5 Films To Watch For A Very John Hughes Holiday Season
The dearly departed American filmmaker John Hughes is best known for his generation-defining teen movies from the ’80s. The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are all still beloved today, but Hughes’ career also includes a wealth of contemporary classic holiday films. The man had a way with combining the sentimental with the outrageously funny to capture the headaches and heartaches associated with the hectic holiday season.
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, we’re all about to enter the holiday trenches, but before you give yourself a migraine trying to find a place for all of your incoming relatives to sleep, why not set aside a few hours for yourself (and whichever loved ones aren’t driving you crazy), and let Hughes work his magic? Instead of spending your post-Thanksgiving dinner food coma halfheartedly psyching yourself up for the Black Friday sales, queue up these Hughes classics. After watching the likes of Steve Martin, John Candy, Ed O’Neill and Chevy Chase navigate the insanity of the holiday season, you’ll feel like you can tackle anything the holidays throw at you–even an epic shopping mall showdown over who gets the last Furby.
Thanksgiving gets short-changed in the movie world, but if there is one true classic Thanksgiving film it has to be Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The film chronicles the increasingly hilarious and outlandish journey that Steve Martin’s Neal must take in order to get back home in time for Thanksgiving. Along for the ride is John Candy as the disaster-prone Del, whose various attempts to help Neal end in a car fire, a robbery and some intense motel room snuggling.
The odd couple ultimately form a real friendship, which leads to an unexpectedly emotional ending. Hughes taps into the loneliness inherent in the season without missing a beat, resulting in a film that really will make you laugh and cry (and then laugh some more).
Dutch isn’t as well known as Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but it treads similar ground. Both films feature an odd couple bonding during a series of misadventures as they make their way home for Thanksgiving, but where Planes, Trains and Automobiles was a buddy comedy first and foremost, Dutch is a film rooted in family. The odd couple this time is the blue collar Dutch Dooley (Ed O’Neill), and Doyle (Ethan Embry), the rich kid son of Dutch’s girlfriend. Dutch volunteers to pick Doyle up from his ritzy private school and bring him home for the holiday after Doyle’s father bails on the kid. His act of kindness is repaid with outright aggression and snobbishness from Doyle, but just like in Hughes’ other comedy of holiday travel mishaps, the duo ultimately reach an understanding.
O’Neill is terrific in the film. His Dutch is unapologetically straightforward, sarcastic and uncouth. The film is hardly highbrow, but its down-to-Earth humor (“Nothing burps better than bacon,” Dutch says sagely at one point) and found family themes makes Dutch a more than worthy entry in Hughes’ holiday movie canon.
Is anything sadder than letting the Christmas season pass without a viewing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? The Griswolds’ attempt to have a “good old-fashioned, family Christmas” goes awry in every way imaginable, which is exactly why the film is essential holiday viewing. It’s hard to feel bad about your own holiday mishaps when you’re watching a crazed Chevy Chase take a chainsaw to his family’s Christmas tree. Everything that can wrong for the Griswolds does go wrong, and the result is the most cathartic Christmas movie ever made.
In Home Alone, Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) lives out every kid’s ultimate fantasy when he wakes up to find his family has left him behind, granting him free reign of the house in the process. Seeing Kevin explore his new found independence by placing pizza orders catered to his particular tastes and indulging in gangster movie marathons never gets old, and by the time he starts setting elaborate booby traps for the criminals, you’ll feel ten again yourself. Yes, it does have a gooey, emotional center (it turns out the novelty of being left home alone at Christmastime wears off fast), but Home Alone is mostly just good, old-fashioned silly fun.
Hughes went on to pen the screenplays for the next two films in the Home Alone franchise, but they never quite recapture the magic of the first installment.
It may sound blasphemous, but the truth is if you came of age in the ’90s, then there is a good chance your first encounter with Miracle on 34th Street involved the 1994 version, rather than the 1947, George Seaton classic. That’s not a total tragedy though, Macy’s may not have wanted to be involved with the film (which is why Richard Attenborough’s Kris Kringle is the Cole’s department store Santa), but it is a good-natured, kid-friendly holiday film. Hughes’ script sticks close to the source material, and ’90s kid movie MVP, Mara Wilson is on hand as Susan Walker, the little girl who learns how to believe.
By virtue of being a remake, Miracle on 34th Street doesn’t have quite the same oomph as the other Hughes’ holiday films, but it has just as much heart.
Which John Hughes holiday film is your favorite? Share your picks in the comments!
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