5 Phenomenal John Candy Characters


It’s really hard to believe, but it has been 25 years since the late great John Candy passed away. I have and will always have a soft spot in my heart for Candy. He hit the big screen and rose to his peak during my youth. In other words I grew up watching his films and his lovable assortment of characters. Today we are looking at five of his best roles. As always I wouldn’t call this the definitive list, but there’s no denying that these five John Candy characters are nothing short of phenomenal.

#5 – Harry Crumb (“Who’s Harry Crumb”)


Okay, I fully admit to there being a sentimental tug deep within me to put this film on the list. I’ll be the first to admit it’s not a great movie and some of the gags will leave you cringing. But Candy also delivers some big laughs playing a bumbling private investigator ineptly trying to solve a kidnapping case. When he’s tapping into that classic Candy personality, Harry Crumb is at his best.

#4 – Chet Ripley (“The Great Outdoors”)


In this John Hughes ‘summer vacation gone wrong’ movie Candy and his family rent out a cabin at a lake resort only to have it crashed by his obnoxious brother-in-law Roman (played by Dan Aykroyd). Candy’s Chet is the film’s lovable punching bag which is something Candy could do in his sleep. Chet is goodhearted but gets caught up in trying to one-up the annoying Roman. Some good laughs follow.

#3 – Gus Polinski (“Home Alone”)


While John Candy had numerous starring roles, some of his memorable characters can be found in small supporting parts. Take Gus Polinski in “Home Alone”. I still crack up every time I hear Gus introduce himself as “The Polka King of the Midwest”. And don’t forget his band the Kenosha Kickers. “Very big in Sheboygan.” This is signature Candy – awkward, lovable, and genuinely hilarious.

#2 – Buck Russell (“Uncle Buck”)


I mean come on, Buck Russell had to be included, right? This is John Candy fully tapping into what made him such a fun and enjoyable actor. Desperate and out of options, Buck’s brother and sister-in-law reluctantly ask him to watch their three kids who he has barely met. He hits it off with the youngest two but not so much with the rebellious teenaged daughter. Turns out Buck is willing but ill-equipped for keeping kids which makes for some of Candy’s very best movie moments.

#1 – Del Griffith (“Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”)


Of the several great collaborations Candy had with John Hughes it’s hard to find one that tops “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”. In it Candy plays Del Griffith, a happy-go-lucky shower curtain ring salesman (of course). He repeatedly crosses paths with Steve Martin’s Neal who just wants to get home for Thanksgiving. Del is the talkative, ever-positive optimist and the perfect burr in Neal’s saddle. I think it’s Candy’s best character and his best performance.

So what are your thoughts on the late John Candy? Agree or disagree with my list? I would love to hear your picks in the comments section below.


John Candy (1950-1994)

34 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal John Candy Characters

  1. He seemed to be such a great guy and all 5 movies are fondly remembered and still watched. Truly a huge loss because I could see him growing into a very good character actor and would have loved to see what he would have done .A great Canadian icon.

  2. I haven’t seen Harry Crumb. I like a couple of his supporting roles – Stripes and Volunteers (Tom Tuttle from Tacoma Washington). He is quite good in Planes Trains etc.

    • I did almost put Stripes. I really like him as Ox. Did you ever see Splash? He has a good role there. Oh, and of course his role in Vacation. So many…

      • I saw Splash so long ago I can’t remember many details. Candy as a spoiled older brother I think. Seems like they use to play a commercial of him hitting a raquet ball off the wall and back into his head.

  3. I know this movie has got arguably several characters better than his (hard to believe, but that’s Mel Brooks for ya) — but I’d throw in his Barf from Spaceballs too.

    Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a worthy selection for #1. I only got around to that fairly recently but instantly fell in love with it.

    • Funny you mention Spaceballs. I have a Retro Review written for it. Gotta get it posted.

      Planes, Trains is a real rib-splitter for me. He and Martin have the best comic chemistry. Have you seen Uncle Buck?

      • Keith, I’m admitting something to you right now I really shouldn’t. Of this list I have seen only Planes Trains & Automobiles 😕

      • Haha! Yeah, but honestly I didn’t realize that was John Candy until fairly recently. I do enjoy the guy in what few things I have seen him in but clearly I have some work to do before I call myself a true fan. If being a completionist is how we measure true fandom. 🙂

      • I wouldn’t recommend going for the completionist medal. While I love Candy, he had a few stinkers that are pretty tough to watch.

    • Yes! A shout-out for Uncle Buck. Cindy I can’t tell you how many times my brother and I watched Uncle Buck growing up. So many scenes are etched into my memory.

  4. Trains, planes and automobiles is an awesome film. Such a great performance and showed he was a great actor. The emotion he showed in his speech where “I like who I am” is so moving. Showed he could do funny and sad.

    • Oh man, that speech is heart-wrenching. It did indeed show off his acting chops. But it was also amazing how he could shift from comedy to drama. I think he was a better actor that some think and many times better than his material.

  5. John Candy is an actor I grew up on as a kid and was a joy to watch no what film he’s in. You can’t go wrong with any of the roles he’s in. For me,

    1. Uncle Buck
    2. Planes, Trains, & Automobiles
    3. Spaceballs (“Always when I’m eating!”)
    4. Stripes (I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hit you!)
    5. Summer Rental

    He was a staple for me growing up and I was really sad when he died only for things to get crazier when Kurt Cobain died a month later. I still have love for Candy no matter what kind of film he does. He can be funny but he also had the chops to do drama. He had a lot more to offer. Plus, he always came off as a cool guy. I read a story yesterday on Twitter where he was making Only the Lonely and found out that Maureen O’Hara (who was playing his mother) wasn’t given a trailer and he was upset about it. He would give her his trailer but the producers were like “no” and he threatened to walk out if she didn’t get her trailer.

    What a great man and yes, Maureen O’Hara is a fucking legend and he knew that. She deserved to have her own trailer or a big one with all of her co-stars. We don’t really have that kind of generosity these days. Candy is and always will be a true legend in cinema.

    • What a great story. I hadn’t heard that about O’Hara. Yet that sounds exactly like what you would expect him to be like. I love that you mentioned Summer Rental. I like that one too.

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