John Hughes is one of the most prolific and prominent screenwriters of the 1980s and early 1990s, recognized for his work in the family and teen genre. His films have always been heartfelt, funny, and sweet, but they were not afraid to showcase black humor or satire, which made them quite bold and innovative projects of their time. You can see the influence of John Hughes in many contemporary works, even if you don’t realize it. His films launched the careers of Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Macaulay Culkin, Matthew Broderick, Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, and many other famous actors.

John Hughes: the director's filmography. Part One
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The productivity of this author is admirable, because in the 12 years of his most active work (1982-1994), Hughes wrote a total of 25 screenplays, 8 of which he directed himself. Of course, most of his films are quite intimate stories, with few locations (The Breakfast Club takes place in one room), but the simplicity of filming is compensated by voluminous scripts, entirely based on dialogues of the characters, most of whom behave like real people and you almost believe in their existence.

This article begins a series of reviews of the entire filmography of John Hughes. This will include not only such timeless classics as Home Alone, The Breakfast Club, or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but also any project that features John Hughes’ name and surname as a writer and director in the credits. I don’t think it’s necessary to consider producing or acting work.

I propose to start with a short story about the life of the hero of this article and how he came to the film industry.

John Hughes was born on February 18, 1950 in Lansing, Michigan. His father worked in sales, which is why the family periodically changed their place of residence. John himself described himself as “quiet” as a child because there were no boys of his age in the neighborhood where he lived, forcing him to spend time alone, making up stories. Life began to improve after the 7th grade, when he and his family moved to Chicago, where John Hughes went to a big school for the first time and became very interested in The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Later, the future screenwriter changed schools due to another family move, this time to the suburbs of Chicago. It was this place, Glenbrook North High School, that would later inspire him to create his most famous films. In particular, at the new school, John met Nancy Ludwig, who would become his wife many years later. Already in his teens, he was very interested in movies, but his parents did not share his passion.

Джон Г’юз
John Hughes was 17 years old at the age of the characters in his films.

After graduating from the University of Arizona, John Hughes began writing and selling jokes to famous stand-up comedians. Later, thanks to this experience, he got a job as an advertising copywriter at Needham, Harper & Steers. John will demonstrate this period of his life in the movie She’s Having a Baby, where the main character also got into an advertising agency. A few years later, he gets the opportunity to write articles for a magazine called National Lampoon and quickly becomes the editor-in-chief. John Hughes wrote so fast and well that it was difficult for the monthly magazine to keep up with him. One of John’s first stories was “Vacation 58”, which many years later he would adapt into a movie called “Vacation”.

John Hughes got into cinema because of the magazine’s attempts to film its own stories since the late 1970s. Thus, the third movie, National Lampoon’s Class Reunion, was based on his story. Although the project itself failed, it opened the way for John to enter the film industry!

Now let’s move on to the work of John Hughes. After watching all his films, I came to the conclusion that he has almost no bad works. Most of them are distinguished by the presence of iconic scenes, good actors, and a level of sincerity that most modern projects aimed at teenage or family audiences cannot achieve. These films give you real warmth and kindness, which is really lacking nowadays.

It’s worth noting that at the beginning of his career as a screenwriter, John Hughes was actually quite unlucky. You will see this later in the reviews of his first works. He was fired, and his scripts were partially rewritten, making the result worse. But John did not give up and continued to create. After Sixteen Candles, he gained a certain status in Hollywood and more freedom in making films.

Well, let’s start the adventure with so many incredible stories created by the real “king of family and teen movies”!

Warning: This article may contain some spoilers.

National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982)

John Hughes: the director's filmography. Part One

The film takes place during a 1972 reunion at Lizzie Borden High School 10 years after graduation. Former classmates party to the music of Chuck Berry, eat food from the school’s disgusting chefs, and reminisce about the past. The celebration is interrupted when one of the graduates is brutally murdered. Later, after another murder, the film’s protagonists realize that it was all done by Walter Baylor, who was cruelly joked about during the graduation. He went crazy and escaped from the psychiatric hospital to take revenge on all his classmates!

This was the first movie John Hughes wrote a script for, but in the middle of production he was fired and the script was partially rewritten. That’s why he always denied that he wrote it and was shocked when he saw the movie. The critics gave the film a rather negative review, calling it absolutely unfunny and an inept attempt to combine the genres of comedy and slasher. When I read all these reviews of Homecoming, I expected to see a terrible and boring movie, but instead I had a very good time watching this hilarious work.

“The Reunion” is a good movie! If you’re a fan of the “Very Scary Movie”, “Naked Gun” or “Hot Fuzz” series, this movie is definitely for you. Yes, the humor is often quite crude and absurd, but this is the movie’s specialty. In addition, the jokes have almost perfect timing: after one funny moment, the next one immediately follows, sometimes there are more funny jokes in a minute than in some modern comedies in a few hours.

The characters are as caricatured as possible, which plays to the film’s advantage, because it is difficult to reveal so many characters in an hour and a half. Among the graduates you can see: two drug addicts, one pervert, a woman possessed by the devil, a man who was forgotten by everyone after school and now has to constantly remind them of himself, a yacht salesman with an excessive ego, and many more characters whose names you are unlikely to remember, but whose images you will definitely not be able to get out of your head. Each of the characters is insane in their own way, and it becomes clear why Walter Baylor wants to kill everyone. The movie also features Chuck Berry, who plays a few songs, but does not have a full-fledged role in the plot.

John Hughes: the director's filmography. Part One
Almost all the key characters in the movie

The ending of the movie is a bit disappointing, because even for a work that features a vampire and a woman possessed by the devil, it is too ridiculous a plot twist. But it is still an unforgettable movie. It’s a pity that there is no Ukrainian translation, but I hope it will appear someday and more viewers will be able to appreciate this hilarious movie. “The Reunion has its drawbacks and not everyone will like it, but I think it deserves attention.

Unfortunately, the first attempt was unsuccessful and the project performed poorly at the box office, grossing only $10 million. Meanwhile, John Hughes was working on his next scripts at the time. In 1983, three films by him were released, each interesting in its own way.

Mr. Mom (1983)

John Hughes: the director's filmography. Part One

The plot tells the story of Jack Butler, an automotive engineer from Detroit, who is suddenly fired. He has to switch roles with his wife. She returns to work, and he becomes a housewife. Jack has to take care of three small children, but he has no idea how to do it.

A producer named Lauren Schuler read a story in National Lampoon written by John Hughes and began to keep in touch with him. One day, Hughes told Shuler about a terrifying experience when he was looking after his two children in the absence of his wife, which made the producer laugh. After John asked if this could make a good movie script, Shuler replied in the affirmative. Hughes wrote a script for a TV movie and flew to Los Angeles to edit it with Shuler. The bosses at Universal, the company he worked for, did not like this, because they wanted John to stay in Chicago and he was fired. Subsequently, the script was rewritten without the author’s participation from a television format into a full-fledged movie.

Despite the fact that Hughes was fired and rewrote the script during filming, his handwriting is felt throughout the project. John is most likely responsible for the best scenes, as the movie is quite uneven in terms of humor. It’s funny in general, but during some scenes, the thought goes through my head, “John Hughes would have written sharper here, they missed the point.” In terms of the idea, Mr. Mom is a fairly simple and predictable movie that talks about family values, how important it is to keep fit with age, the problems of men and women, and their roles in society. The ideas in the movie are good, but Mr. Mom has almost nothing to distinguish it from millions of other similar projects. The only thing that makes it stand out is the cast. Michael Keaton and Terry Garr are great, they increase the amount of humor even at moments when it shouldn’t be. Keaton really shows how difficult it is for him to adapt to the role of a housewife, especially when his wife is building a successful career at the same time.

Unfortunately, John Hughes’ dismissal clearly did not benefit the movie. If we evaluate the work separately from his filmography, it is a good movie for family viewing. But compared to the screenwriter’s other films, Mr. Mom doesn’t really catch on because Hughes’ original script was partially rewritten and didn’t allow the project to unfold to its fullest potential.

Mr. Mom was still a definite victory for John Hughes, as it earned almost $65 million at the box office with a budget of $5 million. It was the success of this film that later prompted Universal to sign a contract with the screenwriter for several films.

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

John Hughes: the director's filmography. Part One

Clark Griswold, wanting to spend more time with his wife Ellen and children Rusty and Audrey, decides to lead the family on a trip from the suburbs of Chicago to the amusement park in southern California, Valley World.

The movie begins, in my opinion, a little bit boring. You know, like a typical movie about a trip of an “ideal American family”. However, after 20 minutes the movie starts to accelerate in earnest. Everything that could go wrong on this trip comes true, the characters do more and more crazy things, and the humor begins to skillfully balance between everyday life and jokes so black that you can go crazy.

I even had the impression that I was watching an adaptation of The Simpsons. “Vacation also presents a satirical view of a typical American family and puts the characters in situations of varying degrees of absurdity. The protagonist, the father of the family, Clark Griswold, embodies the image of a father who made a “big mistake” and decided to take his family on a trip across America. He tries to make sure that everything goes according to plan, but nothing works out, and it is very funny to watch the hero’s attempts to fix the situation. Clark may sometimes snap, but it’s clear that he just wants to spend a good time with his family.

The finale in the local parody of Disneyland fully confirms this, when Clarke decided that his family must ride the rides at any cost and literally took up arms. It’s impossible not to laugh at how absurd the situation turned out to be, as well as at the reactions of the security guard, played by John Candy. It is precisely because we saw how difficult the protagonists’ path to Valley World was that the climax turned out to be so fun and unexpected.

The film cannot be unequivocally called a family movie, because of the sometimes harsh humor and two scenes with nudity by actress Beverly D’Angelo. But with teenage children, you can watch it and remember your own trips, because Hughes’s film is sometimes very realistic. This is an incredibly funny work that will definitely not leave you indifferent.

Nate and Hayes (Savage Islands) (1983)

John Hughes: the director's filmography. Part One

The movie tells the story of a missionary Nathaniel “Nate” Williamson, who was taken on a mission to an island with his fiancée Sophie. The captain of their ship is William “Bully” Hayes, who also likes Sophie. When Sophie is kidnapped by the slave trader Ben Pease, Nate teams up with Hayes to rescue her.

In 1981, the first Indiana Jones movie was released, which became very popular and became a symbol of the adventure movie genre. Every work in this genre at the time tried to copy the adventures of the famous archaeologist with varying degrees of success. In our case, John Hughes co-authored not only one of the worst “clones” of the popular series of films, but also one of the weakest works in his career.

From the very beginning, Nate and Hayes shows that it is a cheap parody of Indiana. The opening scene partially copies Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the main characters are walking in the jungle. Later, we are going to see the arrest of one of the main characters, Hayes, and the whole next part of the movie is devoted to his flashback.

In fact, it is quite difficult to write a review of this work, because watching it is a total torment. The characters are floating somewhere, as if some kind of action is taking place, and you, as a viewer, are not interested at all. The efforts of the creators are evident, and the film’s design can only be praised. The costumes and scenery look great, there are a lot of people in the frame, the budget of the project is visible, but they seem to have forgotten to include a normal plot and interesting characters during production. The duo of the pirate Bully Hayes and the missionary Nathaniel Williams turned out to be no good at all, because the characters have no interesting personality traits, and their interaction is as interesting to watch as the process of drying paint.

The lack of good action scenes finally kills the movie. What made the Indiana Jones movies interesting for the audience? A great protagonist who was both charismatic, smart and very resourceful, great action (the scene with the rock rolling at Jones in the first part alone is still parodied to this day), and most importantly, a sense of adventure! Nate and Gus didn’t even come close to achieving any of these points. The action is nauseating, the plot and main characters, including the character of Bully Hayes, played by Tommy Lee Jones himself, are forgotten 10 minutes after watching. I won’t mention the atmosphere, because it doesn’t exist.

So, “Nate and Hays” is a dubious project that aimed to parasitize on the popularity of Indiana Jones’ adventures and rightfully failed, grossing less than $2 million dollars on a budget of $7.5 million. I believe that this movie is one of the most unsuccessful projects of John Hughes. I do not recommend it to any living soul! Better watch the three original Indiana Jones movies or Pirates of the Caribbean, which have a similar mood and plot elements to Nate and Hays, but look much better and stick in the viewer’s memory for a long time.

Sixteen Candles (1984)

John Hughes: the director's filmography. Part One

Hughes wrote the first draft of Sixteen Candles back in 1982, and it was a $1 million production. The production almost immediately stalled and John Hughes decided to focus on his other works, namely Vacation and Mr. Mom. After the success of the latter, Universal decided to work with the screenwriter again and offered him a three-year, $30 million contract to produce two films. John Hughes had an almost finished script for The Breakfast Club, but it was decided to shoot Sixteen Candles first because it was supposed to be a lighter, more lighthearted film.

Robin Wright, Ellie Sheedy and Molly Ringwald were all considered for the lead role of Samantha Baker, but the choice was made in favor of the latter. The young actress impressed Hughes so much that he completed the script for the film in just one weekend. Jim Carrey and many other actors tried out for the role of Ted, but the choice fell on Anthony Michael Hall, with whom the director had already worked on Vacation. From Hughes’s notes: “The kids were trying to play the typical school nerd. You know – thick glasses, pens in their pockets, white socks. And when Michael walked in, he played a real person. At that moment, I realized that I had finally found my performer!”

The plot tells the story of Samantha “Sam” Baker, who turns sixteen, but because of her sister’s wedding, which is to take place the next day, everyone forgets the main character’s holiday. At school, she accidentally reveals her crush on high school student Jake, and he becomes interested in the girl. At the same time, Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), who is a year younger, is trying to court Sam, but he is not very successful.

“Sixteen Candles is a movie that perfectly conveys the teenage life of that time, and it was interesting to watch it even now, because many things are still reflected in our days. The desire for parties, drinking and sex among young people has definitely not diminished. Sometimes movies even make you feel nostalgic for your school days, because it’s a great time when you don’t worry at all and get the most out of life. John Hughes, like no one else, caught this idea, so all the teenagers in his films are spoiled in one way or another, just in different ways. They don’t care about their studies, they don’t think about the consequences or the future, they just enjoy their youth!

It’s worth noting that Sixteen Candles is quite a funny movie, full of funny moments, the most humorous is Sam’s sister’s wedding, which can be watched separately from the movie and give you a lot of positive emotions. Some moments, even if they were not intended to be funny, become so because the performers really try. Young actors Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald deserve special praise. They played quite charismatic and attractive characters who communicate and behave like real teenagers. Probably everyone has met a “jerk” like Ted at school, and maybe even been one.

The movie is still a fun and cool movie for teenagers. The script is good, the actors have created truly “live” characters, and the themes of teenage love, insecurity and other typical problems of the younger generation are revealed very well. A good option for family viewing if your child has already reached the age of the main characters.

Sixteen Candles became a success and grossed $23 million with a budget of $6.5 million. Meanwhile, John Hughes was preparing to release one of his best films in a year!

The Breakfast Club (1985)

John Hughes: the director's filmography. Part One

One of Hughes’ most iconic films, which influenced an entire era. The Breakfast Club was being worked on around the time John was writing the script for Sixteen Candles.

John Hughes offered the roles of Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall at the end of filming Sixteen Candles because he really enjoyed working with young actors.

This was the second film that John Hughes directed, and it was also the one with the smallest budget, only $1 million. Most of the movie’s scenes take place in a single punishment room, so it’s no wonder that the project had such a meager budget.

The Breakfast Club is an intimate movie. The location is essentially the same, and the main driver of such films should be the characters. That’s why we will discuss them mainly. In general, John Hughes’ work can be described as a “teenage version of 12 Angry Men”.

At the beginning of the movie, we see five seemingly stereotypical characters in the punishment room: “the nerd,” “the jock,” “the princess,” “the bully” (John Bender), and “the different one” (Allison Reynolds). They are completely different in character, and the teacher Vernon’s attitude toward them is appropriate. He gives them an assignment to write a thousand-word essay on the topic: “Who do you think you are?” Later, it becomes clear that the protagonists are not going to write anything and spend a significant part of the film smoking weed, listening to music, discussing their own problems with each other and partially changing their views on life.

John Hughes: the director's filmography. Part One

The first emotions from the last two images of the “bully” and “different” are strong irritation, because Allison, played by Ally Sheedy, is initially silent, only occasionally grimacing and laughing. Later, this is explained by the fact that her parents do not pay attention to her and the girl just wants to stand out.

The character of John Bender argues rudely with the teacher and behaves like a typical “fighter against the system”. He is responsible for most of the destructive behavior in the film, and he also makes obscene attacks on Claire Standish. But this is only at first glance. Subsequently, we see that the character is abused at home, at school by teachers, and it is clear that a decent life will clearly elude him after graduation. The hero has no choice but to rebel all the time in order to somehow cope with his experiences. I would also like to praise the acting of Judd Nelson, who played such an ambiguous character perfectly.

The characters of the “athlete,” “princess,” and “nerd” images also have many interesting moments. For example, Johnson, the character of Anthony Michael Hall, shows what excessive pressure on a child to study can lead to. The character is both kind and very vulnerable when he fails. There is also a certain disdain for people who are less successful in school, but it is clear that this comes not from Johnson, but from his parents. In general, The Breakfast Club perfectly reveals the topic of the “excellent student syndrome”.

The “Princess” Claire Standish grows up in a family where her parents are on the verge of divorce and use her to take revenge on each other during quarrels. Despite her status as a popular girl, the heroine has many complexes, and in difficult situations they manifest themselves very strongly.

Andrew Clarke, the “athlete,” was, in my opinion, the most interesting character of the five. At the beginning of the movie, he acted quite nobly when he defended Claire from Bender’s attacks. But later it turned out that the hero ended up in the punishment room because he bullied a classmate who was weaker than him to get approval from his father and sports teammates. He hates his father because he used to be an athlete himself and is trying to continue the legacy through his son. But most of all, Andrew hates himself because he is trying to fit into a lifestyle he doesn’t like, but he is too weak to change anything about himself.

As you can see, there is only one thing that unites such different characters – everyone has problems with their parents. In this way, John Hughes shows the audience how important the role of parents is in the lives of teenagers, and this should encourage them to treat their children with more understanding. Otherwise, you can just go too far and a person will face complexes and moral problems at the beginning of their life.

Hughes’s film was an incredible success, grossing $51 million on a budget of $1 million. The film’s impact on the film industry is hard to overestimate. No work before The Breakfast Club had ever spoken to teenagers about such close and painful topics for them. The audience saw themselves as they are, not as “adults who don’t understand them” want to portray them. In general, it was with Hughes’s film that teenagers became the target audience for the film industry, and the genre of teen movies significantly raised the bar for quality. Every movie about the younger generation was inspired by The Breakfast Club, and its characters became a certain standard that is still being followed today.

In particular, the movie was studied by many psychologists and became the basis for school surveys to determine the type of student. Quotes from the movie have been included in English dictionaries, and the communication style of the main characters has become a powerful impetus for the emergence of youth slang in the United States. Obviously, the movie has become a truly textbook work about teenagers, an eternal masterpiece and a true cinematic achievement that everyone should see. 

Weird Science (1985)

John Hughes: the director's filmography. Part One

Teenagers are often obsessed with sex, and this has been mentioned from time to time in Hughes’ previous works. But this time, John decided to take this idea to the point of absurdity and created a very funny movie called Weird Science.

It begins in a fairly standard way, with two boys, Gary and Wyatt, spying on girls at the gym and being shamed by older boys Max and Ian (one of Robert Downey Jr.’s first roles). At Wyatt’s house, the boys are watching the classic movie Frankenstein and get the brilliant idea to create a girl with a supercomputer to make everyone envious. Strangely enough, they succeed and really create the “woman of their dreams”.

After this scene, the film literally tells the audience to see everything as one big joke. The girl is named Lisa and has the ability to manipulate reality like a genie, fulfilling the whims of Gary and Wyatt, but she also has her own goal. Lisa’s raison d’être is to turn the boys into confident men who can find a soul mate without her. She forces these nerds to throw a party at home, constantly pushes them to meet girls, and sometimes is willing to put the protagonists in danger to show their character.

John Hughes: the director's filmography. Part One

Weird Science is primarily a coming-of-age movie. Gary and Wyatt go through an interesting transformation from two insecure nerds to self-sufficient individuals who can solve their own problems, including on the personal front. The best way to see the characters’ growth is in the scene where they fight back against the bikers. I thought Ilan Mitchell-Smith did a great job as Wyatt, but it was Anthony Michael Hall who really shined at that moment. This is his fourth work with John Hughes and the first time we see the actor in the role of a tough guy, which really suits him well. It’s a pity that Anthony’s career has been on the decline since the early 1990s. Just compare his performances in Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Weird Science and you’ll see how talented and versatile he is for his age.

In addition to the main characters, we can also mention Kelly LeBrock as Lisa, who perfectly embodied the image of a “dream woman” in the minds of teenagers. She became a real mentor for Gary and Wyatt, whose lessons they will never forget.

So, “Weird Science” is another masterpiece by John Hughes that every teenager should watch. A fun and interesting movie with characters who grow above themselves and, of course, the beautiful Lisa will help many young viewers to understand themselves, and adults will have the opportunity to remember their own youth and how they tried to win women’s hearts.


This brings the first part of the story about the work of John Hughes to an end. I hope that the films I have reviewed have made you interested in watching them.