30 Years of The Breakfast Club and why we’re better for it


The Breakfast Club is the sort of movie that doesn’t come along very often.  I wouldn’t even say it’s the sort of movie that comes along as often as once a generation (depending on your definition) – anyway, I think it’s that rare and it’s that good.  This is John Hughes and the Brat Pack’s finest hour, but what makes a movie so stark and static so amazing?  

“Saturday, March 24, 1984. Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois, 60062. Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that we did wrong, what we did was wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are, what do you care? You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at seven o’clock this morning. We were brainwashed.”

There are hardly any movies where the audience can see themselves depicted so clearly in the cast and the actor’s performances that in The Breakfast Club.  Even the principal (Paul Gleason), who you’re supposed to hate, becomes real and identifiable as the movie rolls on.

In the case that you can’t necessarily identify with the characters themselves, the situations themselves are not only what bond the characters together but the real subject of the movie rather than a linear plot.  Issues including peer pressure, parental expectations, stereotypes, sex, abuse, neglect… the movie is really about kids dealing with this issues and the story of kids meeting for an all day detention is just a vehicle to explore these topics.  John Hughes delivers this to us like a master craftsman:  peer pressure and parental expectations (gotta live vicariously through those kids) keep kids apart. Andrew (Emilio Estevez) and Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) especially have a lot in common despite the fact that their parents are pushing them toward athletics and academics (respectively), they’re both facing the same sort of pressure at home.  This is similar to the abuse John experiences:

“Go fetch me a turkey pot pie!”

Meanwhile, Claire (Molly Ringwald) and Allison (Ally Sheedy) both feature different forms of neglect; they’re both trapped in stereotyped roles at school while simultaneously unable to get the attention they need at home as seen in the opening scene; Claire’s dad doesn’t seem to be listening while Allison, who seems to be going to say goodbye to whoever dropped her off is unable to when the car abruptly drives away.

Anyway, that’s just a few examples – the movie is deep, yo.

But it’s also funny; even though John’s impression of life at Brian’s house is cruel, it’s not without humor.  We also get the dance montage, the smoking scene, this:

and this:

and of course, these scenes are not without drama, but they provide much needed levity.

Look, we could sit here and watch scenes from The Breakfast Club all day, but I think we’re aware it’s great, so I’ll move on.

We can’t talk about The Breakfast Club without bringing up the song “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds.  This might have been my prom theme or if not mine, that the year before or the year before that… I can’t remember… the point is, I went to high school in the mid to late nineties, at which point this movie was old and so was the song, but that’s the power of a classic:  it stays relevant forever.

I also want to briefly touch upon the janitor (John Kapelos), who’s a wise old sage of sorts. His brief encounters with the students teach them a “don’t judge a book by its cover” sort of lesson while his more specific analysis of the principal is both insightful to the character and the audience… he’s a peripheral Obi-Won Kenobi, if you will, and I love him.

One thing to keep your eye out for is the hilarious tv edit.  It features such comedic moments of overdubbed profanity and inclusion of terrible deleted scenes that serve no purpose.  (“She’s weird but she’s cool” is my favorite.)  I have seen this movie a million times (quiz me) and if you love this movie the way I do, check out the “Damn you!” fest.  It is glorious!  

I’m sure you’ve seen this movie and you think it’s amazing, but if you’ve watched The Breakfast Club, you need to check this flick out POST HASTE.  If you’re in your teens (or tweens), prepare to see yourself up on screen and if you’re caught up in insurance quotes, bills and scheduling appointments, take a trip back to the time when you’re biggest responsibility was taking out the trash and getting your homework done before the bell.

“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, in 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.”

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of CreativeJamie.com, BomberBanter.com and editor in chief of ComicBookClog.com

Posted on March 16, 2015, in movie review and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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