10 Biggest Villains In John Hughes Movies, Ranked

While John Hughes has been revered for his ability to write relatable, well-rounded teenage characters, he doesn’t always get the credit he deserves for his villainous characters. Hughes often uses a truly despicable antagonist who gets in the hero’s way, before allowing the protagonist to triumph gloriously by the end.

From the schoolyard bullies of Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink and the principal disciplinarians of The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to the criminals in Home Alone and Weird Science, John Hughes knows how to create memorable villains. And the way Hughes writes a villain can end up being more important than the way the character acts, which means that ‘biggest’ refers to the impact on the plot, and how much of a part they play in the hero’s story – not how terrible their deeds are in the film. Some characters may do heinous things, but be a smaller part of the film than a seemingly ‘better’ person.

10 Caroline – Sixteen Candles (1984)

As the most popular girl in school and the girlfriend of protagonist Samantha’s (Molly Ringwald) main crush, Caroline (Haviland Morris) is the de facto antagonist in Sixteen Candles. She bullies Sam in gym class, makes fun of her at Jake’s (Michael Schoeffling) party, and acts better than everyone for most of the movie. She’s the prototypical ’80s high school movie mean girl who throws shade whenever she gets the chance.

However, like many of Hughes’ villains, Caroline makes a redemptive turn in the final reel of the film after she is drunkenly taken advantage of, which not only conjures more sympathy for her character but in turn causes Caroline to be much nicer to Sam in the end. As such, she’s on the tamer side of Hughes’ villains.

9 Roman – The Great Outdoors (1988)

Dan Aykroyd plays Roman Craig in The Great Outdoors, the obnoxious, self-aggrandizing hot-shot investment broker living a massive lie that he tries to wiggle of by soliciting funds from his financially modest brother-in-law Chet (John Candy). Roman is curt, mendacious, and too hifalutin’ to relate to his young twin daughters.

However, after ruining Chet’s family vacation by arriving uninvited, Roman has a moral awakening and makes a last-ditch apology by returning Chet’s investment money and telling his family the truth about being fired. This helps redeem his character, even if he was a major pain for most of the movie.


8 Chet – Weird Science (1985)

The late great Bill Paxton gave an unforgettable turn as Chet in Weird Science, Wyatt’s (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) militaristic older brother who bullies, bribes, blackmails, and exports money from him without an ounce of compunction. He also verbally harasses Lisa (Kelly LeBrock) and inflicts mild physical harm on Gary (Anthony Michael Hall), Deb (Suzanne Snyder), and Wyatt.

Yet, Chet begins to see the folly of his villainous ways after Lisa turns him into a giant unflattering pile of poop. He immediately gives a heartfelt apology to Wyatt and vows to never be mean or take advantage of him again. By at least recognizing his villainy and promising to change, he joins the litany of Hughes’ mildly redemptive baddies. Even though he can be violent, Chet learns his lesson as a loving family member in the end and vows repentance, making him less villainous than some of the others.

7 Walker – Curly Sue (1991)

Walker McCormick (John Getz) in Hughes’ final directorial effort, Curly Sue, oozes an unmatched level of smarm and snobbiness to go with his odious actions. The character plays an uptight suburbanite who, after his fiancee kindly welcomes a homeless girl into her home, spitefully turns her and father-figure Bill (Jim Belushi) into the authorities, which lands Sue (Alisan Porter) in a welfare program.

The ugly-hearted, mean-spirited Walker has no redeeming value whatsoever, as his character is designed to be the loathsome obstacle impeding the main character’s path to happiness. He’s crude, crass, cruel, and has zero respect for children or the plight of the homeless.

6 Bug – Uncle Buck (1989)

The lecherous high school hipster Bug (Jay Underwood) in Uncle Buck is a pretty despicable character. The upperclassman callously breaks the heart of Buck’s niece, Tia (Jean Louisa Kelly), prompting the title character (John Candy) to split the couple up. Afterward, Bug nearly sexually assaults the girl he’s cheating on Tia with, underscoring his abusive nature and utter disinterest in Tia in the first place. Luckily, Buck breaks in and saves the day before Bug can harm anyone.

Bug’s villainous nature is key to resolving the relationship between Buck and Tia, who remain at odds for most of the movie. When Buck expresses concern for Bug’s lascivious behavior, Tia resents her uncle at first but slowly realizes that he was right and had her best interest at heart the whole time.

5 Ed Rooney – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) provides the number one roadblock impeding the enjoyment of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The petty and vindictive high school administrator dedicates his entire afternoon to proving that Ferris (Matthew Broderick) is not sick in bed as claimed, but instead a juvenile truant delinquent playing hooky from school. He insults children, breaks into houses, and oversteps his boundaries at every turn.

Played for comic relief, Rooney is outwitted by Ferris at every turn, leading to the principal’s descent into utter embarrassment and humiliation as he foolishly comes up short time and again. It’s an iconic performance in an iconic role, with Rooney finding zero redemption as the student population’s chief enemy.

4 The Wet Bandits – Home Alone (1990)

Although Hughes wrote but did not direct Home Alone and Home Alone 2, his creation of the Wet Bandits (aka the Sticky Bandits) cannot be excluded. The two bumbling thieves Marv (Daniel Stern) and Harry (Joe Pesci) provide an endless source of entertainment as Kevin McCallister’s (Macaulay Culkin) primary foils.

In addition to the hysterical chemistry between Stern and Pesci and the villainous volume of activity they demonstrate over two films, it’s their unrepentant attitude and downright willingness to maim and kill a child that compounds their wicked ways as petty thieves.

3 Lord General – Weird Science (1985)

Ripped right out of The Road Warrior, Lord General (Vernon Wells) and his evil motorcycling minions in Weird Science are perhaps the scariest and most threatening villains in any John Hughes movie. Conjured by Lisa to elicit Gary and Wyatt’s untapped bravery, the hellions violently maraud into Wyatt’s home on their motorbikes and go on a ballistic rampage.

Reprising his role as Wez from Mad Max 2, Lord General isn’t just physically imposing as he bears a shotgun, but he also deeply humiliates Gary and Wyatt in front of the whole party by exposing their non-nude shower habits. This leads to a redemptive confrontation by Gary and Wyatt, which proves their fearlessness and increases their social standing.

2 Mr. Vernon – The Breakfast Club (1985)

Played with detestable arrogance and a sinister scowl by Paul Gleason (who always plays a great bad guy), principal Richard Vernon in The Breakfast Club is even more villainous than Mr. Rooney. Mean-spirited, hurtfully insolent, and willing to physically fight underage students,  Mr. Vernon hasn’t a redeeming quality whatsoever.

Whether he’s berating Andrew (Emilio Estevez), insulting Brian (Anthony Michael-Hall), talking down to Allison (Ally Sheedy), or challenging Bender (Judd Nelson) to a fistfight, Vernon embodies the high school principal from hell every student hopes to avoid in their life.

1 Steff – Pretty In Pink (1986)

There is no single John Hughes villain meaner, more manipulative, or mendacious than Steff (James Spader) in Pretty in Pink. With unparalleled smugness and deep-seated insecurity, the conceited rich boy bully treats his so-called friend Blane (Andrew McCarthy) like trash, picks a fight with the weaker Duckie (Jn Cryer), and vindictively attempts to make Andie’s (Molly Ringwald) life a living hell after she rejects his advances. He’s the absolute worst.

However, Steff’s odious dishonesty and mean behavior are meant to draw out the good qualities in Blane, allowing him to choose Andie over their long-term friendship in a way that feels moral and righteous. Like many of Hughes’ villains, they are present to emphasize the main character’s underlying goodness, and none achieve that more than Steff.

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