The Breakfast Club (1985)
The quintessential teenage film that broke barriers and appealed to a generation of people.
The Breakfast Club follows the day-in-the-life of five high school students, who come to Shermer High School on a Saturday because they all have detention. Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald), Andrew Clarke (Emilio Estevez), Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), and John Bender (Judd Nelson) arrive at school at 7:00 a.m. and report to the library to await instructions from the assistant principal Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason). Vernon instructs the students to sit in their seats the entire time, to remain quiet, and to write a 1000-word report on who they think they are. As soon as Vernon leaves, John Bender pesters the other students with his mean-spirited jokes and sarcasm. The initiation of Bender’s remarks leads to a series of disagreements, revealed truths, and self-discovery.
John Hughes, who is known for his classic films (Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Uncle Buck), used his talent of creating realistic teenage characters in his films and making them relatable to teens and adults of the 80s generation. By recruiting the talented Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall—who both worked on Sixteen Candles—to work alongside actors Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, and John Bender, Hughes assembled the perfect cast for this quintessential coming-of-age film.
Like I said before, Hughes’ strongest talent was writing relatable characters. The setup for these characters in the beginning of the film is what grabs our attention and encourages us to learn more about them. When they are dropped off by their parents, we get a feel for who the parents are. Claire’s father, who drives a BMW, seems to spoil Claire to gain her affection; Andrew’s father, who pressures Andrew to stay focused to get an athletic scholarship, sternly tells his son to remain focused on schoolwork and sports; Brian’s mother—who tells him this is the last time he will attend detention—sternly tells Brian to finish his homework before the day is over; Allison’s parent pulls up in front of the school, drops her off, and drives off without saying goodbye; and Bender walks to the school by himself. All of these subtle, short moments tell us that some parents pressure the kids to be successful, while others do not give our young protagonists enough attention and respect. Later on in the film, we discover the characters fall under the stereotypical archetypes: Claire is the princess; Andrew is the jock; Brian is the brain/nerd; Allison is the basket case; and Bender is the felon. However, as the film progresses, their stereotypical personas dissipate and we get to see who they truly are.
Small pieces of information about their characters are revealed throughout the movie. Whenever an altercation between two characters happen, we learn more about them. In the beginning of the film, John Bender—excellently portrayed by Judd Nelson—antagonizes Claire. After a few minutes of Bender dishing his insults to Claire, Andrew steps up to defend her. He tells Bender to leave her alone, which leads to a brief tussle between the two. Nevertheless, Andrew defended Claire when she was being harassed by Bender. Andrew defends the other characters throughout the film, which shows that behind his tough physique, he is a caring person. Another altercation happens later in the film where Bender discusses his home life and Andrew claims that he is making it up. When Bender shows Andrew proof of what he’s talking about (you’ll know it when you see it), we instantly understand how troubled Bender actually is. This small scene reveals to us why Bender acts the way he acts. All of these moments not only entertain us, but also paints pictures of who these characters are.
The most pivotal scene that develops the characters is the scene where the students are in a group circle. In this long sequence, Claire admits she’s a virgin; Andrew comes clean on his reason for being sent to detention; and Brian confesses a dark secret about himself. Not only do the characters reveal hidden secrets about themselves, but they also come to an understanding that they all do have something in common: they don’t want to become their parents.
While the character-building is arguably the best part of the film, the slow pace of the film prevents the film from being a masterpiece. The earlier scenes of the group sitting at their desks—bored, with nothing to do—dampens the energy of the film, which results in the movie feeling static at times. However, Hughes does an amazing job of incorporating well-written dialogue for these characters to say during these slow moments. If any other filmmaker was responsible for this project, he or she would have crafted a film without great dialogue and situational humor that would only leave viewers with a bad taste in their mouths. But thanks to the amazing John Hughes, his film moves along at a good pace, despite a couple of bumps along the way.
The Breakfast Club is a great classic that anyone can relate to. Thanks to John Hughes’ excellent writing, as well as the talented cast, The Breakfast Club is the quintessential 80’s movie about relatable teenagers who deal with the same problems real people experience in their lives.
Rating: 4.6 out of 5
- First image from: Berk Reviews
- Second image from: The Indiependent