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Creator / John Hughes

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"It is thanks to him that not a day goes by when someone, somewhere does not come up to me, taps me on the shoulder and says, 'Hey, Ferris, is this your day off?'"
Matthew Broderick in his memorial speech for Hughes at the 82nd Academy Awards

John Wilden Hughes Jr. (February 18, 1950 August 6, 2009) was an American filmmaker best known for the teen comedies he wrote and directed in the mid-1980s: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Hughes grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan and then Northbrook, Illinois. He dropped out of the University of Arizona, then worked as an advertising copywriter before getting a job as a contributor for National Lampoon magazine. He was also one of the key developers of Delta House, the TV spinoff of Animal House. His first big successes as a screenwriter were National Lampoon's Vacation and Mr. Mom. (He got a rare shared screenplay (and sole story) credit for National Lampoon's European Vacation when his script was rewritten by Robert Klane.) After Ferris Bueller, he directed Planes, Trains and Automobiles, She's Having a Baby, Uncle Buck, and Curly Sue, and wrote and produced Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and the first three Home Alone movies. (He also produced Only the Lonely for Home Alone director Chris Columbus, one of only two films he produced that he didn't write; the other was New Port South, written and directed by his son James.)

During the 1990s, he somehow ended up writing and producing a string of more family-oriented comedies, including the live-action versions of 101 Dalmatians and Dennis the Menace, and the remake of Miracle on 34th Street. Experiencing a severe case of Artist Disillusionment after the death of his friend, actor John Candy, in 1994, he would become a recluse, and the rest of his screenplays would be written under the pseudonym Edmond Dantes (also used for 1992's Beethoven). His last film was the 2008 comedy Drillbit Taylor. He died of a sudden heart attack in 2009 from living under stress and isolation. Shortly after his death, his friend Vince Vaughn said in Variety that Hughes likely would have made more films as a director if Candy had lived longer.

The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off were both later posthumously inducted into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Teen Films

Films featuring John Candy

Other Films

His films (those few that don't already have pages of their own) provide examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless
    • In a couple of his movies, the bad guys are people who take "just doing their job" too far.
    • Parents are usually depicted as well-meaning, but generally out-of-touch and ignorant.
    • This is played with in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, where, yes, the adults are easily fooled and/or moronic...but the kids are easily fooled, too.
    • The Breakfast Club hit this one in a somewhat dark way. Not only are there no positive adult characters in the movie (save Carl the janitor), almost all of them are downright cruel and abusive. That attitude is summed up pretty well in Allison's line, "When you grow up, your heart dies."
  • Alan Smithee: Went under the name Edmund Dantes at least three times.
  • All There in the Manual: Hughes apparently spent several years putting together a detailed history for the Shermer universe of his films (see below), but his stories and notes have never been released. A lot of it wouldn't match up, anyhow (see The 'Verse below).
  • Amusing Injuries: Hughes seems to have loved this trope, given that he used it in his 90s family comedies.
  • Anti-Hero: A lot of his characters tend to be these, ranging from the put-upon, cynical Samantha Baker to bad boy John Bender.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: Seems to be a running philosophy in his films, but he's been known to toy with idealism, morality, and the human condition in general.
  • Author Appeal: Fine art, indie music, The Beatles, and Chicago.
  • Author Avatar: Anthony Michael Hall's characters in his films are based on him.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Parents, authority figures, and institutions are portrayed as hopelessly bumbling at best or at worst, actively malicious and corrupt.
  • Black Comedy: Sometimes, and it's black. The most notorious instance is Brian's confession in The Breakfast Club.
  • Brat Pack: He wrote and/or directed the most famous movies that the Brat Pack starred in.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Quite a few of his characters, most notably Ferris Bueller and John Bender, are quite smart but refuse to use it for anything useful.
  • Butt-Monkey: Great at writing these, with Neal Page and Clark Griswold as his two biggest.
  • Chicago: The suburbs of Chicago, actually.
  • Crapsack World: His movies are frequently set in one. They're packed to the brim with Hate Sinks, Butt Monkeys and lots of angst.
  • Creator Provincialism: John Hughes' films are typically set in the Chicago North Shore where he grew up, to the point where residents of Northbrook and Evanston can still find intact areas that were used as filming locations. In Ferris Bueller's Day Off alone, you get the "Save Ferris" sign on the Northbrook water tower, the Glenbrook North High School auditorium entrance for Ferris' school's entrance, and Cameron's dad's Ferrari being parked in the Ben Rose House in Highland Park. The recurring suburban setting of Shermer is even named after Northbrook's original name, Shermerville.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The usual style of humor his films provide given that they almost always revolved around teenage protagonists.
  • Dean Bitterman: Hughes explored this trope twice. In both cases, the principal takes administration a little too far, and becomes needlessly vindictive in dealing with a student.
    • Principal Vernon from The Breakfast Club is the dramatic version of this trope. At his worst, he tells Bender to punch him, because who's going to believe a useless punk over a respected principal?
    • Principal Rooney from Ferris Bueller's Day Off is the same thing, except played for comedy. Every time he oversteps the proper boundaries, he suffers a Humiliation Conga.
    • The Assistant Principal from Uncle Buck is a female example that works in an Elementary school. She is hard on the children and dislikes "silliness" and imagination. She gets called out by the titular character.
  • The '80s: Most of his best-known and best-liked films were made this decade.
  • Humans Are Flawed / Humans Are Bastards: The latter can qualify for some of the antagonists in his films. His protagonists are more flawed than outright bastardly.
  • Knight Templar: Dick Vernon from The Breakfast Club qualifies.
  • Live-Action Cartoon: His family comedies from Home Alone to Beethoven feel like Saturday morning cartoons with a large abundance of Amusing Injuries, physics and other writing elements that one might find in a Looney Tunes short.
  • Monochrome Casting: Virtually none of his movies had a non-white lead. Justified, since most of his stories took place in the Chicago North Shore, which was still not quite integrated when he began writing and still has a majority-white population to this day.
  • Nothing but Hits: Notably averted. Hughs was well-known to carefully curate his films' soundtracks with moderate pop hits by under-the-radar acts, resulting in each one being a nice time capsule of hidden gems from the era in which they were released.
  • Revisiting the Roots: Attempted with Reach The Rock, a dramedy that hearkened back to his Shermer films, to the point where the film took place in Shermerville. Advertisements and the film's trailer played this up, saying "John Hughes makes a welcome return to his roots."
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: His films would arguably lean on the cynical side of the scale, to the point that some viewers have interpreted vaguely misanthrophic or nihilistic sentiments. Despite that, his films have toyed with idealism and are usually feel-good or heartfelt, treating love, friendship and kindness as admirable traits and those who maintain their idealism and sincerity, like Del, as worthy of respect.
  • The Stinger: Occasionally showed up, as in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
  • The 'Verse: In a 1999 Premiere article, Hughes himself declared that Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Planes, Trains and Automobiles are all a part of the same universe, revolving around the fictitious suburb of Shermer (a fictionalization of Hughes' real-life hometown of Northbrook, Illinois, which was originally called Shermerville). Sadly, the crossover possibilities were never explored in film.
    John Hughes: When I started making movies, I thought I would just invent a town where everything happened. Everybody, in all of my movies, is from Shermer, Illinois. Del Griffith from Planes, Trains & Automobiles lives two doors down from John Bender. Ferris Bueller knew Samantha Baker from Sixteen Candles. For 15 years I've written my Shermer stories in prose, collecting its history.
    • It's long been speculated that Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Home Alone also take place in the Shermerverse, since those movies were written (but not directed) by Hughes and feature similar themes. Adding on to that, there is mixed evidence that Uncle Buck and Curly Sue (both directed by Hughes) might take place in the Shermerverse, but this hasn't been confirmed.
    • Weird Science explicitly takes place in Shermer (Lisa is seen teaching the Shermer High gym class at the end), though it has its own Speculative Fiction internal logic that is inconsistent with the other canon Shermerverse movies.
    • She's Having A Baby does NOT take place in the Shermerverse, since Neal Page's wife is seen watching that movie on television in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Some of his films have them, depending on who you ask.