Film: The Breakfast Club

Brian Johnson: Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us [...] in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain[...]
Andrew Clark: [...] and an athlete [...]
Allison Reynolds: [...] and a basket case [...]
Claire Standish: [...] a princess [...]
John Bender: [...] and a criminal.
Brian Johnson: Does that answer your question? [...] Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.

One of the most defining teen movies, it came to represent the genre and launch the careers of its stars, leading to the Brat Pack. The Breakfast Club follows the journey of five teenagers who have all landed themselves a Saturday detention. The main characters are characterized by their cliques, harassed by angry principal Richard "Dick" Vernon, and aided by Carl, the friendly neighborhood janitor.

The Breakfast Club was a 1985 film written and directed by the late John Hughes, a legend in the teen genre. The five principal actors in the film (Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy) became part of the "Brat Pack", a group of actors whose careers in the 1980s revolved around playing teens in popular movies with each other. This group also included Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy and Demi Moore.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: All of the characters' parents are abusive in different ways. Bender's father is the "traditionally" abusive dad who beats his wife and son, Brian's parents set such high standards that it drives him to potentially attempt suicide (or whatever else he had planned) with the Flare Gun, Allison's completely ignore her, Claire's are about to get divorced and use her to get back at each other, and Andy's father tells him that winning is everything and that if he doesn't win, he's nothing.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • At the beginning of the movie, Andy and Bender can't stand each other, but Andy still cracks up when Bender asks Vernon "Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?"
    • The rest of the students are suitably horrified to learn that Brian is in detention for bringing a gun to school. When he learns it was a flare-gun that went off in Brian's locker, Andy starts laughing. He stops when Brian insists it isn't funny, but then starts laughing again and Brian joins in, admitting it's a bit funny.
    • Similarly, everyone laughs at why Allison is there. She just didn't have anything better to do.
  • Adults Are Useless: A more cynical example than other Hughes films. With the exception of Carl the janitor, the adults in the film are portrayed as apathetic, abusive, and self-absorbed.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Bender goes through the ceiling to get in and out of the closet.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Claire toward Bender, and deliberately invoked by him.
  • Almighty Janitor: Carl, the janitor who catches Vernon snooping through Bender's personal files and blackmails him. And earlier, he notices Bender moving the library clock twenty minutes ahead.
  • Annoying Younger Siblings: Brian has one in the first scene of the movie.
  • Alpha Bitch: Deconstructed with Claire, who both covets and resents the attention she gets and feels extremely burdened by it.
  • Atomic F-Bomb: Bender's epic "FUCK YOU!!" to Vernon.
  • Attention Whore:
    • Bender. He's always insulting somebody (whether it be the principal, the janitor or his peers), and it's obviously for attention. There's also his thorough, speculative impression of Brian's household, and the way he announces it out of nowhere without being asked and just assumes (correctly) they'll all watch.
    • This is Allison's most defining feature, although she never admits to it. Her parents ignore her, so much her behavior seems as if it's both meant to ward people off and draw as much attention as possible to herself. It becomes very apparently midway through the movie, when she starts butting into conversations and all but demanding that people listen to what she has to say.
  • Axes at School: Brian's Flare Gun.
  • The B Grade: Brian gets a low mark in shop class, meaning he can't get the perfect A's he was striving for.
  • Berserk Button: Andy presses Bender's when he accuses him of lying about his abusive home life.
  • Big Eater: Andy, whose packed lunch has enough food to potentially feed all of the Club.
  • Big Man on Campus: Andy, who is trying to emulate his father that demands that Andy always be at the top.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Bender is a protagonist and sympathetic character, but also a relentless bully who steals, vandalizes, and harasses the other students, but also deliberately gets himself in trouble to save everyone else from it. Andrew physically assaulted a nerd. Claire belittles and looks down on other people. Brian comes off as an Insufferable Genius at times. Allison trolls the rest of the group. Vernon is a particularly corrupt and rabid principal, but has hints of a Freudian Excuse. Carl has no qualms with blackmailing Vernon after he catches him looking at confidential files. The parents we see in the beginning are outright dog-kickers. In summation, there are no clear "good guys" in the movie, only varying levels of dysfunction and vice.
  • Black Comedy: It's not as overwhelmingly doom and gloom as the works of Todd Solondz or as delightfully wicked as Heathers, but the film does mix unpleasant subject matter with standard Hughes hijinks.
  • Breakfast Club: The point of the movie is that they all learn they have much more in common with each other than they think, and are much more capable of being friends and understanding each other than they knew.
  • Book Dumb: Bender is unusually articulate and comes off as quite intelligent, despite his school trouble.
  • Book Ends: The opening and closing narration are alternate versions of the letter Brian writes for Vernon (though the opening is only read by Brian, the ending has all five talking).
  • Bottle Movie: Every single hijink that the kids partake in is permanently set within Shermer High.
  • Building of Adventure: The entire movie takes place inside the school or at least on its grounds.
  • Cerebus Callback: Brian talking about how he failed shop because he couldn't make a ceramic elephant, which leads into a bit of joking on the part of the others. A few minutes later when the entire discussion has gone a bit more dramatic, Brian reveals he brought a flare gun to school because he couldn't get the elephant to work, implying he wanted to kill himself. It gets subverted when they all end up laughing about it anyway.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Allison, although it's not apparent how much of it is deliberate.
  • Colonel Bogey March: Whistled by the kids early in the movie as the first sign of them coming together as a group.
  • Color-Coded Characters: The kids' clothes are all a different color; red for Bender, blue for Andy, pink for Claire, green for Brian, and black for Allison. Bender's color is clearer when he removes his jacket, Andy's only gets bluer when he takes off his, and Allison's changes to white after Claire gives her her makeover.
  • Condescending Compassion: Claire's drama partially stems from the fact that her friends pressure her to be unkind to the unpopular kids.
  • Crazy Consumption: Allison lets her soda spill out, and licks it off the table. Then she throws away the baloney from her sandwich, and replaces it with Pixy Stix (powdered candy) and Cap'n Crunch cereal.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than a lot of Hughes's other movies where violence and violent adults are portrayed.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Bender, who also is a superb Silent Snarker. The look he gives Brian when he sticks a pen up his nose is pretty priceless. Andy and Brian develop some snarkiness as well but not nearly to the degree of Bender.
  • Dean Bitterman: Principal Vernon, who as Carl points out, wanted an easy job where children respected him, but couldn't handle the reality and lashed out against the children. At the same time, his mannerisms and facial expressions in many of his individual scenes indicate that he himself doesn't like co-ordinating the gang's Saturday detention.
  • Deconstructed Trope: This film takes a very good look at what many of the "stock" characters of teen movies would be like if they existed in real life, and what their real motivations would be like.
    • Andy, the Jerk Jock, only behaves that way in order to fit in with the rest of the team and to impress his father, who raised him on stories of how he acted like that back when he was in school. He wishes that, one day, he'd get injured so that he wouldn't have to wrestle again, and thus never have to worry about living up to Dad's expectations.
    • Claire, the Alpha Bitch, is a Type A Stepford Smiler who feels that her life is empty, and that her parents only use her as a tool in their endless arguments. And she's hardly the "queen bee" in fact, it's peer pressure that essentially molded her into the snobbish bitch that she is, and she feels miserably forced into it.
    • Brian, the Nerd, hates how his parents have destroyed his social life by pushing him so hard to succeed, and is so obsessed with his grades that he tries to kill himself after getting an F in shop class. His attitude is also little better than that of the "popular" kids that he hates, as shown when he talks about how he took shop class because he thought it was an easy A that only "losers" like Bender took (as opposed to his advanced math classes).
    • Bender, the juvenile delinquent, is like that not because he's a bad person, but as a result of his tough, working-class upbringing and his abusive father, both of which have taught him that violence is an acceptable solution to problems. His badass image is also easily disarmed by Andy, even though he's armed with a knife.
    • Allison, the crazy loner, intentionally acts crazy and theatric in order to get attention, something her parents don't give her. She doesn't bother to hide her blatant thefts and eccentricities, and her withdrawn persona is actually just a ploy to get people to give her more attention without admitting that she craves it.
  • Designated Love Interest: Andy and Allison, Bender and Claire.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Andrew's father in the beginning chastises him not for screwing up, but for getting caught.
  • Drink Order:
    • Playing the trope as straight as can be, all five characters have Coke with their lunch.
    • They also have a variation of the trope their lunches represent their parents (who packed them) as much as it does the kids. Claire has expensive Japanese food that working-class Bender has never even heard of; Andy has a massive lunch loaded with carbs; Brian has a typical "mama's boy" lunch complete with crustless PB&J; Allison has two slices of white bread and a single piece of bologna, which she ditches to make a Pixy Stix and Cap'n Crunch sandwich on Wonder Bread; and Bender, who neither brought a lunch or was made one by his parents, makes out like he's going to forcibly share Brian's, although he doesn't in the end.
  • Drugs Are Good: Bender brings some grass he had stashed in his school locker and the kids (except for Allison) have an eighties montage over smoking it in the school library during detention.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Even the apparently happy and popular students have some serious issues (usually stemming from their parents) that they keep hidden below the surface.
  • Education Mama: Brian's parents are a nasty case of this.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Bender to Brian: "So, what are we having for lunch?" although he never actually eats it.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The movie takes place over a single day (March 24th, 1984, to be specific), starting in the morning as the students arrive, and ending in the late afternoon just after they leave.
  • Female Gaze: While Andy is having an internal conflict about whether to smoke weed or not, the camera is shot from Allison's perspective, who is gazing at his back and, later, when the camera doesn't move, at his crotch.
  • Fist Pump: Bender has his fist in the air, triumphant over the events of the day.
  • Foreign Queasine: Claire's lunch consists of what she calls sushi (actually, it's sashimi, but that common mistake is beside the point). Bender is a bit put off by the thought of eating raw fish.
    John Bender: You won't accept a guy's tongue in your mouth, and you're gonna eat that?
  • Foreshadowing: In the opening montage, one locker is charred black. Presumably it's Brian's.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: According to a picture on the wall, Carl was "Man of the Year" for the class of '69.
  • Freudian Excuse: All the kids have this. A major theme in the movie is how adults can shape their kids for better or worse, intentionally or not. Bender grew up learning how to be tough because his dad beats him, Andrew is driven to compete and bullies another kid because his dad is always pushing him and going off on the wild things he did as a teen, Allison acts like she's nuts for attention because her parents ignore her, Brian is a socially-inept nerd because his parents are always forcing him to study, and Claire is a shallow popular girl because she feels empty inside due to her parents using her as a weapon.
  • Girlfriend in Canada: Brian claims to have a girlfriend living up in Niagara Falls.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: Bender does this in one scene, breaking one door's glass panel in the process.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Allison believes so, saying everyone will end up like their crappy parents.
    Allison: When you grow up, your heart dies.
  • Handy Feet: Allison claims she can write, eat, and play the piano with her toes.
    • In the uncut version of the movie, the only copy of which was on a VHS tape lost after John Hughes' death, this claim was followed with her actually writing with her toes, completely filmed.
  • Held Gaze: Bender and Claire before their kiss.
  • Heroic BSOD: Andy, when talking about the pressure from his Jerk Jock father.
    • And Brian, after Claire tries to excuse her snobbery by crying for a Pity Party.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Bender draws the attention of Vernon after the Club runs into a dead-end during their hallway jaunt, allowing the other four to get back to the library undetected.
  • Hollywood Dress Code: Downplayed; for instance, Brian does not wear glasses to signal that he is a nerd, and Bender does not wear a leather jacket. It has been mentioned on the DVD that they wanted the characters to have some originality from their cliques.
    • The concept of deviation from the stereotypes extends to all the main characters in various ways, not all pertaining to their clothing - Andrew is a wrestler rather than a football player, Claire is a redhead rather than blonde, and Allison, who would otherwise most likely be portrayed as a far more level-headed character compared to the others, is erratic and attention-seeking.
  • I Am What I Am: Claire, Andrew and Brian do it publicly; Allison confesses privately to Andrew; and Bender hides the specifics from the characters, but the audience can easily figure out his situation.
  • I Hit You, You Hit the Ground: "Two hits: Me hitting you, you hitting the floor."
  • Ineffectual Loner: Bender.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Early on in the film, Andrew tells Bender, "You don't even count. You could disappear forever, and it wouldn't make any difference. You might as well not even exist at this school." Later on, when Andrew yells at Bender for his Sarcastic Clapping reaction to Claire's lipstick trick, John replies with "What do you care what I think, anyway? I don't even count ... right? I could disappear forever and it wouldn't make any difference. I might as well not even exist at this school, remember?"
    • "Do I stutter?" also fits this trope.
  • Jerkass:
    • Richard Vernon, of course.
    • John Bender also easily qualifies, but down deep, he's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, once you get beneath the antisocial cynicism of a physically abused kid.
    • The parents. At the very least, the ones we see are very, very selfish people who couldn't care less what they do to their own kids in pursuit of their wants.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: This exchange:
    Brian: I'm in the Math Club, the Latin Club, and the Physics Club.
    Bender: (to Claire) Hey. Cherry. Do you belong to the Physics Club?
    Claire: That's an Academics club.
    Bender: So?
    Claire: (beat) Academic Clubs aren't the same as other kinds of clubs.
    Bender: Ah, but to dorks like him, they are.
  • Jerk Jock: Deconstructed through Andy. He feels like he has to be an asshole and a bully to the weaker students because his father expects that behavior out of him. When he plays a humiliating and painful prank on another kid, he feels terrible about it afterward, but his dad is only upset that he got caught. Before revealing why he's in detention he is possibly the kindest of the characters, sticking up for Claire and Brian when Bender picks on them, showing real concern for Alison when she is upset and even regrets accusing John of lying about his abuse and he sees how angry it made him.
  • Kick the Dog: Andy to Bender, although we don't know Bender is the dog until it happens.
    Claire: You shouldn't have said that.
    Andy: How was I supposed to know? He lies about everything anyway!
  • Last Name Basis: See how everyone keeps saying "Bender" rather than "John"?
  • Locked in a Room: Locked In A Schoolroom.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Allison.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Claire is one deep down.
  • The Makeover: Used for Allison.
  • Meaningful Name: Vernon's first name is "Dick".
    • Brian is an anagram of brain. John Bender bends/breaks rules.
  • Mood Whiplash: After a Tear Jerker of a story told by Brian about bringing a gun to school, the revelation that it was a flare gun and that it went off in his locker gets everybody laughing.
  • Most Writers Are Adults: The five main characters, in many ways, talk and act more like adults than teenagers.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Bender. He puts out an image of toughness but Andy is able to take him down with ease. Even when Bender pulls a knife and casually talks about killing Andy, he's slowly backing away from the fight. Confirmed when Principal Vernon challenges Bender to a fight, asking repeatedly for Bender to throw the first punch, while he just sits there looking like a scared puppy.
    • The scene with Bender and Vernon is debatable: Vernon wanted to be able to claim Bender had assaulted him, and Bender knew it. Hell, Vernon had literally just pointed out that no one would take Bender's word over his; his plan was obvious.
      • Also, given Bender's upbringing, him getting into anykind of altercation with Andy would just result in him having to deal with his father the minute he finds out and thats something he doesn't want to deal with.
  • Minimalist Cast: There are only seven characters in the entire movie.
  • Not So Different: The five students slowly come to realize this about each other over the course of the movie. Andy's rant about his obsessive and borderline abusive father makes Brian cry and Bender remark that their fathers should get together and go bowling.
  • Orphaned Punchline: Inverted with Bender's "naked lady" joke. (It doesn't have a punchline, Judd Nelson ad-libbed it).
  • Panty Shot: When Bender hides under Claire's desk. Shoved right in your face, too.
  • Parental Substitute: Claire implies her older brother to serve this role for her when asked which parent she would choose to live with if her parents finally divorce.
  • Precision F-Strike: Brian's response to Claire about social pressure.
  • Reality Ensues: The shot of Bender crawling atop a drop ceiling will make anybody familiar with construction or engineering groan a bit, another example of that cliche...then he falls right through it.
  • Rule of Symbolism: This film is almost entirely dialogue. It takes place in a Library. Libraries are collections of words - just like dialogue. But you won't perceive any of the words in a library unless you seek them out - like the character's thoughts.
  • Sarcastic Clapping: "That was great, Claire. My image of you is totally blown."
  • Self-Proclaimed Liar: Allison.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Brian and Andy's reaction to Allison's makeover.
  • Shop Class: Brian takes it because he thinks it'll be an easy "A". That didn't turn out to be the case, however.
  • Six Student Clique: Minus the sixth student, but it's really close.
    • The Head: Bender
    • The Muscle: Andy
    • The Quirk/The Smart One: Brian
    • The Pretty One: Claire
    • The Wild One: Allison
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Claire and Bender.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: This is as cynical as it gets for a Hughes film.
  • Speech-Centric Work: For the majority of the running time it's just the five characters sitting around talking.
  • Stage Mom: Andrew's dad was a male example.
    Andrew: (imitating his dad): "Andrew, you've got to be NUMBER ONE! I won't tolerate any losers in this family! WIN, WIN, WIN!" (cries)
  • Sticky Fingers: Allison.
  • Stoners Are Funny: The teens when they smoke the weed Bender retrieves from his locker.
  • Sucky School: Eight hour detentions on Saturday is just one of the many things wrong here.
  • Sweet Tooth: Allison. Mmm, pixie stick sandwiches...
  • The Unreveal: Did the kids remain friends, or did they drift back into their respective cliques when they had to go back to school? The movie ends as they're going home after detention, leaving the question open-ended.
    • The discussion they have near the end suggests that, come Monday, everything is going back to Status Quo, and no, they won't still be friends.
      Claire: "Oh, be honest, Andy... if Brian came walking up to you in the hall on Monday, what would you do? I mean picture this, you're there with all the sports. I know exactly what you'd do, you'd say hi to him and when he left you'd cut him all up so your friends wouldn't think you really liked him!"
      • And yet at the same time, it suggests that it doesn't mean that. It's that vague.
  • Uptown Girl: Claire and Bender.
  • Vanity License Plate: The front license plate on the car of Brian's mom has Einstein's theory of relativity. Make of that what you will.
  • Villainous BSOD: After Andy hits Bender's Berserk Button, Bender flips out, ape-flings himself up a statue and some railings, and cowers alone in an emotional heap.
  • We Need a Distraction:
    • Bender's presence in the library getting hidden from Vernon by the other kids via redirecting questions and obnoxious coughing.
    • Earlier, Bender provides a distraction so the rest of the group can get back to the library without Vernon noticing them.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Andy, who's pressured to be just like his dad.
  • "YEAH!" Shot: Bender, at the end.