The Breakfast Club is one of the most well-known and timeless films. It takes places during a 9 hour Saturday detention at fictional Shermer High School in Chicago on March 24, 1984. Each of the five students have been given this detention for various reasons and come from completely different social backgrounds. They are assigned a one thousand word essay by their principal describing who they think they are as a person. Throughout the day, the five strangers begin to peel off their exterior and show their true colors. They are total opposites, but at the end of the day become one: The Breakfast Club.
In the opening scene of the film, you get a glimpse at each of the students’ relationship with their parents, as well as a few clues as to what their stereo type is. First, you see Claire, the “princess”. Her father is driving a BMW, and wearing a Burberry scarf, while she also is adorned in name brand clothing. She is upset that he couldn’t pull any strings to get her out of Saturday detention, and he promises to make it up to her. Brian, the “brain”, is being scolded by his mother for having to go to Saturday detention. She tells him he better find a way to study, even though the students are not allowed to do anything for their nine hour punishment. When the scene cuts to Andrew, you can clearly tell by his physique and letterman jacket that he is an athlete. His father tells him there’s nothing wrong with fooling around. “Hey, I screwed around...guys screw around, there's nothing wrong with that. Except, you got caught, Sport.” When Andrew comments back at him, he launches himself into an angry argument tell Andrew that he can’t blow any scholarship opportunities due to being a “discipline case”. Bender (first name John, but goes by his last name) walks up to the school alone. As a vehicle drives, he doesn’t stop for them and instead makes them slam on their brakes to avoid hitting him. That vehicle contains Allison, who gets out of the back passenger seat dressed in all black layers of frumpy clothes. She doesn’t speak to whoever drove her. Most of the parents of the students are examples of authoritarian parenting and uninvolved parenting. Allyson and Bender have uninvolved parenting, while Brian, Andy, and Claire have authoritarian parents, with the exception of Claire’s father. He shows signs of more permissive parenting, not scorning her for her detention and telling her she can ignore her mother’s authority.
Mr. Richard Vernon is the main antagonist of the film. At the beginning of detention, the five students congregate in the library as he walks in. He is instantly disrespectful as he begins speaking and handing out an assignment. He is especially rude to Bender, singling him out when listing the rules of detention. Bender asks a sarcastic question after Mr. Vernon finishes listing the rules, and receives another detention for the following Saturday. The fight again in a different scene and Bender receives seven more Saturday detentions. Later in the movie, Mr. Vernon catches Bender in the gym playing basketball and singing. He locks him in storage closet for the rest of the day, after yelling at him and threatening him. Mr. Vernon contemplates what the future will hold when the current teenagers become adults and run the country. Towards the end, a janitor gives him a reality check and reminds him to think of how he saw authority when he was sixteen.
Brian Johnson is “the brain”. He narrates the film. He is involved in multiple academic clubs at school, and hangs out with other kids who excel academically. Bender asks him if he’s a virgin, and not wanting to be made fun of, lies about it. He claims to have slept with a girl in Canada and quietly insinuates that he has also slept with Claire. Bender calls Brian out on it and asks Claire if it’s true. Embarrassed, Brian admits he’s a virgin and didn’t want the others to think he was a loser. He also reenacts how he thinks Brian’s life goes, and is way off from the truth. He thinks Brian’s life is perfect and filled with loving parents. He even makes a sarcastic comment asking if Mr. Rogers was Brian’s father. As the movie progresses, you learn that although it may seem like his life is perfect, the pressure Brian feels to succeed academically overwhelms him. His parents expect him to maintain straight A’s, so he takes a carpentry class as an “easy elective”. He is used to academic classes, and not hands-on physical classes. He received an F on his carpentry project, which causes him to crack. He is in detention for having a gun in his locker. He was going to kill himself with it, but was too scared to follow through.
Andrew “Andy” Clark is an athlete. He feels pressure to perform well as a wrestle to meet his father’s high standards. Andy says he feels like he has no control over his life. He says: “I'm not a winner because I wanna be one... I'm a winner because I got strength and speed. Kinda like a race horse. That's about how involved I am in what's happening to me.” His father wants him to win, so he doesn’t stop until he’s a winner. Everything Andy does is to impress his dad and make his dad think he’s cool. Andy gets detention for taping teammate Larry Lester's "buns" together. Larry was in a lot of pain and extremely embarrassed when the tape was removed. Andy only wanted his dad to be proud of him, but later realized how horrible it must have been for Larry to tell his own father what had happened to him. In The Breakfast Club, Andrew stands up to Bender many times, mainly for Claire. He threatens to beat him on multiple occasions and is capable as long as Bender doesn’t have a weapon. He and Bender butt heads throughout the entire film but eventually gain more of an understanding for each other when Bender explains his life at home.
Allyson is a “basket case”. Dressed in all black grungy clothes, she doesn’t appear very friendly. She is anti-social, saying nothing for a good portion of the film besides a couple of odd outbursts. She actually has no reason to be at Saturday detention. She isn’t being punished, but instead shows up only because she lacked anything else to do. Several times she teams up with Bender to pick on Claire. Once she starts to open up, you see how damaged she actually is. She pretends to be a nymphomaniac, telling a horrible story of how she has sex with her therapist, but actually turns out to be a pathological liar. Nobody cared what she had to say for a great part of the movie, but once she opened up and became honest, they listened. Her parents pay her no attention and she thinks often of running away. She is given a make-over by Claire towards the end of the movie, and turns out to be very attractive. Andy notices how the much better she looks after the make-over and takes up a sudden interest. At the end of the movie, Andy and Allyson walk out of the school and kiss. She then takes a patch off his jacket and keeps it for herself.
Claire Standish is the “princess”. She has detention for skipping school to go to the shopping mall. She is popular, attractive, and wealthy. Her mother and father constantly fight and use her as a weapon. When posed with the question of which parent she would rather live with, she says neither, and that she would want to go live with her brother. Bender doesn’t feel bad for her and constantly picks on her and tries to make her feel uncomfortable all day. He makes several remarks and actions towards her that are very sexual. He asks her if she has ever been felt up or had sex. He then makes fun of her for being a tease when she says no. When she takes out sushi that she has brought for lunch, Bender takes the opportunity to make fun of her. He thinks out loud and wonders why she will consume raw fish but won’t “accept a guy’s tongue in her mouth”. As the characters gets closer and become more open, the question is posed: Will they all openly remain friends after Saturday detention is over? Claire says that realistically, they won’t remain friends because they are too different and their friends would make fun of them. This upsets everyone else, even though they realize she is probably correct. At the end of the film, Claire becomes attracted to Bender, despite his meanness towards her throughout the day. She gives him one of her earrings and kisses him in front of her father.
John Bender, the “criminal”, is perhaps the most dysfunctional character in the movie. He has Saturday detention for pulling a false fire alarm. He runs his mouth and insults the principal, Mr. Vernon any chance he gets. He also makes obscene and sexual comments to and about each of the other four students in detention with him. No one is spared at least one mean comment from Bender. He makes fun of the others for having perfect lives and complaining about nothing. His favorite victim is Claire. He thinks she’s a rich, whiney snob. He picks on her for being a virgin, and later calls her a tease for using sex as a way to earn respect from males. As you learn about him, you realize how hard it is for him at home. Bender tells everyone that for the most recent Christmas, all he received was a carton of cigarettes. His father is an abusive alcoholic. When Bender spills paint in the garage, his father purposely burns him on the arm with a cigar. Andy calls him a liar until he lifts his shirt sleeve and reveals a perfectly round cigar shaped scar. Bender uses anger and bullying as a defense mechanism to cope with his home life. When all the students sneak out of the library to get Bender’s weed, he takes all the blame and lets them escape before the principal noticed they left. By the end of the movie, Bender and Claire have developed feelings for each other. He explains to Claire that his bad boy image would be perfect to help get back at her parents for always ignoring her. In the final scene, he kisses Claire and she gives him one of her diamond earrings.
By the end of the nine hours, the students have a better understanding of each other. None of them wanted to give up a whole Saturday, but gained valuable knowledge. The five of them became more accepting human beings, and learned a lot about themselves, despite the fact that they never wrote their thousand word papers. Instead, Brian wrote a short letter-type essay from the five of them addressed to Mr. Vernon. He states that they all accept the fact that they did something wrong to end up in Saturday detention. He ends the letter by saying:
“…we think you're crazy to make us write this 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. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basketcase, a princess and a criminal.”
Although his letter to the principal was only one hundred words longs, it summed up one of life’s most important questions. Who are we as individuals? We are how we want to see ourselves. People will always be stereo typed and judged before being met, but the five members of the Breakfast Club learned that there is more to a book than its cover, and in fact, the cover can turn out to be more misleading than you could have ever imagined.
The Breakfast Club has received the following recognition:
“The film holds a 91% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 42 reviews, with an average score of 7.5/10. The critical consensus is "The Breakfast Club is a warm, insightful, and very funny look into the inner lives of teenagers". Review aggregator Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 62% based on 11 reviews from mainstream critics, considered to be "generally favorable reviews". In 2008, the film was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. Similarly, The New York Times placed the film on its Best 1000 Movies Ever list. The film ranked number 1 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies. It also debuted at #3 behind Beverly Hills Cop and Witness.”
Human Growth and Development textbook; DVD copy of The Breakfast Club; Filmsite.org; riverblue.com