1,000 Films You Need to See: Entry #5 – The Breakfast Club

A pack of brats
A pack of brats

Entry #5 – The Breakfast Club (1985 – John Hughes)
Running Time: 97 minutes
Main Cast: Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall and Ally Sheedy

We’re fully into the new school year. But don’t worry, even if you get in trouble and have to march to detention on a Saturday, there’s at least a chance that you’ll run into a criminal, a princess, a brain, a jock or a basket case and it might turn out for the best.

The plot is fairly simple, so it shouldn’t take long to recount it here. Five teenagers are sentenced to spend a precious Saturday in detention. The “prisoners” are a wide range of personalities, including John Bender (Nelson) – the rebel, Claire (Ringwald) – the prom queen, Andrew Clark (Estevez) – the athlete, Brian Johnson (Hall) – the brain and Allison (Sheedy) – the basket case. They are presided over by teacher Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason), a hard-nosed man, very qualified to be the detention enforcer. At the beginning of the day they’re given the assignment of writing a paper on “who they think they are”, but it’s pretty much blown off, as the five engage in various arguments and discussions about school life, home life and sex. As the film progresses, the group becomes closer, as they wage a war of words with one another and the reasons for their detention sentences become clear.


Detention? On a Saturday!!? Awww man!!
“Show Dick some respect!”

I can still remember it like it was yesterday – my brother raving about this movie called The Breakfast Club and insisting that I see it. As I’ve mentioned in the past on my blog, most of the movies that would go on to be my all-time favorites were initially shown to me by my big brother. This one is no exception and from the first time I saw it, I fell in love with it. Watching it for what seems like the 100th time again last night made me realize something very important about my own tastes in films and how they’re changing big time as I become an adult. When I was younger, my favorite part of The Breakfast Club was always the first half. That’s the more jovial half, the half that is packed with the most comedy and the half, that as a young person, you can have more fun with. When I was younger, I remember always dreading the second half, because while it was still good, it got more serious and was more dialogue driven and as a youngster, that wasn’t my cup of tea. However, last night, when re-watching, I enjoyed the second half much more than the first half and that’s the part that now really hammers this film home as a true classic. As John Bender, my favorite member of “the club”, sits on the floor with his four cohorts and the five sound off, arguing and sympathizing with one another and realizing that they have much more in common than they initially thought.

Sure, if you want, you can nitpick the hell out of the movie. Personally I think it takes off way too fast. It seems like no more do the beginning credits end and we’re right into the thick of things, focused in on the library, where we’ll spend the next ninety minutes with this group. The ending also gets a little hokey and almost silly, as John & Claire and Andrew & Allison seemingly become a pair of couples and the groundwork for those relationships really isn’t established at all. In fact, Bender and Claire are at each others throats BIG TIME at one point, delivering these lines…

John Bender: Don’t you ever talk about my friends. You don’t know any of my friends. You don’t look at any of my friends. And you certainly wouldn’t condescend to speak to any of my friends. So you just stick to the things you know: shopping, nail polish, your father’s BMW, and your poor, rich drunk mother in the Caribbean.  SHUT UP!
John Bender: And as far as being concerned about what’s gonna happen when you and I walk down the hallways of school together, you can forget it cuz it’s never gonna happen. Just bury your head in the sand and wait for your fuckin’ prom. 
Claire Standish: [Crying] I hate you! 
John Bender:  Yeah? Good!

Things get heated in Act II
Things get heated in Act II

….and the next minute, she’s sneaking into a broom closet, that Vernon locks Bender into and making a move on him. There’s never any explanation as to why these two would want to even be around each other at the end of their detention day. I guess, if we stretch it, we can surmise that maybe the reason that they were at such odds, is because they had a little thing for one another, but that’s probably reading far too into the whole thing. And really, these are just nitpicky things. The film is absolutely brilliant and if you haven’t seen it, then you have a treat to look forward to someday. It’s a film that I can’t imagine anyone not liking, at least a little bit.

The personalities are ones that we all knew when each of us went to school. We all knew people who were represented by someone in this film – I know I did. So it’s a film that is really easy to relate to, even if you don’t necessarily fit into one of the five categories of teenager on display. It’s also an extremely quotable film, with a truckload of memorable scenes and dialogue exchanges and as the cherry on top, it has a pretty kick ass 80s soundtrack.

RATING: 10/10