My Favorite Movies – The Breakfast Club (1985)

30 Apr

By Tanner Smith

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” -Atticus Finch, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“We think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us–in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions.” -Brian Johnson, “The Breakfast Club.”

High school–what a time. It doesn’t matter how popular you were because you were just as confused and messed up as the rest of us. And the reason we still get movies about the high-school experience even today is because we all still need them–those currently in high school can find something to latch onto and those out of high school are reassured it wasn’t a great time for anybody.

And we have the late John Hughes to thank for it. He wasn’t the first filmmaker to reenact the high-school experience on film–but he was definitely the key influencer, bringing it into the mainstream and reminding movie audiences that, yes, teenagers are people too.

After scoring a big hit with the teen comedy “Sixteen Candles” in 1984, Hughes was able to make something a little more mature and quiet for his next project, which would be “The Breakfast Club.”

Little did he know it’d be arguably his most popular film. EVERYONE saw “The Breakfast Club,” and more importantly, everyone connected with it. And people still love it even to this day.

It was even a major influence on me–my favorite films to make are indie dramedies, and “The Breakfast Club” is an indie dramedy…in spirit. (It was already made for a big studio, so it wasn’t like “Napoleon Dynamite” or anything like that.) Conversation-driven, character-piece, slice-of-life? I’ve just described a bunch of modern indie films…and “The Breakfast Club.”

Like I need to describe the film’s plot to anybody. Five high-school students spend a Saturday in detention together, they’re all very different (a brain, a jock, a recluse, a bad boy, and a beauty), and by the end of the day, they’ve expressed themselves to each other in ways they couldn’t to anybody else.

And that’s about it. This was a cut above the sex and booze-filled antics of the teen films released prior (there are drugs in “The Breakfast Club,” but it’s only pot), and Hughes just let his characters talk and relate to one another. What resulted was something that was perceptive and emotionally true. It’s also funny in how frank and honest it is in these interactions–that’s how the best dramedies are: come for the humor, stay for the drama.

As a result, “The Breakfast Club” is always watchable and consistently entertaining.

It’s also just a great idea to bring in members of five different cliques together and humanize them like this. I get the feeling the dialogue practically wrote itself when Hughes wrote the screenplay. (Hughes is best known for turning out a script in one weekend. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was one of those.)

My favorite character has always been Allison, played wonderfully by Ally Sheedy. Her story’s as sad as the others’, but she also scores many of the biggest laughs in the movie. (Second favorite is Bender (Judd Nelson).)

And uh…yeah, some scenes are a little…problematic…I’ll neither deny nor ignore it. To say it was a different time isn’t really an excuse. I’ll direct you to Molly RIngwald’s New Yorker essay about it.

I still really enjoy “The Breakfast Club.” Great characters, great moments…and one of the greatest movie endings ever. When Bender walks along the football field and lets out a silent cheer while thrusting his fist in the air, what is he celebrating? Getting the girl? Sticking it to the vice principal? Whatever the case…it was a good day.

Last thing I’ll say is…man, is the TV version of this movie pretty lame. “Flip you!” “Oh my Lord.” “DAMN YOU!” I mean, come on, that’s just hilarious.

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