The Breakfast Club (1985)

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It’s not hard to see just why The Breakfast Club struck a chord with teenagers who embraced it in the mid-1980s. It’s a perfect mix of teenage angst, comedy, some good tunes and a strong dislike of adults who can’t remember what it was like to be young and struggling to find yourself. It also remains the best movie featuring a bunch of people killing time during detention (despite strong competition from films that have been influenced by it, like . . . . . .  Detention).

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The five being detained are wrestler Andrew (Emilio Estevez), carefree rebel John Bender (Judd Nelson), spoilt rich girl Claire (Molly Ringwald), nerdy Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) and silent, and strange, Allison (Ally Sheedy). Paul Gleason plays the authority figure exasperated with the youth of today, and John Kapelos pops up for a few moments in which he reminds everyone that while they may just think of him as the caretaker who wanders by their lives, not making any major impact, he is, in fact, the eyes and ears of the school.

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Writer-director John Hughes really seemed to know his audience when it came to the numerous seminal teen movies that he helped to create in the 1980s, and The Breakfast Club remains the best example to hold up as a movie that absolutely does what it sets out to do for its core audience. Listening to it many years later makes me wonder if it was always so ever-so-slightly clumsy and cliched or if my adult ears are now more cynical than they were in my youth. I suspect it’s a mixture of the two.

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The film is very much an assembly of archetypes, as written/narrated by one of the main characters at both the start and end of the movie, but those archetypes are then, supposedly, twisted. These youngsters don’t want to be viewed as simply a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal, but they don’t really know how else to identify themselves, so they live up to those labels just as much as they want to discard them.

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There are clumsy moments, to be sure, and everything is almost ruined by the awful moment in which Emilio Estevez gets pumped/dances around while stoned, but the cast all do well with what they’re given. Ironically, they all easily fit into roles that they would play more than once in the ’80s. Gleason and Kapelos are great as the two adults who view the kids very differently, but the kids are the stars, of course, and they shine in the many scenes that don’t weigh them down with an overdose of sentimentality.

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I also can’t end this review without mentioning the fact that this is yet another teen movie soundtrack that I still own, and enjoy. The most well-known track may be Don’t You (Forget About Me), by Simple Minds, but there are at least two other great ear-ticklers, one by Karla DeVito and one by Wang Chung. Did they do anything else of note? Not that I know of. But they helped, in their own way, to make The Breakfast Club a fantastic and memorable teen movie, and that’s good enough for me.

WRITER/DIRECTOR: JOHN HUGHES
STARS: JUDD NELSON, EMILIO ESTEVEZ, MOLLY RINGWALD, ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL, ALLY SHEEDY, PAUL GLEASON, JOHN KAPELOS
RUNTIME: 97 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

1 Comment
  1. John Chard says

    Still one of the best movies of the 1980s.

    They only met once, but it changed their lives forever.

    5 kids, all with differing hang-ups, all from differing back grounds, are sentenced to Saturday morning detention at Shermer High School…

    Of all the teen based films that have been made in the modern age, few can match The Breakfast Club’s vibrancy and simplicity of worth. Written by John Hughes in just a couple of weeks, the film has five young actors in one locale, that is driven by dialogue, and for better or worse, managed to tap into the zeitgeist of a whole generation of teenagers. It would be churlish, nay even foolish, to suggest that all within The Breakfast Club is a triumph. For every moment of genuine warmth and poignancy, there is unintentional humour, and in one character make over scene, Hughes is seemingly saying that you should scrub up love as beauty is not in the eye of the beholder!

    Yet Hughes’ film is standing the test of time as a perennial favourite of everyone who wasn’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth. There is something totally engaging watching as the nerd, the weirdo, the princess, the jock and the rebel poke fun at each other to only then pick apart their respective defences. With the final result being something not akin to chest thumping brilliance. Those irritants that were prior in the piece now merely fading pock marks of the teenage zits we simply had to scratch. Not only boosted by one of the finest title songs as Simple Minds belt out Don’t You Forget About Me, The Breakfast Club also contains a fine ensemble cast that infuses a sense of reality in the script. Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson and Anthony Michael Hall are particularly memorable, whilst Emilio Estevez (one excruciating dance sequence aside) and Ally Sheedy work well enough with what they are asked to do.

    Iconic for many, and resonating to even more, who would have thought such a simple picture could have such lasting, and unadulterated appeal? 9/10

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