101 Funniest Screenplays

An enduring John Hughes holiday film, constructed around the perils of travel at the crowded Thanksgiving holiday. Beneath this, Hughes made room for a great straight man v. clown dynamic in the pairing of confident ad executive Neal (Steve Martin, playing it straight) and a homespun and overweight shower curtain salesman Del (John Candy). Candy’s work here is heartrending. If the story takes Del to the edge of caricature, Candy and the dialogue always bring it back, and the movie’s ultimate reveal – in which the audience and Neal discover that Del doesn’t have a home to go to at the holiday – leaves a lump in the throat. “The buried story engine of Planes, Trains and Automobiles is not slowly growing friendship or odd-couple hostility (devices a lesser film might have employed), but empathy,” wrote Roger Ebert. “It is about understanding how the other guy feels.”