Director John Hughes, shown in 1994, died Thursday at 59. ((Associated Press))

John Hughes, the American film director behind The Breakfast Club and other seminal works of the teen-film canon of the 1980s, as well as the screenplay for Home Alone, has died in New York. He was 59.

He died Thursday of a heart attack while on a morning walk, according to his spokeswoman, Michelle Bega. He was in Manhattan visiting family.

Hughes began his comedy career as a writer for National Lampoon magazine, and his first successful screenplay was National Lampoon's Vacation in 1983.

As a director, he made a string of hit, teen-oriented films in the 1980s, including The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

His greatest commercial success was Home Alone, the 1990 film he wrote about a child left home alone by accident who foils a pair of inept burglars.

Directed by Chris Columbus and starring Macaulay Culkin, it was the top-grossing film of the  year.

Hughes was born Feb. 18, 1950, in Lansing, Mich., and moved with his family to Chicago at the age of 13. Chicago and Michigan often figure in his movies.

He loved the Three Stooges and hoped to bring that kind of slapstick to his movies.

Hughes began his education at Arizona State University but dropped out after a year to become an ad copywriter. He also wrote short stories and jokes for comedians.

In 1979, he was hired as an editor at National Lampoon, which had had a recent success with Animal House. That was his in as a screenwriter, and he wrote Class Reunion and Mr. Mom for the magazine's film program before having a hit with National Lampoon's Vacation.

In this period, Hughes became interested in making better-quality films aimed at teens.

Sixteen Candles starred Molly Ringwald as the teen whose sweet sixteen birthday is overshadowed by her sister's wedding. Ringwald went on to star in The Breakfast Club, which launched the careers of other actors who came to be known as the "brat pack," including Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez and Judd Nelson.


Matthew Broderick in a scene from the 1986 John Hughes film Ferris Bueller's Day Off. ((Paramount Pictures/Canadian Press))

For many people who were teens in the 1980s, Hughes set a mood that was both painful and funny, mixing philosophy, insight and comedy. Chicago film critic Roger Ebert dubbed him "the philosopher of adolescence" for his portrayal of teen angst.

Ferris Bueller, which he wrote and directed, was one of the most successful teen films ever made.

Hughes then wrote and produced Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful before switching to adult films with Planes, Trains and Automobiles, starring Steve Martin and  John Candy. Candy also starred in his Uncle Buck.

His work in the 1990s was not as successful, but he did write Beethoven and 101 Dalmatians and produced Baby's Day Out and 2001's New Port South.

In 1994, Hughes retired from the public eye and moved to Wisconsin, rarely giving interviews.

Under the pseudonym Edmond Dantes, a name taken from The Count of Monte Christo, he also wrote Maid in Manhattan.

He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Nancy, two sons and four grandchildren.