Known for being able to strike a chord with high school students in all generations, writer, producer and director John Hughes has created some of the most memorable films in the teen genre. Sending budding actors to stardom and creating memorable characters that have lasted through the decades, Hughes has stood out among directors as both comedic and dramatic, witty and dry and above all, giving teenagers a voice as equals.
“Sixteen Candles” (1984)
Every teenage girl’s worst nightmare and sweetest dreams culminate in the classic ‘80s film “Sixteen Candles,” the story of Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald) who is mortified to discover that her entire family has forgotten her 16th birthday. Overshadowed by her older sister’s wedding, Samantha escapes to the school dance, hoping to forget the horror that is a house full of relatives.
But Samantha can’t get away from all her troubles. Pursued by super-geek Farmer Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), followed by a foreign exchange student (Gedde Watanabe) and loaning her panties out to help a friend, the dance proves to be as embarrassing as staying home with her family.
“Sixteen Candles” tenderly touches on all of the problems of being a teenager while incorporating some of the most memorable characters in the teen-genre history. Farmer Ted is perhaps the most adorable nerd out there, headgear and all. With his own theme song, Farmer Ted is bent on hooking up with Samantha, or at least making his buddies think he did.
“Breakfast Club” (1985)
Universally known as one of the best teen films “The Breakfast Club”, finds a burnout, a princess, a geek, a weirdo and a jock stuck in the library for a Saturday detention. At first they seem to have nothing in common but they soon discover that they are more similar than they thought.
Immediately entrancing, this film makes you feel for each and every character. You want to hear their stories and see them triumph. The perfect mix of montages, romance, honest moments and humor, “The Breakfast Club” has everything it takes to make a memorable film that makes you look forward to, love or remember high school.
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986)
The quintessential day of playing hookey culminates in Hughes’s “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” which follows Ferris (Matthew Broderick) as he fakes sick, breaks his friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) out of school and ends up having the best day of his life. Ferris and his friends infiltrate parades and “borrow” Cameron’s dad’s car, all while pursued by their very suspicious principal (Jeffrey Jones).
Throughout the film we cringe alongside Cameron as he worries constantly about getting caught, excite in the fun that Ferris experiences and laugh at the lengths the principal goes to to catch Ferris in the act. The film gives us all a sense of “what if” and “why not,” and has probably inspired more than one student to play hookey.
Though a little sentimental at times, this film exemplifies everything students like us wish we could do: spend one day, one extraordinary day doing everything we’ve never been able to without anything to hold us back. It is because of this fantasy that “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” has been a staple in all classic film collections.
“Sixteen Candles,” “Breakfast Club” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” all stand on their own as films representing not only the ‘80s but also high school in its awfulness, greatness and all over awkwardness. Full of wry humor and feeling, all three are classic ‘80s films wrapped up in the John Hughes bow of wit, truth and resonance.