If ever there was a movie that was synonymous with the 80’s, it is definitely this movie. I mean, you have some of the biggest names from the Brat Pack all in one movie, with high school being the sole focus. The fact that it is a John Hughes movie makes it even that much more of an 80’s icon. I remember seeing this movie on TV years ago as a kid and not really getting much of what was being said. I would then see it again years later in the mid-late 90’s and it seriously resonated with me a lot more. I had recorded a later showing of The Breakfast Club on TV but due to the editing for television, I decided to go buy a VHS copy of the movie and would later upgrade it to DVD. Not hard to say that this is one of my favorite movies from the 80’s, but does it still hold up?
The plot: On Saturday March 24th, 1984, 5 students (Pampered rich girl Claire Standish, champion wrestler Andrew Clark, geeky Brian Johnson, juvenile delinquent John Bender, and shy outcast Allison Reynolds) make their way to Shermer High School in Shermer, Illinois to serve out there detention in Saturday school. Once they all assemble in the library, Assistant Principal Richard Vernon enters and tells them that they will be there until 3 in the afternoon, they will not leave their seats, they are not to talk or sleep, specifically calling out Bender for that. He then hands them all paper and pencils and tells them that he wants them to write a 1,000 word essay describing who they are. Warning them that his office is right across the hall, Vernon leaves the room, leaving the door open so that he can keep an ear out for them acting up, but has soon as he does, Bender starts harassing Andrew and Claire while picking on Brian. When Vernon leaves his office to use the restroom, Bender gets up and disables the door so that it won’t stay open. Andrew, Brian, and Claire all argue with Bender to fix the door but he refuses, just as Vernon returns and sees the door closed. Vernon heads inside and questions them about the door but though he knows Bender did something to it, the others choose not to rat him out. Vernon attempts to prop the door open with a chair and when that doesn’t work, has Andrew help him push a magazine rack in front of it to hold it open but when Bender points out it is a fire hazard, Vernon tells Andrew to put the rack back. Vernon then approaches Bender and asks him where the screw from the door is and when Bender mocks him instead, Vernon gives him another week of Saturday school. Bender continues to taunt and push Vernon, despite Claire telling him to stop, until Vernon gives him 8 more weeks of Saturday school before finally walking back to his office. The 5 kids continue sitting in the library and boredom quickly sets in, causing them to fall asleep until Vernon wakes them to go use the restroom. Returning to the library, Bender starts ripping up a book, while Andrew asks Claire if she is going to go to a party that night. When Claire says it depends on which of her parents says no, Bender asks her which one she likes better. Claire says that she doesn’t think either one of them really cares about her, prompting Allison, who had been silent up to this point, to loudly exclaim “Hah!”, and as everyone stares in shock at Allison, Claire tells her to shut up. Bender continues messing with people, questioning Andrew about his relationship with his parents and teasing Brian about his. After everyone learns Brian’s name, Claire asks Bender what his name is but he asks her for hers and when she tells him, he starts teasing her that it is a “fat girl’s name”. Bender then starts taunting her on if she is a virgin and how far she has gone with a boy. When Andrew tells him to stop, the two get into it briefly, with Andrew putting Bender in a hammerlock and forcing him to the ground. When Andrew lets him up, Bender taunts him by saying he doesn’t want to get into a fight with him because he would kill him, pulling out a switchblade to emphasize his point, and Andrew tells him to leave Claire alone. Later, Vernon tells the kids it’s time for lunch and sends Andrew and Allison to get some sodas for them to drink. As they are walking down the hall, Andrew attempts to start a conversation with Allison and she asks him why he is there, to which Andrew tells her but Allison doesn’t believe him. Back in the library, Bender is continuing to taunt Claire, comparing her to Brian as far as being a virgin. Brian tells Bender he isn’t a virgin, saying he slept with a girl from Canada and then motions to Claire when Bender asks if he did it with anyone locally. When Bender loudly says Claire’s name, she asks what they are talking about and Bender tells her. Claire tells Andrew she is disappointed in him but when he says he didn’t want Bender to pick on him for being a virgin, she tells him she doesn’t think it is a bad thing to be a virgin. After Andrew and Allison return and everyone starts eating their lunch, Bender continues teasing Claire and Brian, eventually deciding to do an impression of how he feels life at Brian’s house is. Andrew laughs at first but seeing the look on Brian’s face, he asks Bender about his own home and Bender fulfills his request, depicting his life as being in an abusive household. Andrew doesn’t believe Bender, prompting Bender to show him a burn mark on his arm, saying that was what he got for spilling paint in the garage, then rages out before climbing up the stairs and sitting with his back to the others, while Claire admonishes Andrew for what he did. When Vernon leaves his office after spilling coffee on himself and his desk, Bender uses the opportunity to go to his locker, followed by the others, and retrieve his stash of pot. As they head back to the library, they see Vernon walking ahead of them and quickly turn around and try to find another way back before Vernon gets there. Andrew and Bender argue over which way to go, with Andrew saying they are done following Bender and convincing Brian and Claire to go with him. Allison and Bender follow as well but when they end up trapped, Bender decides to sacrifice himself, as he didn’t want the others to be punished for simply following him. He shoves his pot down Brian’s pants, then goes running down the halls yelling out, luring Vernon away from the others and after him. Vernon catches up to Bender in the gym and takes him back to the library to gather his things, telling the others that they will have to do without Bender for the rest of the day. Vernon takes Bender into a supply closet and then threatens to beat the crap out of him when Bender gets out of high school, then tries to goad Bender into hitting him so he can go ahead and beat him then and there but Bender doesn’t do anything. After Vernon locks the door and heads to the restroom, Bender climbs through the air ducts back to the library but ends up crashing through the ceiling, shocking the others. When an enraged Vernon enters the library to find out what the noise was, the others choose not to rat out Bender, who is hiding under Claire’s table teasing her. After Vernon leaves, Claire slaps Bender as he comes up from under the table, as he had stuck his head up her skirt while he was under there. Bender then heads over to Brian and asks for his pot, then heads towards the back of the library to smoke it. Andrew tries to talk them out of it but Claire and Brian head back there as well, then Andrew decides to go back as well. After Brian, Andrew, Claire, and Bender all smoke some pot, Claire and Bender are sitting around discussing relationships while Andrew and Brian are joking around. Allison joins Brian and Andrew, where she reveals that she had stolen Brian’s wallet, then dumps out the contents of her bag. When they question why she has so much stuff in her bag, she tells them her home life is unsatisfying and she might run away, then refuses to say any more about it, getting angry when they press her. When Andrew approaches her alone, she yells at him to leave her alone and when he starts to walk off, she chastises him for doing whatever anyone asked him. The two talk some more about their problems and Allison reveals that her parents simply ignore her. Meanwhile, Vernon had gone down to the basement and is going over some of the faculty files when he is confronted by Carl, the janitor. The two end up talking about how the kids treat him and how scared he is for the future and what the kids will be like as adults. Back in the library, the kids are sitting around discussing things, with Andrew telling them that he was there for taping a student’s butt cheeks together while Brian had brought a flare gun to school to kill himself, as he had received a failing grade in shop, but it had gone off in his locker, while Allison, who is shown to be a compulsive liar and a kleptomaniac, says she simply had nothing better to do. As they are talking, Brian asks what will happen to them all on Monday, wondering if they will go back to ignoring each other and staying in their own social circles or if they will acknowledge their burgeoning friendship, and whether they will end up like their parents when they get older. After having some fun for a while, Bender crawls back through the air ducts into the supply closet. In the library, Claire and the others convince Brian to write the essay for all of them, then Claire pulls Allison aside and fixes her hair and applies some make up to her. The changed Allison hesitantly approaches Andrew, who she has developed feelings for and he tells her he likes the change, as he can see her face instead of it being hidden behind all of her hair. Meanwhile, Claire sneaks into the supply closet to talk with Bender, giving him a hickey before she heads back. The kids all leave, with Allison kissing Andrew before they get in their respective parent’s cars, while Claire gives Bender one of her diamond earrings, then they kiss before she leaves. Bender puts the earring in his ear, then leaves the school grounds while inside, Vernon reads the essay that Brian wrote for all of them, which is signed “The Breakfast Club”.
The Breakfast Club was well received by the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “The Breakfast Club is a warm, insightful, and very funny look into the inner lives of teenagers.” The movie’s theme song, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” was originally written with the intention of Billy Idol to sing it but he passed on it, though he would eventually cover it as a bonus track on his Greatest Hits CD that was released in 2001. The song would later be pitched to Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders but she also passed, though she suggested they offer it to Simple Minds, which was fronted by her husband at the time. The Breakfast Club was a box office smash hit, earning $51.5 million off of a $1 million budget, and would be selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2016.
Don’t care what anyone thinks, I still love this movie. This is still a great movie and still holds up over the years. The acting was great, with Judd Nelson (Bender), Molly Ringwald (Claire), Emilio Estevez (Andrew), Ally Sheedy (Allison), and Anthony Michael Hall (Brian) all doing fantastic jobs in their roles. All 5 of them seemed to put a lot of realism into their characters, made even more effective as many of their lines were ad-libbed, especially during the scene where they were discussing what they did to end up in Saturday school. I also loved Paul Gleason, as his portrayal of Vernon is probably one of the most iconic roles he had and one of the characters that is most parodied in other movies and different media. The story was great, not going your usual teenage drama that Hughes is known for but taking a little darker, and deeper look into the pressures that high school students face; from school, their parents and home life, and their various social circles. This is part of the reason why this movie still holds up because these issues and pressures still exist in schools today. The drama had a lot of realism to it while the bits of comedy were interspersed well enough to keep it from becoming too dark or depressing. A great movie and one that I will watch any time it comes on TV.
Rating: 5 out of 5