How many kids who grew up in the ’80s can say that they didn’t see The Breakfast Club? Some, perhaps, but if you went to a suburban high school, or are attending one now, then you can surely relate to this movie.
The story takes place at the fictitious Shermer High School, a common setting in John Hughes films, according to The Internet Movie Database. Five students are all given detention, and though they’ve met one another before, they are all from vastly different social cliques. There is John Bender (Judd Nelson), a.k.a. “The Criminal”; Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald), a.k.a. “The Princess”; Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), a.k.a. “The Brain”; Andy Clark (Emilio Estevez), a.k.a. “The Athlete”; and last but not least, Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), a.k.a. “The Basket Case”.
At the beginning, they basically hate one another, and cannot see beyond their social stereotypes. However, because they are forced to spend the entire day together, the students begin to realize that they are more similar than anyone suspects.
A film professor once said, “The poetry of film is image, image, image!” The Breakfast Club illustrates this quite well; just take a look at such scenes as the moment when the students all open their lunches. The dainty and ladylike Claire has sushi, neatly packed into a little Tupperware container; to top it off, she eats with chopsticks. Andy, on the other hand, literally has “all that and a bag of chips.” Allison has a can of Coke, which she drinks by bending down and sucking it from the can opening, as well as a ham sandwich, from which she tosses the meat. To top it off, she empties a bunch of Pixie Stix onto the bread, and combines it with some sort of cereal (like Smacks).
As telling as this moment may be, once the students begin to share some of their deepest secrets, they are shocked by many of the truths revealed. To the others, for example, Bender merely likes to play up his “bad boy” image as a means of getting attention. Nevertheless, he proves his story about living in an abusive household by showing the students a burn left on his arm by his father.
The most peculiar character, at the beginning at least, seems to be Allison; by the end, however, it appears that much of this is a facade. So, too, do the other students let their defenses down in the presence of their peers, once they are no longer afraid of what the others think. Their revelations, today, may not seem earth-shattering, but to a teen, that may not be the case.
Just as The Breakfast Club is memorable for its portrayal of high school and its breakdown of cliques, it is rife with great quotes that are etched in moviegoers’ minds. The scene where Richard Vernon, the Dean, says “You may not talk, you will not move from these seats. Any questions?” and Bender responds, “Yeah. Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?” should be in the Movie Quote Hall of Fame, if it hasn’t been written there already.
The film’s soundtrack, too, has its place in viewers’ minds, particularly the song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds. Because of the impact it made in The Breakfast Club, it has shown up on other “teen movie” soundtracks, such as the notorious American Pie.
While its sense of style and dialogue may seem dated now, the themes that have made it popular still remain intact. After all, don’t adults, in a sense, have their cliques? What would happen if we all broke them down?
The Breakfast Club does a wonderful job of answering that question.