August 6, 2009

Top 5 John Hughes Flicks

With the passing of John Hughes, I've been talking to a lot of people about his films, and inevitably the conversation turns to what were the best... It's amazing to me, but there are films I absolutely love that don't even make this list. Anthony Michael Hall's performance as Farmer Ted in Sixteen Candles is so strong I will watch that film any time I stumble upon on TV, but it doesn't crack this list. Vacation is literallly filled with classic lines, but I'm omitting it here and using the excuse that because Hughes didn't direct it, it's okay to leave it off. Pretty in Pink is another solid flick that just has too much competition ahead of it to crack the top five (though the Duckman would make a list of Hughes' classic characters.) I could go on, but I won't. Without further ado, the Top Five John Hughes flicks....

5) Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

When this film came out in 1987, much was made about the fact that this was John Hughes' "adult" movie, and there were legitimate questions about whether he could make a grown up picture. There was also a lot of talk about him spreading himself too thin. In a two year span leading up to this movie Hughes either wrote or directed (and often did both) The Breakfast Club, European Vacation, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Some Kind of Wonderful. It is mind boggling that one man could be that prolific, then on top of it, he decides to change gears and make an "adult" movie. Well, the concern was all for not. The movie is a modern classic with John Candy (who worked with Hughes often, but never better than here) giving the best performance of his too-short career and Steve Martin also delivering. This is a very funny film, but also a movie with tremendous heart.

Best Moment: For me, it's the scene where Candy is driving Steve Martin at night and another motoroist tries to tell them they are driving the wrong way on the highway. "How would he know where we're going? He's drunk!"

4) Weird Science (1985)

Hughes always seemed to have an afinity for the geek, and Anthony MIchael Hall made a career out of playing dweebs for him, but this film is the ultimate nerd fantasy. Weird Science - for my money the funniest of all the Hughes films - is a fantasy about two highschool geeks that create the perfect woman on their computer. This movie is just flat out funny and includes mutant bikers, the gorgeous Kelly LeBrock, a pre-fame Robert Downey Jr. with his pre-fame teeth, a missle silo and Bill Paxton as Jabba the Hutt.

Best Moment: This one's easy: Anthony Michael Hall, 17 and drunk in a seedy Chicago blues bar working a cigar whilte telling his tale of woe about "an eighth grade girl with great big titties."

3) Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

I remember when I first saw this movie, I walked out of the theatre certain I had just seen the best movie ever. Well it doesn't still hold that title for me, I am still incredibly fond of this movie and totally baffled that Matthew Broderick, who showed such charsmia in this movie didn't become a massive movie star. Jeffery Jones, as Principal Rooney is fantastic in this movie and Charlie Sheen's cameo at the end of the flick in the police station is top notch. (Sheen stayed awake for something like 36 hours leading up to shooting his scene in order to look appropriately bleary-eyed for his role as a drug offender. Next time you watch the movie, look at his eyes ... it worked.)

Best Moment: Ferris taking over a float and channelling Wayne Newton and the Beatles is a pretty iconic scene now, twenty years later. At the time, I was confused as to why he was lip synching a song obviously sung by a woman. Years later, I discovered that woman was Wayne Newton.

2) The Breakfast Club (1985)

To me, this is the ultimate classic high school movie. On paper, the premise sounds way too cliched to have any chance of working. Each character is literally a cliche ... The jock, the nerd, the princess, the space cadet, etc. But the film is so well written, and the angst and issues are not just instantly identifiable to teenagers, but they are relatable to people long since removed from their teen years because quite simply it's real. Judd Nelson as Bender delivers a career defining performance (though he probably didn't know he could measure what was left of his career in months at the time this movie was made) but all of the soon-to-be dubbed "Brat Pack" give great perfromances in this movie. Also, the late Paul Gleason, as Richard "Dick" Vernon, the teacher that oversees detention, is nothing short of fantastic.

Best Moment: There are so many iconic, classic scenes in this movie, but if I had to pick a favorite, its the scene where Nelson's Bender has wandered off from the detention and Vernon finds him in the gym with a basketball. Vernon, incensed, demands he return to detention and Bender responds "Don't you want to hear my excuse? I was goin' for a scholarship!"

1) Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

I suspect there will be a lot of "Best of John Hughes" lists in the next 24 hours, and I also suspect this movie won't be on those lists, but to me, this is the best of the bunch. Eric Stoltz plays Keith, an alienated highschool kid who pines for Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson) and when he shares this with tomboy best friend Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) she laughs off his chances. The movie does an excellent job of examining what it feels like to be a teenager wrestling with a crush, where it all feels so intense; particularily as you watch it literally tearing Watts apart. Canadian actor Elias Koteas steals almost every scene he's in as Duncan, a skinhead Stoltz befriends in detention and Craig Sheffer nails his role as the rich asshole that dates Amanda Jones.

Best Moment: Stoltz's character is about to get his ass kicked when the door swings open and there's Duncan with his crew to save the day announcing to the assembled masses that he doesn't think that ass whoopin' is gonna be "neccessary." What follows is one of my favorite scenes in cinema and still leaves me with a big smile on my face now, even though I've seen it a dozen times.

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