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John Hughes: A Man of Character and His Final Vacation

Updated on June 23, 2017

Hey! I Think I Know That Guy!

There are very few who would disagree that John Hughes, who recently passed away at the age of 59, was a great filmmaker. His films were enjoyable because he blended poignant storytelling, heartwarming humor and interesting characters in a way that we all could relate to. Of these ingredients, perhaps the most important was the characters who would bring these stories to life. While these characters were interesting and fun, they also seemed to be our neighbors, family, and -- though we might sometimes be reluctant to admit it -- ourselves .

Since the legendary filmmaker's passing on August 6, 2010, I have seen many people ask what everyone's favorite John Hughes movie is. Often the understandable response is "I cannot pick just one." In this hub, I will do something a little different, but equally as impossible. Here I will discuss Hughes' most enjoyable character. But I will not try to pick just one... I will give you five ! So here, in no particular order, are my five favorite John Hughes' characters...

Buck Russell in Uncle Buck (1989)

John Candy as Uncle Buck
John Candy as Uncle Buck


When Buck Russell's brother and sister-in-law have to leave town suddenly after her father has a heart attack, Uncle Buck (John Candy) comes to stay with their rebellious teenage daughter Tia (Jean Louisa Kelly) and her young siblings Miles (Macauley Culkin) and Maizy (Gaby Hoffman). Despite the parents' reluctance to turn to the unmarried, childless bachelor with a less than savory past, desperation leads them to ask a favor of the jolly underachiever. Buck's arrival is seen as yet another unfair blow by Tia who is already at odds with her workaholic parents and she welcomes Buck with all the hostility and rage that a disgruntled teenager can muster. But the uncomfortable mix eventually leads everyone, especially Tia and Buck himself, to self realizations that better their lives and brings everyone closer together.

Clark Griswold in National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold
Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold


Clark Griswold was introduced to us in 1983's National Lampoon's Vacation and who could help but fall in love with the guy? Sure, he can be a bit clumsy at times. And yes, he certainly has a way of sticking his foot in his mouth. And maybe sometimes he gets a bit... distracted. But deep down there is never any doubt that what matters to Clark is his family. He is the kind of dad who might embarass you when your friends come over and might give you advice that only a moron would follow. He is the kind of husband who may make a fool of himself with the checkout girl while buying you a gift or insist on planning that vacation that you know will be a disaster. But when the chips are down, he is the kind of man the family can depend on to do the best he can no matter what. And besides, the guy is hilarious.

John Bender in The Breakfast Club (1985)

Judd Nelson as John Bender
Judd Nelson as John Bender

Of all the students condemned to Saturday detention in The Breakfast Club, John Bender is certainly the one who would have been most familiar with this unique form of adolescent punishment. Perhaps that is why he seems to be the catalyst for so much of what happens in the movie. John knows how to push the buttons of his classmates, provoking responses from those who otherwise would have never considered discussing the intimate details of their home life with a group of strangers. Of course, as the film progresses, we learn that John has his own buttons that can, and probably need, to be pushed.

Chet Ripley in The Great Outdoors (1988)

John Candy as Chet Ripley (with Dan Akroyd as Roman Craig)
John Candy as Chet Ripley (with Dan Akroyd as Roman Craig)

Talk about a man with a big heart! Cousin Eddie adds a little something special to the Vacation series. Perhaps the best example of Eddie's good intentions gone horribly wrong is the Christmas gift he gives Clark in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. If you have seen the film, then you know what I am talking about, and, if you have not, well... I will not spoil it for you. But you need to check it out next Christmas for sure. And though occasionally Eddie's lack of smarts can get on Clark's nerves, deep down he knows Eddie means well. Besides, Clark can be a bit of a bumbler himself or, more importantly, a comic bumbler. And let's face it -- that is what we love about them both!

All Chet Ripley wants is to spend a little quality vacation time with his wife and kids. Things seem great when they arrive at their secluded cabin, but the peace and tranquility does not last long when Roman Craig, Chet's brother-in-law, pulls in with his family to reek havoc on the Ripley's idyllic summer getaway. Roman's constant attempt to take control of Chet's well planned vacation put the two at odds, particularly when Chet's boys prefer Roman's speedboat to Chet's fishing boat. But as is expected in a John Hughes' film, by the end of the vacation, despite everything winding up in ruins, everyone comes to realize what is important in life -- family and friends.

Eddie Johnson in National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

Randy Quaid as Eddie Johnson
Randy Quaid as Eddie Johnson

Did You Notice John Candy Made the List Twice?

John Candy and john Hughes worked on several films together and there was always magic when they did. From leading roles like those mentioned above to smaller supporting roles such as his parts in National Lampoon's Vacation and Home Alone, John Candy always brought his best game to Hughes' films. Both of these great men are gone now, but we will forever have these timeless moments with which to remember them.

Film
Year
Character
Lead/Supporting/Cameo
National Lampoon's Vacation
1983
Lasky, Guard at Walleyworld
Supporting
Planes, Trains & Automobile
1987
Del Griffith
Lead
The Great Outdoors
1988
Chet Ripley
Lead
She's Having a Baby
1988
Chet Ripley
Cameo
Uncle Buck
1989
Buck Russell
Lead
Home Alone
1990
Gus Polinski
Supporting
Only the Lonely
1991
Danny Muldoon
Lead
Career Opportunities
1991
C.D. Marsh
Supporting

What A Character Poll

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    • Katharella profile image

      Katharella 8 years ago from Lost in America

      I agree, great hub. I love all the movies mentioned, well, wasn't exactly in tune with The Great Outdoors, but I'm pretty sure I got all the lines downpat to The Breakfast Club. Maybe John will meet Dick;) in the great movie screen in the sky!

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Yes, I think John Hughes inadvertently babysat me throughout the 80's. I watch all of those movies and probably over 25 times each. I remember seeing just two in the theaters--Christmas Vacation and the Great Outdoors...

      If you remember the little girl (Eddies' daughter) in Christmas Vacation, I actually dated her older sister (non-actor) back when I was a teenager...I knew the family! I just thought that would be cool to mention.

      Great Hub, Darksinistar, for a funny director. He'll be missed.