The Breakfast Club

Photo: Universal

The Breakfast Club (1985)
A brain. An athlete. A basket case. A princess. A criminal. These five teenage stereotypes are as recognizable today as they were two decades ago, and this coming-of-age film—written and directed by Hughes—inspired a genre. There are no action scenes and few plotlines, but the angsty dialogue instantly transports us back to the high school library where members of the Brat Pack bared their souls, outsmarted an overzealous principal, danced on bookshelves and learned to look beyond labels. And, if your daughter wasted her youth lusting after the bad boy, you can blame Claire.

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Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Call us biased, but when it comes to movie odes to American cities, all we can say is, "Sex and The City who?" Carrie's romance with New York doesn't hold a candle to Ferris' whirlwind tour of the Windy City. (How perfect, though, that the two stars are now husband and wife.) Hughes consistently set his films in his sweet home Chicago, but Ferris Bueller is perhaps his most sincere love letter. It still holds up as one of the most classic high school films of all time and manages to make a truant who could have been infuriating—He gets away with everything! We should be so lucky!—nothing but adorable. Plus, Ferris' steadfast dedication to his best friend, and his rivalry with the lunatic principal out for blood, has us rooting for him from beginning to end. Call the film juvenile, but at its core the movie's message still resonates: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it." 

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Home Alone

Home Alone (1990)
The image of Macauley Culkin posing post-shave in front of the mirror (a playfully ironic ode to Edvard Munch's The Scream) is another pop culture staple we owe to Hughes. Left behind by his family, now en route to Paris, Kevin McCallister must fend for himself and defend his suburban Illinois home against two dimwitted burglars. The film launched Macauley to stardom and generated a bona fide franchise (two more movies and a made-for-TV hit). His first film of the '90s, Home Alone made Hughes' statement loud and clear: It was he who made the Brat Pack stars, not the other way around. He didn't need teen drama; Hughes could spin a relatively unknown 10-year-old and a largely implausible story into box office gold. In case you forget the true popularity of the new Christmas classic, consider this: It was the highest-grossing film of the year and topped the box office for three straight months. 

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She's Having a Baby (1988)
Hughes' characters consistently gave us the male and female archetypes of not only who we want to be, but with equal measure who we really are. In She's Having a Baby, starring Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern as newlyweds Kristy and Jake Briggs, Hughes paints us a portrait of the all-too-real and very boring problem of going from single and free to married with responsibilities. Beleaguered and clueless with the expectations of what it means to be a grown-up, Jake tries to find an identity in his new world as a married man and soon-to-be father. He gallantly keeps trying, but he stumbles maddeningly, hoping to find a sense of belonging and purpose amid what he perceives as a life sentence in banal suburbia. In the end, as always, love reigns supreme, and to this day we can't help but choke up during the delivery scene, when one perfect tear slips down Kevin Bacon's face.

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Vacation (1983)
Hughes wrote the film that defined family vacations for an entire generation. It sparked two beloved sequels—European Vacation and Christmas Vacation—but the original holds a special place for anyone who spent their summers trapped in the backseat of a station wagon. When we see Christie Brinkley on the cover of a magazine, a picnic basket full of soggy sandwiches or an animatronic moose, we're reminded that no matter how many roadblocks we encounter in the quest for family fun, at least we weren't born a Griswold. 

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Beethoven (1992)
Another family flick from Hughes, another beloved franchise. The lovable Saint Bernard slobbers, sheds and generally wreaks havoc on the Newton family's home...but who can stay mad at that puppy dog face? Only an evil vet, plotting (unsuccessfully, of course) to kill our favorite pooch. True, it wasn't Hughes' most poignant work and, yes, it was panned by critics, but the seasoned writer knew how to please a crowd. Sometimes you just need to pile the kids in the car, buy some popcorn and escape for an hour in front of the big screen. Hughes gave us just the ticket, and for that we are forever grateful.

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Mr. Mom

Mr. Mom (1983)
Sure, the notion of a man staying home to raise the kids while his wife goes off to work wouldn't cause you to bat an eyelash today. But in 1983, when Mr. Mom hit movie screens, Hughes offered up a plotline ripe for domestic hilarity and a cultural reconsideration of family gender roles. When Jack and Caroline Butler trade places—he loses his job at an automobile plant; she gets hired by an ad agency—they each take some time to hit their strides. Eventually, success catches up to them with unintended consequences. Though some of Hughes' thinking may seem outdated today, we remain in love with Michael's touching, hilarious interactions with the kids, not to mention funnyman Martin Mull as Caroline's boss. And we learned one valuable lesson: Never serve a baby chili.

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Uncle Buck

Uncle Buck (1989)
If there's only one thing to say about Uncle Buck, it might be this: two unforgettable Johns gone too soon. Hughes wrote and directed John Candy (who he'd worked with in Planes,Trains and Automobiles) in this hilarious and heartwarming comedy about an unemployed slacker who babysits his nieces and nephew for a weekend. Hughes had an uncanny ability to home in on the hilarity of everyday interactions, and never is he so spot-on as in the rapid-fire interaction between Uncle Buck and his nephew, Niles (a pre-stardom Macauley Culkin). Just thinking about their chemistry—"What's your record for consecutive questions asked?" "Thirty-eight."—has us chuckling and longing for a giant pancake. But this film wasn't just about the laughs. Like Hughes himself, Buck put the unconditional love of family—with all its wacky uncles and brooding teens—first. 

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Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink

Sixteen Candles/Pretty in Pink (1984/1986)
Please don't make us choose between Hughes' most brilliant romantic comedies. They have so much in common—Molly Ringwald pining for the high school hunk, a lovable nerd (Anthony Michael Hall's panty-stealing Farmer Ted and a pre-Two and a Half Men Jon Cryer at his very best) pining for Molly Ringwald, a happily-ever-high-school ending—yet they each seem wholly original. Though obviously '80s, their perfect embodiment of teen angst stands the test of time. The next time we catch ourselves uttering "Why don't you take The Donger to the dance?" or lip-syncing "Try a Little Tenderness," we'll tip our hat to Hughes.

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