Fewer films have ever made me laugh as hard as John Hughes‘ Weird Science. This film is a sign post of my childhood, one that carries tremendous meaning and nostalgia. While this one may not register on many folks’ radar as a top notch Hughes example, I happily rated it my favorite of his oeuvre back in 2013. That it came out in what might be considered the most 80s month of films in the entire decade (along with the original Fright Night, Real Genius, Teen Wolf, Better Off Dead and American Ninja) makes it all the better. So, it is with great pleasure that pleasure that I fête Weird Science as it turns 30 this year (released August 2, 1985), a fantastic example of 80s film hijinks replete with Hughes‘ ability to take something that is on the surface a typical male teen horn-dog film and give it some substance at the end. I am unashamed in my love for this film and I can happily report that even to this very day, Weird Science towers above the poor excuses for teen comedies of today.
And then, BANG! we hit the city, baby. Dead on. For a little drinks, a little nightlife, a little dancing…
The story of the film, for you unfortunate louts who have yet to see it, is a somewhat standard territory for Hughes – two loveable losers, Gary (Anthony Michael Hall in his finest role) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith), cast outs at their school long for nothing but to be cool. However, those dreams are consistently dashed again and again by the masses, especially Max (Robert Rusler) and Ian (a very young Robert Downey Jr.). That Gary and Wyatt are smitten with Deb (Suzanne Snyder) and Hilly (Judie Aronson, one of my all-time crushes), Max and Ian’s girlfriends certainly doesn’t help. So when Wyatt’s parents leave for the weekend, they decide to make a girl…actually make a girl, using Wyatt’s then high-tech computer set-up and know how, a sort of new wave Dr. Frankenstein. When it actually works and Lisa (the stunning Kelly LeBrock) materializes in Wyatt’s bedroom, the boys’ futures start to change for the better.
But as always, there are roadblocks. Wyatt’s older brother Chet, in what is arguably the best shithead older brother performance in film history graciously given to us by the incomparable Bill Paxton, is home from college to “watch over” the boys. He harasses and harangues them all while they and Lisa set about changing their fortunes over the course of one weekend. The key to this is not only was Lisa created to be incredibly beautiful (and trust me, in 1985 LeBrock was the pinnacle of beauty) but she also had special, witchcraft-like powers that allowed her certain license to create ideal situations in which Gary and Wyatt could prove themselves to their otherwise unsuspecting classmates. They do so in memorable fashion thus ingratiating themselves to said classmates and more importantly the apples of their eyes, Deb and Hilly.
Now make yourself one, dickweed!
This is a month that will likely be a one-way Nostalgia Express for me. It’s fitting that it is starting out with Weird Science. I hold this film in the highest regard. While it may not be Hughes‘s “best” film, it certainly is my favorite of his. It may not have quite the same touching ending that both Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club have,but Weird Science earns its ending. It’s honest despite the preposterous nature of the events leading up to it and there is something that we can all likely identify with in Gary and Wyatt. And to me, any film that gives moviegoers a scene like the one where they go to a bar on the Southside of Chicago is complete and total magic. Check it out:
There are very few scenes that are as quotable as this one. That it’s just one among many in the film is a testament to the quality of Weird Science. And despite falling into the shadows of the acting world for a long while, Anthony Michael Hall gives one of the all-time great comedic performances in this film. I wish I could understand why he faded away like he did even though he has resurfaced in the past few years. The same could be said of Ilan Mitchell-Smith who was solid in The Wild Life and really encapsulated the character of Wyatt. This film is a true treasure and deserves mention alongside any comedy of the 80s and beyond.
This film has significant personal meaning to me as I got to see it with my brother and sister at the Rivoli Theatre in downtown Muncie, Indiana, when my parents were in court hammering each other over visitation rights post-divorce. This film was the perfect antidote to the trepidation my siblings and I felt that day. So to John Hughes, the cast of the film and anyone else who had anything to do with the making of this film, I thank you. It’s rare the one can point to one person and call them the voice of a generation, but I don’t doubt that anyone who came of age in the early to mid-80s couldn’t at least tip John Hughes as the most likely candidate.
Enjoy the tasty original trailer and if you have yet to watch this puppy, get there people:
So, in the infinite wisdom of Hollywood executives, someone decided to do another version of Vacation telling the story from Rusty’s point of view as he takes his wife and kids to Wally World 30 years later. Jesus Christ, really? The first rule of filmmaking should be, “Don’t touch anything that John Hughes wrote or directed.” European Vacation (even though Hughes wrote it) and Vegas Vacation were fucking tragedies. Christmas Vacation had about three parts that were funny (Shitter’s full!) but as a whole was incredibly uneven. So why do this? It can’t even compare to the first one which is a stone cold classic.
I don’t think Anthony Michael Hall is having anything to do with this nor is the original Audrey Dana Barron. Clearly a fat Chevy Chase needs the $$$ and that’s why he’s involved.
This movie is just a bad idea all the way around. Good to see that the folks in LA are really focusing on original, interesting material. I blame John Francis Daley most of all here. I loved his work in Freaks & Geeks, but give me a damn break. One original script and a sequel to it and this is how he repays the film going community? SIGH.
Here’s the red band trailer if you want to subject yourself to it:
In keeping up with my nostalgia ride through films that hare hitting their 30th anniversary this year, I would be remiss to let this opportunity pass. As always, Mondo brings the absolute fire to their poster work. I love what Matt Taylor has done with this one. Most fan art posters for The Breakfast Club feature the Shermer Five in some sort of repose. I know of no other posters for this film that feature the scene where the Five try to make it back to the library before Vernon busts them. This is an incredibly important part of the film which is captured perfectly in this poster. And amazingly, there is an equally badass variant version of this poster as well:
These likely sold out in 14 seconds earlier today, but I can guarantee you can find them on eBay at some point in the next couple of days.
“…And these children
that you spit on
as they try to change the worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware
of what they’re going through…” – David Bowie
I am a terribly nostalgic person and this is a movie I hold in the highest regard. As I trundle along in this life, I reflect back on my youth a fair amount. Movies are easily used signposts in this reflection. Thinking about this film, that I was 10 going on 11 when I saw it, gives me pause. In the intervening 29 years (29 FUCKING YEARS!!!) that have passed since then, I, like many of my peers, have come a long way. I honestly don’t think my child-self and therefore my adult-self would be the same without films like The Breakfast Club (or John Hughes‘ entire oeuvre for that matter).
A criminal, a princess, a brain, an athlete and a basket case…
Also, here‘s a great list of trivia about the film. That is all. Back to your standard programming…
It’s hard to believe that Amy Heckerling‘s Fast Times at RidgemontHigh is was released 31 years ago (as of last week). Having recently re-watched it, it is a film that, even though it was filmed in 1982, still has an exceedingly large deal of relevance to today’s youth. Without the dramatic edge that John Hughes‘ The Breakfast Club has, Fast Times at Ridgemont High is so infused with humor and jokes that even the serious topics that the movie covers (teen sex, drugs, relationships, abortion) are funny. That’s a pretty hard thing to do. Based on a book by then unknown film guy, Cameron Crowe, who went undercover at a high school in California to get the skinny on what kids at that time were doing, the film version is infinitely better than the book, which is one of the few times I can actually say that (The Player being the only other example I can come up with). This film is the early 80s in a nutshell, and we’re all better for it.
It’s hard to know where to start with this movie because so much of it worthy of mention. The basic synopsis of the film is as such: Kids in Ridgemont are bored, like in most places. They fill their time working shitty jobs, drinking beer, fucking and trying to get through high school. So here are the main players in the film:
Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold)
Brad: an all-american guy.
Brad is entering his senior year, has a great girlfriend, Lisa (Amanda Wyss of Better Off Dead fame) “who’s great in bed” but he’s a senior now. He’s a single, successful guy and he’s got to be fair to himself. And he needs his freedom…or so he thinks. When things go down the shitter for him, Lisa ends up dumping him. Turnabout is fair play, I suppose. After losing his job at All-American Burger, and dumping his gig at Captain Hook’s Fish & Chips, he finally finds his niche a Mi-T Mart. Well played, Brad. Shoot for the stars.
Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh)
I don’t want sex. Anyone can have sex. I want a relationship. I want romance.
Stacy, Brad’s sister, and the de facto center of attention in Fast Times, is a freshman who has been taken under the wing of senior Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates) and taught the ways to use her wiles to capture men. When this backfires at least twice, she reconsiders her approach. After a tryst with a 26-year old stereo salesman, a failed attempt to bag Mark Rather (Brian Backer), a nerd in her biology class and her subsequent seduction of his best friend, the slimy Mike Damone (Robert Romanus) which gives her an unwanted pregnancy, Stacy decides to cool things off. Probably for the best, young lady. Fortunate are we that director Amy Heckerling and musician Jackson Browne created an anthem, “Somebody’s Baby,” for Stacy to cue us into when she is going to get freaky. My 9-year old self thanks you for this.
Here’s Linda dispensing her sage-like advice for Stacy:
Hi Brad. You know how cute I always thought you were…
Adequately described above, Linda coaxes Stacy out of her shell and into womanhood. Linda is confident and beautiful and it’s no wonder Stacy flocks to her. Linda seems to think she has it all figured out – after graduation, she will move to Chicago with her fiancee Doug and they will walk through the world together. Well, that’s not how it works out, of course. Linda is the object of what might well be the most famous scene from any teen movie ever when she appears in Brad’s self-love fantasy (click the above image to see…be forewarned, it is not safe for work). The Cars’ “Moving in Stereo” still triggers memories of this scene to this date for me (and I’m sure many others who saw this film back in the early 80s and beyond) from the first strum of the guitar. Cates is a fine actress and was fun in both Gremlins films as well as Drop Dead Fred. It’s a shame that the most remembered part of her career will be this scene.
Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn)
Just like I told the guy on ABC…danger is my business!
Spicoli may well be the best character in film history. The guy is a non-stop highlight reel from his first appearance until the final scene of the film. Cameron Crowe, who wrote the film and the book it was based on, really captured something with this character. A surfer who has “been stoend since the third grade”, Spicoli pretty much hijacks the film. His epic back-and-forths with history teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston) are the stuff that cinematic dreams are made of. Despite his battles with Mr. Hand, mutual respect is gained on both sides by the end of the film. One of the great mentor-mentee relationships on film. However, their first meeting will ALWAYS be my favorite scene in the movie:
Penn‘s delivery of the “You dick!” line is pitch perfect and it caused so much laughter the first time I saw this with friends (Lindells, surely you remember this?), that we rewound the VHS tape (yes, VHS) about 35 times and laughed equally hard each time. Mind you, this is a future two-time Oscar winner. There are so many clips I could post of him and it would probably never get old to anyone reading this. And of course that he’s drinking a Hamm’s whilst driving at 1:08 in this scene captured my heart. And who could forget his explanation of the American Revolution:
Bless you, Spicoli. Forever and ever, amen.
Well, naturally something happens. I mean, you put the vibe out to 30 million chicks, something is gonna happen.
Mark is the nerd who falls in love with Stacy upon first sight but is too chicken to ask her out, which is sort of an m.o. with him as we find out from his friend Damone. When he is finally able to go out with Stacy, he drops the ball when she is clearly ready to take a trip to Freakytown. So when Damone capitalizes on the chance, the two have a falling out (as one might expect). Of course everything is cleared up in the end and Mark, because he’s not a guy just trying to fuck anything that moves gets the girl in the end. Or at least that’s what the epilogue says. Good to see the nice guy finish first for once. Get yours, Rat. Prior to his Judas-like betrayal, Damone, much like Linda to Stacy, dispensed some very valuable advice to Rat. Take a look:
Damone, lothario of Ridgemont.
Damone is what he is and he can’t help that. A ticket scalper on the side, he plies his trade while doing his best to bed the ladies of Ridgemont. After betraying what appears to be his only friend when he sleeps with and knocks up Stacy, he is a ship with no captain, floating aimlessly, bearing the brunt of Rat’s hatred as well as Stacy and her friends. Why you ask? He skipped out on taking Stacy and paying for her abortion. What a guy, right? That anyone would want to hang out with him is crazy. But fellas, he is your cautionary tale – be like Damone and you will get shit on. A tough role to play and Robert Romanus played it very well. Shame it pretty much torpedoed any career he might have had. It’s pretty hard to overcome playing such a douche. Type-casting anyone?
As I’ve mentioned there are a bevy of first or near first appearances of very famous actors in this film. There’s Nic Cage:
There’s Anthony Edwards of ER fame and Eric Stoltz:
And of course, Forrest Whitaker:
By my count, there are 4 future Oscar winners that were a part of this film – Whitaker (Best Actor – Last King of Scotland), Cage (Best Actor – Leaving Las Vegas), Sean Penn (Best Actor – Mystic River and Milk) as well as Cameron Crowe (Best Original Screenplay – Almost Famous). Not a bad pedigree, eh?
One of the things that I appreciate most about this film is that even though the characters do shitty things (Damone) and try to figure out who they are, they are never judged for it. I specifically mean the treatment of the female characters, in particular Stacy, who is coming into her sexuality and see what fits for her. We never see her called a slut, we never see her put down because she is experimenting sexually. These days, there would have to be a moral of some sort attached or these scenes would be pulled all together. It also seems almost utopian in its treatment of race. Spicoli and Charles Jefferson’s little brother (Stanley Davis, Jr.) are good friends and clearly come from two separate worlds (who didn’t come from a separate world from Spicoli?). Charles Jefferson is worshiped as a God on the football field and met with gasps when he is seen in the community. While this is not a new concept, it’s hard to imagine that if this film took place in Alabama, Louisiana or even in my home state of Indiana at the same time, you would not find near the reverence as we see in this film.
Dazed & Confused,Thirteen and Superbadmay be the only other R-rated teen comedies out there, or at least those worth watching. Nonetheless, they are few and far between, which is a shame. It’s hard to capture the essence of the high school experience in PG-13 since few, if anyone’s, experience is really PG-13. Fucking MPAA and their bullshit. Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one of the classic films of the 1980s, continues to endure and bring the laughs as I’m sure it will continue to do so for another 31+ years. While the fashion has certainly gone out of style, the situations depicted in the film have not. And Spicoli never ages, his wisdom never eclipsed.
Roger Ebert (may he rest in peace) said this about Johnny Be Good: ” ‘Johnny Be Good‘ is completely bereft of comic imagination” and “There is no possible motivation for [the final] scene, except for the obvious one – artistic bankruptcy” as well as “The screenplay for this movie bears every sign of being a first draft – a quick and dirty one. The movie doesn’t feel written, it feels dictated.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement, eh? It currently sits at 0% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. To put in perspective what that means, Gigli sits at 7% fresh. So this film is widely recognized as a shit sandwich by pretty much everyone. Well, except me, I guess. I’ll agree to disagree with Mr. Ebert on this one.
Johnny arrives at UCC (the flimsy stand-in for USC) to pomp and circumstance.
The premise of this film is pretty simple – Johnny Walker (Anthony Michael Hall) is the best high school quarterback in the country. Every school is licking their chops at his talent and wants him at their school and they will do anything to get him. Johnny is a kid who comes from a humble home. His father has passed away and he lives with his mother (Deborah May), his grandfather (George Hall) and his brother and sister. So when colleges are offering big money for him to attend, he is listening, much to the chagrin of the family and his beautiful girlfriend Georgia (Uma Thurman, smoking hot in her first film role). Johnny considers himself a package deal with his best friend Leo (Robert Downey, Jr.), so both are getting propositioned from all sides, including overtures made by their high school coach Wayne Hisler (Paul Gleason, also Mr. Vernon from The Breakfast Club). Johnny’s recruitment circus is being followed closely by an NCAA recruitment investigator (Robert Downey Sr.), and shit blows up like The Godfather as it’s clear that violations abound in certain schools’ pursuit of him.
Here are four reasons that this film is still worthy of a watch:
4) Paul Gleason as Coach Hisler and his clothes
It’s a bar shaped like a piano…with a piano!
Paul Gleason is amazing in this. Not only does he build off his asshole performances in Trading Places and The Breakfast Club, he brings some kitsch to this one. As the clueless head coach of Johnny’s team, Hisler is married to Connie, played by Jennifer Tilly, a woman who throws Tupperware parties. Still. I know this was made in 1988, but didn’t that shit go out of style in 1972? Clad in some of the sweetest gear this side of Paul Newman‘s wardrobe in Slap Shot, Hisler really spells C-L-A-S-S. The shirt pictured above is really the tip of the iceberg. Screenshots were pretty scarce, but you should watch this film alone to see his yellow suit. It is unreal.
For all of his attempts at being sneaky, Hisler really just comes off looking like a dumbass. But don’t let that fool you as he’s still one of the best characters in the film. His lack of social awareness (he drives a Pacer for God’s sake) is actually kind of endearing. Obviously he’s a better football coach than he is a schemer or being a social animal.
Here is the speech he gives just before the state championship football game:
3) Jim McMahon‘s cameo
If you lived in the 80s and you don’t know who Jim McMahon is you might have been living under a rock…or just aren’t a sports fan. “The Punky QB” played for probably the best pro football team ever assembled, the 1985 Chicago Bears. He was known for his outrageous behavior and for being trouble for then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Was he the best quarterback? No. But he had more personality than all of them. That he’s doing an Adidas commercial is comical because he was fined for wearing an Adidas headband which was against league rules. Suck on that, Rozelle.
From the time I saw him in Six Pack, shaking the dew off his lilly, to watching him in Johnny Be Good, Anthony Michael Hall completed a perfect transition from nerd extraordinaire or “King of the Dipshits” as his character Ted exclaims in Sixteen Candles, to the guys who dates the hottest girl in school and someone who everyone wants a piece of. His comedic timing evolved over the films he did with John Hughes (RIP) and works well in this film. Perhaps his stint on Saturday Night Live in 1985-1986 helped with this, although I recall those episodes to be below average. All the same, it’s nice to see AMH pick up where his character, Gary Wallace, left off in Weird Science. This was his last “big” leading role in film – he did play the villain in Tim Burton‘s Edward Scissorhands in 1990. A fitting way for a young talent to go out? I’d say no, but I think it provides ample humor despite the film’s serious shortcomings. I have always hoped he would have a big comeback. Perhaps Tarantino can write him into something. I mean, he helped out John Travolta‘s one-note ass. Why not AMH?
1) Robert Downey, Jr. is off his ass funny
What kind of boy do you think I am? I will hardly pop you without having met your father first. Get him on the horn.
As bad/good as this movie is, one thing is certain: Robert Downey Jr. had obvious talent. He steals the show as Leo Wiggins, Johnny’s best friend and back-up quarterback. His crazy monologues/diatribes are quite funny and his facial expressions are so expressive, it’s no wonder he was chosen to play Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin. It’s not strange that he appears in this film as he co-starred with AMH in Weird Science, Saturday Night Live and showed his own range between these two and Johnny Be Good when he appeared in Back to School (a character similar to Leo Wiggins), alongside fellow AMH–brat packer Molly Ringwald in the Hughes-ian The Pickup Artist and showed his more dramatic side in the adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis‘ debut novel Less Than Zero.
The funniest part besides when RDJ tries to “smell it” at the beginning in Coach Hisler’s speech, is the stories he tells the girls they pick up at Murf’s Better Burger:
All in all the production of this film is pretty sorry. It may have the worst sound production of any film I’ve seen in some time. The amount of ADR (additional dialogue recording) is so obvious, it hurts. Seems like half of the dialogue was redubbed. One astonishing thing about this film is that Robert Yeoman, the director of photography for all of Wes Anderson‘s films, shot this film as well, much like two-time Oscar-winner Janusz Kaminski shot Vanilla Ice‘s Cool As Ice.
This, like many of the movies of the time, are time capsules of the period in which they were shot. Looking back, it’s probably best that some stay that way. The events that occur in this film are so over-the-top and unbelievable, it’s hard to argue where Roger Ebert was coming from. Still, I find this film fun to watch and laugh at. One of the best parts about this film to me is that I saw this in theater with my grandma. The only other films I remember seeing with her in the theater: Disney’s Song of the South and Chariots of Fire. Quite an eclectic set of movies, no? A cultured woman, for sure.
Anyhither, give this one a spin if you want to see Anthony Michael Hall right before he fell into oblivion.
This is the first rant I’ve had in months. I can’t begin to tell you what an awful idea this is. From the original article on Deadline.com: This film will attempt to carve out its own identity by being redrawn as an edgier R-rated comedy in line with 21 Jump Street and The Hangover.
While 21 Jump Street had a few funny parts, The Hangover was terrible. And no chance any scene in the remake will ever touch the awesomeness presented here:
Joel Silver is the one responsible for this. He is now dead to me. DEAD. So he produced John Hughes‘ version. I don’t give a shit. He also produced all of the Lethal Weapon sequels, all of which are crimes against cinema. Fuck The Matrix as well.
What a joke.
Weird Science is my favorite John Hughes movie as described here. This one hurts. Badly. Fucking Hollywood and their bullshit.
Last week, I wrote about my 10 favorite scenes to open a film. So, in the parlance of our time, turn about is fair play – so I thought I’d write about my favorite ending scenes. As I thought this over and compiled my list, I couldn’t narrow it down to only 10 and even 15. So here are my top 16 favorite film endings. The ending of a film can be a revelation, tying the entire film you just watched all together in a perfect bow, it can leave the resolution to characters’ dilemma open-ended allowing you the license to think and discuss what became of them and the events before, it can piss you off asking what the fuck the writer and director were thinking (Oliver Stone – I’m looking at you for that shit ending to Savages, which sucked anyway), or it can totally destroy a film begging you to ask yourself why you just wasted the 90-120 minutes you just spent watching it.
Now, Let it be known that watching many of these may give away key points to the films. I will have tried to list which have spoilers. Beware.
Lastly, I urge you to watch all of the following films. They are all fantastic. They wouldn’t have left the impression on me that they did if they weren’t.
Here we go…
(this is the entire film – watch from 1:43:20-1:46:20)
It is unfortunate that this film remains relatively unknown to many in this country. It’s really incredible. I was fortunate to see this at the Chicago International Film Festival in 2004 where it won the Gold Hugo, its top prize. And well deserved, I might add. The film follows a group of slacker subway ticket controllers in Budapest as they try and find out who has been pushing patrons in front of oncoming trains. Led by Bulcsú (Sándor Csányi), the group must deal with their hotheaded boss, rival gangs of ticket controllers, punk kids and an ethereal girl dressed in a bear and fairy costumes (Eszter Balla) who may or may not really exist. This film is extremely ripe for interpretation and presents many mysteries that challenge its viewer. That it is Hungarian probably turns some people off. Don’t let that bother you – you know you watched Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and that shit had subtitles too. This may not have hot ass kung fu, but it does have a narcoleptic who provides very funny comedic moments and a peek into a different slice of the world you might not otherwise see.
The Crew – Professor, Bulcsú, Tibi, Lecsó and Muki
This film ending may not mean much without the entire context of the film, but I do know it is one of the most satisfying I’ve seen. I’ve provided a link that allows you to watch this badass film for free. DO IT.
Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
SPOILER – this one pretty much gives away the entire premise of the film, so BEWARE.
Made at the height of the Cold War, Kiss Me Deadly is exceedingly representative of the Red Scare and McCarthyism. A film noir staple, this one’s got it all – beatings, intimidation, dames, broads, cars, guns, double-crosses…and a mysterious box that everyone seems to want to get their hands on. The ending is one of the more twisted and deranged I’ve seen, but it fits so well with all of the other bizarre shit that happens before it. Without a doubt one of the most memorable I’ve seen and it certainly deserves to be on this or any best-of ending list.
This film features Cate Blanchett, who I feel is the finest actress working today. Typical of her role choices, this is one you wouldn’t expect from many Hollywood women. She plays a school teacher living in Italy whose husband dies of a drug overdose. When she sees a chance to get even with the powerful drug lord who was responsible, she plants a bomb intended to kill him. When that plan goes wrong, four innocent people die. With the help of a young policeman (Giovanni Ribisi), she escapes and goes on the run. The film ends with the inevitable confrontation between her and the police and what director Tom Tykwer (who has two films appear on this list) gives us is one of the most elegiac endings I’ve ever seen. It completely blew me away.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Probably the most the iconic ending of all the films from my childhood. I’ve recently written about this film here so I won’t elaborate too much more than I already have. This ending is a great example of the synergy of filmmaking elements – music, narration and editing all play keys roles in contributing to why I think this ending is so wonderful. Without Brian Johnson’s (Anthony Michael Hall) narration of the letter coupled with the Simple Minds’ song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” and the cuts between Vernon (Paul Gleason) in the library and John Bender (Judd Nelson) walking home over the football field, I don’t think this would have been anywhere near as successful and the perfect culmination of the events we had witnessed the prior 97 minutes.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
SPOILER ahead – not in the scene above, but the text below.
In the portion of the film that precedes this one, you just can’t get over how damn depressing it is. Chief (Will Sampson) suffocates McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) after he’s been lobotimized. Just gutting. But what comes next is uplifting and really takes the edge off that scene. McMurphy’s death, both in the physical and spiritual sense (Nurse Ratched and the doctors took care of that over time), gave life to Chief who can be held no more by confines of the sanitarium and in a way, gives life to the rest of the group who remain. I remember seeing this film at a very early age (perhaps too early – Todd Solondz would have been jealous) and it left an indelible mark on me. This is my father’s favorite film of all-time (outside of Lonesome Dove, which is technically a mini-series) so it always reminds me of him.
The Bad News Bears (1976)
The inappropriateness of this ending is what touches me so deeply, I think. That any film would show kids from 11-13 years old drinking beers and cursing after losing in the championship of a Little League baseball tournament hits this guy right where it hurts – these are kids, especially Tanner (Chris Barnes), who could have been me. Their philosophy of “Wait ‘Til Next Year!”, a favorite mantra among us poor Chicago Cubs fans, is also one I employ in my real life, always banking that next year will be better (it usually isn’t). This ending also marks the transformation of manager Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau, so perfectly cast) from drunk who cares about nothing but himself and his liquor to showing this band of misfit kids how to be ballplayers, how to never give up and play the game the right way. Except for the beer. And cursing. That the other parents join in the celebration in this clip is unreal.
Engelberg and Tanner imbibe after a tough loss to the evil Yankees.
This ending is the product of its times, which is good. Not a chance this ending is ever made today. Case in point: the what-I-assume-is-a-SHITTY-remake Richard Linklater put together (never have and never will watch it – why mess with perfection?) in 2005. In the end of that one, the kids drink non-alcoholic beer. SIGH. I also love the pull back of the camera capturing the American flag in the frame. ‘MURICA!!!
The 400 Blows (1959)
This ending literally stunned the jury and everyone else at its screenings at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival. 27-year old François Truffaut, film critic-turned-director, earned Best Director for The 400 Blows and helped usher in the French New Wave with the film. And the ending of this film is one of the most famous in film history. The freeze-frame of Antoine Doinel (played by Jean-Pierre Leaud), Tuffaut‘s alter-ego, looking directly into the camera was nothing like anything that had been done before, especially in french cinema where the young critics who turned into filmmakers (Godard, Resnais, Chabrol, Rohmer and Rivette) had grown tired of the boring traditional filmmaking that had occurred since the war. They sought to change it and boy did they ever. This final shot of Antoine leaves us to wonder whether he will emerge from the shitty circumstances that led him to reform school or if he will fall back into the behavior that got him there. Neither hopeful nor pessimistic, Truffaut leaves the viewer to decide what Antoine’s fate is…at least with this film. He did go on to make three more films about Doinel (all played wonderfully by Leaud).
SPOILER – this clip and subsequent commentary gives the ending of the film away.
As a HUGE fan of Patrick Süskind‘s novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, I was always wary of whether it could make a great or even good film. With many sequences inside the head of protagonist Jean-Baptiste Grenouille and the overwhelming description of the olfactory smorgasbord he encounters in the novel, I just wasn’t sure it could be done. Tom Tykwer, along with German superproducer Bernd Eichinger (may he rest in peace) and Andrew Birkin, crafted a script that captured the best elements of the book and transferred them to the screen…well, except Dustin Hoffman‘s Italian-esque accent – what the fuck was that? Anyway, this is a grisly story and Grenouille’s (Ben Whishaw, the new Q in the Bond films, worked nicely in his role) fate deserves something special. Just when we think he’s gotten away with his murder spree at his trial, we get the proper ending that Süskind gave us in the book, which is absolutely fitting given his actions throughout the film. And thus the magic of cinema takes us by surprise again.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
This is quite possibly the most polarizing ending of a film I’ve ever witnessed. When I saw this film in the theater, about 80% of the people there moaned and complained out loud about how terrible it was. To me, it seemed like the perfect ending to such a brutal film, Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) telling of a dream about his dead father ushering him to heaven, there waiting for him. As Bell states, he is about 20 years older than his daddy ever got to be and I think that this dream revelation he gives also tells us why there is no country for old men like him – bored, desperate now that he is retired, waiting to meet his daddy on the cold, dark mountain, horn of fire in hand. This ending is pure Cormac McCarthy, writer of the novel on which this film is based. While the film adaptation of the ending is different as Bell tells his wife about the dream, the book describes it as sort of in Bell’s head without him verbalizing it. This film ends very abruptly and I think is a bit confusing to people who may not be aware of the book or how McCarthy writes. That doesn’t take away from how honest and fabulous it is.
The King of Comedy (1983)
SPOILERS in the clip and the comments.
Scorsese is insane. He makes touchpoint films that resonate well after they are released and The King of Comedy is one of them as I wrote here. With all of the intense interest in “celebrity” culture, now so more than ever, this film remains increasingly more pertinent. What is depicted in the clip above is suspect as we don’t know if these events are really happening or if they are just the machinations of antihero Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro). If you’ve seen this film, you know that Pupkin has a mock talk show set in his mother’s basement where he practices his comedy routines and television demeanor.
Ladies and gentleman – Rupert Pupkin!
So this film comes full circle from when Rupert acts out a scene at the beginning of the film as if Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis as a stand-in for Johnny Carson) asks him to take over his talk show for 6 weeks to the epilogue where he is a huge thing and everyone wants a piece of him. That the announcer says Rupert’s name seven times in his introduction is a key to me that this is all a delusion – hearing his name on television is all he’s ever wanted. That he is such a hit elsewhere – new TV show, book deal, fans greeting him at prison – is also a key. I could be wrong here, of course. Nonetheless, it’s a fascinating ending to an incredible film. One of Scorsese‘s best.
SPOILER: this pretty much gives it all away. If you haven’t seen this film and plan on doing so, don’t watch or read.
Director David Fincher and writer Andrew Kevin Walker bring the thunder in this thriller. John Doe (Kevin Spacey) takes detectives Mills (Brad Pitt) and Somerset (Morgan Freeman, another role in which he gets to play the wise, old sage) to the brink of his own madness. With 5 of the deadly sins already acted out by Doe and his victims, the ending gives us the final two – envy and wrath. This is one the most clever and creepy endings to a movie I’ve ever seen. Who can blame Mills for what he does even though Somerset is right? Doe does win by Mills blowing him away. Mills doesn’t break his character, though. It would have been a cop out (pun intended) if he had not shot Doe for his transgressions and I’m glad that Fincher and Walker kept it that way. Everything that Mills does leading up to this moment leads us to believe he would shoot him. It makes for a far more powerful ending and is a good comment about mankind’s will to do/not to do the right thing when faced with extraordinary circumstances.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Who would have thought this film, of all things, would be the impetus for one of the more overused memes in recent history? Milkshakes. This final scene is the culmination of a man, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis in one of his most exquisite performances), completing his fall from venerable oil man to money hungry lout. Where we probably once respected Plainview for having taken in the young son of a worker killed in an accident and stood up for himself against bigger oil outfits, that respect has all but gone by this point in the film. I must sickly admit, though, that I found some pleasure in Plainview’s extermination of Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) in this clip. Supposedly a man of God, Eli, like Daniel, becomes a money hungry cretin, forsaking his duties as a preacher in the quest for the wrong almighty…the dollar. Look no further than this clip that comes before the “I drink your milkshake” portion:
Eli cashes in his faith, his beliefs for money: “I am a false prophet. God is a superstition!” He is as soulless and Daniel is, but his transgression is far worse than Daniel’s, who never postures as anything but who he is – a businessman. While brutal and unflinching, this ending is the logical course of the film and one that has made a lasting impression on me since I first saw it.
Since this film is told backwards, the ending of the film is actually the beginning of the story. It’s here we see Leonard (Guy Pearce) begin his quest anew in his search for John G., the man who he believes murdered his wife and damaged his hippocampus, giving him a condition where he can’t make new memories.After putting in the work, trying to figure maintain coherence, you get here and it sets everything up that you just saw. The real question is: can you remember what you saw prior to this scene to piece everything together? That he lists Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) as the John G. he’s looking for as a grudge gives an insight into Leonard that up to this point we wouldn’t have imagined. Teddy is perfectly correct when he says, “You don’t want the truth. You make up your own truth.” And when Teddy catches Leonard’s ire…it’s lights out.
I have this condition…
This is a film that really needs several views to grasp what’s going on. Director Christopher Nolan is very tricky in the editing of the film and hides nice little morsels in there that sway the meaning of the film…should you catch them. If you don’t, the meaning changes, which isn’t a bad thing. Couple that with its reverse structure, which mirrors Leonard’s condition, and you have a truly unique film that will likely blow your mind. One of the most original films in years, this is a can’t miss.
The Usual Suspects (1995)
SPOILER – this will without a doubt give away one of the best endings ever. If you haven’t seen the film and plan on doing so, DO NOT watch this or read the commentary below.
If you’ve seen this film, you know why this ending is so badass. The real question isn’t whether Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey, yet again on this list) perpetuated the crime that killed Hockney (Kevin Pollak), McManus (Stephen Baldwin), Fenster (Benicio del Toro) and Keaton (Gabriel Byrne). This clip leaves no doubt in that. The real question is, is Kint really Keyser Söze or is he capitalizing on the myth/legend of Keyser Söze, one that he tells to Agent Kujan (Chazz Palmintieri)? There is no definitive answer that I’ve ever seen, although I would fall into the latter camp. This is undoubtedly the best twist ending ever in my mind, much better than The Sixth Sense and even better than Psycho.
He’ll flip ya…he’ll flip ya for real.
The Thin Blue Line (1988)
Once again – SPOILERS.
This film literally saved a man’s life, much like the Paradise Lost films have done for the West Memphis Three. Think about that. If it weren’t for the inquisitiveness of director Errol Morris, the absolute finest documentarian working today, Randall Adams would still be serving his life sentence for murdering a police officer, a crime he never committed, had he not passed away in 2010. The absolute power of this film is unparalleled. Not only did Morris, with the help of several other folks in Texas, do the legwork to uncover the inconsistencies in the testimony, HE GOT THE DAMN CONFESSION OF THE REAL KILLER. He did what no officer of the law could do and he did it through film. If this doesn’t convince people of just how influential films can be, ask Randall Adams’ ghost. This is one of the most amazing films ever made and would fall into my top 10 favorites of all-time.
This film has my favorite ending to any movie I’ve ever seen. The tensions and rivalries that have gotten the better of the characters Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), Herman Blume (Bill Murray) and Rosemarie Cross (Olivia Williams) throughout the film come to pass here. Max has moved past his crush on Miss Cross and is now dating Margaret Yang (Sara Tanaka), but there is work to be done, wounds to be healed including Max’s. When Reuben (Stephen Dignan), the DJ at the cotillion, spins Faces’ “Ooh La La” and the first guitar chord hits, it’s like magic. When Miss Cross removes Max’s glasses in this scene, she is reflecting back on her husband, Rushmore-alum Edward Appleby, who passed away and is the reason she is teaching at Rushmore. Earlier in the movie, she tells Max, “You remind me of him, you know?” And here it’s come full circle. She looks at Max like we assume she looked at Edward Appleby, whom she knew her whole life.
I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger.
The usage of slow motion in this scene, a technique favored by director Wes Anderson in the final scene of every film he’s made up to Moonrise Kingdom where it was noticeably absent, is superb. It allows us to linger in this moment, to cherish what these characters are feeling as they’ve finally rounded this corner that caused them all so much grief. The song coupled with this technique are so perfect. For the first time, we see all of the major players of the film – Max, Blume, Miss Cross, Max’s father (Seymour Cassel), Margaret, Max’s best friend Dirk Calloway (Mason Gamble) and even Rushmore headmaster Nelson Guggenheim (Brian Cox) – in the same frame, happy. Without a doubt, one of the most cathartic film moments I’ve ever witnessed. Part of me wishes life was a never ending loop of this scene – slow motion dance and Faces’ “Ooh La La.” What a wonderful world it would be.
I haven’t assigned a number to each of these as I had in the post about my favorite openings. This list was too hard to quantify in that way. I can honestly say that the endings to Rushmore and The Thin Blue Line are the two that hit me most on an emotional level and I would feel safe slotting them in at #1 and #2. Other than that, I can’t do it.
John Hughes would have been 63 today. His death in 2009 shocked me even though he had been out of the public eye for years and hadn’t directed a film since Curly Sue in 1991. Hughes was the absolute MAYOR of the 80s. His youth/teen films raised the bar for the genre and, in my opinion, have yet to be eclipsed. But he was more than just a teen film director. His adult comedies were as pertinent as anything he did in the teen realm, echoing the same themes of acceptance and understanding all while bringing the funny sprinkled with moments of levity.
I knew you’d come around…
Hughes‘ films are important to me. I hold them as dear to my heart as any film(s) that I’ve ever seen. I saw Weird Science at the Rivoli Theater in downtown Muncie, Indiana, when my parents were in court over visitation rights. I couldn’t imagine a better way to have staved off the nervousness I felt that day. I happily recall watching Sixteen Candles with friends, rewinding about a hundred times the scene where Anthony Michael Hall is dancing with Molly Ringwald and farts, laughing equally hard each time. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off may or may not have been the inspiration for my own two-week school skipping streak in 7th grade. These films helped me with the rough road through adolescence, showing me that insecurity, dysfunction and all of the other problems of youth were the norm, not the exception. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that and I believe that’s why his films resonated so well then and continue to do so to this day.
You know, there’s going to be sex, drugs, rock-n-roll… chips, dips, chains, whips… You know, your basic high school orgy type of thing. I mean, uh, I’m not talking candlewax on the nipples, or witchcraft or anything like that, no, no, no.
I have been trying to rack my brain and I can’t think of another filmmaker that had a run of success in such a short time as John Hughes did from 1983-1987. As prolific as Rainer Werner Fassbinder was (is this the first time Hughes and Fassbinder have been mentioned together, I wonder?), I don’t think he even put up the resume that Hughes has. Woody Allen has had some good runs in his life, but none quite so strong as Hughes. Let’s take a look at the the films that Hughes either wrote or wrote/directed in this time period:
Mr. Mom (1983) – wrote
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) – wrote
Nate & Hayes (1983) – wrote (I had never heard of this one)
Sixteen Candles (1984) – wrote and directed
The Breakfast Club (1984) – wrote and directed
National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1984) – wrote
Weird Science (1985) – wrote and directed
Pretty in Pink (1986) – wrote
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) – wrote and directed
Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)- wrote
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) – wrote and directed
By my count, that’s 11 films, eight of which represent some the most well-known and iconic films of the decade. Hughes only directed three other films past this period – She’s Having a Baby, Uncle Buck and Curly Sue – all fair films, I suppose, but none match the beloved status of the bulk of the list above. While he continued to write mostly family films (Home Alone series, Beethoven series) for years after pulling his best Keyser Söze (And like that, poof. He’s gone), he never quite captured the magic he had from 83-87. That’s a pretty tall order in the grand scheme of things.
As is the norm, here are my 5 (cheated, really 6) favorite works to which John Hughes contributed and why they still rock:
5) Mr. Mom (tie)
The Wall Street Journal just declared the caricature of inept stay-at-home dads depicted in Mr. Mom dead just a couple of weeks ago. However, the appeal of this movie still endures. Michael Keaton‘s portrayal of Jack Butler, the former GM engineer who lost his job and now stays home with the kids, is incredibly funny and I believe was probably pretty spot on for the time. I was raised by my father and I can certainly say that he was far more able to raise three kids than poor Jack, but this would seem more the exception rather than the rule. I think that’s why this is so enjoyable for me as it gives me an insight to what my childhood could have been like with a more maladroit father. Keaton is loveable despite his cringe worthy displays. For example:
All this aside, this film was pretty groundbreaking. Showing a woman, Caroline (played magnificently by Terri Garr), who is out in the workforce while the children are at home, succeeding and moving up the corporate ladder? I can’t recall a single film like it at the time. And as is typical, Hughes gives his characters some really great, memorable lines:
How’d you like a little trim on that moustache, Ron?
If Mr. Moms are indeed dead, then I’m glad we will always have this record to remind us of their haplessness. For that, John Hughes, I say thank you.
Here’s the trailer:
5) National Lampoon’s Vacation (tie)
The first in the Vacation series by National Lampoon, and undoubtedly the best, Hughes adapted a short story he wrote while working for advertising/public relations firm Leo Burnett (you can read it here) to start the journey of the Griswolds on-screen. Hughes seems to be especially hard on fathers in his films, and this one is no exception. Released in the same year (1983) as Mr. Mom, they seem to be perfect companion pieces to one another.
We watch his program… We buy his toys, we go to his movies… he owes us. Doesn’t he owe us, huh? He owes the Griswolds, right? Fucking-A right he owes us!
As most everyone knows, this movie follows the Griswold family – Clark (Chevy Chase), Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron) – as they traverse the country from Chicago to California on their way to Wally World, America’s Favorite Family Fun Park. Convinced that driving is the only way to travel, the Griswolds stop at roadside attractions as well as seeing some family. Randy Quaid makes his first appearance as white trash Cousin Eddie and is in fine form. After a series of car breakdowns, getting lost in the ‘hood of St. Louis, nearly getting arrested for animal cruelty, a dead aunt, and a near adulterous encounter, Clark glides the finally happy family into the parking lot of Wally World…only to find out that it’s closed for two weeks. The final punctuation on a road trip where not much else could have gone wrong. So, he takes matters into his own hands…
An homage to all shitty family road trips, National Lampoon’s Vacation hits the proverbial nail on the head. Even as stupid as Clark seems, he still has a the biggest heart and wants nothing but the best for his family. Unfortunately, he fucks it up every time, a motif that plays itself out over the course of the three other films in this series – European Vacation (without a doubt the absolute worst of the bunch – that Hughes had anything to do with this one makes me sad), Christmas Vacation and the awful Vegas Vacation, whose only saving grace is the appearance by Wayne Newton.
Far and away the best part of this movie, I still laugh hysterically each time I see it:
The edited version for TV is nearly as funny: What I look like – Christopher Columbo?
So if you’re preparing to take the kiddos to Disney (as I am in May – God help me) or any other long road trip, give this one a watch and learn what not to do.
Here is the trailer:
4) The Breakfast Club
The quintessential 80s angst film, The Breakfast Club has comedic moments, but this one hits a closer to the bone than the rest of his films. Set in Saturday detention, five seemingly different high school students – a nerd (Anthony Michael Hall), a freak (Ally Sheedy), a popular rich girl (Molly Ringwald), a popular wrestling star (Emilio Estevez) and a hood (Judd Nelson) – are charged with writing an essay telling the tyrannical Assistant Principal Mr. Vernon (Paul Gleeson) who they think they are. As the day progresses, the group of teens go back and forth, attacking one another, reconciling, telling each other their tales of why they are there. The more time they spend together, the more they realize they are alike.
Obscene finger gestures from such a pristine girl…
This was one of the two films (St. Elmo’s Fire being the other) that spawned the term The Brat Pack and solidified Molly Ringwald‘s short-lived status as Hollywood’s “it-girl.” This of all of Hughes‘ films still seems to resonate the most, ring as the most timeless. These characters still exist in today’s high schools (watch Nanette Burstein‘s documentary American Teen for easy examples), so it’s no wonder why Hughes is/was the teenager’s poet laureate. Its anti-authoritarian message certainly helps.
The ending sequence is pretty unforgettable (pun intended), as Vernon reads the essay that the five left behind, Anthony Michael Hall narrating. That Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” plays over it (flush with a Truffaut-like freeze frame) really is the perfect accompaniment, an anthem that all high schoolers echo just wanting to be noticed.
I always adored this moment. Even though I was only in fifth grade when this came out, it struck a chord. While I couldn’t know the rough waters I’d have to tread when in high school, this was a nice primer and one of the many reasons I cherish Hughes‘ oeuvre. I think it was this film that Hughes found his full voice as a writer. You could see traces his craft coming together in his previous films, but this is a fully realized work that melds the comedic and serious perfectly.
Here is the trailer:
3) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
It doesn’t get much more iconic than Ferris Bueller. This movie drips cool, well…with the exception of Cameron’s (Alan Ruck) stupid ass Detroit Red Wings jersey. That sucks. Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick‘s signature role) is the guy everyone wants to know in high school – friend to all, big and small, cool or not.
When Ferris decides to fake being sick (who can be expected to go to school on a day like this?), an elaborate process that dupes his clueless parents, but not Vice Principal Edward R. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), Rooney decides to catch Ferris and make him an example, in order to show other students that the path Ferris has chosen is wrong. Thus unfolds an epic game of cat and mouse between Rooney, Ferris and Ferris’ girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara),best friend Cameron and his sister Jeanie/sometimes Shawna (Jennifer Grey).
When Cameron was in Egypt’s land…let my Cameron go.
Cameron is actually sick, but Ferris cons him into driving Ferris around for the day. Cameron is also a tight ass (if you stick a lump of coal up his ass, in two weeks you get a diamond) who needs to have some fun. So they embark on a journey for the ages, taking in the sites of Chicago and breaking through some barriers for each of the characters.
If you didn’t want to be Ferris Bueller in 1986, then I don’t know what to say about you. Who didn’t want to sing Wayne Newton and The Beatles on a float in a German parade through the streets of Chicago?
Incidentally, I lost a bet to my mother on whether the person singing “Danke Schoen” was a man or a woman watching this movie the first time.
This is one of the most fun movies I’ve ever seen and may well be Hughes‘ finest creation. I think it, along with The Breakfast Club, is probably the most enduring as its themes are also universal. As Polonius said to Laertes in Hamlet: “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” I think Ferris followed this advice better than anyone. He never misrepresents himself to anyone he’s with, even to Rooney, and I think that’s why he’s such a relatable character. This was Hughes‘ biggest strength as a writer. It is evident in every film discussed here and why we are still talking about these films.
I hope The rebelliousness of Ferris is alive and well among the youth of today. If not, you must be a bunch of boring bastards…
Here is the trailer:
2) Sixteen Candles
I’m not sure how I originally stumbled upon Sixteen Candles when I was a kid. I can’t remember if we just happened to pick it up at the video store (yes, kids, there used to be actual stores where you could go rent videos, not DVDs) or if we had seen some preview for it. I wasn’t exactly following certain directors’ work back when I was 9. Or was I? Nonetheless, this movie floored me with its humor, its depiction of family as insanely fucked up, and the hope that things you wish for may actually come true.
Well if it isn’t Sammy Baker Davis Jr!
The story centers around Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald in her first real starring role) who turns 16. However, her birthday happens to fall on the day before her older sister Ginny (Blanche Baker) is getting married. Since her family is up to their eyes in wedding details, they forget that it’s Sam’s birthday. An obvious nightmare for anyone, let alone a girl on her sweet sixteen. The scene when she realizes this is perfection, truly setting up each of the family member’s characters in a short 45-second scene. Watch:
Sam has one more big issue in this film as well, and that’s Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling). She has a crush on him, but he is the most popular guy in school, very rich and is dating the hottest girl in school, Caroline Mulford (Haviland Morris). When she passes a note that falls to Jake accidentally, he finds out about this. As she tries to make things happen with Jake, she is followed around by a geek and self-professed “king of the dipshits” named Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), who incessantly tries to pick her up. Couple all of this with being saddled with taking her grandparents foreign exchange student, Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe), to the school dance where Jake will be, and she’s got a lot on her plate.
No more yanky my wanky…the Donger needfood!
One of the biggest successes of this film is that it is also Anthony Michael Hall‘s coming out party. He really established himself as a quality comedic actor in this film. He had obviously worked with Hughes material in National Lampoon’s Vacation before, so perhaps that was to his advantage. His character is so slimy, yet so endearing that you feel sorry for him. Also, he is the chief architect of a few of the film’s funniest scenes, e.g. when he and his friends (one being a young John Cusack) meet Long Duk Dong for the first time at Jake’s party, the aforementioned dance sequence, and when he takes a drunken/passed out Caroline to meet his friends in the middle of the night.
But ultimately, this is Samantha’s journey. We ride the roller coaster with her, and at times, it is difficult. The talk she has with her father (Paul Dooley) after he realizes they forgot her birthday was very real and quite spot-on. Or I imagine it is as I’ve never had this talk with a teenage girl or been a teenage girl, but Hughes situated it where I could empathize. Not an easy task. While this film has its share of juvenile humor (it is a film about high school after all), it has a heart and certain characters end up showing this even when you think that they aren’t able.
This is for you ladies:
Here’s the trailer:
1) Weird Science
So this is number one. With a bullet. This may be one of the three funniest movies I’ve ever seen. A absolute riot from start to finish, this was kind of a surprise from Hughes who with Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club had added more drama to each film leading up to Weird Science. It’s juvenile, filled with raunchy humor and is a departure from the prior formula he employed. And it works. WELL. At least in my opinion. It is far and away the Hughes film that I watch most and that it why it grabbed spot #1 on this list.
The basic premise is two losers, Gary (Anthony Michael Hall in his finest role) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith), can’t fit in. Picked on, abused by cooler kids, and ignored by all girls, they decide to build their own woman using Wyatt’s souped up computer while his parents are away for the weekend. They cull the most beautiful images from Playboy magazines, give her genius intelligence and finish the job by harnessing the electricity from a thunderstorm to give her life a la Dr. Frankenstein all while wearing bras on their heads (ceremonial). And BOOM! They have Lisa (Kelly LeBrock).
What would you little maniacs like to do first?
So it becomes Lisa’s mission to help make the guys transition from being nerds to cool. Not an easy process considering what she has to work with. She starts off with them in a night on the town, which quickly goes from bad to worse. But then, Gary hits his stride amid the funniest scene in the entire film. Watch:
Fats, man…let me tell you my story, man. Were funnier opening words to a story ever uttered? Methinks not.
And let’s credit Hughes for maybe the best part of this film – the creation of Chet (Bill Paxton), Wyatt’s older brother and caretaker while his parents are away. Abusive and gross in every sense of the word, Chet represents what these two are up against every day of their lives. And Wyatt, chicken shit that he is, takes everything Chet has to give, served in a dirty ash tray. Chet extorts him and abuses him verbally and physically. But when Lisa enters the story, things start to change even with Chet. All that aside, I would argue that Chet is the second best movie character next to Reg Dunlop (Paul Newman) in Slap Shot. And Paxton‘s performance pretty much rules. Who else can say, “But first, I’d like to butter your muffin…” any slimier than he does? I dare you to find someone. DARE YOU.
That is a severe behavioral disorder!
The guys have their eyes on two girls, Deb (Suzanne Snyder) and Hilly (Judie Aronson) at school, but they happen to be dating Gary and Wyatt’s arch nemeses, Ian (a very young Robert Downey, Jr.) and Max (Robert Ruslan). Lisa decides to help the guys out and throw a BIIIIG party at Wyatt’s house and invite everyone. When the guys stay in bathroom, Lisa does what she can to coax them out and prove their meddle so Deb and Hilly will see them for who they are. This of course yields two of the funnier parts of the film, but it’s here they make their final transition from nerds to being not necessarily cool, but noticeable, shall we say.
You’re dropping wolf bait, and there’s chicks outside! Light a match, light a fire. I don’t know.
While it doesn’t have quite the same touching ending that both Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club have, Weird Science earns its ending. While Hughes moved on to more adult and family friendly fare after this (with exception of maybe Uncle Buck which treads some of the same water here), I’m so glad he squeezed this one in.
Here’s the trailer:
So as I said before, Hughes left a mark on my childhood – his films helped me navigate the unsteady times of adolescence. These films are signposts that me and many of my friends can point to as we continue to try and make our way through this world. Hughes‘ passing in 2009 was tragic because he gave voice to my generation. While he hadn’t spoken for it in quite some time, he still held that title when he died and I believe he continues to do so. There are rumors that one of his unproduced scripts in moving into production. PLEASE DON’T. Let the man rest. There is a reason that project went unproduced.
John Hughes‘ movies defined my pre-adolescent years. Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club represent mile markers in my life. I hold each of those films very dearly. I usually don’t like people fucking with these films, but I have to admit when I saw these character posters for the Breakfast Club 5, I loved them. They have a 30 Days of Night poster/horror feel to them, which seems appropriate since plenty of people equate their high school years to something akin to a horror flick. Big ups to Daniel Norris who is responsible.