RIP John Hughes

Director John HughesEveryone who grew up in the 80s, and many from generations before and since, should be saddened tonight. The man whose movies reflected our relationships, taught us to seize opportunities, and generally defined our generation has died. The list of movies he directed is not long, but it is distinguished. They didn’t win awards, but they were wildly popular and entertaining, without settling for a lowest common denominator. John Hughes was a supremely gifted storyteller, and he will be missed.

If you judge a director by a great run of movies you have to put Hughes near the top. Between 1984 and 1989 he wrote and directed Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and Uncle Buck. In addition to directing this great collection of movies, he wrote Pretty in Pink, National Lampoon’s Vacation and Christmas Vacation, The Great Outdoors, and Home Alone. Seriously. All of these movies were funny, and most of them had actual, serious lessons behind them. He basically created the blueprint for building comedies on top of a solid dramatic framework.

I just got back from seeing Funny People, and it’s safe to say Judd Apatow owes a lot to John Hughes. Sure, Apatow’s movies tend to focus on adults with adult problems, while many of Hughes’ films revolved around teenagers and their unique issues. But the underlying concept is the same: the characters are complex and engaging, and they go through classic dramatic changes. But at the same time they’re funny. It’s a tremendously powerful technique, and in the right hands it makes for great, timeless movies. There was nobody better at it than John Hughes, and movie fans everywhere are poorer for his loss.