Anthem for Angst-Ridden Youth (RIP John Hughes)

By Clare Langley-Hawthorne

It’s hard to believe he’s gone – John Hughes, the director of my teenage years – but looking back I have to confess the angst and confusion of that time have never really left me (probably why writing a YA book doesn’t seem a stretch) and so today I pay homage to the great teen films of the 1980s…OMG, I can’t believe I’m actually looking back on those years with nostalgia…So bring out the Tears for Fears and New Order albums, put on those pointy black shoes (Yes, I still have them) and the neon orange socks (sadly worn through) – brush that hair mascara on for it’s time for my top five 80’s teen movies (in ascending order and only the first two I confess are actually John Hughes’ movies).

Number 5: The Breakfast Club – Oh, to have been my namesake at that school. Miss Popular eating her sushi in detention and falling for the bad, bad boy…wait that was me at school…NOT!…I was actually on exchange in Canada the year this movie came out and as far as I was concerned ‘Don’t you Forget About Me’ was the anthem for my time there.

Number 4: Pretty in Pink – ditto on my desire to BE Molly Ringwald. Hell, in Australia I went to the all-girl Methodist Ladies College – we only had the Catholic Xavier schoolboys for our angst fix…
Number 3: Say Anything – This was a little before my time but when I saw it I was hooked…What’s not to love about John Cusack with a boom box above his head belting out Peter Gabriel to the girl of his dreams? I still love the line “I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen…”

Number 2: Valley Girl – Okay, I admit this was WAY before I really hit my teen angst stride but Nicholas Cage (before he became the loser conspiracist-action-hero dude) was the boyfriend I always wanted. I also wanted to speak like a valley girl but that’s a whole other (sad) story…

Number 1: Looking for Alibrandi – Finally an Aussie movie and at number 1 no less (I am cheating a wee bit though as this didn’t come out in the 1980s though I think the original book did)!
This one came out well, well after I was a teenager but when I saw it on a Qantas flight back to Australia I confess I teared up. I’m not Italian and had no Nonna spy ring but the story of a precocious teen trying desperately to get into law school, stymied by the confines of her private school upbringing, and falling (of course) for the wrong, bad boy…how could I resist?

I let my husband read this post – he’s had to put up with my addiction to 80’s teen movies long enough. I met him, after all, the first week of university (in 1987!). I was just seventeen and yes, New Order was the soundtrack to our dating. I was also in law school (idiot that I was). I’m still with him today – but when I see these movies I can easily be transported back to the 80’s…and I wonder what happened to all the bad, bad boys (and for that matter Molly Ringwald!)

So what film was the anthem for your angst-ridden youth?

20 thoughts on “Anthem for Angst-Ridden Youth (RIP John Hughes)

  1. Funny, never was a fan of most of those movies. I’ve seen them, but then filed them away as…well, just another movie.

    One John Hughes movies will be forever one of my favorites, however, Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

  2. I wanted to be Molly Ringwald too, Clare! I was so thrilled years ago when my daughter went to a school MR had attended in LA, and the head of the school looked at me and said, “You look a bit like Molly Ringwald, who went here. Do you know who she is?” Did I EVER! I was on cloud Nine. (Of course, I’m sure the school-lady was just name-dropping, lol).

  3. Kathryb – boy am I jealous. To have been told I looked like Molly would have been such a thrill (sniff!) James and Mark LOL!! and Wilfred, I have to confess Planes Trains and Automobiles wasn’t my favorite JH movie – I think living in Australia I just didn’t appreciate it. When I lived in New York though and tried getting home for Christmas, I could well, well imagine it!

  4. My favorite role in Ferris was his sister played by Jennifer Grey. She was a classic. The whole movie is actually – it was soooooo close to being in the top 5.

  5. Never cared for Hughes films. I was more influenced by Easy Rider, Caligula, and Antonioni’s Blow Up.

    Oh, and Sound of Music. When I left the theater that day and a few blocks away I saw a woman get hit and cut in half by a train.

  6. No one ever said I looked like Molly Ringwald. Which is good, for them and me alike, as I probably would have smiled then politely disembowelled them.

    As a young man who aspired to a career as a Marine (and seriously considered the Foreign Legion) I wanted to be a combination of Rambo, Chuck Norris, Patrick Swayze from Red Dawn, and Ferris Bueller…oh yeah and Kevin Bacon when he did that dancing movie thing…dude, that was sooo gnarly!

    Judd Hirsch annoyed me, and those dudes from Ridgemont High would’ve never made it in my Corps. Then again neither did I…

  7. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of the all time greats. Clearly we’re of the same generation, Clare, because all of these (and let’s not forget 16 Candles) were THE films of my formative years. Growing up in Rhode Island, celebrities were a rarity, and one day in high school the rumor quickly spread that Judd Nelson himself (where is he now, btw?) was walking down Thayer Street. My best friend and I slipped out of school and managed to chase him down on the street. He very kindly signed my shoe (I can’t explain why I thought that sneaker was autograph worthy. Must have been a hormonal teenage thing). It was the thrill of my year, sad to say.

  8. Ah Michelle, Sixteen Candles almost made the cut – only I found Anthony Michael Hall creepy! John, what can I say – you can have those films all to yourself:) and Basil, I nearly spat out my tea when I read Judd Hirsch – now that would have been funny! Though that does remind me of another movie from the very early teen years (I think) which Judd was in – Ordinary People – I wept buckets over that one.

  9. You see, the key here is the whole “teen years” thing. If that’s the true yardstick, then all I’m stuck with are the likes of Taxi Driver, Deliverance, The Godfather (I&II), Bonnie & Clyde, The Exorcist and Jaws–good movies all, but not exactly Hughesian in focus. They all made me want to be a filmmaker/storyteller when I grew up, but they didn’t do much for my angsty teen years.

    I liked the adventure of The Cowboys with John Wayne and Roscoe Lee Brown.

    I was satisfied at a very prurient place by The Blue Lagoon.

    One film I really bonded with (and really doesn’t hold up on modern-day viewing) is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

    I have to check the date, but I think The China Syndrome might have hit during the last days of my teens. That certainly scratched my anit-establishment itch.

    Oh! Don’t forget the Billy Jack movies. I never did understand why they gave him all that time to take his shoes off.

    Probably my favorite I’m-an-artist-and-no one- underatdns-me movie is The Dead Poets Society. Definitely not in my teens, but it makes be tear up every time.

    Ordinary People was just too close to a day at home with Gilstraps for me to really enjoy it.

    John Gilstrap

  10. I’m a Sixteen Candles girl. The quotes from that movie are classic. “I live here my whole life and I’m like a disease.” I think that one line summarized all my years of teen angst.

    Weird Science also holds a special place in my heart.

  11. Ooh! Weird Science, I forgot about that one. I identified with those guys almost as much as Rambo.

    I tried that trick with my sister’s barbie doll too. It didn’t work but my sister and mother certainly had shocked looks when they walked into my room to retrieve said doll.

    And I could swear that Barbie doll was intentionally trying to avoid me after that.

  12. I always suspected The Sound of Music had some kind of subliminal hidden message of death and destruction. Now John has finally proven my suspicions true.

  13. My reason for putting Planes Trains & Automobiles on my top ten. The following scene was filmed in my home town of St. Louis.

    Car Rental Agent: [cheerfully] Welcome to Marathon, may I help you?
    Neal: Yes.
    Car Rental Agent: How may I help you?
    Neal: You can start by wiping that f—–g dumb-ass smile off your rosey, f—–g, cheeks! Then you can give me a f—–g automobile: a f—–g Datsun, a f—–g Toyota, a f—–g Mustang, a f—–g Buick! Four f—–g wheels and a seat!
    Car Rental Agent: I really don’t care for the way you’re speaking to me.
    Neal: And I really don’t care for the way your company left me in the middle of f—–g nowhere with f—–g keys to a fucking car that isn’t f—–g there. And I really didn’t care to f—–g walk down a f—–g highway and across a f—–g runway to get back here to have you smile in my f—–g face. I want a f—–g car RIGHT F—–G NOW!
    Car Rental Agent: May I see your rental agreement?
    Neal: I threw it away.
    Car Rental Agent: Oh boy.
    Neal: Oh boy, what?
    Car Rental Agent: You’re f—-d!

    Loved Wierd Science. Had my first boy/girl thing with Kelly LeBrock.

  14. All I can say is having comments that mention The Blue Lagoon, Caligula, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, The Sound of Music, and Rambo and has quotes from a scene from Planes Trains and Automobiles is cool in my book:)

Comments are closed.