I think growing up in the '80s was where my love of film began, and when it comes to '80s cinema, John Hughes was one of the very best writer/directors of that decade. So this here is going to be my tribute to one of my all-time favorite filmmakers.
Early Life And Career
Born John Wilden Hughes, Jr. on the 18th of February 1950 in Lansing, Michigan. As a teenager, Hughes dropped out of the University of Arizona and started his career by selling jokes to well-known comedians of the day such as Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers in the late-'60s. In the mid-'70s, Hughes penned a story inspired by his family trips as a child titled: "Vacation ’58." This story caught the attention of the famed comedy magazine National Lampoon — who printed the story and offered Hughes a staff job.
His first credited screenplay, Class Reunion, was written while still on staff at National Lampoon magazine, and was eventually turned into the movie National Lampoon’s Class Reunion in 1982. This was the third film produced by the National Lampoon movie division. The first film being Animal House in 1978. Animal House was a huge success. National Lampoon wanted to repeat that success and followed it up with National Lampoon’s Class Reunion and National Lampoon’s Movie Madness (filmed in 1981 but not released until 1983). The second two film attempts were a disaster and almost closed the movie branch of National Lampoon for good. However, Hughes had another film script up his sleeve, one based off his story Vacation ’58. What we got from that was…
National Lampoon’s Vacation was a major hit and put National Lampoon back on the map, saving them from closing the movie arm of the business. National Lampoon’s Vacation is rightly remembered as one of the all-time great comedy movies of the '80s and was the film that proved this John Hughes guy could write.
Making A Name For Himself
Shorty after, Hughes landed a three-movie deal with Universal Studios. His directorial debut, Sixteen Candles (released in 1984), was another big hit and just further proved Hughes was a writer/director worth watching. John followed up this success with other big hits like The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Not wanting to be pigeon-holed as a writer/director of teen comedies, he decided to go a more "adult" route in 1987 with the amazing Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
John had a relatively short career as a director with only eight films to his name between 1982 to 1991 — his last film as a director being Curly Sue. Hughes was more known for his writing. Despite such a short directing career, he did make some of the most memorable films of that era. In the '90s, Hughes concentrated more on his writing, with his biggest and most famous screenplay being the Christmas classic Home Alone in 1990.
The '90s Decline
Many would suggest his writing during the mid-'90s got slowly worse and worse, with some people claiming that Hughes became lazy and uninspired; that he just began phoning in his work around the mid-'90s and was living off the success of his big-hit films of that decade — Home Alone.
However, I’d like to offer my own personal reason — and even offer an explanation — as to why I think John Hughes went "off the boil" in the mid-'90s and never truly recovered.
John Hughes was very close to, and best friends with, the amazing John Candy, who unexpectedly died in 1994. I quite honestly believe that Hughes lost much more than just a friend with the loss of John Candy. I believe Hughes lost his whole drive and passion for the industry when John Candy died.
Despite the loss of his close friend, Hughes still maintained a steady writing career when he penned sequels to Home Alone franchise, the Beethoven series, Dennis the Menace, Baby’s Day Out, the live-action 101 Dalmatians, Flubber and numerous other screenplays.
Some Of My Favorite Films
John Hughes films of the '80s were a big part of my childhood and even helped me though my confusing teenage years.
The all-time classic National Lampoon’s Vacation was one of the first films I recall seeing as a young kid that blew my mind. I even like the sequel, European Vacation. And of course, Christmas Vacation is one of those Christmas films I just have to watch every year. The Breakfast Club is a film I enjoyed back then, but now just love the hell out of it. I think the simplicity of the whole set up is amazing with everything taking place in pretty much one locale and with only a very small cast of very memorable characters. Weird Science (one of my "teenage movies") is a film that made me laugh like no other before it. This one is off the wall and yet grounded at the same time. Yeah, and having to look at the stunningly beautiful Kelly Le Brock for 94 minutes was a "chore." "Give 'em the knee shooters."
But for me, his opus, his masterpiece, is a film I have already mentioned — Planes, Trains and Automobiles. You have John Hughes, John Candy and Steve Martin all at the very top of their game in one of the most creative, funniest and emotional comedy films of the '80s. So much I could mention in this massively quotable movie, but I'll just say this: car rental.
I could sit here all day and write about John Hughes and his films, but there are more articles to write, so I'll end this here.
Don't You Forget About Him
Hughes had an amazing but short directing career in the '80s as he defined and inspired a generation. Despite being a prolific screenplay writer in the '90s, he would never see that level of success ever again.
John Hughes died August 6, 2009 after suffering a severe heart attack. He was 59.
“Many filmmakers portray teenagers as immoral and ignorant, with pursuits that are pretty base. But I haven’t found that to be the case, I listen to kids, I respect them. Some of them are as bright as any of the adults I’ve met.”
I'm thinking about making this a regular feature. Remembering actors, directors, writers, etc. we have lost over the years. Let me know if you'd like to see more in the comments below.