Even though I was born in 1986, by which time most of Hughes' films had come out already, his films (the ones he either directed or wrote) were a big part of my teenage years. From the age of 13 onwards, I submerged myself in 1980s pop culture. Duran Duran records, 80s teen films, suicide sodas and endless episodes of 'The Wonder Years' (okay, that doesn't really count as it started in 1989). It felt like double escapism, not only was I escaping my daily life through movies, I was travelling in time -- two for the price of one.
Deciding on what is my favourite John Hughes movie is near impossible. His sensitivity, excellent choice of soundtrack, great dialogue and inspired casting choices made his films unparalleled. I still don't know what caused him to pretty much vanish off the face of the earth after 'Uncle Buck', but John Hughes is immortal to anyone who loves 1980s films.. come to think of it, I'd go as far as to say that John Hughes is immortal to anyone who didn't really enjoy being a teenager.
While his sentimentality got the best of him at times, there was always this sense of victory for the underdog characters; Samantha got to kiss Jake, Brian and Allison realised they were better off without the pressures of popularity and Andie and Blane ("that's a major appliance, that's not a name!") got together.. and Duckie got his Duckette in the form of Kristy Swanson. It was win-win all 'round.
While there are worse things on earth than being a teenager, John Hughes' message that things could only get better as you got older (or as you got past being a teenager!) definitely rang true for me. For this great life lesson, I salute you, dear John Hughes.
Edit: Many great tributes have been posted in the last 24 hours, here are links to some of my favourites:
20 Reasons Why John Hughes Rocked the 80s
Ben Stein ("something-d-o-o economics") remembers John Hughes
John Hughes: the Soundtrack to a Generation
Video Retrospective: Top 10 Movie Moments
A tribute to John Hughes From the Desk of a Neo-Maxi-Zoom-Dweebie