Screenwriter, Director, Producer John Hughes has over 30 films to his credit and had his biggest success when branching out to the family-friendly, Home Alone in 1990. As of 2009, Home Alone was the highest grossing comedy of all time. However, this is not his legacy. Hughes is best-known and most beloved for his 1980′s teen output. Hughes seemed to have his finger on the pulse of the American Teen unlike any film maker before him. His ‘Brat Pack’ of actors in these films, and his use of pop music in them are lasting icons, forever emblazened in the hearts and minds of today’s 30-40 somethings.
1984′s Sixteeen Candles, although the 7th film he worked on, was Hughes’ directorial debut. The movie, starring Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall was only a moderate box office success, but it is to this day an undeniable classic. The classic scenes and quotes are too numerous to count, but it also marks the beginning of the stamp Hughes was to put on pop culture through his movies and their music. The movie featured an array of modern pop tracks from the likes of Oingo Boingo, David Bowie, The Vapors, Wham, Billy Idol, The Specials, Paul Young, Kajagoogoo, Altered Images and more. However, the offically released soundtrack was a mini-album with only 5 tracks. One of these 5, however encompassed one of the lasting images of the film. Who could forget Jake and Samantha, leaning over her birthday cake to the sounds of Thompson Twins’ If You Were Here?
His next film, 1985′s The Breakfast Club may be his most treasured. The story centers around a unlikely crew of teen misfits: Jock, Princess, Brain, Basket Case and Criminal (which were you?) forced to spend a Saturday detention together. Again, he featured a slew of the day’s hottest teen stars including a couple of his Sixteen Candles stars, Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, along with Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy. The soundtrack was light in star power, but did feature one of the 1980′s most well-known teen anthems, Simple Minds’ Don’t You Forget About Me.
1985′s Weird Science starred Anthony Michael Hall once again, and while maybe not thought of as one of Hughes’ seminal soundtracks, it did feature such 80′s classics as OMD – Tesla Girls, Killing Joke – Eighties, General Public – Tenderness and of course, the title track performed by Oingo Boingo.
1986′s Pretty In Pink, shockingly did not star Anthony Michael Hall. Hughes’ star Molly Ringwald was back in the lead, however, alongside Jon Cryer, Andrew McCarthy and James Spader. The Pretty in Pink soundtrack was a Who’s Who of the 80′s Post-Punk Alternative scene with tracks from Echo & The Bunnymen, The Smiths, INXS and New Order. The Psychedelic Furs’ 1981 single, Pretty In Pink was the inspiration for the film, and was featured in a newly recorded version as the title track. New Order’s Shellshock was featured on the soundtrack, but 2 other New Order tracks played during pivotal moments in the film; Thieves Like Us and Elegia. Other tracks to appear in the film, but not on the soundtrack were Positively Lost Me and Rave Up/Shut Up, performed by The Rave-Ups during the club scene. The film’s lasting memory and perhaps one of the most iconic of any 80′s film was OMD’s If You Leave, during the prom scene. OMD wrote this track specifically for the movie.
The 1986 Comedy Ferris Bueller‘s Day Off was not known directly for its music, the way other Hughes’ films were, but upon further reflection, the movie just wouldn’t have been the same without some of the specifc songs chosen for inclusion. It’s become nearly impossible to not think of Ferris when hearing Yello’s Oh Yeah or Sigue Sigue Sputnik‘s Love Missile F1-11. The Dream Academy had a couple of great tunes in the film, an instrumental cover of The Smiths’ Please Please Let Me Get What I Want as well as The Edge Of Forever. General Public and The English Beat were also featured in memorable scenes, not to mention the unforgettable use of classics like Danke Schoen and The Beatles’ Twist and Shout. Some 16 years after the Beatles broke up, Twist and Shout hit #23 on the US singles charts to due to its inclusion in Ferris as well as Back To School. Despite all these great tracks, Hughes feared a lack of continuity would not make for a good listen, and never released an official soundtrack.
That would not be the case with his next film, 1987′s Some Kind Of Wonderful, starring Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson and Lea Thompson. Earning less than half of Pretty In Pink at the box office, and not quite as beloved by the mainstream, this film could be thought of as the Alternative Kids version of the Pretty In Pink theme of dating someone from the opposite side of the tracks. The soundtrack itself went deeper and more obscure than before with tracks from The Jesus & Mary Chain, Furniture, The March Violets and Flesh For Lulu. The Flesh For Lulu track, I Go Crazy stands as the lasting sonic connotation with the film. Another track featured throughout the film, that did not appear on the soundtrack, was Charlie Sexton’s Beat So Lonely.
While, Some Kind Of Wonderful was really the last Hughes film to capture the angst of high school, as he turned to more adult or kid themes, he kept up the prominent use of cutting edge Pop music in 1988′s She’s Having A Baby (Love and Rockets, Gene Loves Jezebel, Kate Bush, XTC, Bryan Ferry, Everything But The Girl and Dave Wakeling) and 1991′s Career Opportunities (Tones On Tail, Jellyfish).
Looking back on the legacy that John Hughes left with his 80′s teen films, we look back fondly on the characters he created, and the classic quotes, but would these films be as well-remembered and as beloved were it not for the music in them?