Trespassers pick their three favourite John Hughes characters. Join us as we reminisce…
Ferris Bueller from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) broke hearts and the fourth wall in cult-classic film title-character’s-name-here’s Day Off. A film about a high school kid who decides to play hooky, Ferris is clever and charming, street-smart and a smart-ass. Standout scenes include Ferris lip-synching during the Von Steuben Day street parade to The Beatle’s Twist and Shout. For a screenplay that was written in less than a week, Hughes certainly created an iconic character.
Duckie Dale (Jon Cryer) is one of Hughes’ best (tragi)comic characters. In love with best friend Andie (Molly Ringwald), it is a mystery to me why Hughes decided Andie would not realize her undying love for Duckie, and instead ended up with her rich-boy emotionally unavailable significant-other Blane (Andrew McCarthy). Duckie sported some daring looks throughout the film, showcasing his impeccable quirky style; and had a great personality. Pretty in Pink featured another trademark Hughes lip-synching scene, this time with Duckie singing and dancing along to Otis Redding’s Try A Little Tenderness.
With hundred-watt bleach-blonde hair, the tomboyish Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) suffered from a severe case of unrequited love in Some Kind of Wonderful. Pining after her best friend Keith (Eric Stoltz) – and I mean ‘pining’ in the most bad-ass, punk way it is possible to pine – Watts eventually got the guy. She gets points for her amazing fingerless gloves, drumming talent, and loyalty (towards the guy who can’t see it when he has a good thing going).
Clark Griswold from The Vacation trilogy (1983-89)
When John Hughes penned the character of zany Clark Griswold, he created one of the most embarrassing, bumbling and naïve fathers ever to hit the silver screen. Embodied with cringe-worthy accuracy by Chevy Chase, the character has appeared in four Vacation movies to date – the first three; Vacation (1983), European Vacation (1985)and Christmas Vacation (1989)- written by Hughes. You can’t help but laugh and shudder simultaneously at the situations Griswold (and by default his long suffering family) finds himself in on holidays – from outrageous flirting with Ferrari driving babe Christie Brinkley in Vacation to an Oktoberfest reminiscent smack up in European Vacation and all manner of festive disasters in Christmas Vacation. While a heightened caricature, we all know someone a little like Clark Griswold.
Uncle Buck Russell from Uncle Buck (1989)
Who else but the late, great John Candy could play the eponymous character in 1989’s Uncle Buck, written and directed by Hughes. Crass, unhinged and larger than life, Buck is called in by his family as a last minute babysitter for his estranged nephew and nieces. From there it’s by-the-Buck parenting (as in outrageous and unconventional). Highlights include Buck’s acid-tongued remonstration of a bullying head mistress with a prominent facial mole (“They’re all good kids, until dried-out, brain-dead skags like you drag them down and convince them they’re no good……Take this quarter, go downtown and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face! Good day to you, madam”) and his scarily authentic way with a chainsaw when rescuing his niece from the clutches of a seedy teen. Brought to life with trademark high energy from Candy, Uncle Buck is the perfect mix of off-kilter charm and big heart.
Neal Page from Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
In this 1987 comedy of transport nightmares, written and directed by Hughes, Steve Martin plays Neal Page, a family man attempting to make it home for Thanksgiving when weather, transport mishaps and his foil travel companion (John Candy as a slovenly shower ring salesman) conspire against him. Watching Martin’s reserved, pent up Page slowly unfurl to combust in fits of travel rage is hilarious – we’ve all had a nightmare journey after all – with the pinnacle, a caustically sarcastic, expletive laden tirade at a nonchalant car hire representative in which Martin drops the F-bomb just shy of 20 times. A sample: “ You can start by wiping that fucking dumb-ass smile off your rosy, fucking, cheeks!…… I really don’t care for the way your company left me in the middle of fucking nowhere with fucking keys to a fucking car that isn’t fucking there……. I want a fucking car right fucking now!” Priceless!
Watts from Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
By far my favourite of John Hughes’ lovable alternative fringe-dwellers was Watts, Mary Stuart Masterson’s wonderful tomboy. She not only dodges convention by having short hair, playing the drums, fixing cars, wearing rebellious outfits and going by her surname (her real name is the very ladylike Susan), but then she has to go and fall in love with her pretty boy best friend (Eric Stoltz’ Keith) rather than the many number of hip rockers that surround her. What makes Watts so great is this dichotomy and as the tears roll down her face in the film’s final scene she proves to be one of my ultimate teen heroes.
Claire Standish from The Breakfast Club (1985)
The actor most synonymous with John Hughes’ 1980s teen flicks is surely Molly Ringwald. Between Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club it’s hard to not see her as an icon of 1980s teenagers everywhere. In Hughes’ best film she plays Claire “The Princess” Standish who has always been good and always been popular, but who quickly discovers her own voice and that “being bad feels pretty good”. Ringwald gives a performance so rich and by film’s end this Princess is the kinda person I would want to be friends with in High School.
Bonus points for being a leader in the advancement of red heads long before Prime Minister Julia Gillard or Prince Harry.
Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles (1984)
One thing Hughes knew how to do perfectly was to create the fantasy girl/boyfriend and never did it quite as perfectly as when he cast Michael Schoeffling as Jake Ryan. Not many characters can boast to having online shrines and millions of dedicated fans decades after the release of a film, but Jake sure can! Ask anybody who were 16 at the time of watching this movie and they will surely tell you a piece of their heard belongs to Jake Ryan. He may never become a reality, but gosh is it fun to imagine. He’s everything you could hope for in a teen heartthrob plus an incredible car, which I’m sure has a rockin’ 8-track!
Ferris Bueller from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was on constant repeat at my house growing up, and for a long time Ferris (Matthew Broderick) was the coolest film character I had ever seen. Clever, popular and lacking inhibition, Ferris masterminded a day off school not just for himself, but for his girlfriend and best bud too. And what a day- joyriding a Ferrari, eating at a posh restaurant, performing on a float; all this whilst breaking the 4th wall and talking to the audience directly. Ferris Bueller, you’re my hero!
Uncle Buck from Uncle Buck (1989)
Played by the late, great funnyman John Candy, Uncle Buck was an awesome babysitter. Sure nobody was that impressed when he turned up, but then again nobody wanted him to leave in the end either. Tasked with looking after 6 yr old Maizy (Gaby Hoffmann), 8 yr old Miles (Macaulay Culkin) and 16 yr old Tia (Jean Louisa Kelly), whilst their parents were out of town, Uncle Buck microwaved dry washing, feed them junk food- including the world’s largest pancakes and threatened Tia’s cheating boyfriend, including hitting golf balls at him! What is not to love?
John Bender from The Breakfast Club (1985)
The Breakfast Club is in my mind the pinnacle of Hughes’ career- the perfect combination of teenage angst, one-liners and 80s soundtrack. Whilst all the film’s characters have a special place in my heart- John Bender, played by Nelson Judd, is my favourite. The high-school rebel with a dysfunctional family life- this was a bad boy who was actually very vulnerable. With some of the best lines in the film and a nice dramatic arc; Bender’s sarcasm, wit and attitude wins me over everytime.