Director, writer. Born John Hughes, Jr. on February 18, 1950, in Lansing, Michigan. Hughes graduated from Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Illinois, in 1968. After spending his youth in Detroit, he moved to Chicago, Illinois, with his family at the age of 13. Hughes and his family lived on the outskirts of a wealthy suburban neighborhood, which created a sense of loathing toward the rich.
In 1968, he graduated from Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Illinois, and moved to Phoenix to attend Arizona State University. Hughes dropped out of college his junior year, and returned to Chicago to begin his career as an ad copywriter. During this time he also attempted to write comedy, which led him to write a story inspired by his family trips as a child. The story, “Vacation ’58”, earned him a job at National Lampoon Magazine. The piece later became the basis for the film, National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983). The film became a major hit, putting Lampoon back on the map.
In 1984, Hughes made his directorial debut on the film, Sixteen Candles, starring a then-unknown Molly Ringwald. Hughes’ realistic depiction of high school life was a hit with teens, winning popular praise and critical acclaim. The film led to a multiple-picture contract with Paramount for Hughes, as well as the creation of Hughes’ own production house. Sixteen Candles became the first in a string of Hughes films set in or around high school, including The Breakfast Club (1985), Pretty in Pink (1986), Weird Science (1985) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).
The movies also boosted the careers of several young actors and actresses, who he used repeatedly in his films. The group—which included Ringwald as well as Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy—earned the nickname “The Brat Pack”in a play off of the popular 50s “Rat Pack.”
Hughes branched out in 1987, and directed Planes, Trains & Automobiles that year, with comedians Steve Martin and John Candy. In 1990, Hughes brought the movie industry yet another hit with his film, Home Alone, which jumpstarted the career of then-unknown actor Macaulay Culkin. Films such as Curly Sue (1991), 101 Dalmatians (1996), and Drillbit Taylor (2008) also resonated with audiences.
Since 1994, Hughes remained largely removed from the public sphere. He moved to Wisconsin, and avoided interviews or photographs. Hughes passed away on August 6, 2009, from a heart attack while taking a walk in New York City. He was 59 years old. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Nancy, two sons, and four grandchildren.