Andrew Clark: ... and an athlete ...
Allison Reynolds: ... and a basketcase ...
Claire Standish: ... a princess ...
John Bender: ... and a criminal.
Brian Johnson: Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.
Of all the teen movies to come out of the 1980s, this was the one that ultimately defined the era and blazed the trail which, along with Sixteen Candles, would lead to the true formation of the Brat Pack. The Breakfast Club follows the journey of five teenagers who have all landed themselves a Saturday detention at their high school. During the course of the day, they are characterized by their cliques, harassed by angry vice principal Richard "Dick" Vernon, and aided by friendly school janitor Carl... all while coming to learn a little something about themselves, and each other.
Released in 1985, this dramedy film was written and directed by John Hughes, a legend in the teen movie genre. Its five principal actors — Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy — would become 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.
Don't you... [synth riff] forget about me... (and these tropes):
- Actually Pretty Funny:
- At the beginning of the movie, Andy and Bender can't stand each other, but Andy still contains his smile when Bender asks Vernon "Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?" and later cracks up when Bender tells Vernon that his dope can't be on fire because it's in Brian's underwear.
- 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.
- Alliterative Name: Larry Lester, the kid whose buttocks Andy taped together.
- All-Stereotype Cast: Deconstructed. Each of the students in detention fulfills a high school stereotype of The '80s: specifically, jocks, brainiacs, princesses, criminals, and basket cases — and yet is about showing how they're much more than those stereotypes, what kinds of background would turn someone into these stereotypes, and how these societal expectations affect them as people.
- Angry Dance: Andrew does this. Oddly enough, it's his reaction to getting stoned.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Andy repeatedly tries to ask Allison why she's in detention while they're getting drinks for the group. She isn't fazed, and turns the same question back on him, to which Andy tellingly is unable to answer.
- Artistic License – Engineering: Subverted. 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.
- Atomic F-Bomb: Bender's epic "FUCK YOU!!" to Vernon.
- Axes at School: Brian's Flare Gun.
- Big "SHUT UP!": Claire delivers two of these towards Bender. First when he teases her about the lipstick trick (it doesn't actually work to shut him up), and again when he tears into her for her Brutal Honesty that none of the teenagers will remain as friends after respective detentions.
- Bittersweet Ending: The teens leave detention resolving to make sure they never become their parents and coming to accept one another. But they still have to return home to abusive and/or neglectful parents, and it's left ambiguous whether they'll remain friends or not.
- Black-and-Gray Morality: No one is particularly innocent in this film.
- Book Ends: The opening and closing narration are alternate versions of the Epilogue Letter Brian writes for Vernon (though the opening is only read by Brian, the ending has all five talking). Also the song "Don't You (Forget About Me)" is playing during the opening and closing scene.
- Bottle Episode: Movie example. Every single hijink that the kids partake in is set within Shermer High, and mostly within the library. Only a handful of scenes take place in other rooms, or in front of the school.
- Breakfast Club: The Trope Namer. 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.
- Building of Adventure: The entire movie takes place inside the school or at least on its grounds.
- Cacophony Cover Up: The kids cough, bang on the tables, and make sound effects to cover the noise Bender is making as he tries to crawl under the library tables back to his seat without the principal realizing he's not following the rule about staying seated at all times during detention.
- Central Theme: There is more to human beings than meets the eye.
- Cerebus Call-Back: 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.
- City People Eat Sushi: Rich Alpha Bitch Claire eats sushi for lunch and Bender, a delinquent from a lower class background, thinks it's disgusting.
- Clock Tampering: We are never shown anyone turning the hands of the clock forward, just that Carl notices that someone (most likely Bender) has done it, as he casually mentions the clock is 20 minutes fast.
- The collective groans of the group, however, might indicate that Bender didn't do it — at least not that day, or the others would have seen him.
- Cold Reading: Allison reveals details about Brian which look like she is a psychic. Then she reveals that she just went through his wallet (though this is really hot reading).
- Colonel Bogey March: Whistled by the kids early in the movie as the first sign of them coming together as a group.
- Bender seamlessly transitions into Beethoven's Fifth when Vernon enters the room.
- 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 a makeover.
- Comedic Sociopathy: We really, really shouldn't be laughing at some of this.
- Crazy Consumption: Allison lets her soda spill out, and licks it off the table. Then she throws away the bologna from her sandwich and replaces it with Pixy Stix (powdered candy) and Cap'n Crunch cereal.
- Creator Cameo: John Hughes plays Brian's father at the end.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: When Bender and Andy are about to fight (with the latter letting him know how one-sided it would be), the former dismisses him and tries to strike the first blow...only to be quickly taken down by his opponent, a talented school wrestler.
- Darker and Edgier: Than a lot of Hughes's other movies, to the point that those familiar with Hughes's lighter fare are often appalled by how grim and cynical the film is.
- Deadpan Snarker:
- Bender is the biggest example, who is also a superb Silent Snarker. The look he gives Brian when he sticks a pen up his nose is pretty priceless.
- Andy, Claire, and Brian develop some snarkiness as well, but not nearly to the degree of Bender.
- Allison probably dominates the nonverbal territory of this, though she's no slouch when she actually speaks.
- Carl, the school's janitor, is enough of one to shut Bender up.
- Deconstructed Character Archetype: 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.
- Desk Sweep of Rage: Bender wipes a desk clean during a rage montage after coming clean about his Parental Abuse to the other members of the group.
- Detention Episode: The movie takes place in a Saturday detention. This is where the club is formed.
- Do Wrong, Right: Andrew's father in the beginning chastises him not for screwing up, but for getting caught.
- 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.
- Enemy Eats Your Lunch: Bender to Brian: "So, what are we having for lunch?" although he never actually eats it.
- Epilogue Letter: Excerpts from Brian's essay are voiced out over the opening and closing scene.
- 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.
- Failed Attempt at Drama: Vernon tells the group in a stern tone that he will not be made a fool of. Then he walks out with the toilet seat cover sticking out the backside of his pants.
- 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.
- Finale Title Drop: The essay read at the end is signed "Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club"
- 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.
- Girlfriend in Canada: Brian claims to have a girlfriend living up in Niagara Falls, in addition to having had sex with several other girls. When pressed, he admits he made the whole thing up because he's embarrassed to admit he's a virgin.
- Glass-Shattering Sound: Andrew 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.
- Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: We see a picture of 1969 Carl as the school's "Man of the Year" with a full head of hair.
- Held Gaze: Bender and Claire have a few of these throughout the movie, including one before their kiss.
- Heroic BSoD: Andy, when talking about the pressure from his Jerk Jock father. This eventually breaks down towards the end of his monologue, and he starts sobbing and shouting his words.
- 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.
- 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."
- Implied Love Interest: Early in the film Bender asks Andy and Claire if they are dating and even asks them if they've had sex yet — which prompts the first real outburst of emotion from either of them. At the start of the film, it does appear as though Andy is showing interest in Claire (later it's implied that their friendliness — which is mostly just willingness to make eye contact — is more due to the fact that they know each other at least a little through their social circles). Fairly quickly, however, Bender and Claire, and later on Andy and Allison, begin showing (increasingly larger and more frequent) signs of interest in one another.
- Improv: The scene in which all characters sit in a circle on the floor in the library and tell stories about why they were in detention was not scripted. Writer and Director John Hughes told them all to ad-lib.
- 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.
- Jaded Washout: Most of the adults qualify.
- Vernon got into an education career as a means of gaining easy respect and money, but years of being kicked around by the students in his charge have really gotten to him. By the time the film begins, he only does the bare minimum of what's expected of him and outright admits to Carl he doesn't care what the kids think of him as long as he gets an easy paycheck.
- Carl himself is an interesting variant. He was once the Man of the Year in 1969, and had aspirations of being "John Lennon", implying he wanted to be a musician. He's now working a wage-slave job as a janitor at the very high school he graduated. Unlike Vernon, however, he actually displays a stronger work ethic and doesn't pass judgment on the kids. And considering the kind of work required of janitors at schools, especially one of that size, he is probably paid quite well for his trouble.
- Andy's dad is heavily implied to be a former Jerk Jock who didn't really get anywhere in life as a result of his loutish behavior, and consequently is trying to force his son into the life he himself never lived. He seems stuck in a self-constructed time warp to the days where he could bully whoever he wanted and not face the consequences, utterly failing to wrap his head around the reality that his son doesn't want to become a Fratbro dick like him.
- Of the all of the Club members, Brian and Andy seem to be on their way to becoming this after high school.
- 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.
Claire: (beat) Academic Clubs aren't the same as other kinds of clubs.
Bender: Ah, but to dorks like him, they are.
- While he's antagonistic and unnecessarily harsh, and while it's doubtful that Vernon has any deep concern for what ultimately happens to Bender (or any of the others for that matter), most of Vernon's comments to Bender, at least until he locks Bender in the storage closet, could be taken this way.
- Kafka Komedy: The story of Brian's life.
- 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!
- In the opening scene, the parents do everything they can to show us what worthless human beings they are.
- Andy to Bender, although we don't know Bender is the dog until it happens.
- Last-Name Basis: Everyone apart from Claire calls him "Bender".
- Like an Old Married Couple: Bender and Claire's constant fighting make them looking like a divorcing couple, which is interesting as Claire's main source of angst is her parents' virtually inevitable divorce.
- Locked in a Room: Locked In A Schoolroom.
- Later, Bender is locked in a storage closet.
- The Makeover: Used for Allison.
- Meaningful Name:
- Vernon's first name is "Dick".
- Brian is an anagram of brain.
- John Bender bends/breaks rules.
- Claire Standish is standoffish.
- And finally, Andrew is Greek for "manly and strong."
- 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. When Dick taunts him and begs him to take the first shot, Bender remains frozen with what looks like terror.
- There's the argument that Vernon wanted to be able to claim Bender had assaulted him, and Bender knew it so didn't rise to the bait. Hell, Vernon had literally just pointed out that no one would take Bender's word over his; his plan was obvious. The fear on Bender's face seems to negate this a little.
- Also, given Bender's upbringing, him getting into any kind of altercation with Andy would just result in him having to deal with his father (who burns him with a cigar just for spilling paint in the garage) the minute he finds out.
- Minimalist Cast: There are only eleven characters in the entire movie, and four of them appear only in the first scene.
- Minor with Fake I.D.: Andrew finds out Brian has a fake ID. Brian claims it's so he can vote.
- Monochrome Casting: All characters are Caucasian.
- 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.
- Never My Fault: After Bender steals the screw that is holding the library door open, Vernon orders Andrew to help him move a magazine rack in front of the door to hold it open, only for Bender to point out that it's a potential fire hazard. Then Vernon turns around and gets mad at Andrew for engaging in such an embarrassing, risky idea, in spite of the fact that it was actually his own idea and which the boy only did since he commanded him to do it in the first place.
- No Antagonist: While the characters' parents are the main reason why each of them is screwed-up and Principal Vernon isn't exactly nice to them (especially Bender), the true conflict of the story is what the kids struggle with in their personal life, school life, and whatever their life will be like in the future.
- Non-Indicative Name: The movie doesn't involve breakfast. The term "breakfast club" was originally a metaphor for morning detention.
- "Not So Different" Remark: 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.
- Oh, Crap!:
- All five of them when they’re on the way back to the library and they see Vernon.
- Brian when Bender tells Vernon his marijuana is in Brian’s underwear. Luckily for him, Vernon thinks Bender is being sarcastic.
- One Free Hit: Vernon offers Bender one when he challenges him in the storage closet. Bender doesn't take the bait, being possibly too smart and definitely too scared.
- Orphaned Setup: Bender's "naked lady" joke. (It doesn't have a punchline, Judd Nelson ad-libbed it). The closest thing to a punchline is when he falls through the ceiling and declares he forgot his pencil.
- Painful Adhesive Removal: Discussed as the reason Andrew is in detention with the others; he hazed one of his wrestling teammates by taping the poor bastard's ass shut. He thought it was a harmless prank but removing the tape took off some of the guy's skin and hair with it. All Andrew can think about is what it must have felt like to tell his parents about it.
- Precision F-Strike: Brian's response to Claire about social pressure.
- Product Placement: Coke cans are in focus during the lunch scene.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Bender delivers one to Claire:Bender: YOU ARE A BITCH!!
Claire: Why? Cause I'm telling the truth? That makes me a bitch?!
Bender: No, cause you know how shitty that is to do to someone! You don't got the balls to stand up to your friends and tell them that you're gonna like who you wanna like!
Claire: Okay, what about you you hypocrite?! Why don't you take Allison to one of your heavy metal vomit parties, or take Brian out to the parking lot at lunch to get high, or what about Andy for that matter, what about me? What would your friends say if we were walking down the hall together? They'd laugh their asses off, and you'd probably tell them that you were doing it with me so that they'd forgive you for being seen with me!
Bender: Don't you ever talk about my friends! You don't know any of my friends, you don't look at any of my friends, and you certainly wouldn't condescend to speak to any of my friends, so you just stick to the things that you know: shopping; nail polish; your father's BMW and your poor, rich drunk mother in the Caribbean!
Claire: (kicks Bender) SHUT UP!!
Bender: And as far as being concerned about what's gonna happen when we're walking down the hallways at school, you can forget it, 'cause it's never gonna happen! Just bury your head in the sand and wait for your fuckin' prom.
Claire: I hate you!
Bender: Yeah? Good!
- Sarcastic Clapping: Bender. "That was great, Claire. My image of you is totally blown."
- Shave And A Haircut: Masterfully improvised by Andy and Bender when Bender is hiding under Claire's desk and bumps his head.
- Possibly worth asking why Bender hid under Claire's desk when in the previous shot he was closer to Brian's desk or even an empty section.
- It's also worth noting that the only tables with covered fronts are in the front row, the table that Andy and Claire are sitting at and the one directly opposite it. There's actually no reason for them to be covered except that it provides Bender a place to hide in the above mentioned bit.
- 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. Bender wastes no time in demanding why Brian would think shop would be an easy "A"
- Sickening "Crunch!": Can be heard when Bender is under the table and Claire squashes his head with her knees.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Claire and Bender. Literally. She slaps him on the back after he crawls out from under her desk, and later she kisses him in the closet, and let's not forget their kiss in the final scene.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: It's a John Hughes movie. Were you expecting sunshine and bunnies?
- Speech-Centric Work: This film is almost entirely dialogue. It takes place in a library. Libraries are collections of words — just like dialogue.
- 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, never mind the principal.
- There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: Bender to Clair:I'm not sure if you know this, but there are two kinds of fat people. Those born to be fat and those that were once thin but became fat.
- The Three Faces of Adam: Brian is The Hunter (awkward and out of his depth), Andrew is The Lord (a popular, serious-minded athlete) and Bender is The Prophet (a loudmouth who gets everyone to open up).
- 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.
- At the very least, it seems as though Allison and Brian might remain friends, as Brian promises he wouldn't do that to any of them, and Allison doesn't have any friends, nor does she think the kind of friends she'd have would mind. Similarly, Andy and Claire already knew each other slightly from their overlapping social circles.
- Title Card: One of the opening quotes to the film is from the David Bowie song "Changes", which symbolizes the teens' constant neglect and abuse that they take not just from their parents but from the other adults around them."...and these children that you spit on, as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They're quite aware of what they're going through..." — David Bowie
- Unusual Euphemism: Allison is called a "basketcase" (crazy person).
- Uptown Girl: Rich, spoiled princess Claire falls for troubled delinquent Bender at the end.
- 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.
- Later, after Principal Vernon explicitly promises to one day find Bender and beat the shit out of him, Bender is left frozen with fear.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Andy, who's pressured to be just like his dad.
- What Are You in For?: The question comes up repeatedly.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: After storming into the library when he heard a ruckus note , Vernon all but disappears from the film until the very end where he is shown picking up and reading the group's letter with no spoken dialogue, a good 40 minutes after he was last seen.
- "YEAH!" Shot: Bender, at the end. The reason for it is left fairly ambiguous.