While in town for SXSW last week, we checked in with Austin native Ernest Cline, the author of 2011 bestseller Ready Player One. It's sci-fi, but totally readable and compelling; the plot concerns a nerdy overweight teen living in a distopian future America where everyone spends all their time in a second life simulation. The eccentric billionaire who created it dies, pledging his fortune to whoever can complete an elaborate treasure hunt.
1980s culture plays heavily into the plot, and the billionaire and the protagonist are obsessed with the films of John Hughes. The same is true of the genial Cline, who's got a few extra pounds himself,
red brown hair, and a goatee. While Vanity Fair and others have made the intellectual case for Hughes' films, Cline believes the director's soundtracks also deserve more shine. Growing up in the small town of Ashland in central Ohio, he says, the songs on those works practically made his adolescence. “The only way I was exposed to cool music, stuff like Britpop, was through those movies,” he says. Below, then, are his top ten favorites, in his own words.
10. “Don't You Forget About Me”
From the soundtrack to The Breakfast Club, and perhaps the most iconic and memorable tune from one of the films that helped define my generation. And still a great song.
9. “Brilliant Mind”
From the Some Kind of Wonderful soundtrack. Obscure Britpop tunes like this are one of the things that make Hughes soundtracks so great and unique.
8. “I Go Crazy”
Flesh For Lulu
Also from the Some Kind of Wonderful soundtrack. This soundtrack is so good it almost makes you forget that Some Kind of Wonderful is just Pretty in Pink with the gender roles reversed.
From the Sixteen Candles soundtrack, this song is used in the opening credits montage that introduces us to Shermer High School, and in those few minutes, John Hughes somehow conveys what it was like to be a teenager in the '80s.
6. “Try a Little Tenderness”
From the Pretty in Pink soundtrack Jon Cryer lip-syncs this entire song to Molly Ringwald and Annie Potts in the middle of the film. Duckie may not end up getting the girl, but he does get the lifetime achievement award for Best Ever Lip-syncing in a John Hughes movie.
5. “Please Please Please (Let Me Get What I Want)”
The Dream Academy
An instrumental version of a song by The Smiths, recorded especially for the Ferris Bueller's Day Off soundtrack. It plays over the beautiful montage at the Art Institute of Chicago (which is why I listen to it on my iPod whenever I go there for a visit).
4. “Oh Yeah”
From the Ferris Bueller's Day Off soundtrack. A very strange song, used throughout the movie to hilarious effect. Shortly after the flick was released, it was used in a few thousand Twix commercials. Still a great song, though.
3. “Ring Me Up”
From the Sixteen Candles soundtrack. This song kicks in just as our hero Samantha spots Jake Ryan, the object of her affections, and it totally conveys what the one-two sucker punch of young love feels like.
2. “Weird Science”
The title song from the Weird Science soundtrack. It plays over the opening credits, and Danny Elfman's haunting lyrics set the perfect tone for the entire bizarre Frankenstein-inspired flick that is to follow.
1. “Beat City”
The Flowerpot Men
There was never an official soundtrack released for Ferris Bueller's Day Off, which is a tragedy, because it easily has one of the best soundtracks of any John Hughes film. “Beat City” is the great driving rock song that plays as Ferris speeds away from his high school in a borrowed Ferrari, with his girl Simone and his best pal Cameron along for the ride.