Cause of death
Lake Forest, Illinois
John Wilden Hughes, Jr.
February 18, 1950 (
Lansing, Michigan, US
University of Arizona (dropped out)
Director, producer, writer
August 6, 2009, Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States
Nancy Ludwig (m. 1970–2009)
National Lampoon's Vacation
The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Home Alone
Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, John Candy, Ally Sheedy
James Hughes, John Hughes
John Wilden Hughes Jr. (February 18, 1950 – August 6, 2009) was an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He directed and/or scripted some of the most successful comedy films of the 1980s and early 1990s including the comedy National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), the coming-of-age comedy Sixteen Candles (1984), the teen sci-fi comedy Weird Science (1985), the coming-of-age comedy-drama The Breakfast Club (1985), the coming-of-age comedy Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), the romantic comedy-drama Pretty in Pink (1986), the romance Some Kind of Wonderful (1987), the comedies Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) and Uncle Buck (1989), the Christmas family comedy Home Alone (1990) and its sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992).
Hughes was known for his work on teen movies and for helping launch the careers of numerous actors including Michael Keaton, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Bill Paxton, Matthew Broderick, Macaulay Culkin, and the Brat Pack group.
Hughes was born in Lansing, Michigan, to a mother who volunteered in charity work and John Hughes, Sr., who worked in sales. He spent the first twelve years of his life in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Hughes described himself as "kind of quiet" as a kid.
"I grew up in a neighborhood that was mostly girls and old people. There weren't any boys my age, so I spent a lot of time by myself, imagining things. And every time we would get established somewhere, we would move. Life just started to get good in seventh grade, and then we moved to Chicago. I ended up in a really big high school, and I didn't know anybody. But then The Beatles came along (and) changed my whole life. And then Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home came out and really changed me. Thursday I was one person, and Friday I was another. My heroes were Dylan, John Lennon and Picasso, because they each moved their particular medium forward, and when they got to the point where they were comfortable, they always moved on."
In 1963, Hughes's family moved to Northbrook, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, which changed its name from Shermerville in 1923. This is where Hughes's father found work selling roofing materials. There Hughes attended Glenbrook North High School, which gave him inspiration for the films that made his reputation in later years.
After dropping out of the University of Arizona, Hughes began selling jokes to well-established performers such as Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers. Hughes used his jokes to get an entry-level job at Needham, Harper & Steers as an advertising copywriter in Chicago in 1970 and later in 1974 at Leo Burnett Worldwide. During this time, he created what became the famous Edge "Credit Card Shaving Test" ad campaign.
Hughes' work on the Virginia Slims account frequently took him to the Philip Morris headquarters in New York City. This gave him the opportunity to hang around the offices of the National Lampoon magazine. Hughes subsequently penned a story, inspired by his family trips as a child, that was to become his calling card and entry onto the staff of the magazine. That piece, "Vacation '58", later became the basis for the film National Lampoon's Vacation. Among his other contributions to the Lampoon, the April Fools' Day stories "My Penis" and "My Vagina" gave an early indication of Hughes's ear for the particular rhythm of teen speak, as well as the various indignities of teen life in general.
His first credited screenplay, Class Reunion, was written while still on staff at the magazine. The resulting film became the second disastrous attempt by the flagship to duplicate the runaway success of Animal House. It was Hughes's next screenplay for the imprint, National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), that would prove to be a major hit, putting the Lampoon back on the map. That film's success, along with the success of another of Hughes' scripts, Mr. Mom, earned Hughes a three-movie deal with Universal Studios.
Hughes's directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, won almost unanimous praise when it was released in 1984, due in no small part to its more honest depiction of upper middle class high school life, in stark contrast to the Porky's-inspired comedies made at the time. It was the first in a string of efforts set in or around high school, including The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off (see also Brat Pack) and Some Kind of Wonderful.
To avoid being pigeonholed as a maker of teen comedies, Hughes branched out in 1987, directing the smash hit Planes, Trains and Automobiles starring Steve Martin and John Candy. His later output would not be so critically well received, though films like Uncle Buck proved popular. Hughes's greatest commercial success came with Home Alone, a film he wrote and produced about a child accidentally left behind when his family goes away for Christmas, forcing him to protect himself and his house from a pair of inept burglars. Home Alone was the top-grossing film of 1990, and remains the most successful live-action comedy of all time. His last film as a director was 1991's Curly Sue.
He also wrote screenplays under the pseudonym Edmond Dantes (or Dantès), after the protagonist of Alexandre Dumas's novel The Count of Monte Cristo. Screenplays submitted under this pseudonym were Maid in Manhattan, Drillbit Taylor, and the Beethoven franchise.
In 1994, Hughes retired from the public eye and moved back to the Chicago area. Hughes was considerably shaken by John Candy's sudden death of a heart attack that same year. "He talked a lot about how much he loved Candy—if Candy had lived longer, I think John would have made more films as a director," says Vince Vaughn, a friend of Hughes. In the years following, Hughes rarely granted interviews to the media save a select few in 1999 to promote the soundtrack album to Reach the Rock, an independent film he wrote. The album was compiled by Hughes's son, John Hughes III, and released on his son's Chicago-based record label, Hefty Records. He also recorded an audio commentary for the 1999 DVD release of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
On the morning of August 6, 2009, Hughes suffered a severe heart attack while walking on West 55th Street in Manhattan. He was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. He was 59 years old. Hughes's funeral took place on August 11 in Chicago. In addition to his wife Nancy and two sons, Hughes was survived by four grandchildren, his three sisters, and mother and father. He was buried at Lake Forest Cemetery in Illinois.
The pilot episode of the NBC comedy Community, broadcast on September 17, 2009, was dedicated to Hughes. The episode included several references to The Breakfast Club and ended with a cover of "Don't You (Forget About Me)". The One Tree Hill episode titled "Don't You Forget About Me", broadcast on February 1, 2010, ended with a scene similar to the ending scene of Sixteen Candles and included some other references to his movies such as Home Alone. The 2011 Bob's Burgers episode "Sheesh! Cab, Bob?" also paid homage to Sixteen Candles.
After Hughes' death, many of those who knew him commented on the impact Hughes had on them and on the film industry. Judd Apatow said "Basically, my stuff is just John Hughes films with four-letter words. I feel like a part of my childhood has died. Nobody made me laugh harder or more often than John Hughes." Molly Ringwald said, "I was stunned and incredibly sad to hear about the death of John Hughes. He was and will always be such an important part of my life.... He will be missed – by me and by everyone that he has touched. My heart and all my thoughts are with his family now." Matthew Broderick also released his own statement, saying, "I am truly shocked and saddened by the news about my old friend John Hughes. He was a wonderful, very talented guy and my heart goes out to his family."
The 82nd Academy Awards (2010) included a tribute to Hughes' work. A retrospective of clips from Hughes' films was followed by cast members from several of them, including Molly Ringwald, Matthew Broderick, Macaulay Culkin, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall and Jon Cryer, gathering on stage to commemorate the man and his contributions to the film industry.
Movies with scenes taking place in fictional high schools named after Hughes include: the 2001 satire Not Another Teen Movie, the 2010–2013 Disney Channel sitcom Shake It Up, and the 2016 Hallmark movie Date With Love.
Hughes' work has also influenced a new generation of millennial filmmakers, including M. H. Murray of Teenagers fame, who has cited Hughes as one of his main influences in interviews, once stating: “I loved how John Hughes wrote teens ... They were flawed in this genuine sort of way.” Kelly Fremon Craig, who wrote and directed The Edge of Seventeen, also cited Hughes as an influence.
Don't You Forget About Me
Don't You Forget About Me is a documentary about four Canadian filmmakers who go in search of Hughes after his drop out of the spotlight in 1994, featuring interviews with actors from preceding Hughes films, notably missing Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, and Matthew Broderick. The film is distributed by Alliance Films. The movie is named after the Simple Minds song of the same name, which was the theme song for the film The Breakfast Club which Hughes produced, wrote, and directed.
Don't You Forget About Me is also the name of an anthology of contemporary writers writing about the films of John Hughes, edited by Jaime Clarke, with a foreword by Ally Sheedy, published by Simon Spotlight Entertainment. Writers include Steve Almond, Julianna Baggott, Lisa Borders, Ryan Boudinot, T Cooper, Quinn Dalton, Emily Franklin, Lisa Gabriele, Tod Goldberg, Nina de Gramont, Tara Ison, Allison Lynn, John McNally, Dan Pope, Lewis Robinson, Ben Schrank, Elizabeth Searle, Mary Sullivan, Rebecca Wolff, and Moon Unit Zappa.