The legendary auteur of teen and romantic films has left an incredible legacy.
Fans of 1980s teen flicks are in for a real bummer as legendary angst-sploitation director John Hughes passed away today (August 6th) of a heart attack. He was 59 years old.
Movies from the John Hughes collection didn't just mimic but shaped an entire generation of young people. His archetypal teens (and other scamps) have come to represent how we actually remember the 1980s (a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal). While JH wrote some classic films (including Mr. Mom, Vacation, Home Alone, Pretty In Pink, Some Kind Of Wonderful*), his greatest impact was through his directorial efforts. Here are John Hughes' most romantic films in order from least to most romantic**:
5-Weird Science: Wyatt and Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) are a couple of classic Hughes-ian dorks just looking for love. A pantsing episode in the gymnasium severely hampers their already shaky reps. To the point that any female interaction is going to have to come from a woman created via computational super-science. The supernatural woman teaches the nerds about being themselves and not so nervous. She turns Bill Paxton (not Bill Pullman) into a toad-like poo monster. The boys get the hot babes in the end and usher in a whole generation of guys who think that they'll be fine when ladies get to know the "real" them. Also shows that geeks can get non-geek girlfriends (see Revenge Of The Nerds for more on this theme).
4-Ferris Bueller's Day Off: The coolest guy who has ever lived (the role of a lifetime for Matthew Broderick) just needs one more day off of school. A computer helps start the scheme (notice a trend) but he needs his best friend to help him spring his best girl for one last hurrah. A sausage king is impersonated, a Chicago parade is twisted and shouted and a Ferrari takes a dirt nap. Ferris and Sloan discuss some intimate details; including Sloan's revelation that she's going to marry him but the real romance takes place between Jean (Jennifer Grey) and a drug dealer (Charlie Sheen) in a police station. The tension nearly tore the precinct in two. Big wins all around for misfits and actors playing characters waaaaay younger than themselves.
3-The Breakfast Club: The quintessential high school movie throws five students into Saturday detention and lets the sparks fly. The concept of the fictional Canadian girlfriend of a nerd (Anthony Michael Hall, again) is introduced. An incredibly popular girl (Molly Ringwald) admits she's a virgin. A compulsive liar admits to nymphomania. Stereotypes are crushed. And a jock (Emilio Esteves) shares a kiss (if not more) with the alternative girl (Ally Sheedy) while the punk kid (Judd Nelson) gets the princess. The idea that any group of kids could, conceivably become friends and lovers inspires many. Notice a theme? "Don't You Forget About Me" by Simple Minds is still serving as the music for thousands of wedding slide shows every weekend.
2-She's Having A Baby: Jake (Kevin Bacon) and Kristy decide it's time to grow up and move out to the suburbs. Huge themes are dissected; men refusing to settle down, women surreptitiously quitting birth control, low sperm count as unmanly and the grass is always greener. Suburbia gets skewered and Alec Baldwin sets the tone for the rest of his career. In the end, after the fighting, the resentment and misgivings, Jake and Kristy are dragged kicking and screaming into a real couplehood (and parenthood and adulthood). Probably John Hughes' most grown-up and autobiographical film.
1-Sixteen Candles: Wait? Girls can have crushes on boys their own age and not just Davey Jones? The teen love triangle also makes a triumphant appearance. You see "The Geek" (Anthony Michael Hall, yeah again) wants Sam (Molly Ringwald, good to see you) but she wants Jake (and Long Duk Dong, the Donger, would take anything). And no one seems to give one fig about poor Sam's 16th birthday because her older sister has a wedding. In the long run, Sam gets her guy and The Geek, inexplicably, ends up with Jake's incredibly hot prom date. I'm sensing a pattern.
While the idea that you can always get what you want romantically may be an irreparable fantasy, the fairytale has really helped many lovelorn youngsters get through tough times. Maybe these movies fostered some great, unlikely romances. If not, hope can't really be a bad thing, can it? Thanks for everything, John Hughes.
*A personal favorite.
**The romance in Curly Sue or Uncle Buck was fairly tacked-on; Planes, Trains & Automobiles was maybe a bromance, maybe.