The Breakfast Club (1985)
August 14, 2022 11:40 AM - Subscribe

Five high school students from different walks of life endure a Saturday detention under a power-hungry principal. The disparate group includes rebel John (Judd Nelson) princess Claire (Molly Ringwald), outcast Allison (Ally Sheedy), brainy Brian (Anthony Michael Hall), and Andrew the jock (Emilio Estévez). Each has a chance to tell his or her story, making the others see them a little differently -- and when the day ends, they question whether school will ever be the same.

Written and directed by John Hughes.

89% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on AMC+ and Peacock Premium. Also available for digital rental on multiple outlets. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (17 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
When I was a professor, one of my student's favorite movies was this. (Mind you he was born in the late 90s.) One day I walked into my classroom and he had written the Breakfast Club essay on my chalkboard. I thought it was fantastic and, of course, none of my other students understood so we had a quick talk about the movie and the message of it. (This was an expository writing class so I could easily weave it into my class plan for the day.)

It's a credit that this film, for the most part, still holds up when I find so many other films from this time period painful to watch. (Averts eyes from 16 Candles.)
posted by miss-lapin at 2:58 PM on August 14, 2022 [7 favorites]

One of the thoughts I had while watching this movie is how rigid the lines were.

I don't know if it was a universal experience, but growing up in that era, the division between the sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads was was very strict.
You picked your people (or had them picked for you) and that was your school experience.

These days, around my neck of the woods anyway, the kids seem more tolerant of coloring outside the lines. A jock who plays Magic the Gathering, a nerd who is also a popular kid, there seems to be more blurring of the boundaries.

Sure, teenagers will always find a way to separate themselves, but somehow it seems more flexible.

I don't know if I have a point, other than that this is a great movie, and somehow brings to mind an atmosphere of my childhood in a way that lot of other movies of the era don't.
posted by madajb at 3:58 PM on August 14, 2022 [15 favorites]

Here is Molly Ringwald performing the unofficial theme song, 33 years later.
posted by How the runs scored at 8:25 PM on August 14, 2022 [5 favorites]

I still love that Ally Sheedy's character shakes her dandruff onto her art as snow. Love that they had her not just be a little odd but ultimately just a pretty, quiet girl in black - that was weird and a little gross and it really stuck with me that they let the character go there.

I like to think that Ally Sheedy wore the conventionally-pretty-girl disguise for about two hours then said "hah!", threw the headband in a dumpster, and never put on makeup again.
I actually had a pretty girl offer me a "weird girl with potential" makeover in high school once, in earnest, no insult intended that I could detect. She seemed to genuinely think she could make me beautiful if only I'd let her. I didn't take her up on it.
posted by potrzebie at 10:38 PM on August 14, 2022 [7 favorites]

Yeah, if anything in the movie didn’t land in 1985 and has not improved in 37 years, it is Allison’s makeover from intriguing goth to Barbie doll. I was a high school student in 1985 and I knew fellow students much like the Before and After versions of her and the passing years have borne out my suspicions: the ones who were like Allison Pre- turned into gallery owners and world travellers and the Allison Post- ones went into real estate and became mommy bloggers.

My favourite thing about the behind-the-scenes stuff is that as I understand it, it was filmed in a disused high school, so the hallways and offices and such we see are exactly that, but the school library was not sufficient to the needs of the production: thus, the library is a set built in the school gym. It must be damned odd for viewers who actually attended that school before its closure to watch.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:51 AM on August 15, 2022 [7 favorites]

These days, around my neck of the woods anyway, the kids seem more tolerant of coloring outside the lines. A jock who plays Magic the Gathering, a nerd who is also a popular kid, there seems to be more blurring of the boundaries.

Sure, teenagers will always find a way to separate themselves, but somehow it seems more flexible.

The increased tolerance you describe here matches my experience (graduating from a US high school in 2008), and the sense I have is that this effect has only increased throughout the Gen Z high school era. I'm definitely a fan of The Breakfast Club, but the experience it portrays is a bit foreign to me for that reason. There have been some modern movies that assumed these strict divisions persisted, e.g. to some extent Mean Girls, which although I thought was great, seemed a little dated on release day because of this, IMO.

The first movie I remember seeing which seemed to capture this cultural change adroitly was (perhaps surprisingly) 21 Jump Street, which has a pretty great scene early on establishing that Hill / Tatum's characters' assumptions about high school social dynamics are way off.
posted by Expecto Cilantro at 5:13 AM on August 15, 2022 [5 favorites]

My high school group would have been some intersection of the outcasts and the brains, I guess, although we were really just a bunch of guys who didn't date, for the most part, and were into cult movies, British rock, Doctor Who, comics, and just hanging around with each other. Even at the time that this came out, I recognized that it really wasn't realistic, but more aspirational; Hughes seems to be wishing, on behalf of the audience, that these kids would realize that they had more in common than not, if they'd only, you know, just talk to each other, damnit! Seventies-style encounter group goals transplanted to eighties teens.

And I've spoken many times before about how I don't like Judd Nelson's character at all--in the FF post right before this one, in fact--and can only accept him as some middle-class kid who's cosplaying a Greaser from The Outsiders to piss off his parents; if any high school kid ever really brought a switchblade to school, it would have been decades before. My school had actual gang members in it, and any one of them would have taken Bender in a fight without breaking a sweat on their way to a real fight. On the other hand, I got a crush on Ally Sheedy's character pre-makeover.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:17 AM on August 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

My late-90's high school experience was that the boundaries were pretty foggy except for the rich preppy snobs, who were quite certain that they were better than everybody else but really had no social cachet outside themselves. Can you really be an elite if everybody else is laughing at you?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:08 AM on August 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Doesn't Judd Nelson's character do some creepy things to Molly Ringwald's, like looking up her dress, etc.? Don't remember, it has been a while.

But yeah, my students (often fresh out of high school college students) don't seem to divide into these rigid classes anymore.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:23 AM on August 15, 2022

Yeah at one point Nelson is under a table trying to stick his face up Ringwald's dress, which seems pretty straightforwardly like sexual assault to me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:57 AM on August 15, 2022

He does do some creepy things, which is why I added "for the most part" and the reference to 16 Candles. 80s movies are chock full of rape, sexual assault, stalking, and harassment being presented as romantic ways to get into a relationship. While the Breakfast Club has some content like that, it's comparatively mild.
posted by miss-lapin at 12:06 PM on August 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Pretty sure that this has already been discussed on the blue, but it bears reposting in the context of this move and this conversation: Molly Ringwald in the New Yorker, discussing Hughes' movies and her roles in them. (The above-mentioned scene comes up early.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:11 PM on August 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

And now I feel awful.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:50 PM on August 15, 2022

if any high school kid ever really brought a switchblade to school, it would have been decades before.
I had a switchblade pulled on me in high school in 1981. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the only one in the school. And it was a school in a pretty bland middle-class Austin, TX neighborhood.
posted by Tabitha Someday at 7:15 PM on August 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Looks like Texas has more liberal knife laws than Illinois. (I went to high school at about the same time as you, in Chicago.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:52 PM on August 15, 2022

My take on the underwear story is that John had broken out of solitary confinement and was hiding from the teacher when he ducked under the table. The thing that gets me is that Claire was wearing a rather long skirt that went well below the knees so he would have first had to get that skirt up above her knees and spread them apart and even still then it would be too dark to see anything. It just doesn't work. It's played on screen like he just turned his head and there it was and brushed up against her knee or something. It would only really even come close to working if she was wearing a shorter skirt.

I already had my crush on Ally Sheedy from War Games. TBC would been in the spring of my sophomore year.

As the the cliques, my school might have had a few, but not really even back then. It was a one middle school, one high school town of about 16k. There just weren't enough people around for anything more than the three or four friends who had been friends since elementary school or were neighbors or went to the same church or something. Out of my other three weirdos, two of us were the diving team, one dated a rich girl, a giggle of cheerleaders drafted me to take one of them to the prom, the John like character was senior year class president. Pretty much once you had a car of a friend with a car and went to the 7-11 to find something to do over the weekend.... no drama. Glad to hear that more school is more like this today.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:53 PM on August 15, 2022

Imma quote myself from a 2016 Metafilter comment:

"(Asst. Principal) Vernon is terrifying when you're a kid, because he starts as a familiar, kind of ridiculous authority figure but as the movie goes on we see that he is not playing by the grown-up rules and he's actually dangerous. He's a sadistic bully, with all the power of an adult.

"Then you grow up and he's still a scary SOB, but he also becomes kind of pitiful. How miserable does a man have to be, to get off on frightening a teenage boy like that?

"Vernon definitely fits that thing about how when you grow up, your heart dies. The janitor doesn't seem like he's lost his heart, but he's definitely lost hope. Both guys are pretty sad representatives of adulthood.

"I was John Bender for a couple of years in my teens. I wasn't trying to ape the guy, but looking back I can see that was totally me, with the comebacks and the flannel and the knife in my pocket and the stupid hair in my face. (Well, I was kind of the nerd and the weird girl too. But I sure wasn't the jock or the princess.) I grew up to be a drag queen, among other things. My heart didn't die. Sometimes I kind of wish it would already."

A lot of John Hughes movies leave me cold, but wow, do I love this one. It's more than just a movie to me, it's a time capsule. But I totally see the problematic aspects now. The "kooky girl gets a preppy makeover" thing was really weird and wrong, and then Hughes did that shit again with Annie Potts in Pretty in Pink! The underwear scene... ugh, what can I say? It felt kind of sexy and naughty in 1985, there were titters in the theater, but holy shit does it hit differently now.

Hughes was really perceptive about women and girls, but at the same time he had a lot of anger and some really fucked-up ideas. I have my own little theories about the guy (He wrote a few things that ping loudly on my trans-radar) but that's a whole post in itself. Years ago I got on a kick where I was buying early 70s National Lampoons from the local comics shop discount bins. Those things were fascinating artifacts, and Hughes wrote a lot for them. One thing that jumped out at me was that a lot of those Chicago boomer comedy guys were surprisingly empathetic about women, up to a point, but then they'd turn it into a rape joke or something awful. There was a lot of stuff like the panty scene here, where you're really getting to know this girl and she feels complicated and real, and then suddenly it's, Har-har, we saw her panties. That's the soil Hughes grew from, with empathetic feminism all stirred up with othering misogyny in this really confusing, disturbing way.

Halloween Jack, like I said earlier I was John Bender, and I also knew plenty of freaks/burnouts who were quite Bender-esque. Broken, angry, wise-ass kids who carried switchblades and talked shit to the jocks but couldn't throw a punch to save our lives. In my case I was in furious denial about being trans but a lot of my friends had dads who'd put out cigarettes on their arms and shit. You may not like Bender but that kid was real.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:36 PM on August 16, 2022 [6 favorites]

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