The Breakfast Club (1985)

This is a high school drama/comedy, and yet you'd be hard-pressed to find a Hollywood story that is as purely driven by complex characters as this one. It's hard not to identify with these troubled kids as they bond over their differences. Admit it: you were one of them too.


John Hughes’s masterpiece tackles teenage alienation with humanity and humor.

[do action=”play-by-play-spoilers”/]

[do action=”moment” emo=”Exciting” title=”Meet Bender. He’s kind of a dick.”/]

It’s hard not to cheer on Andrew to punch Bender in the nose for the first fifteen minutes. The movie doesn’t take the easy way out by making Bender cool and sympathetic. He’s a dick, and he keeps riling up everyone around him. Good thing too, because without him, I bet the four other kids would have moped in silence for a whole day.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Creepy” title=”Allison makes it snow on her drawing.”/]

For some reason, the scene of Allison making it ‘snow’ dandruff on her drawing has always stuck with me. It makes her creepy in a way that is at once harmless and mildly repulsive. Really nails the ‘troubled teen’ archetype in a simple, visual way.

[do action=”moment” emo=”HolyShit” title=”We get to the core of Bender’s dickishness”/]

It takes some time to get there, but when the cracks start appearing in Bender’s bravado, the result is raw, genuine pain. Bender is the first archetype to break: we no longer see the cool bum, just a broken kid who copes with pain the only way his damaged father taught him.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Puzzling” title=”That’s… not how marijuana works.”/]

Did the guys smoke PCP-laced pot or something? Pretty sure no kid has ever gone around cartwheeling after smoking a joint. It’s like John Hughes has learned about the effects of marijuana use from 1937’s Reefer Madness.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Cool” title=”Assistant principal Vernon and the janitor share a beer.”/]

I love that Vernon is more than just a foil for the kids. When he talks to the janitor about his frustrations of being a teacher, we glimpse a man who had ideals and a vision, only to see them trampled by the harsh reality of the educational system. It doesn’t redeem the way he lashes out at Bender, but it’s hard not to empathize with his frustrations. Suddenly it’s school itself that causes all this pain, not just one man with a Napoleon complex.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Inspiring” title=”Brian and Andrew talk about pressure.”/]

At the emotional heart of the movie is the fact that each of these kids are so much more than the stereotype they get labeled with. The best example takes place when Andrew and Brian, two kids with radically different lives, agree on how hard it is to cope with performance pressure.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Heartbreaking” title=”The kids acknowledge that this friendship won’t survive come Monday.”/]

Brian does the unthinkable and forces everyone to acknowledge that this friendship cannot survive the context of school cliques, and that they probably won’t talk to each other come Monday. Such a dark shadow looming on this story, which makes it all the more poignant and urgent. A truly heartbreaking moment of lucidity.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Annoying” title=”The girls, being girls, talk about sex.”/]

It’s such a pity that the movie comes this close to passing the Bechdel Test, but then fails by having the girls focus entirely on their sex lives. Come to think of it, there isn’t much to Claire’s story besides the whole idea that she is a virgin. I’m not saying it’s John Hughes’s fault, because high school sure does focus a hell of a lot on this sort of silly detail. But it’s too bad the girls are not getting as complex a story as the guys. For instance, Brian’s virginity gets discussed at some point, but it doesn’t matter nearly as much for him as it does for Claire. Oh, and Allison’s makeover sucks.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Disappointing” title=”Everybody kisses, except the nerd.”/]

It’s sad that the end of the movie doesn’t focus on five friends saying goodbye to each other, but rather on two unlikely couples forming up. I don’t even see the chemistry between Allison and Andrew, and although I understand Claire and Bender, I don’t see that relationship lasting past the weekend.

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