Before Generation X even had a name, John Hughes gave it a voice. For these kids of the Reagan era, the movies he wrote and directed in his ’80s heyday — Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off — captured how it felt to be a teenager with an accuracy and sensitivity so uncanny, it often felt as though he’d jimmied the lock on your private diary. He only directed eight films, yet Hughes’ additional string of hits as a writer and producer, culminating in the juggernaut Home Alone franchise, established him as a dominant force in comedy — and then, at the height of his power, he dropped out of sight, becoming Hollywood’s answer to J.D. Salinger.
Even in his absence, Hughes’ knack for translating the humor and heartache of adolescence to the screen would continue to resonate with teens and leave a lasting mark on the movie business, influencing the likes of Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow. In the wake of his untimely death on Aug. 6 of a heart attack at age 59, Entertainment Weekly invited his friends and colleagues to share their memories of a remarkable man — and a remarkable career.