The Best John Hughes Movies

Few individuals have had such a strong influence on the last two generations of filmmakers as John Hughes. As a screenwriter and director, Hughes struck a balance between drama and comedy that made his 1980s movies both hilarious and heartfelt. Films as diverse as Not Another Teen Movie (2001), Superbad (2007), and Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) have demonstrated his influence.

After succeeding both commercially and critically throughout the 1980s, Hughes largely retired from filmmaking after the mid-1990s, focusing instead on developing story ideas for other filmmakers under the pseudonym Edmond Dantes. He remained outside of the public eye until his death in 2009.

In chronological order, here are ten of the best-loved movies that Hughes either wrote and directed or wrote.

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National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

National Lampoon's Vacation
Warner Bros.Owner

Before his filmmaking success, John Hughes contributed pieces to the humor magazine National Lampoon. One of his most popular articles was "Vacation '58", a recounting of a disaster-filled cross-country family vacation. The story was optioned by Warner Bros., and Hughes was hired to write the screenplay.

Directed by fellow National Lampoon alum Harold Ramis and starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo, Vacation has been considered a comedy classic since its release. The film has been followed by four sequels (Hughes was involved with writing the first three).

Vacation was also the first time John Candy appeared in a movie written by Hughes. The pair collaborated in several memorable movies over the next decade.

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Sixteen Candles (1984)

Sixteen Candles
Universal Pictures

Hughes is often associated with movies about teens and his first, Sixteen Candles, set the tone for much of his subsequent work. Molly Ringwald stars as a high school student facing a number of social and family issues on her sixteenth birthday. Hughes and Ringwald would go on to make two additional films together. Michael Schoeffling and Anthony Michael Hall also starred in the film.

Sixteen Candles is considered a teen comedy classic but is also respected for taking the teenagers' issues seriously in a way few films had before.

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The Breakfast Club (1985)

The Breakfast Club
Universal Pictures

After wowing audiences with his portrayal of teens in Sixteen Candles, Hughes upped the ante with The Breakfast Club—a film about five very different teens who are forced to spend a day together in Saturday detention. Over the course of the day, these five teens discover that despite being from different walks of life and different social groups, they have much more in common than they ever would've expected.

The movie stars Ringwald and Hall along with Judd Nelson, Emilo Estevez, and Ally Sheedy.

Not only has The Breakfast Club been added to the U.S. National Film Registry, but it has also been selected for release by The Criterion Collection.

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Pretty in Pink (1986)

Pretty in Pink
Paramount Pictures

Though not as popular as Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club, Hughes' third film with Molly Ringwald, Pretty in Pink, also took as its subject the social lives of high school students. While Hughes did not direct this film (it was directed by Howard Deutch), it contains the same heart found in his other films with Ringwald.

Ringwald stars as Andie, a high school senior who is concerned about the upcoming prom while struggling in her home life. The main focus is on an issue faced by many high schoolers —unrequited love. Pretty in Pink also stars Jon Cryer as Andy's best friend "Duckie" and James Spader.

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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Paramount Pictures

Perhaps Hughes' most "iconic" film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a depiction of what all of us feel like doing from time to time—blowing off school or work to just enjoy life and spend time with friends. Matthew Broderick stars as the titular Bueller, who skips a day of school with his best friend and girlfriend to have fun across Chicago.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is something of a travelogue of Chicago; it also features a heartfelt storyline about Bueller's concern for his best friend's future. Many fans love the film because of the fun, but its emotional moments are pure Hughes.

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Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Some Kind of Wonderful
Paramount Pictures

One year after Pretty in Pink, Howard Deutch again directed one of Hughes' teen-focused scripts, Some Kind of Wonderful. Perhaps Hughes' most underrated film, Some Kind of Wonderful stars Lea Thompson, Eric Stotlz, and Mary Stuart Masterson in a love triangle at a high school trying to sort through their feelings.

Curiously, Hughes reportedly considered Some Kind of Wonderful something of a "re-do" of Pretty in Pink (the plots are very similar). It also marked the last of Hughes' scripts that focused primarily on teenagers.

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Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Paramount Pictures

While Hughes is best-known for his movies about teens, many critics and fans consider Planes, Trains & Automobiles—a comedy about two men trying to make it home for Thanksgiving—his finest work. In arguably his best role, John Candy plays Del Griffith, a slovenly but well-meaning shower curtain salesman, who links up with Chicago businessman Neal Page (Steve Martin) during a snowstorm that makes their holiday travel chaotic. 

Anyone who has encountered flight delays, weather-related travel issues, or low-budget motels can relate to the hilarious scenarios in this movie. The film has gone on to become a Thanksgiving favorite, and has stood the test of time as perhaps the best "road comedy" movie ever made. 

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Uncle Buck (1989)

Uncle Buck
Universal Pictures

Hughes re-teamed with John Candy for Uncle Buck, in which a well-to-do suburban family facing a crisis calls on the father's sloppy, frequently-unemployed brother Buck (Candy) to watch the family's three children. However, what Buck lacks in manners he possesses in heart—he genuinely wants what's best for his nieces and nephew (the latter played by Macaulay Culkin), and helps solve several family issues in hilariously inappropriate fashion.

Candy's Buck is one of the actor's best-loved performances, and one that has continued to remain popular long after Candy's 1994 death.

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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Christmas Vacation
Warner Bros.

The third Vacation film, 1989's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation doesn't have Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo hit the road with their family— instead, Chase's Clark Griswold tries to host the greatest family Christmas celebration with both sides of their family. Hilariously, everything that could go wrong with the holiday celebration does go wrong. Like the first Vacation film, Christmas Vacation was based on a short story Hughes wrote for National Lampoon.

Christmas Vacation (which Hughes wrote, but did not direct) has become one of the most beloved Christmas comedies ever released and is arguably the most popular Vacation movie.

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Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone
20th Century Fox

Just one year after National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Hughes had an even bigger holiday hit with Home Alone. Directed by Chris Columbus, Home Alone remains the most successful Christmas movie of all time at the U.S. box office. 

Macaulay Culkin stars as Kevin, a young boy who doesn't want to spend Christmas with his family in France. His family ends up accidentally forgetting him at home, leaving him to fend for himself for the holidays—and in a literal sense when two robbers (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) target Kevin's home for a Christmas Eve robbery. Over twenty-five years after its release, fans still love Home Alone for Kevin's hilarious traps that he sets for the robbers and for the comedy's deep heart.

Hughes also wrote the screenplays for the first two Home Alone sequels, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and Home Alone 3.