Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thank you, John Hughes

Some of my most pleasant memories of being a teen in the '80s came from some of the better teen movies which flourished at that time. Foremost among the creators of this genre of moviemaking was the great John Hughes whose work during the '80s was known for treating the minds and feelings of teenagers, and the situations that teens found themselves in, with seriousness and respect.

Hughes created such teen classics as Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Pretty In Pink, movies which were big in their day, and have since become cult classics, and the source of much imitation in the form of subsequent teen oriented flicks. Hughes also went beyond the teen movie genre to make such films as the holiday classic Home Alone and the comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles.  But Hughes' creation which, for many of us, still resonates most strongly was the teen classic The Breakfast Club.

An account of several teens from very different cliques bonding with one another during their stay in detention, The Breakfast Club served for many of us as a protest against the walls that separated us from our fellow teens. It also had an unusual depth for a teen flick, allowing its characters to express the complexity which lay behind the facades of various teen stereotypes. Kids who were as different as a nerd, a stoner, an arty outsider, a jock and a preppie suddenly seemed more than just one dimensional. I remember getting great pleasure out of the way this movie made you think, as you chewed on the dialogue going on between the characters on the screen.

But the thing that made The Breakfast Club, and all of Hughe's movies, so wonderful for a teen loner like me, is that Hughes had a particular soft spot for the outsiders, the individualists, and the misfits, and he had a great way of exposing their dilemma through his movies, and ultimately empowering them in the process.

For example, there is this scene in the Breakfast Club, where the jock character, played by Emilio Estevez, tells about an awful thing, a pitiless prank that he played on this nerdy kid. He had done it to impress his fellow jock friends, but in the movie, he was expressing how bad he felt over his part in such a cruel prank, and how awful he must have made that hapless boy feel. At the conclusion of the jock's account, the nerd character, played by Anthony Michael Hall, quietly mentions that the boy who was the target of the prank was one of his friends. The scene is powerful, and there is this painful awareness as the nerd and the jock realize how close this awful prank struck each of them.

Thank you, John Hughes, for moments like that, which exposed the pain of being an outsider, and brought home just how much we had in common as teens from different backgrounds.

John Wilden Hughes (1950-2009)


  1. Oh...I still feel sad that John Hughes is no longer with us. He got out of the industry because he wanted his children to grow up outside of the Hollywood lifestyle and that's admirable. It was very moving when actors from his films paid tribute to him at the Academy Awards. I think everyone from our generation will always share that affection for his movies and how he "got" the teen angst of the time.

  2. Pam: I'm with you. John Hughes brought to my teen years something that you just can't replace. His works will always be classics.

  3. What a great post about a phenomenal film maker. No one else spoke to our generation through movies better than John Hughes. I didn't get into his movies until the 90s (I was born in '82) but they were relevant then and still are today. My personal favorite is "Sixteen Candles" (Jake Ryan!), but I love them all. Thanks for the fantastic tribute. Now I have to go watch "The Breakfast Club" for the umpteenth time!

  4. Shannon: Thank you for the compliment. I think John Hughes' films will always be classic, and will always have a following. Thats because they really bring out the truth about being a teenager. They really hit home, I think.