30 years later, is ‘Pretty in Pink’ one of John Hughes’ best movies or one of his worst?
Thirty years after its release, Pretty in Pink is revered by the ‘80s generation, and why not? Like most John Hughes movies, it has a heart bigger than its chest. It has actors in roles that would define their careers for decades to come. And it had a soundtrack that most of us have memorized word for word, note for note.
Released on Feb. 28, 1986, Pretty in Pink was a success right from the start. On a $9 million budget, it grossed $40 million. And critics were generally pleased; Pretty in Pink maintains a 79 percent “fresh rating” on Rotten Tomatoes.
On the surface, the story might not be horribly original: A girl from the wrong side of the tracks (literally) meets one of the rich and popular guys at school and they try to make it work. Dig a little deeper and you might find this: Pretty in Pink is a study of flawed male characters.
Duckie has a crush on Andie and can’t let go, no matter how obvious it is that she doesn’t share his feelings. Andie’s dad can’t let go of his wife, who left him and Andie when times got tough. And Blaine? Well, if you can’t stand up to your friends, then you really are just a major appliance.
The late film critic Roger Ebert gave Pretty in Pink three stars, writing: “… Although it is not a great movie, it contains some moments when the audience is likely to think, yes, being 16 was exactly like that. … Pretty in Pink is evidence, I suppose, that there must be a reason why certain old stories never seem to die.”
So where does Pretty in Pink stand among Hughes’ films? Well, as long as Curly Sue is around, it will never be the worst. And Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller tend to share the winner’s circle. So let’s look a little closer.
ONE OF THE BEST: Sorry, Jon Cryer and James Spader, but you’ll always be Duckie and Steff to us. And that’s a good thing. Molly Ringwald turned Andie into a girl power symbol long before girl power. And Harry Dean Stainton is the dad we all want to root for.
ONE OF THE WORST: Andrew Dice Clay essentially is himself as the bar bouncer. But is that a bad thing? Andrew McCarthy? Well, you’re a heck of a travel writer these days.
VERDICT: One of the best
ONE OF THE BEST: There’s a reason this storyline gets recycled time and time again: People like it and relate to it, as Ebert said. But let’s face it. Without Duckie, Steff, Iona and dear old dad, we wouldn’t be talking about this movie today.
ONE OF THE WORST: John Hughes knew the movie wasn’t one of his best; that’s why he did Some Kind of Wonderful with the ending he wanted all along.
VERDICT: One of the worst
ONE OF THE BEST: If You Leave. Shellshock. Wouldn’t It Be Good. Bring on the Dancing Horses. Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want. And that amazing title song by the Psychedelic Furs. Aside from Purple Rain, is there another ‘80s soundtrack you still hold as dear to your heart?
ONE OF THE WORST: I don’t dare nitpick here. But if forced to, I prefer the original Furs version of Pretty in Pink.
VERDICT: The best.
ONE OF THE BEST: There’s no Ferris-on-a-parade-float moment, but Duckie lip-synching and dancing to Tenderness comes close. Others include: Duckie meeting with Andie’s dad; Duckie getting advice from the Diceman; Duckie making out with Iona; Oh, and maybe Andie tearing Blaine a new one for dumping her as prom date.
ONE OF THE WORST: Can we all agree that there’s little to no chemistry between Andie and Blaine? Every encounter reminds me of the worst dates I ever had.
VERDICT: One of the best
ONE OF THE BEST: There’s a growing belief with some iconic ‘80s movies that style outweighs substance. I don’t think that’s the case with Pretty in Pink. Yes, it has tremendous style. And though the story might appear worn some 30 years later, remember that in 1986, these were the issues that consumed our brains. Will we go to the prom? Why does everyone pick on me? Will that person ever love me? And what the hell are we going to do after high school. Pretty in Pink taught us to tackle those issues and conquer your fear. Be brave and let the chips fall where they may. Believe in yourself. And always remember: That’s not a candy machine in the girls restroom.
ONE OF THE WORST: Can we say what nobody else wants to say? Andie’s prom dress is the pits.
VERDICT: Pretty in Pink remains one of the best John Hughes movies of his era.