our fondness for his previous films is unlikely to diminish any time soon. Throughout his career, he only directed eight features, although he penned more than three times as many. The likelihood is high that you adore one or more of his films, and you’re not alone in feeling this way unless you adore “Drillbit Taylor,” in which case you’re totally alone.
We choose to take into account both his writing and directing work when spotlighting his best movies since it broadens the range of potential choices and enables us to cover more than just his eight directorial endeavours. We’ve ranked 14 of his films below, nominally in order of worst to greatest, although I’d contend that they’re all excellent representations of the man’s abilities. Did your own personal favourite make our list of John Hughes films? Unless “Curly Sue” is your fave, in which case: What’s the big deal?
Table Of Content
- 1 Dutch (1991, writer)
- 2 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986, writer/director)
- 3 Home Alone (1990, writer)
- 4 Miracle on 34th Street (1994, writer)
- 5 Mr. Mom (1983, writer)
- 6 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989, writer)
- 7 National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983, writer)
- 8 Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987, writer/director)
- 9 Pretty in Pink (1986, writer)
- 10 Reach the Rock (1998, writer)
- 11 Sixteen Candles (1984, writer/director)
- 12 Some Kind of Wonderful (1987, writer)
- 13 The Breakfast Club (1985, writer/director)
- 14 Uncle Buck (1989, writer/director)
Dutch (1991, writer)
By offering to spend the forthcoming holiday with her kid, the average Joe hopes to impress his fiancée, but the two get along like oil and sparkling water. This might be their finest Thanksgiving ever, despite the fact that the guy is a grump and the child is a snob.
The 1980s demonstrated John Hughes’ expertise in comedy and youthful audiences, but with this early 1990s film from filmmaker Peter Faiman, his abilities faltered a little. With an older youngster fighting blows with an adult, the physical violence of the previous year’s “Home Alone” doesn’t completely translate, and a fair amount of the comedy relies on hostility.
Nevertheless, “Dutch” bounces back at the film’s conclusion because of the writing’s warmth and the performances of its two leads. Both actors—Ethan Embry as the youngster, Doyle, and Ed O’Neill as Dutch—walk a thin line between annoying and endearing. Thanksgiving movies often focus on family, and this one demonstrates that it’s not necessarily about the relatives you were born into.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986, writer/director)
Few weeks before his high school graduation, a teenager called Ferris believes that a skip day is necessary. He then sets out for a full day of fun in Chicago with his best buddy and girlfriend. He gets the wonderful time he wants, but the group also discovers a lot more.
Many of John Hughes’ movies are well worth seeing again, but “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is the one I find impossible to stop watching once I’ve begun it. Ferris’ seemingly perfect life is a compelling joy in Hughes’ script, which is equally witty as it is smart and absurd as it is moving. It takes a while for his sister to come to terms with that and realise that she shouldn’t envy other people’s success. This is just one of the movie’s pearls of uncomplicated wisdom. Don’t forget to take a moment to smell the roses and never miss a chance to lipsync. Although the final one is untrue, it’s still a great moment that serves as a reminder that even someone as shrewd and well-put-together as Ferris doesn’t know everything. Wayne Newton, aerobics can save your bacon someday, and running a car in reverse reduces mileage.
As Ferris, Matthew Broderick absolutely kills it, and the supporting ensemble surrounding him—which also includes Mia Sara, Alan Ruck, Jennifer Grey, Edie McClurg, and others—is pure joy. There are so many fantastic scenes in this movie, including the parking garage attendants’ joyride through the city, the museum’s sadness, and Ferris’ frantic dash through backyards to get home before his parents. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is a flat-out comedy masterpiece, and there’s really nothing else to add.
Home Alone (1990, writer)
When a greedy, irresponsible family leaves for Europe, they forget one of their own at home, yet the boy’s concern soon transforms to joy. He is delighted to be alone, much like Burgess Meredith in a “Twilight Zone” episode, until two stupid burglars knock on his door.
Macaulay Culkin was famously catapulted into a star in “Home Alone,” but Chris Columbus, the filmmaker, may have benefited even more from the film. Despite having a genuine need for the work, he initially turned down the opportunity to direct “Christmas Vacation” because Chevy Chase was such a jerk. Hughes made amends by giving him this script, and everyone was satisfied. The movie cleverly riffs on themes of home invasion with all the sensitivities of an eight-year-old child, thrilling audiences as well.
It’s the small boy’s experience, so while it may not be his literal point of view, it comes as close as it can to letting the audience see the family, the bad men, and the situation from his perspective. Yes, the brutality is on par with live-action Looney Tunes. It emphasises the value of family, the conflicting wants and desires of children, and the need to exercise caution when making wishes. Additionally, it is a much superior holiday comedy than “Christmas Vacation.”
Miracle on 34th Street (1994, writer)
a young child who rejects the existence of Santa Claus. a single mother juggling her time with her daughter and employment at a major shop. a lover of both of them. What do they all share this holiday season? a vagrant who believes himself to be Santa Claus.
The problem is this. The wonderful ambience of the 1947 original can’t be matched by this John Hughes-penned remake, but its energetic premise and naively upbeat perspectives on life, love, and the justice system still have a certain allure. The actual world would quickly swallow and vomit out each of these simpletons, but as a contemporary dream, Les Mayfield’s movie succeeds in enhancing the festive mood and inspiring viewers to be kind.
Elizabeth Perkins and Dylan McDermott, two veterans of the 1990s, are excellent as the grownups in the room, and Mara Wilson is a delight. Meanwhile, Richard Attenborough plays a jovial Santa who implies that, like life itself, the Christmas spirit always finds a way.
Mr. Mom (1983, writer)
Jack is a happily married father of three, but when the family’s sole provider loses his job, his life is upended. While Jack struggles to manage the workload of a stay-at-home father, his wife Caroline returns to work and succeeds.
The climax of this John Hughes film, like that of “Pretty in Pink,” is a bit of a letdown; sexism ultimately forces Caroline to resign despite her success, while Jack finds repentance and reclaims his previous position. Salute to the current situation where the lady belongs at home! However, the journey there is amusing and enjoyable, and Michael Keaton excels in the situation with both his physical comedy and line delivery.
Even though much of the comedy (outside of Keaton’s performance) is based on gender stereotypes, Teri Garr and Martin Mull join in on the fun, and their combined talents help to raise the material into the realm of the genuinely amusing and unforgettable.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989, writer)
The Griswold family has made the decision to spend Christmas at home since they are aware that family trips can be a nightmare due to car problems and children who appear to change dramatically from one trip to the next. But given the Griswolds’ history, it will undoubtedly be a tumultuous trip to remember.
Given where it ranks in my list, it should be clear that “Christmas Vacation” is not one of my favourite holiday comedies. The movie ups the absurdity and unevenly humorous slapstick to such an extent that the inevitable shift to emotional beats lands like fish guts on the sidewalk. I know you all adore it, and I’m pleased for you. The film’s director, Jeremiah Chechik, is uninterested in controlling the turmoil; instead, he creates a movie that resembles a collection of disparate elements and conflicting personalities.
Of course, it’s to the credit of those characters that they continue to produce a variety of one-offs with enough humour to make this worth watching despite itself. Beverly D’Angelo, Doris Roberts, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Randy Quaid lend support to Chevy Chase, who is in full-on idiot mode and makes the headlines. A romp, indeed!
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983, writer)
Warner Bros. The Griswold family took a cross-country road trip to Walley World before they travelled to Europe, Las Vegas, or celebrated Christmas. The trip didn’t exactly go as expected.
This absurdly amusing story follows a family as they explore America during the worst-planned cross-country excursion since the Donner Party. Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold is a lot more believable and hence sympathetic character here, in contrast to the significantly dumbed down sequels. Everyone has a great time except the Griswolds as a result of his gullible optimism and desire for fun exceeding his common sense.
The immediate family consists of Beverly D’Angelo, Anthony Michael Hall, and Dana Barron. Their interactions serve as delightfully exaggerated reminders of our own families. The script by John Hughes, which is based on his own short tale, finds a hilarious director in Harold Ramis, who does an excellent job creating set pieces and maintaining a wonderful pacing. Although it is a fairly realistic film, it is constantly amusing, and Hughes’ love for family is evident throughout.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987, writer/director)
A businessman attempting to make it home in time for Thanksgiving encounters every roadblock and difficulty. His misfortune escalates when he finds himself in need of a friendly seller whose personal luck appears to be even worse.
If you’ve gone through this entire list (or have just seen the majority of John Hughes’ movies), you know that while humour is usually the main subject of his films, the key themes are usually family, both biologically and artificially. They frequently provide emotional beats, but few, if any, can compare to “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” in terms of power. As the stiff businessman and the goofball, played by Steve Martin and John Candy, respectively, their comedy chemistry is as well-balanced as any you’re likely to see as they argue, argue, and share pillows (whether Will Smith and Kevin Hart can reach those same dizzying heights remains to be seen).
The movie nails the need for human interaction as well as its frustrations, and it emphasises the value of being with loved ones during difficult times (and helping others do the same). My friend, if you’re not in tears by the conclusion of this one, you are a cruel knob. I’m sorry, but I don’t set the rules.
Pretty in Pink (1986, writer)
Andie, the only child of a blue-collar single father, can’t help but daydream about living in a better neighbourhood. She is up against it when she falls in love with a wealthy, privileged teenager, but she perseveres while holding a sewing machine in one hand and her closest male buddy in the other.
The 1980s were an exciting decade for many reasons, but one historical incident that stands out is when test audiences for the movie “Pretty in Pink” protested the original ending in which Andie chose Duckie. Instead, they desired that she find love with Blane. Blane! Even looking at it now, it’s obvious that Blane (Blane!) is not the boy for her. The finale was reshot, the movie was a hit, and the rest is history. Okay good, I’ll continue.
Despite its dreadful, misguided conclusion, Howard Deutch’s movie offers a lot to appreciate, including standout work from Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy (Blane! ), Jon Cryer, James Spader, and the late, great Harry Dean Stanton.
Reach the Rock (1998, writer)
With a turbulent and unsettling spirit, Robin is a troubled young man who had excellent reason to leave town. He soon finds himself in jail where he encounters a local police officer who is still harbouring his own smouldering resentment.
This moderately humorous drama, the most outré film in John Hughes’ discography, hasn’t been seen by many people and is beloved by even fewer. I understand, I really do, but this is a movie where the performances bring even the shaky portions of Hughes’ script to life. That’s not to say that it’s a movie that moves quickly or that it has to be exciting, but the dialogue and character interactions help to create a narrative about frustration, regret, and the all-too-human habit of needing to place blame for life’s hardships.
Robin is portrayed by Alessandro Nivola with a combination of brooding intensity and self-doubt, and William Sadler, a legend in the acting world, plays the cop whose animosity toward the young guy says a lot about his own struggle to let go. The two guys engaged in mental and emotional conflict over a battle neither of them has to be fighting make up the bulk of the movie; two minor strands involving aborted romances are merely filler.
Sixteen Candles (1984, writer/director)
Sam is anticipating her 16th birthday with excitement, but her excitement wanes when she learns that her busy family has completely forgotten about it. Her unrequited crush on the most popular boy in school is currently the only thing keeping her going through the day, but it might not be for much longer.
First things first, this script does indeed have some repulsive elements. “Sixteen Candles” is a classic ’80s comedy, complete with dubious sexual politics that barely avoid the boundary of date rape and an Asian character whose entire existence is based on racial humour. Roger Ebert argued that Gedde Watanabe succeeded in making the figure of Long Duk Dong into “high comedy,” so the former is perhaps debatable, but it’s hard to perceive the former as anything other than shoddy writing.
However, both of these aspects play a minimal role in this movie, leaving the most of the laughs to come from inappropriate older relatives, geeks with a dream, and a growingly humiliated Molly Ringwald. A humorous, endearing movie about the enduring inconsistencies of family is created by including Anthony Michael Hall, Paul Dooley, and cameos from John Cusack, Joan Cusack, and Jami Gertz.
Some Kind of Wonderful (1987, writer)
Keith, the son of working-class parents, can’t help but daydream about living in a better neighbourhood. He stumbles forward with mechanic overalls in one hand and his best female buddy in the other, despite the fact that the odds are stacked against him when he falls in love with a dreamy teen who hails from wealth and luxury.
Does that summary ring a bell with you? That should be the case given that I essentially duplicated John Hughes’ “Pretty in Pink” script and the synopsis from above. By the way, that’s not a complaint because “Some Kind of Wonderful” provides a much more satisfying resolution to the issues with the first movie. Here, Eric Stoltz plays the role as a young man who yearns for Lea Thompson despite the presence of a tomboyish Mary Stuart Masterson in front of him.
Along the way, we still encounter humour, heart, and some class satire, but the film’s main strength—in addition to its conclusion—is that both relationship scenarios are believable. The finale is more impactful because we can see and understand Keith’s attraction to both girls as well as theirs to him.
The Breakfast Club (1985, writer/director)
On a Saturday, a group of people are put in prison for the entire day, including a criminal, an athlete, a princess, a basket case, and a brain. They enter as strangers, but by the time they depart, they will have become friends who are much more familiar with one another and themselves than anybody else in their life.
I can’t dispute with some of you who believe “The Breakfast Club” should be at the top of a list of the best John Hughes movies. If you came at me on another day, I might agree. It is a masterfully crafted examination of stereotypes, stock characters, and how such meaningless designations do far more harm than good. It’s in our propensity to categorise ourselves and others, yet while this appears to make things simpler, it actually tends to obscure rather than clarify. That’s a lofty way of stating that this humorous drama is as thought-provoking as it is fun.
As teenagers discovering who they are and where they fit in the world, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, and Judd Nelson shine. This awakening is accompanied by humour, pain, and a badass vice principal whose catchphrase “You mess with the bull, you get the horns” has become instantly recognisable. In fact, some of us still identify as these “teens” in our more reflective, melancholy, or upbeat times.
Uncle Buck (1989, writer/director)
Buck Although Russell is not a man who seeks stability, his search for the next greatest thing is put on hold when he is assigned to care his sister’s kids while her father recovers from a medical condition. Perhaps caring for youngsters will give Buck the push he needs to mature.
A year before he would become well-known, Macaulay Culkin co-starred in “Uncle Buck” as one of several delightful characters. The journey of the three children—all but the teenage daughter’s dubious boyfriend, Bug, who receives a serving of justice—is filled with big laughs, bigger pancakes, and heaping helpings of heart. The three children—Gaby Hoffman, Jean Louisa Kelly, and Buck—amuse, frustrate, and ultimately help redeem John Candy’s Buck. Buck also corrects an assistant principal, and it’s these kinds of triumphs for the kids that draw applause. John Candy, a humorous actor, successfully channels a compelling mixture of rage, hope, and love. John Hughes and John Candy are equally good at moving the heart.
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