Movies That Everyone Should See: “The Breakfast Club”

I woke up this morning, and what did I see?

“The Breakfast Club” was on my TV.

                                                     - Fogs

I promise, I won’t expose you to my poetry often, it’s just that sometimes I have something really insightful that I feel will benefit or illuminate everyone, as in the case above.

True story though, pulled up the tv tray, pouring me some cereal and there it was. “The Breakfast Club”. On a premium channel no less, so no commercials. Are you gonna NOT switch to that?? Of course you’re gonna. Plus – I’m eating breakfast, how ironic! So I’m watching it, it’s a little way in, and I guess my newfound perspective as a blogger has me watching it a little more closely than usual.

And you know what? It’s great. I mean, that movie is just great. So so awesome. I felt like I was watching it with fresh eyes, and the greatness of it really just struck me hard.

I know, I know. NEWSFLASH! Right? But, you know, there are people out there who haven’t seen these things, folks! I spent a lot of time this weekend checking out other people’s blogs and… it’s a younger generation out there. There was one kid who said “Jaws” was boring. Man, these movies are getting OLD now. We have to protect these flicks, keep them alive, in the discussion. That’s up to us!

So. Seeing as I was looking for excuses to write-up older movies anyways, I decided I would write this series about Movies That Everyone Should See. If you want to call yourself a film fan, and you haven’t seen one of these flicks, my opinion of you loses points. If you’re a casual viewer and you haven’t watched them, what the hell are you waiting for. These will be the no brainer, mortal lock, absolute shoo-in, first ballot hall of fame type movies that there’s absolutely no excuse for not having seen.

Let’s start here. The Breakfast Club.

The year is 1985. Right smack in the middle of the 1980s. Reagan is President in a second term. The cold war is still on. The Berlin Wall is still up. “We are the World” is released and Live Aid happens. Coke releases New Coke. “The Cosby Show” is the most popular show on television.

Into the mix is a young (34) director named John Hughes, who at this point in time, isn’t really “John Hughes” yet. He’s only got one movie to his credit as a director to this point, “Sixteen Candles”.

For those reading who honestly haven’t seen it (seriously, you’re picking it up this week, right?) “The Breakfast Club” is the story of five high schoolers who are forced to serve detention on a Saturday. The five are seated in the school library and watched over by their angry principal, Richard Vernon (played by Paul Gleason). Vernon assigns them an essay to write, then heads back to his office, occasionally spot-checking back in on them but otherwise leaving the teens to themselves. 

“You’re mine, Bender. For two months, I gotcha. I gotcha.”

The teens begin the day with nothing in common, as each of them come from distinctly different places in the High School strata. But the five bicker, banter, battle and bond and before the day is out, friendships and romances have formed. For a movie that is essentially five actors on a single set with no action and no clear antagonist, this film does an incredible job of engrossing the viewer. How? By setting up clearly defined obstacles to friendship between the individuals, and then slowly breaking them down. It’s like a high school version of “12 Angry Men”. At the beginning, each is set in their ways and opinions, but as the day progresses, the interchanges between them force reconsideration of their positions. Eventually, once the barriers have been broken and the teens have accepted that they can relate to each other after all, the common struggle that they’ve shared to arrive at that point leaves them with a strong bond. They wind up sharing amongst each other in an open and honest environment, revealing feelings and fears that they obviously would have never shared otherwise.

A nerd, a jock, a thug, a weirdo and a princess all shrug off their preconceived notions and respective self images, and for one day at least, become close friends. It’s an amazing thing to behold.

The dialogue in this movie is incredible. Absolutely incredible. The movie’s runtime is listed at 97 minutes. Within that 97 minutes, you could select a random timestamp anywhere you want, and I’ll bet within thirty seconds of playing from that point in the movie you’ll come across a line of dialogue that’s worthy of being someone’s sig line, or a blog’s tagline, or someone’s personal credo in life. I wondered at one point how Hughes was writing such fantastic, authentic teen dialogue when it hit me. He’s not writing for teens, he’s writing about teens. There’s no slang really, they’re not overly abusing teen 80’s speak (trust me, I was there). Sure you’ll come across a “dweeb” or “wastoid” now and then and lots of “totally”s, but essentially the reason we buy into these character’s conversations is what they’re talking about, not how they’re talking.  

And what they’re talking about is universal. I don’t care if you went to high school twenty years ago, now, or twenty years from now. These are issues that existed then, exist now, and will probably exist forever. Bullying, parental pressures, abusive parents, neglectful parents, social stigmatism, cliques, sex, drugs, self-image, teachers… there’s more, too… has any of this stuff changed an iota since 1985? Since 1955? Aren’t there still Benders and Claires out there today? Think the Andrews of the world are talking to the Brians of the world in today’s high school? No. But they did when like, your parents were young, right? Hell no. And that’s one of the elements that lends to the greatness of this film. Everyone experienced this. We all went through it. It should strike a chord with EVERYONE.

Over time, the majority of the credit for this movie has gone to John Hughes. Writer/Director, of course, right? What I’m saying here though is I think this cast gets shortchanged. You almost never hear about how incredible their performances were. Maybe because they were young people playing young people it’s easy to overlook what they did. Perhaps, retroactively, due to the fact that none of them really went on to mega success as adults we write off what they did here, when they were younger. Regardless, each of the five of them turn in exceptional, memorable, praise-worthy performances. Judd Nelson’s John Bender is a character for the ages! How does the actor behind that not get mega-props? Ally Sheedy adds so much to this flick, comedically. Watching it again today, she’s hysterical. In the early part of the movie she doesn’t talk, so her contribution is silent reactions and her timing is great. When she finally opens up, she sells her character’s weirdness by being goofy and off-beat. How about Anthony Michael Hall? It may not be much of a stretch to see him playing a bookworm geek, but he sells it sooo completely. How about when he asks if they’ll all still be friends on Monday? You’re not seeing a little of his soul there? C’mon. Even Emilio gets his moment in the sun. His confession about the bullying incident that landed him in detention will probably never be put alongside Quint’s “Indianapolis” monologue, but it was a first-rate bit of acting, and very moving.

And then there’s America’s Sweetheart, Molly Ringwald.

In the 1980s, America was openly in love with Molly Ringwald. She appeared here, in “Sixteen Candles”, and “Pretty in Pink” and by the time they had all released, she could have enrolled in any high school in America and been elected prom queen that very day. She was beautiful but not threatening, and an incredible actress. Her performances were fearless… I mean… Ok, let me put it this way. It’s HER roles that convinced me that teenaged girls are so self-conscious and vulnerable that AS a teenaged actress, I give her enormous credit for being fearless and bold in her performances and letting the audiences SEE her self-consciousness and vulnerability. It’s a mind-blowing, self-perpetuating, closed circuit of a compliment, but there it is. LOL.

In addition to its dramatic calibre, “The Breakfast Club” is also a very decent comedy. I mean, that’s actually where you’ll find it categorized – in the comedy section. There’s plenty of jokes at each others expense as the characters rag on each other, and it’s really funny watching Bender square off with Vernon at times. Scatter in a couple of musical montages and dance numbers, and the result is a beautiful, perfect counter-balance to what otherwise could have wound up a serious, weighty flick.  

In the end, the writing, the acting and the exploration of universal themes make this movie a movie for the ages. The only thing that’s ever going to go stale about it are the clothes and maybe some of the music. I used to nitpick that Emilio acts like he shot amphetamines instead of smoking marijuana, but that’s like ten seconds in a 90 minute movie. I also used to complain that the Claire/Bender romance was tacked on. But I’ve come to accept it because without it we’d have never had the exchange below:

Bender: Remember how you said your parents use you to get back at each other?
Claire: [nods]
Bender: Wouldn’t I be OUTSTANDING in that capacity?

So now I love this movie wholeheartedly, without exception. It resonated with my generation like no other film except maybe for “Star Wars”. It’s a film that I feel that there’s no excuse for not having seen aside from age. Let’s say…. children below the age of 14 or so are exempt. Other than that, this is a masterpiece that HAS to be a part of everyone’s “Movies I’ve Watched” list.

It’s undeniably a “Movie That Everyone Should See”.

30 thoughts on “Movies That Everyone Should See: “The Breakfast Club”

  1. This one’s in the all-time favorites list for me too. “You’re a neo-maxi zoom Dweebie.” I wish I’d created this film, but I’m glad anyone else did–and especially that it was the genius John Hughes. It’s one of those “important” movies that isn’t narcissistic… just honest.

  2. I love the movie, and it’s one I feel everyone should see as well. And you’re right about these issues still being faced by High School students now. I should know, I am one.

    • Seriously? With that blog? Damnnnn man!

      Anyways, even though you’re young you’re probably going to have seen all of these. If not, make sure you catch them, I’m just gonna hit on movies that are like “You’ve never seen ____ before??” movies

      • I appreciate that, though I doubt I’ve seen all of them. I’ve seen a lot of great stuff, but I constantly find myself thinking about the great looking films I haven’t seen. I’m really looking forward to this series though, should be fun.

  3. Great first pick! I LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie. I saw it in the theater when it first came out and at my perfect age of 17, it struck all the right chords. At that point in my life I hadn’t seen a wide variety of films and I amazed how it was all talking and took place in just one day. I showed it to my own daughter a few years ago and now it’s one of her favorites. I started the opposite on blog. I’ve been watching movies I should have seen by now but slipped through the cracks for whatever reason. I got to be honest though, I thought Jaws was boring when I saw it in 1975. After the opening it really dragged. Maybe it was because I was 7, but I’ve never re-watched it. since.

    • Ohhhhh. Then please. Let me do you a favor. Honest.

      Rewatch Jaws.

      Make it your next movie, because I will bet any amount of money that it will be better than whatever movie you would see otherwise. Seriously, ok?

      I don’t want to ruin Jay’s fun of making a list trying to GUESS which movies I’ll include in this series but it’s a lock – a LOCK – that I do Jaws.

      EDIT: I don’t know if they work for other people or not, but I just realized my avatar is a Jaws poster. Forgot I did that. So, yeah. It’s fave, you could say.

  4. Pingback: Movies That Everyone Should See: The Breakfast Club | UnderScoopFIRE!

  5. I love your blog and this is a very good review. However, I seem to disagree on the merit usually accorded to ‘The Breakfast Club’. I can criticise this film endlessly. Don’t get me wrong. I love 80s films. I love American 80s films. I love American 80s ‘high school’ films, e.g. ‘Heathers’. But I just do not get the American through and through ‘Breakfast Club’. For me ‘The Breakfast Club’ is nothing special, to be piled with ’16 Candles’, ‘The Goonies’ and ‘She’s Having a Baby’. The film has no interesting plot, but contains a lot of profanity and depictions of bad behaviour. I would not describe the film as boring, but rather as very annoying. The character played by Judd Nelson is a bully and a very dominating guy who caused me the greatest annoyance, and I constantly wondered why everyone present at the detention seemed to put up with him for so long. It may be a ‘high school version of 12 Angry Men’ but with no thought-provoking material in it and a lame script. I still fail to grasp how this film can be compared to funny ‘Beetlejuice’, classic ‘Back to the Future’ or romantic ‘Dirty Dancing’.

    • Thanks, I appreciate the compliment. And dissenting opinions are always welcome, so dont be shy!

      It sounds to me from your comment like perhaps you’re not from the US. In which case I might suggest that perhaps there’s a cultural disconnect happening? Because the characters in this movie were extremely authentic to the 80s high school experience. I can attest. I was in high school or there abouts when this movie was released, and I feel like I knew people personally who epitomized these archetypes.

      You’re right, John Bender WAS a bully. But that’s kind of the point. In his arc, he softens and learns to appreciate others, but along the way we’re also given insight into his upbringing and thus we’re prone to become more sympathetic to him as well.

      You mention some other great movies, and perhaps you dont like this one as much as those. But for me, I’m pretty passionate about it. It speaks to me.

      Hope you have a look around, I’ll bet there’s a write up or two lurking about that you’ll agree with. :D

      • I hate to disagree with your about the “cultural disconnect” thing, but I’m from the UK (not US) and this movie spoke to me. True the popularity thing is *less* important over here them in the old US of A High School its still a battle ground.

        I think the OP missed the point of Bender which you touched upon in your reply: it’s not about him being a billy but the reasons why he is that endear us to him.

        I only recently discovered your blog, Fog, and have been trawling through the posts. Your taste in movies is as varied and electric as mine. You’re a true film fan without any of the snobbery that sometimes comes with the title, and I’m happy to say that I’ve seen almost all of the movies on your list :)

      • LOL… dont sweat the spelling, it’s cool, I got it.

        Glad you’re enjoying the posts, Red! Have a look around… I’m still trying to figure out a good way to showcase all the posts I’ve done in this series, make it easier for people to poke around through them…

        Thanks for the compliment, you’ll find snobbery here is not high on the agenda. :D

        Meanwhile, that’s a very good point about Bender. You’re right, audiences love him because they get to pull back the curtain and see what makes him tick. I think that the “Cultural Disconnect” was a shot in the dark, really. A guess. Because I’m pretty much clueless as to why anyone would find this movie overrated… :D

        Thanks again for checking this out!!!! :D

  6. I just stumbled across your BLOG and love it.
    The Breakfast Club is a movie that we just recently watched with our 18 year old son. He had seen it and sort of watched it again(while constantly texting)
    However the true joy was for my my wife and me. The characters are timeless and take us back to when we first saw the movie(multiple viewings). And the dialogue…
    My favorite piece of dialogue will always be “…NeoMax Zoon Dwebe…” which became my dog’s name. I also enjoy Ally Sheedy’s transformation as well as the final freeze frame. So much so that at my daughter’s graduation last year I have a video of one of her rebel friends(he skipped the ceremony only to walk the field after the crowd had left) re-enact the scene on camera.
    As I read through your review I wondered if you have seen “The Way” by Emilio Estevez. I can’t imagine that you have not. If not, check it out. I am hoping that it makes it on to your Must see as well as Under the Radar lists. This movie is clear proof that a jock can grow into a man that knows that “Winning” isn’t what really matters.

    • Sorry Gary, I havent seen “The Way”. I’ll keep an eye out for it though…

      I’m with you, I love this flick. All the dialogue is great, and you’re right, some of the 80s slang is phenomenal. LOL. I think all of the characters are really well done… when I wrote this up, I couldnt get over the fact that the whole movie is just five kids sitting around talking, and they make it into such a fascinating movie.

      Glad you like the blog, thats nice to hear. Hope you’ll poke around and run across some other things you like!! :D

      • Guess I will just have to call you fogs for now. I think you will really enjoy “The Way” and I look forward to reading your review. One other movie that might be interesting to add to must see might be “The Changeling” from 1979( I think) with George C. Scott. It’s one of the last scary house movies that didn’t involve a slasher.
        Keep those reviews coming!

  7. Pingback: Why The Breakfast Club Is Still Relevant | Lori's Inner Goddess

    • Nice! Glad you found it! This was my very first entry in this series… I had just watched it, and knew I needed to write about it. It IS a great movie, and Hughes was something special, too. #GoneTooSoon. :(

      • I know – I think he never really got the recognition he deserved. Some of his later stuff was a bit dodgy but his 80s teen movies are classics. :-) Let’s just hope they NEVER decide to remake this one like they’re planning to do with Weird Science. Grrrr!

    • Thanks Elena! Glad you enjoyed it. I agree, “The Breakfast Club” IS undeniably awesome. Its one of those films that if someone tells you they dont like it, you just feel sorry for them… :(

      Thanks for the nice comment!! :D

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