The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club is a 1985 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film written, produced, and directed by John Hughes, starring Emilio Estevez, Paul Gleason, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy. The storyline follows five teenagers, each members of different high school cliques, who spend a Saturday in detention together and come to realize that they are all more than their respective stereotypes, while facing a strict disciplinarian.
The plot follows five students at fictional Shermer High School in the widely used John Hughes setting of Shermer, Illinois (a fictitious suburb of Chicago based on Hughes' hometown of Northbrook, Illinois), as they report for Saturday detention on March 24, 1984. While not complete strangers, the five are all from different cliques or social groups: John Bender (Judd Nelson) "The Criminal"; Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) "The Princess"; Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) "The Brain"; Andy Clark (Emilio Estévez) "The Athlete"; and Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) "The Basket Case". The school's disciplinary principal, Mr. Vernon, gives them all an assignment; they will write an essay about "who you think you are" and the violations they committed to end up in Saturday detention.
They pass the hours in a variety of ways: they dance, harass each other, tell stories, fight, smoke marijuana, and talk about a variety of subjects. Gradually they open up to each other and reveal their secrets, for example, Allison is a compulsive liar, and Brian and Claire are ashamed of their virginity and Andy got in trouble because of his overbearing father. They also discover that they all have strained relationships with their parents and are afraid of making the same mistakes as the adults around them. However, despite these evolving friendships, they're afraid that once the detention is over, they will return to their respective cliques and never speak to each other again.
In the end, some of their more hidden character traits emerge: Claire emerges as a natural leader. Bender develops a softer attitude and becomes more friendly with everyone. Claire even kisses him and it seems the two will try a romantic relationship. Andrew becomes interested in Allison after she allows Claire to give her a makeover.
At Claire's request and the consensus of the group, Brian agrees to write the essay Mr. Vernon assigned earlier, which challenges Mr. Vernon and his preconceived judgments about all of them. While Brian accedes, instead of writing about the actual topic, he writes a very motivating letter that is in essence, the main point of the story. He signs the essay "The Breakfast Club", and leaves it on the table for Mr. Vernon to read when they leave. There are two versions of this letter, one read at the beginning and one at the end, and they differ slightly; illustrating the shift in the students' judgments of one another, and their realization that they truly have things in common. The beginning of the letter is as follows:
"Dear Mr. Vernon:
We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain... ...and an athlete... ...and a basket case... ...a princess... ...and a criminal.
Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.
The letter is the focal point of the film, as it demonstrates and illustrates the changes the students undergo during the course of the day; their attitudes and perspectives have changed and are now completely different. The movie ends as the characters leave detention. The final shot shows Bender walking near the goal post of the football field, freezing as he raises his hand triumphantly and fading to a dark frame as the credits roll.
Why It Rocks
- The movie presents a clever and well-written story focused on teenage stereotypes sharing a Saturday detention and discussing their miserable home lives in a very emotional and relatable way.
- The film makes a story about detention less boring and more entertaining.
- Very touching and well-handled messages.
- The song, Don't You (Forget About Me) fits the opening and closing sequences very well, and the song itself is unforgettable.
- Heartwarming and memorable scenes.
- Top-notch acting.
- Despite the amusing characters, their behavior is very poor and unacceptable, and they also have bad habits as a result of them landing in detention, even though they improve their ways as the movie progresses.
- The film was set to be filmmaker John Hughes’ directorial debut. He optioned the script to A&M Films in 1982 and agreed to make the movie for $1 million, limiting production to a single location with an ensemble cast. However, the project was put on hold and Hughes wrote four feature films in 1982 and 1984 – including what would become his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles – before eventually revisiting The Breakfast Club.
- The film was originally titled Detention, but John Hughes changed the name after he heard a friend’s teenage son refer to his school’s morning detention class as “The Breakfast Club.”
- With the commercial success of Mr. Mom – for which he’d written the script – John Hughes was offered a three-year, $30 million contract with Universal Pictures. Producer Ned Tanen, who had recently left his presidency at Universal, agreed to absorb The Breakfast Club into the deal on condition that Sixteen Candles be released first.
- John Cusack was initially cast as John Bender, but when production was delayed for Sixteen Candles, Cusack was replaced by Judd Nelson. At that time, Molly Ringwald, who was originally slated to play Allison Reynolds, insisted on taking on the role of Claire Standish instead, and the part of Allison went to Ally Sheedy.
- Principal photography for this film took place at the abandoned Maine North High School in Des Plaines, IL. The school’s gymnasium was used as a soundstage for construction of the film’s central location – a two-story library – as well as the principal’s office. The high school also housed editing facilities, a screening room and production offices.
- Set decorator Jennifer Polito made six movies with John Hughes. The Breakfast Club marked her second production with the filmmaker.
- The film was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress’s Nation Film Registry in 2016.
- This film was made for a budget of $1 million but earned over $50 million worldwide at the box office. It was re-released in over 400 theaters on its 30th anniversary in 2015.