John Hughes: The Brat Pack films that defined an era Part One: Introduction
By Andrew Hawnt
There is a series of films made in the 1980s that perfectly captured a particular brand of humour, a particular era of popular culture, and a particular time of life for millions of people all over the world. The misadventures of everyone's teenage years go a long way to shaping the people that we become, and it is easy to get caught up in the angst of the age when living through it yourself. The teen movies from the mind of John Hughes gave something special to the misfits and dreamers of a generation, and continue to do so for new fans now.
Thankfully, the films have not lost much of their lustre or impact for many fans as years have passed. John Hughes would, of course, go on to create films such as Home Alone, but it is the teen Brat Pack movies of the 1980s that he is most fondly appreciated for. Over the course of a series of articles, I'll be looking into what made these films so special, one at a time.
This is a labour of love. The films I'll be covering, namely Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful, mean very much to me. I discovered the work of John Hughes when Weird Science was aired on British TV one night back when I was 15. Following that exposure, I was hooked. I picked up the others as soon as I could and certainly got my worth out of those classic VHS tapes. I still have each one, and although DVDs have replaced pretty much everything, I can't bare to part with those films. They were like friends to me at the time.
I saw those films as something of an escape from the troubles I went through at that point in time, but I also saw them as a reminder that I wasn't the only one who had tough things to deal with. They also made it clear that life can be funny just as much as it can be upsetting, difficult and downright odd. This period of John Hughes' career ended in 1987, when he branched out into broader comedy with Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
Something is missing from the current crop of teen films. At least to these eyes. This may be more to do with my advancing age marching on past the 30 mark and towards oblivion, but it may also be to do with the fact that the film industry, popular culture and society as a whole were rather different back then. That said, many of the situations and problems faced in these films are things that will fit with every generation.
After the 80s, the audience that had grown up on the films of John Hughes found a new, more adult hero in the form of Kevin Smith, whose films Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy did the same thing that the classic John Hughes films did for their target demographic- told them that there was someone out there making films that understood what it was like to be them, to grow up surrounded by pop culture, changing fashions, changing attitudes and changing technology.
John Hughes' personal and private life does not interest me, as it should be. What I want to talk about is a series of his films that helped shape me as a person and were there for me when I was without a friend in the world. It is a strange relationship that you build with these films, and I look forward to exploring that relationship for you.
Coming soon: Part two- Sixteen Candles
(c) Andrew Hawnt 2009