Directed by: John Hughes
Written by: John Hughes
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Paul Gleason, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald
Our brains like to categorize things, which in turn makes them palatable and understandable. If it fits into a category, then we know how to react to it. Similarly, it happens in friend groups, which can be seen when spending time in any high school. People form into groups based on common interests or status and that defines where individuals stand amongst their peers. The Breakfast Club unites five individuals who belong to different groups, as they learn about their commonalities.
It’s a Saturday detention where five students find themselves having to sit in the school library for nearly nine hours silently and work on a 1,000-page essay about who they believe themselves to be. We have the princess Claire (Molly Ringwald), the criminal John (Judd Nelson), the athlete Andrew (Emilio Estevez), the basket case Allison (Ally Sheedy), and the brain Brian (Anthony Michael Hall). After initial tension between them all, a friendship begins to form.
Still considered one of the greatest high school films, we have The Breakfast Club, which harbors a simple message but delivers it with such style. The enduring lesson of the film has such a universality, which makes its popularity consistent far after its debut in 1985. As much as students attempt to put themselves into different categories, there will always be something connecting everyone in having some shared experience. It comes with the territory of growing up in the same area and having similarities in demographics. It may be a different story if they had any other non-white person in the space, but with the message that everyone has their issues remains the same.
Each of these characters fit an archetype that allows for people to categorize and find faults with them from being considered uptight, dangerous, unintelligent, nerdy, or weird. No matter their level of popularity, they have to fight off the perception people have of them. Things get incredibly real with these characters as they speak on the issues they face and what they do in order to cope with it. If one were to prescribe the lead of the film, it would have to be John Bender, who closes the story with his iconic fist in the air and becomes the catalyst for each of the other characters to grow. While the others stay in their zone at the beginning, Bender pushes the status quo, which gets the negative attention of the principal.
Speaking of the principal, he serves as the antagonist of the story, as he oversees their day-long detention. He may be in the running for one of the worst educators in school history because he obviously does not care for the development of the students. Frankly, part of me does not blame him, as he needs to spend his Saturday with these students, but his methods certainly do not help the situation at hand. Along with Bender’s quirks, the principal becomes the common enemy for these students, as they try to have some fun without getting caught.
Several scenes of this film have stood the test of time from the dancing to them all sitting on the floor expressing their feelings. The dialogue laid out for them by John Hughes displays him working at his peak as a writer and director. He crafts a strong personality for each of these teenagers and having this strength made him the king of teen comedies in the 80s and 90s. His work in The Breakfast Club brings five teenagers who could barely look at each other in the eye into having an experience they can barely put into words. Unlike many of his other films, his directing matches his exceptional writing with how he frames each shot and emphasizes certain moments in conjunction with the words they speak. He taps into something special with these teenagers, which makes it explicable how so many people relate to them.
The Breakfast Club goes from the hilarious to the deeply dramatic, which becomes believable with the amount of hormones flowing through the library on that Saturday. The film certainly has its aging issues, especially towards the Claire character and the behavior Bender has towards her. It’s certainly an important conversation to be had with all of the films crafted by John Hughes. However, with this film, he succeeds when focusing on these teenagers, their issues, and how it connects them even when it seemed unlikely from the very beginning.