The Breakfast Club
directed by John Hughes
(Universal, 1985)

The Breakfast Club is probably the archetypal movie of the 1980s, at least that of the youth in America. It is an indelible part of cultural history and remains as fresh and brash as ever today.

While teenagers can certainly not be broken down into five distinct types, the five students forced to spend their Saturday at school in detention do a pretty good job of covering the basics. You have Claire, the popular prom queen type, played by the wonderful Molly Ringwald; the jock (Emilio Estevez); the brain (Anthony Michael Hall); the weirdo (Alley Sheedy); and the disrespectful criminal (Judd Nelson) -- five students who are complete strangers to each other and totally different personalities.

Terrorizing and threatening them is the principal (Paul Gleason), who is intent on enforcing discipline among them. The criminal is determined to foment an insurrection, and eventually the strict supervision of the students breaks down. At first, the students yell at and fight with one another and are especially antagonistic toward the juvenile delinquent among them. As the day progresses, the students begin to tell their own stories -- who they are, why they are in detention, etc. Their conversations weave back and forth between insults and incriminations and words of sympathy and concern. They eventually start roaming the school halls, leading to the classic scenes of them skidding across the halls in a mad flight to return to the library before the principal returns to check on them. Somehow, the five eventually do open up to each other, confessing secrets, forming friendships and realizing that the problems they considered their own are shared to some degree with each other.

This is a great movie and one that appealed directly to young people -- everyone can understand problems with overbearing or neglectful parents, grades, peer pressure, drugs, etc. I must say that I sometimes felt the changes between hateful exchanges and sympathetic dialogue came a little abruptly, though; I for one never saw any redeeming quality in Judd Nelson's character. I also couldn't believe some of the destruction that was done to school property over the course of the day. Anthony Michael Hall was brilliant in his role and provided some very funny moments, but I as a former brain did not see much of myself in him.

The real point of the film, though, is that teenagers all have problems they must deal with, that the folks not in your little group or clique are just as human as you are and worthy of respect, and that adults seemingly just cannot understand their kids for the most part, and that very fact only heightens the need for teenagers to depend on one another.

I should also mention the music. "Don't You Forget About Me" by Simple Minds was perhaps the most-played song of the entire decade, and it is rightly associated forever with this movie. Also, whenever you hear the famous whistling tune from this movie (and we've all heard it countless times since 1985, a fact which by itself demonstrates the much-deserved popularity of this movie over the years), you will not forget about The Breakfast Club.

by Daniel Jolley
3 September 2005

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