''The Breakfast Club,'' ''Pretty in Pink,'' and ''Home Alone'' rank among his best work

By Chris Nashawaty
August 14, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT

Some he directed, some he produced, but all of them he wrote — and so very well. In chronological order:

Mr. Mom (1983)
Michael Keaton plays a flailing stay-at-home dad whose brain — and waistline — go to mush from watching daytime soaps. A suburban-satire bull’s-eye.

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Chevy Chase brought to life the bumbling Walley World-bound paterfamilias Clark Griswold.

Sixteen Candles (1984)
A star is born, with Molly Ringwald as the forgotten birthday girl who suffers the indignities of high school: a geek in possession of her underpants, a dreamboat who doesn’t know she exists, and — gong! — a certain exchange student who thinks she’s hot stuff.

The Breakfast Club (1985)
A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal make peace in detention. The greatest high school movie of all time.

Werid Science (1985)
If Hughes had written Revenge of the Nerds, it would have looked like this: Two high-IQ spazzes build their Dream Girl and, along the way, become men.

Pretty in Pink (1986)
The closest Hughes came to Romeo and Juliet has Ringwald pining for Mr. Popular (Andrew McCarthy) while gently stiff-arming Mr. Wonderful (Jon Cryer). Poor Duckie! Teen heartache never felt so real.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Every guy wanted to be him, every girl wanted to go to the prom with him. Ladies and gents, we give you the coolest teenager ever captured on celluloid. Hands down.

Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
Pretty in Pink in reverse? Sure. But so much more. Sometimes tomboy drummers with very short haircuts do get the guy.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
”Those aren’t pillows!!!” You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll have nightmares about waking up spooning with John Candy.

Home Alone (1990)
Thanks to 10-year-old scamp Macaulay Culkin, Hughes said goodbye to the ’80s with the biggest hit of his career.

Hughes’ Life

Feb. 18, 1950, in Lansing, Mich.

Came of age in Northbrook, Ill., and made his home in the Chicago area throughout his life

Wrote advertising copy and sold jokes to Rodney Dangerfield

Married high school sweetheart Nancy Ludwig in 1970 and had two sons