The films of John Hughes from the ’80s are a big part of my love of the decade. I feel like Hughes came along at the perfect time and made some seemingly perfect movies for a kid growing up in the ’80s. I regularly and adoringly reference his films which I have watched countless times. One of the best lines is from Ferris Bueller who says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Well, I thought I would share an interesting thread that runs through many of the Hughes films that you might’ve missed (if you didn’t look around once in a while).
It’s a small relatively meaningless detail, but I still find it interesting. It’s almost like a little “Easter egg” from back before that was really a thing. You may or may not have noticed it before, but you will find that in many of the John Hughes films some cars have custom vanity license plates. The license plates often reference a character name or another Hughes film.
The first Hughes film I noticed this was in 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation. It is not where you might expect it on the Family Truckster, but you may notice on Christie Brinkley’s Ferrari that her license plate reads “LUV ME”.
The next Hughes film I noticed this was in 1984’s Sixteen Candles which is the first that he was both writer and director. There is one that is very obvious when you see the family car’s license plate reads “V 58”. This is a reference to “Vacation ’58” which is the short story that Hughes originally wrote which became the basis for 1983’s Vacation.
There is a second license plate this is not quite so obvious. Jake Ryan’s Porsche has a license plate that reads “21850”. Those five numbers add up to equal 16 which of course could be a reference to the number of candles in the film’s title. But it is more likely a reference to the birth date of John Hughes himself which is February 18, 1950.
Next up is 1985’s The Breakfast Club where you only see cars when they are being dropped off at the very beginning and picked up at the very end. Here we see Brian get dropped off in a car with a license plate that reads “EMC 2” which is a reference to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Brian being “The Brain”. Andy gets dropped off in a truck with a license plate that reads “OHIOST” which is a reference to Andy being “The Athlete”. Bender “The Criminal” walks to school and the license plates are not shown for Claire “The Princess” or Allison “The Basket Case”, though they both could have had special license plates we just don’t get to see.
I did not notice any special license plates in 1985’s National Lampoon’s European Vacation, but that could’ve been because they filmed in foreign countries or because Hughes did not direct this one himself. But he does direct 1985’s Weird Science and we see some used here. As Lisa uses her special powers to give the trio awesome cars, each comes with its own custom vanity plate. Lisa’s pink Cadillac has a license plate that reads “LISA”.
As you would expect, Wyatt and Gary’s Porsches also have license plates that feature their names “WYATT” and “GARY” respectively.
I did not notice any in 1986’s Pretty in Pink, but again Hughes didn’t actually direct that one himself. But he did direct 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off which features some of the best license plates yet. Most people notice that the license plate on Cameron’s Dad’s Ferrari reads “NRVOUS” which is likely a reference to how Cameron feels about taking the car out that day.
The rest of the cars in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off have license plates that reference John Hughes films. His Mom’s car has a license plate that reads “MMOM” which is a reference to 1983’s Mr. Mom which Hughes wrote. His Dad’s car has a license plate that reads “VCTN” which is a reference again to 1983’s Vacation. His sister’s car has a license plate that reads “TBC” which is a reference to 1985’s The Breakfast Club. Lastly, Principal Rooney’s car has a license plate that reads “4FBDO” which translates to “For Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.
I did not notice any special license plates in 1987’s Some Kind of Wonderful, but again this one wasn’t actually directed by Hughes himself. But I did notice one in 1987’s Planes, Trains & Automobiles, but it is not on the rental car like I would have expected. The special license plate shows up on Doobby’s Taxiola and reads “WOLF”. Not sure what this specifically refers to, but it’s a vanity plate either way.
Next Hughes directed 1988’s She’s Having a Baby and Jake’s BMW has a license plate that reads “SHAB”. This of course stands for the movie’s title She’s Having a Baby.
Next up is 1988’s The Great Outdoors and here we see Dan Aykroyd’s character’s name on the license plate for his Mercedes Benz which reads “ROMAN 1”.
I thought for sure there’d be a special license plate in 1989’s Uncle Buck or on the Griswold’s car as they head out to the country to find their tree in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. But surprisingly the last two John Hughes films of the ’80s decade did not keep the tradition.
Some of these cars are included on our very popular list of Top Cars/Trucks from ’80s Movies and TV, so you may want to give that one a read as well. As I said, it’s a small somewhat meaningless detail that probably goes unnoticed, but these special license plates are a fun factoid for many of the John Hughes movies from the ’80s. And now, you will notice them every time you watch these movies from now on.