Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned From a John Hughes Movie

December 8, 2015 — 100 Comments



Anyone who believes that their high school years were the best years of their life has probably repressed those heinous memories and replaced them with delusional fantasies. Or else you were head cheerleader/captain of the football team.

Congratulations! You peaked in high school. Everything was downhill after that.


In the 1980’s I would have donated my spleen for a high school experience that even remotely resembled any one of John Hughes’ teen movies. I spent my high school years double dipped in emo, sobbing my black eyeliner off to New Order songs. I even faked being vegan.

As an adult, I realized that these movies are culturally iconic masterpieces which contain essential adult life lessons. Everything I need to know about life, I learned from a John Hughes movie.


Fun is Essential

Ferris Bueller knew this when he played hooky from school, in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Fun is a powerful respite from life’s challenges. Life is short, so PLAY!

Of course, we can’t all end up atop a parade float in downtown Chicago, like Ferris. Instead, go swimming in icy cold water and experience the exhilaration of hypothermia! Spend the entire day speaking only in quotes from The Godfather. Run around in a forest, pretending to be a magical creature and beat other people with a latex sword.

Just try not to do anything than lands you in jail or the ER.

And leave the gun – take the cannoli.


Be Unique

In Pretty in Pink, wrong-side-of-the-tracks girl Andie Walsh dresses in her own unique, if not bizarre, style.

For the love of God, DON’T GOOGLE PRETTY IN PINK! I’ve warned you about Lady Google, have I not? Google is no longer a search engine and is now the gateway to a pornographic den of iniquity.

Back to Andie – yes, she often dressed as though she was impersonating her own grandmother. And her homemade prom dress at the end – is she going to the prom, or taking the helm as Captain of the USS “What the Fuck?”

BUT- she is an original.

I googled it for you. Because I love you.

I googled it for you. Because I love you.


The suburban fashion police patrolling my neighborhood want me in Lululemon and Louis Vuitton. I prefer shopping at Hot Topic for rock tee shirts and superhero underwear.

Like Andie, I dress to express my individuality. Most importantly, I feel safe knowing that Spider Man is guarding my crotch.


Perfection Sucks

“Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.” So says teen delinquent John Bender of The Breakfast Club, in this classic quote.

Perfection is unattainable, and chasing after it is boring. People with messy, beautifully flawed lives seek adventure. Those women at the supermarket who are perfectly coiffed and accessorized at 9 am? BORING. Imperfection gives people character. Every time you fail, you get stronger and more enlightened.

 And epic failure gives you something spectacular to write about.


Age is Only a Number

In Pretty In Pink, Andie defies societal attitudes towards age. Her best female friend is the quirky, 30-something record store manager where she works. At home, Andie has a complete role reversal – she is the “adult,” caring for her father.

We are who we are inside – not the number assigned to us because of birth year. I prefer life through youth-colored glasses. Which is a nice way of saying I never matured past 15.

My only concern is that in another year or two, my 12 year-old kid will totally outgrow me.


You’re Stronger Than You Think

Andie is devastated when rich heartthrob Blaine retracts his prom invite. Yet she plans to go herself, “so they know they didn’t break me.”

You have more strength and resilience than you realize. You may think you can’t handle it, but whatever it is, you CAN. Face life’s challenges head on, like Andie preparing to march her bad-ass self into the freaking prom, SOLO.

Don’t let it break you! Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! And whatever kills you – well, you’re dead. So it’s irrelevant.


Good Man/Bad Boy

So, you’re madly in love with a man whose neck tattoos scream “I may not cook meth but I know a guy.” Marrying him is risky, no doubt.

However, a good man CAN be a bad boy. And bad boys are FUN.

John Bender was the quintessential bad boy hottie. But his vulnerability is a precious gem glistening underneath the gymnasium floor of The Breakfast Club. When we finally recognize his desperate need to be loved, we see the good man who will eventually claw his way out from under all that pent-up pain and cry-for-help rage.


Life Is Right Now

We spend our lives waiting for that amazing thing that’s going to happen someday. But life is right now – a whole chain of small, glorious, ‘right nows.’ John Hughes depicted ordinary people in everyday circumstances, living small, beautiful moments.

One of my favorites is in Ferris Bueller, when Cameron, Ferris’s best friend, loses himself by staring intently at a painting in the Chicago Art Institute.

Or maybe it’s the tender kiss over a birthday cake at the end of Sixteen Candles.

Simple, small moments as light as breath, as constant as a heartbeat.


 Don’t Let Your Heart Die

All the characters in The Breakfast Club hope desperately not to turn out like their parents. And yet, it’s inevitable, says eccentric outcast Allison. Because “when you grow up, your heart dies.”


Keep your heart as alive and full of magic as when you were a teenager. Have crushes. Stay up all night.  Get drunk and vomit all over your friends (okay maybe not that one).Take chances. Dream. Love.

Love is the ultimate expression of life. The protagonists of all John Hughes movies are united in their quest for love. And in his movies, love wins.

It’s an ideal worth living for.


*This post is dedicated to my sweet Lizzi, who reminds me all the time that #LoveWins. Really. 


What was high school like for you? Was it anything like these movies? 
Have you learned any useful life lessons from a movie? Talk to me. I’m listening. 

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100 responses to Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned From a John Hughes Movie


    The Breakfast club. Cause inside of each of us we are a little bit of everything.


    Oh man…this is so accurate..and now I want to watch all the John Hughes movies..


    My favourite was by far The Breakfast Club! It captured everything I’m dealing with in highschool right now, even though it’s been 30 years since it was released. I love it!

    The Life and Times of Poopwa Foley December 8, 2015 at 9:14 am

    we just watched Planes, Trains, & Automobiles last night. It teaches you to be kind. So does Dutch. lol


    I love the 80’s – everything about them but mostly I love John Hughes movies. #LoveWins


    The SpongeBob movie taught me that taking risks is essential to growth and that we are all stronger than we know. Sorry – I have this terrible habit of saying inappropriate things that sound like sarcasm (and sometimes are) but in this case it’s honest. It was the first movie that came to mind when you asked the question. The Breakfast Club, Ferris, and Sixteen Candles were all born in my generation – and I love them all. I will watch them over and over until I die, which will hopefully be a few decades from now (not from marathon viewing).


      I believe you can learn from the SpongeBob movie! Why not?

      I can watch those movies over and over again, too. Marathon movie watching is not fatal.

      Thanks for reading, and commenting!!


    High school is a very bittersweet, nostalgic topic for me. I knew EVERY.ONE. and they knew who I was, yet, no one ever really KNEW me. I was the shadow, always following behind mostly unseen, but never invited into the spotlight for a second. Didn’t help my dad was a cop for the city we lived in. Or that my step mom only 16½ years older than I, was my dad’s wannabe Playboy bunny. Makes for a lot of whispering and laughing over my shoulder and behind my back. Yet,I still somehow think those were the best times of my life to this day, because I had so much fun and many good times with friends from other schools.


      High school was definitely a mix of good and bad for me, as well. I have to admit there were some really great experiences. Like, the senior trip.

      Holy shit.

      Anyway, this hoochie mama step mom is SO intriguing. Have you written about her?


    What I love about John Hughes’ films is that my kids still find them relevant.
    High school was meh. It had its ups and downs, and I never thought, not even once, that those were the best days of my life as they passed. I think I was too worldly and intelligent for high school, which gives you an idea of how my peers received me. (And how some people judge me now, but I still think that.)
    In terms of things a movie taught me, wow, that’s a lotta stuff, but one that sticks with me is Enchanted April, when the wife says she was measuring out love, giving only as she got. I definitely did that in early relationships, and without that movie, I might never have realized it or stopped and of course, I would not be in a long and loving marriage, because love doesn’t work like that.
    Great post 🙂


      So how does love work? I’m serious.
      Give more than you get? And what if the other person sucks you dry?
      What if you give more, and they DON’T?
      Ugh. As you can see, this is so confusing. Which is why I will be single, by choice, for the rest of my life. But i’m interested…


        Nah, you get it, because you do it as a mother. You say no sometimes, because you’re not up to it, but mostly you give and give, because love. I do the same with my husband and he does the same with me.
        But there are times, many times, when only one person can give and give because the other is not up to it. You can’t measure what’s being given and only give back as much as you’re given. I’m talking about generosity of spirit.


    Where did Ferris get the money to do all that stuff anyway?


    OH MY ..I so freakingly love these films.
    Each of them still hold great meaning these days. Hell it would make great lesson materials There is a lesson to be learned.
    and so we grow up
    We are all different enjoying life to the fullest with in the same life that we can’t control.

    This was one great post bringing back memories and smiles on my face. Thank you


    Life really is about recognizing and savoring the small moments. You can waste a lifetime running toward the next “big” moment, missing the small things along the way. This is one of my favorite pieces you’ve written, Samara.

    On another note, Spider-man is also guarding my crotch. I’m not sure what that says about me. Or you. Or both of us. But I’m suddenly uncomfortable with the phrase “webslinger.”


    “Screws fall out all the time…” I love it. Personally, I like to run around singing the “I wanna be an airbourne ranger” song.


      Hahahahahaha! Right?
      I love the scene where they’re all running around the school, trying to avoid the teacher. What a great scene!
      Thanks for reading Kelly xoxoxoox


    I haven´t seen any of those movies, but your brilliant style of writing made for a nice break from studying an article on the definition of a religion. Eh. I didn´t especially like my high school, but then again, it was still an improvement from the elementary school that I hated. I guess.


      You need to watch them all!!


      Hi! Welcome!
      You haven’t seen any of them? You must! You can get them on Netflix, or On Demand. They’re SO fun!
      Thank you for saying this was brilliant. xoxoxoxo


        Hah, I currently live in an obscure place where Netflix doesn´t exist, but I´ll have a look online.


        There are places Netflix doesn’t exist?
        Are you on Planet Earth?


        …I am tempted to say my country is a last unicorn of the no-Netflix kind, but I think perhaps the other post-soviet republics of Eastern Europe have the same problem. Maybe it is the HBO monopoly or the governemnt making everything illegal or way too difficult to try as usually.


        Ok, I was googling it and Netflix actually works in only 50 countries of the world so far. Supposedly, they want to expand to Slovakia until the end of 2016 which is irrelevant (how is this supposed to be spelled, anyway?) for me since I am not planning to continue living here for such a long time, God forbid.


        You’re in Slovakia?
        This is so COOL! I’m talking to someone in Slovakia right now!!
        It doesn’t sound like you like it very much. I’m sorry.
        Now. How do we get you to see those movies???


        Oh, Slovakia is really gorgeous. I´m just pissed of with its malign bureaucracy at the moment. Also, Slovak people usually don´t say much positive stuff about their homeland (but we do tend to get extremely insulted when foreigners don´t like our wine, nature, culture and whatever)(I guess we are all schizophrenic here…) Anyway, thank you for thinking it´s cool!
        I think there are apps that can fake a foreign IP, I used to use that back in Colombia because their Netflix offer just sucks. The drawback is that (I think) the app I have is a bit of a virus.


    Best. Line. Ever. ‘Spider Man is guarding my crotch’. Love, love, love this!!


      hey there, Andi!
      I’m glad you liked that line. I’m partial to superhero underwear! I get it at the junior department of Target.
      Just in case you want Spidey to guard yours, too. 🙂


    My high school prom date cancelled on me at the last possible minute, Samara! In that way, my life was like a John Hughes movies. But I didn’t make my own dress and go solo! I should have done that. I actually didn’t care about it that much. I love that moment at the end of Sixteen Candles!! Aww, I had a major crush on that guy.


      Your prom date cancelled? Who the hell does that? And you were okay with it?

      I didn’t go to my prom, either. No one I know did. I guess we had one, but I think it was all cheerleaders and football players. Wasn’t part of that crowd.

      I love that moment at the end of Sixteen Candles, too. That song.


        I remember this guy making a big deal about asking me out and also a big deal about bailing. I was like, yeah whatever! I wasn’t into him at all. Fine! Plus my senior year they moved the prom to some tacky place.
        We didn’t miss a thing!
        Yes, the song! Loved that too. xoxoxo!


    I suddenly have a craving to go on a John Hughes movie binge.


    For me it was more like Sixteen Candles. I was the definitely in the middle of the pack.

    A great post. 🙂


    Ohhhh my Precious, I LOVE that you dedicated this to me – I don’t think I’ve ever had anything so wonderful dedicated to me in the Blogosphere EVER! #LoveWins, really and truly it does.

    I’ve seen Ferris Bueller’s day off, but I think I was having an ‘off day’ when I watched it, and I confess I wasn’t that compelled by it. I *really* want to see The Breakfast Club, because I never have, and I know it’s so so good…

    And the song at the end is the one which reminds me of you – you know that, right?

    I never had any decent kind of experience in school. Just bullying and victimisation on all fronts, so I’m having my teenage years NOW, complete with hopeless crushes, angst, bad skin, and crazy road-trips because I can.

    Still LOVE this post, and I think it should have won.

    And I have underwear envy, but I do have some Supergirl undies somewhere…


      I must admit, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is not the best of them. The Breakfast Club is my favorite. And yes – of course I remember that song reminds you of me! I love that song.

      I’m glad you’re having your teen years now. They’re much better at this age. 🙂

      I always knew I was going to dedicate this to you. You loved it from the start. This was just the right time to publish it. Because #LoveWins.



        I’ll make sure I see it at some point, then I’ll know what I’ve been missing. I feel like so many of these movies which have contained important life-messages for people, which have really been taken to heart, just passed me by. I was too young, too isolated, too deprived of technology or whatever. I need to catch up.


        You also grew up in a different country from where this whole genre of movie originated!
        And you were two years old when they came out. So there’s that.


    If you can believe it, I made it through my school years without watching a single John Hughes movie. I was extremely lucky there weren’t any Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller-related questions on my SAT’s.


    Like others I want to binge on John Hughes movies. In high school I was the smart girl ( with respect to grades) but didn’t give a shit what people thought. I purposely failed a test that star football player copied. He was rude and I could afford the fail that he couldn’t. The funny part is that teacher got wind and gave me a retest and not FB guy…weird memory.

    So many lessons in those films.

    ❤ J1


      We were a lot alike in high school! I was also the smart girl who kinda didn’t give a shit what people thought.

      Football players are notorious cheaters. They just expect the other kids to give them answers, because, whoa, they play FOOTBALL!

      So happy to see you here, Jaded. You always put a smile on my face. 🙂


    So much truth and wisdom in these, right? Now I want to make popcorn and watch all the movies!!! 😀


    Nice write up………


    nice questions, but I can’t talk, xoxoxoxoxo


    God, look at that pic of Matthew Broderick. He’s so young there. He’s on Broadway now and he looks like a semi-pudgy, middle-aged white refugee from a management conference.

    But those denizens of Hughes’ movies all has “problems.” That’s what made them so relateable. Their “problems.”

    My bad boy behavior now consists of calling in sick, not telling my wife and going to the Met or MoMA. Christ, what the hell happened to me? I used to drive drunk, have unprotected sex and smoke too much weed. Now look at me. Sneaking off the bloody art museum. I’m a crushing disappointment to myself.

    I’m sorry, what was the question?

    Jen @ Driftwood Gardens December 9, 2015 at 7:28 am

    I love this whole thing more than life, but I have to especially thank you for this little gem – “…is she going to the prom, or taking the helm as Captain of the USS “What the Fuck?”. Thank you for saying it out loud!


      Thank you, Jen! That IS an awful dress, isn’t it? I mean, I appreciate her desire to set herself apart from the crown, but WTF?
      So glad you read, and commented. And shared on Facebook. I appreciate you. xoxox


    Ah the Breakfast Club. I have a small obsession with High School movies. I love the coming of age/anything is possible sentiment. Actual high school – meh. That said, drama club at my high school performed the Breakfast Club so I forever remember my high school drama teacher acting out Bender in – I suspect – some grab at not letting HIS heart die. He was pretty awesome – so there’s hope for the rest of us adults.


      Oh, I LOVE that your teacher played Bender! He took the coolest role for himself!
      I also love coming-of-age movies. Much more than I ever loved actually coming of age.

      Thanks so much for reading, and commenting. xoxo


    I love the Breakfast Club, and I think it taught me that high school was not going to be the best time of life (I’m still waiting…); however I was quite popular in high school, so I think I resonated with Claire, just trying to keep up with staying relevant, until I realized it was all a bunch of BS. My friends never got the movie, maybe because they actually peaked in high school? ha


      You were popular in high school?
      Leave immediately. 🙂
      Nah, I’m just kidding! Look, even the “popular” kids experience pressure. High school is somewhat tortuous for all of us.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and reading. xoxoxo


    I remember having to run to see FBDO because my best friend told me that “he talks to you after the credits! Don’t leave before the credits finish!” That same “best friend” kept pushing me to smoke one of her Newport menthol cigs in the theater while we watched A View to a Kill and Goonies. She never gave me any hint that it was laced with dust… which was kind of hilarious until I thought about the implications of drugging a friend without her knowledge.
    Not that I was an innocent prude or anything… I fucked shit up. And wanted to marry Jake for years after 16 Candles. 🙂


    I’m lifting a crystal flute in the air: here’s to hoping your son does not outgrow you, ever. This line is classic: “I even faked being vegan.”


    After reading your post I’ve decided to subscribe to Netflix so I can watch the re-runs.

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