John Candy was one of the most beloved comedy stars of the 20th century. In 1994, at just 43, he tragically passed away in his sleep, having suffered from a heart attack.
The late, great actor left behind a catalog of movies that will ensure his legacy lives on for years and that he'll entertain future generations long after leaving this mortal coil.
This piece will celebrate the Canadian legend by ranking his finest films. These are the 22 best John Candy movies, ending with the greatest.
1. The Great Outdoors (1988, directed by Howard Deutch)
The Great Outdoors is a comedy movie about two families spending a week vacationing at a lake resort in the fictional town of Pechoggin, Wisconsin, where hilarity ensues.
Candy enthusiastically plays Chester “Chet” Ripley, the patriarch of his family, and reprises his role from another film written by John Hughes; She's Having a Baby. Dan Aykroyd and Chris Young also reprise their roles from the movie, while Annette Bening, Lucy Deakins, and Robert Prosky appear too. The Great Outdoors is coarse and sometimes lifeless, but there are enough energetic scenes to raise a few laughs.
2. Once Upon a Crime (1992, directed by Eugene Levy)
Once Upon a Crime is a black comedy mystery movie and a remake of Mario Camerini's 1960 Italian film Crimen. It sees several married couples becoming suspects in the murder of a wealthy Monte Carlo-based woman after one of them attempts to return the affluent lady's missing dachshund.
The ensemble cast includes Richard Lewis, James Belushi, Cybill Shepherd, and Sean Young. Candy plays Augie Morosco, a reformed gambler and one of the people embroiled in the murder case, and he's highly amusing in the role. Once Upon a Crime suffers from a thin plot, but it's farcically funny, and if you like an easy watch, it'll amuse you for its duration.
3. Brewster's Millions (1985, directed by Walter Hill)
Brewster's Millions is a comedy movie based on George Barr McCutcheon's 1902 novel and the seventh film adaptation of the story. It's about a minor-league baseball player who must spend $30 million in 30 days to inherit his uncle's $300 million fortune. However, there are several conditions to the deal.
Richard Pryor plays Montgomery Brewster, the eponymous heir to his uncle's fortune, and Candy plays Spike Nolan, his best friend. Both men are watchable as heck and have great chemistry. Brewster's Millions isn't the best novel adaptation and doesn't take full advantage of its brilliant headlining duo. Still, its story is compelling, the cast performs well, and its likable leads do their utmost to keep it entertaining.
4. It Came from Hollywood (1982, directed by Malcolm Leo and Andrew Solt)
It Came from Hollywood is a comedy documentary film that compiles clips from various B movies. It features narration and wraparound segments from some of the most famous comedians of its time.
Along with Dan Aykroyd, Cheech and Chong, and Gilda Radner, Candy appears as himself, introducing segments exhibiting clips from movies like 1953's Glen or Glenda? and 1958's High School Confidential. It Came from Hollywood will introduce you to many films you've never heard of, enthusiastically spoken about by some big stars who, above all else, make the whole thing thoroughly amusing.
5. Volunteers (1985, directed by Nicholas Meyer)
Volunteers is a comedy movie about a womanizer who, after graduating from Yale, flees a $28,000 gambling debt that his wealthy father refuses to pay and takes his roomie's place as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand.
Tom Hanks plays Lawrence Bourne III, the in-debt graduate, and Candy plays Tom Tuttle, a fellow graduate he meets on the plane to Asia. Hanks is typically brilliant, and Candy ably supports him. The cast also includes Rita Wilson and Xander Berkeley. Volunteers' premise is fun, it has several excellent one-liners, and its talented young cast performs well. However, it doesn't fully live up to its promising potential.
6. Only the Lonely (1991, directed by Chris Columbus)
Only the Lonely is a romantic comedy-drama and a humorous take on the premise established in the 1953 television play Marty and the 1955 film of the same name. It's about a Chicago police officer and bachelor looking to settle down and start a family with a mortuary beautician while dealing with his overbearing mother, who disapproves of her potential future daughter-in-law.
Candy plays Daniel “Danny” Muldoon, the police officer, and Maureen O'Hara plays his mother, Rose, in her final film role. They make a hilarious pair, Candy is as likable as ever, and O'Hara is frankly miraculous. The supporting cast includes Ally Sheedy, James Belushi, Macaulay Culkin, and Kieran Culkin. Only the Lonely is funny, with some great one-liners, and incredibly sweet with a cute plot.
7. Heavy Metal (1981, directed by Gerald Potterton)
Heavy Metal is an adult animated sci-fi fantasy anthology movie based on stories seen in the eponymous magazine. The film's different segments link through a common theme of an evil force, “the sum of all evils.”
Candy features in three segments; “Harry Canyon” as Desk Sergeant, “Den” as the eponymous character, and “So Beautiful & So Dangerous” as a robot. His vocal performances are excellent, especially as Den. The voice cast also includes Eugene Levy and Harold Ramis. Heavy Metal is dated and controversial, but there's no denying its animation is fantastic, the stories are interesting, the voice cast does a great job, and the soundtrack is awesome.
8. Masters of Menace (1990, directed by Daniel Raskov)
Masters of Menace is a comedy movie about the eponymous motorcycle gang heading on a road trip to bury a fallen comrade who died while performing a dangerous stunt, disturbing people across the United States as they go.
Candy only has a small role in this one as a beer truck driver, as do James Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. The main cast includes David Rasche, Catherine Bach, and Tino Insana. Masters of Menace is the silly kind of fun, with hijinks, mischief, and mayhem galore. It doesn't pretend to be anything besides a B movie but is undoubtedly thoroughly entertaining.
9. Spaceballs (1987, directed by Mel Brooks)
Spaceballs is a space opera parody movie that primarily parodies the original Star Wars trilogy and several other franchises. In the film, a star-pilot for hire and his trusty sidekick attempt to rescue a princess and save a planet.
Bill Pullman plays Lone Starr, the star-pilot who's a parody of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, and Candy plays Barf, a parody of Chewbacca. They're both hilarious. The cast also includes Rick Moranis, Joan Rivers, and Mel Brooks. Spaceballs is top-notch spoofing with great visual gags and hilarious characters.
10. The Rescuers Down Under (1990, directed by Hendel Butoy and Mike Gabriel)
The Rescuers Down Under is an animated adventure movie and the sequel to 1977's The Rescuers. In the film, the eponymous heroes race to Australia to save a young boy and a rare golden eagle from the clutches of a dangerous poacher.
Candy voices Wilbur, a funny albatross named after Wilbur Wright, and he's joyous in the role. The brilliant ensemble cast includes Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, Frank Welker, and George C. Scott. The Rescuers Down Under doesn't have the best story, but it looks incredible, is lively and energetic, and boasts some fun characters, and kids will love it.
11. The Silent Partner (1978, directed by Daryl Duke)
The Silent Partner is a thriller and the third filmed adaptation of Anders Bodelsen's 1968 novel Tænk på et tal (Think of a Number). In the movie, a meek bank worker anticipates a bank robbery and steals the money before the thief can. When the criminal realizes this, he chases the worker and engages him in a cat-and-mouse game for the loot.
It was one of Candy's earliest roles, and he plays Simonson, a cheated-on husband there for comedy effect, and he does just fine. The Silent Partner stars Elliott Gould, Christopher Plummer, and Susannah York, and they're all fantastic. It's a well-acted and intelligent Hitchcock-esque caper movie with a complex but well-executed plot.
12. Uncle Buck (1989, directed by John Hughes)
Uncle Buck is a comedy movie about an unreliable and underachieving bachelor who's asked to babysit his brother's rebellious teenage daughter and her younger brother and sister while the parents are tending to a family emergency, resulting in shenanigans occurring.
People see this film as a classic thanks to Candy's excellent and rib-tickling performance as the eponymous Buck Russell. Uniting Hughes, Candy, and a house full of kids is a guaranteed recipe for success, as hilarity undoubtedly ensues. The cast includes Amy Madigan, Laurie Metcalf, and Macaulay Culkin, who all play their parts well. However, the material has an undeniable underlying uneasy feeling to it.
13. The Blues Brothers (1980, directed by John Landis)
The Blues Brothers is a musical comedy movie based on the recurring musical sketch on Saturday Night Live. It's about the eponymous siblings, Jake and Elwood, and it chronicles Jake's release from prison and the pair's efforts to reunite their old band and save an orphanage while being pursued by the police.
John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd play the brothers and have top support from a fantastic cast. It includes James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Chaka Khan, Carrie Fisher, Charles Napier, James Avery, and Henry Gibson. Candy capably plays Burton Mercer, Jake's parole officer. The Blues Brothers is over the top but thoroughly entertaining. It has some great musical numbers, is energetically performed, funny, and utter carnage of the finest kind.
14. Cool Runnings (1993, directed by Jon Turteltaub)
Cool Runnings is a sports comedy movie loosely based on the debut of the Jamaican national bobsleigh team at the 1988 Winter Olympics. In the film, a disgraced former American Olympian coaches a novice four-man bobsleigh team from Jamaica.
Candy plays the coach Irving “Irv” Blitzer in one of his career-best performances. Leon Robinson, Doug E. Doug, Rawle D. Lewis, and Malik Yoba play the team members in a unique style. Cool Runnings is a sweet, charming, funny, inspirational, and uplifting film that celebrates sportsmanship in the most wholesome way. You can't fail to smile while watching this movie.
15. Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird (1985, directed by Ken Kwapis)
Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird is a musical road comedy movie based on the ever-popular children's television series Sesame Street. In this one, when a social worker sends Big Bird to live far away from Sesame Street, he runs away from his new home, prompting the other residents of the famous street to set off across the country to find him.
Several recognizable stars appear in this one, including Candy, who plays a state trooper with plenty of authoritative vigor. Others include Waylon Jennings, Sandra Bernhard, and Chevy Chase. Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird is witty and funny, maintaining the series' core values, and is perfect for the whole family to watch.
16. Home Alone (1990, directed by Chris Columbus)
Home Alone is a Christmas comedy movie about a young boy who gets accidentally left behind when his family heads to Paris for the holidays and has to defend his huge suburban Chicago home from a pair of bungling burglars.
Macaulay Culkin plays Kevin McCallister, the home-alone kid, in an iconic fashion. The excellent supporting cast includes Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O'Hara, Devin Rattray, Roberts Blossom, Gerry Bamman, and Kieran Culkin. Candy plays Gus Polinski, a polka musician who helps Kevin's mother get home to him, and he's brilliant in a brief cameo that he filmed in a single day. Home Alone is a bona fide festive classic, and it's hilarious with its slapstick humor, a little sadistic but heartwarming, and flawlessly performed.
17. JFK (1991, directed by Oliver Stone)
JFK is an epic political thriller dramatizing District Attorney Jim Garrison's investigation into John F. Kennedy's assassination. Garrison believed there was a conspiracy to kill the then-president and that Lee Harvey Oswald didn't act alone.
The fantastic cast of this one includes Kevin Costner, Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, Laurie Metcalf, Gary Oldman, Michael Rooker, and Sissy Spacek. Candy plays New Orleans attorney Dean Andrews Jr. with great competence. JFK is superbly acted, exciting, and brimming with detail. However, it's also caused much controversy given the conspiracy theories it promotes.
18. Stripes (1981, directed by Ivan Reitman)
Stripes is a war comedy movie about an immature New York City taxi driver who enlists in the United States Army with his friend after losing his job, girlfriend, apartment, and car in one day.
Bill Murray plays the cab driver, John Winger, and Harold Ramis plays his pal, Russell Ziskey. Candy plays Dewey “Ox” Oxberger, another recruit they meet. The three stars are excellent and ably supported by Warren Oates, P.J. Soles, Sean Young, and John Larroquette. Stripes is a somewhat silly film in a good way, but it's a raucous hoot and entertaining from start to finish.
19. Little Shop of Horrors (1986, directed by Frank Oz)
Little Shop of Horrors is a comedy horror musical movie and an adaptation of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's 1982 off-Broadway musical of the same name, which was an adaptation of the 1960 film The Little Shop of Horrors. It's about a flower shop worker discovering a sentient carnivorous plant that needs human blood to survive.
The fabulous cast includes Rick Moranis as Seymour Krelborn, the florist, Ellen Greene, Steve Martin, Jim Belushi, Christopher Guest, Bill Murray, and Miriam Margolyes. Candy plays Wink Wilkinson, a DJ who hosts a radio show about “weird stuff” called “Wink Wilkinson's Weird World,” a role he's fantastic in. Little Shop of Horrors is deliciously camp, charming, brilliantly performed, even frightening occasionally, and full of catchy songs – one of the two Academy Award nominations it received was for Best Original Song for “Mean Green Mother from Outer Space.”
20. Splash (1984, directed by Ron Howard)
Splash is a fantasy rom-com about a young New York City businessman who falls in love with a mysterious woman who turns out to be a mermaid he had met twenty years earlier as a child.
Tom Hanks plays Allen Bauer, the businessman, and Daryl Hannah plays Madison, the mermaid. They're both fantastic and have perfect chemistry. Candy plays Freddie Bauer, Alan's brother, in a typically humorous style. Eugene Levy plays the film's villain, Walter Kornbluth, who wants to capture Madison. Splash is an easy watch due to its light humor and the charming performances of its cast. It received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
21. National Lampoon's Vacation (1983, directed by Harold Ramis)
National Lampoon's Vacation is a road trip comedy movie that follows the Griswold family across America to the Walley World amusement park, resulting in hilarious hi-jinks and inevitable disappointment.
Chevy Chase stars as the iconic Clark W. Griswold, the family's patriarch, and Beverly D'Angelo, Anthony Michael Hall, Dana Barron, Imogene Coca, and Randy Quaid play other family members. Candy plays Russ Lasky, a Walley World security guard, in a fun appearance. National Lampoon's Vacation is a brilliantly and confidently performed, hilarious screwball comedy with many great visual gags.
22. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987, directed by John Hughes)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a comedy movie about a marketing executive and shower curtain ring salesman who become unlikely travel companions when their flight gets diverted and share an eventful three-day journey trying to get to Chicago in time for the former's family Thanksgiving Day dinner.
Steve Martin plays Neal Page, the high-strung marketing executive, and Candy plays Del Griffith, the well-meaning but annoying salesman. They make a fantastic duo and perform hilariously. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is Candy's best film because it's perfectly cast, side-splittingly funny, and teeming with heart and warmth.