This 1980s classic is one of the quintessential films from the legendary John Hughes thanks to its eclectic cast of characters.
On a Saturday morning at Shermer High School, five very different high school students have come for detention and have to spend the next nine hours in the library. This particular group consists of the prissy Claire Standish, wrestling star Andrew Clark, the nerdy Brian Johnson, the very strange Allison Reynolds, and the rebel John Bender. Vice Principal Richard Vernon has given the kids an assignment. They are to write an essay with one simple question to answer. Who they think they are?
At first, the five show their different personality traits. As the day goes on, Bender tends to annoy both Vernon and the others, eventually getting to the point where Andrew threatens to knock the bad boy out. However, when Vernon forces Bender into the janitor closet for his behavior for the rest of the day, Bender sneaks back in the library and the group slowly begins to realize that maybe they aren’t as different as they seem to be. They soon begin to bond and learn much more about each other. Eventually, these five go from very different people to perhaps a group of friends who may need to rely on each other come Monday.
The late John Hughes, one of the 80’s most famous filmmakers when it comes to teen films, has come up with one of the best stories and iconic films of the decade with this film of five very different people who learn about each other and become closer than they ever imagined. In an age where there would be clichés in schools, with the jocks hanging together and the cheerleaders and the nerds, Hughes took this idea and brought one of each type of character together to show that despite their different “classes”, they can be friends if they really wanted to.
The cast is nothing short of amazing. The focus of the film features the likes of Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, who became two of Hughes’ iconic stars with Sixteen Candles a year before; Judd Nelson in the role of bad boy John Bender; Emilio Estevez as wrestling star Andrew Clark; and Ally Sheedy as the very eccentric Allison Reynolds, who doesn’t talk until a third of the film has run. Nelson, Estevez, and Sheedy would work together on the coming of age film St. Elmo’s Fire released the same years. Nelson ad-libbed some of his lines and while that made Hughes an unhappy man, for some reason, it does help Nelson personify the character. The cast has such natural chemistry that it may remind viewers of what they may have gone through in high school or maybe what they will see when it comes to school.
Paul Gleason even is wonders as vice principal Vernon, who has a beef with Bender for his actions past and present. A classic scene involves Bender finally going off on Vernon, which in turn would influence the iconic animated character Bart Simpson with three simple words: eat my shorts. The viewer can’t help but feel for these characters, yes, including Bender when he reveals why he acts the way he does. During a scene where the group smokes a joint, Brian and Bender sees Claire cough, leading Brian to say a line that makes even Bender crack up, showing a more softer side to his tough guy persona.
However, the film does have its dramatic elements that make you sympathize with each character. When it’s revealed why some of these characters are in detention, in the case of two particular characters, it does bring a sense of seriousness and makes you feel bad for the characters. And it’s clear that for the most part, the others feel the same way, which brings this group closer than ever. Despite a sense of reluctance from Claire, who at first admits that come Monday things may not change, it is Bender’s blunt intervention that maybe gives Claire a sense of reality that their personalities doesn’t have to constantly break them apart.
The film itself would be influenced in many ways. For instance, the original poster for the 1986 horror sequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 features the Sawyer family posing as the characters from this very film. The “eat my shorts” scene would be spoofed in the teen comedy spoof film Not Another Teen Movie in 2001 with Gleason returning to the role and Cody McMains emulating his best Bender impression. An episode of the Canadian teen series Degrassi: The Next Generation paid homage to this very film.
The Breakfast Club is one of the most iconic teen films of the 1980s. In an age where there was no raunchiness or fart jokes, this is a film that solidifies high school. Five separate people become close and it takes a full day of knowing about each other to eventually become friends. This is one film that must be seen by everyone.
WFG RATING: A+
Universal Pictures presents an A&M Films production. Director: John Hughes. Producers: John Hughes and Ned Tanen. Writer: John Hughes. Cinematography: Thomas Del Ruth. Editing: Dede Allen.
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Paul Gleason, John Kapelos.