John Hughes' career highlights -- ''Home Alone'' will probably be the biggest grossing film of the year, but here are some of the writer-director-producer's other films

John Hughes’ career highlights

John Hughes’ Home Alone seems almost certain to surpass Ghost as the biggest-grossing film released in 1990. With a take of $181 million in its first nine weeks of release, Home Alone is already Hughes’ biggest hit, the lofty peak in a writing-directing-producing career that has had several impressive summits — and a few troughs. Here are the highlights of the 40-year-old, Chicago-based auteur’s long, quirky cinematic record:

Sixteen Candles (1984)
Hughes’ directorial debut established him as a gently sardonic observer of teenage rituals. But don’t forget, the competition at the time was a ton of Porky‘s clones. Candles is pretty raucous as well, but the characters — especially Molly Ringwald’s sweet 16-year-old and Anthony Michael Hall’s fearless geek — seem based on something resembling real life. It may still be the best film the director has done. A-

The Breakfast Club (1985)
Hughes took the ”teen realism” ball and ran with it in this monster hit about five disparate kids (Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, below) in Saturday detention. Despite an excellent young cast, the movie hasn’t aged well: Its whining, one-note message (Hell is having parents) reduces the drama to Lifeboat with acne. Great soundtrack, though. C

Pretty in Pink (1986)
Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
By now a writing-producing auteur content to leave directorial chores to Howard Deutch, Hughes returned to rosy teen angst with these two entertaining, nearly identical dramas that became Archies for the MTV generation. Typically, the misfit roles (Pink‘s Jon Cryer, Wonderful‘s Mary Stuart Masterson) are better-written than the leads. Both films: B

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Back in the director’s chair, Hughes gave us the truant adventures of a cocky Chicago high school kid: the misfit as hero. Hughes’ funny, inventive script and smooth direction, and Matthew Broderick’s ace performance just barely keep Ferris from coming off as a smug little snot. B

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
Trying to get home for Thanksgiving, uptight Steve Martin and boorish John Candy are forced to travel together. Director Hughes pours on the suds at the end, but for the most part he just stands back and lets two fine comics get down to work. A nice departure from the sensitive-sophomore formula. B+

Uncle Buck (1989)
The formula perfected: a high concept so sitcom-ready that it soon became one. Despite John Candy’s heft and the pubescent melodrama of Jean Louisa Kelly’s character, this Slob Who Came to Dinner (featuring Macaulay Culkin in a funny pre-Home Alone turn) is as light as they come — and the better for it. No longer the hotshot young director, Hughes has settled into churning out surefire hits that are routine and routinely enjoyable. B