Comedy legend John Candy has been in many, many fun films. They are all most definitely must-see. But here is the tricky thing about Candy’s career, which sadly ended in 1994 upon the actor’s death: many of his “must-see” movies are movies where he played bit parts or small supporting roles.
Some of his highest-rated movies, as established by our Giant Freakin Movie Score rating algorithm, were from movies where John Candy had smaller supporting roles. So, we decided to stick with movies where Candy was either lead or co-lead and toss them into his “must-see” list.
This was a tricky list, but it starts in the right place: with John Candy as the kind of Thanksgiving.
CELEBRATE THANKSGIVING WITH PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (1987)
GIANT FREAKIN MOVIE SCORE: 8.35/10
Planes, Trains and Automobiles ranks as the very best John Candy movie, no contest. It’s also probably the best Thanksgiving movie, ever produced.
In this John Hughes film, John Candy stars as Del Griffith, a hapless and overly annoying shower curtain ring salesman. He is joined by Steve Martin, who plays Neal Page, a marketing executive who is a bit high-strung. Neal just wants to get home to be with his family for Thanksgiving. Del just wants to help. What follows is a series of misadventures that finds the two paired up using any means possible to get Del home.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a classic John Hughes comedy. The movie puts its two stars in many uncomfortable situations, ending with warmth and heart that Hughes was known for. As with most of his characters, John Candy played Del as a loveable, bumbling oaf with a good heart. There’s no better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than with a viewing of Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
JOHN CANDY IN COOL RUNNINGS (1993)
GIANT FREAKIN MOVIE SCORE: 7.3/10
Cool Runnings is a Disney movie loosely based on the true story of Jamaica’s bobsled team and their debut in the 1988 Winter Olympics. This was also the last John Candy movie released while he was still alive.
John Candy is on board as Irv Blitzer, a former two-time American bobsled Gold Medalist who was forced from the sport after he was disqualified for cheating. He retired to Jamaica where he lives a life poor life as a bookie. Leon Robinson stars as Derice Bannock, a Jamaican sprinter, has an idea to form a bobsled team so they could compete in the Olympics. He recruits a few more athletes then seeks out Blitzer to help train them. Blitzer wants none of it when they first meet but he is finally convinced. The story then takes Blitzer, Derice, and the others on their oft-times hilarious, sometimes heart-breaking journey to the 1988 Winter Olympics.
JOHN CANDY IS UNCLE BUCK (1989)
GIANT FREAKIN MOVIE SCORE: 6.55/10
John Candy once again (six times in total) teamed up with John Hughes in what could be called a guilty pleasure. Not only was Candy classic as Uncle Buck, but the movie was also the introduction of Macaulay Culkin to the world (he would star one year later in Home Alone, which Candy had a bit part in).
John Candy’s Buck was, once again, a hapless loser. Overweight, beer-guzzling, non-committal, with virtually no responsibilities, he is called upon by his brother Bob and wife Cindy to look after their kids when Cindy’s father has a heart attack. Buck arrives much to the chagrin of the eldest daughter Tia. She doesn’t care for Buck’s rules, which were handed down to him by Cindy. Tia and Cindy have a very strained relationship. The other two children, Miles and Maizy, love Uncle Buck.
The story plays out in comedic fashion, Buck trying desperately trying to remain non-committal with his girlfriend Chanice while also trying to keep Tia in line. The movie is fun, definitely a John Hughes picture and absolutely a John Candy classic.
JOHN CANDY IN ONLY THE LONELY (1991)
GIANT FREAKIN MOVIE SCORE: 6.4/10
One more collaboration between John Candy and John Hughes, though this time Hughes was only attached as the producer.
Only the Lonely tells of Danny Muldoon (John Candy) a 38-year old policeman who still lives at home with his mother Rose (screen legend Maureen O’Hara). She is overbearing and Irish, a fiery lady who keeps Danny in check. But Danny falls for Theresa (Ally Sheedy) and Rose sees this as a threat. When Danny introduces Theresa to his mother, Rose is not a kind lady. She puts down Theresa in an attempt to drive her away. It almost works.
Relationships between parents and their children are at the forefront in this romantic comedy, trying to answer the question of when the children actually become the parent to their parents.
PARODYING STAR WARS WITH SPACEBALLS (1987)
GIANT FREAKIN MOVIE SCORE: 6.35/10
Like many of John Candy’s movies, he played a supporting character in Spaceballs. But he had enough screen time in the Mel Brooks Star Wars parody that we’re including it. The movie starred Bill Pullman as Lone Star, Daphne Zuniga as Princess Vespa, Mel Brooks as Yogurt and President Skroob, Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet, and John Candy as Barf, Lone Star’s mawg (half-man, half-dog).
Mel Brooks turned Star Wars on its collective head for this movie and John Candy was perfect in helping make this happen. His character, naturally, was based on Star Wars’ Chewbacca and followed the same basic storyline the original Star Wars gave to fans. While the movie wasn’t as big a hit as some of Brooks’s earlier movies (Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles), it hit the funny bone more times than not.
According to Pullman, Brooks had been trying to get Tom Cruise to take the role of Lone Star. When that didn’t work, he went after Tom Hanks. Strike two. Then Brooks landed two hot comedians at that time, John Candy and Rick Moranis, so he was able to move on to Bill Pullman.
JOHN CANDY’S LEGACY
The above movies are but a small sample of John Candy’s talent. While he has been in some fun movies, as listed above, much of what fans remember of John Candy are his smaller roles.
For instance, in Splash, he pops in and out as Tom Hanks’s brother in scenes that are simply laugh-out-loud funny. The racquetball scene? In Stripes, Candy plays Ox, a fellow soldier who has the privilege of mud wrestling a couple of women. In National Lampoon’s Vacation, he shows up at the end of the movie as a security guard who is forced by BB gun gunpoint to ride the rides with Clark Griswold and family at Wally World.
There are many more of these classic bit parts. John Candy also co-starred or led such movies as Brewster’s Millions with Richard Pryor, The Great Outdoors, Once Upon a Crime, Wagon’s East, Summer Rental, and Who’s Harry Crumb. Most of these movies are just straight out dumb fun. And of course he’ll always be remembered as the star of the greatest Thanksgiving movie ever made.
Hollywood lost John Candy in 1994 to a heart attack. He spent a lifetime fighting obesity and it was something that caused him great depression. He also suffered attacks of binge eating as a way of dealing with professional stress, which didn’t help with his weight. The world lost a great, talented, funny man when John Candy passed, but thankfully his legacy will live on with his classic movies.
The GIANT FREAKIN MOVIE SCORE is calculated using rating averages from Rotten Tomatoes and the Internet Movie Database.