breakfast club

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club is a 1985 American teen film widely considered as the definitive work in the genre. Written and directed by John Hughes, the storyline follows five teenagers (each representing a different clique in high school) as they spend a Saturday in detention together and come to realize that they are all deeper than their respective stereotypes. The film has become a cult classic and has had a tremendous influence on many coming-of-age films since then. The film was shot entirely in sequence. Shooting began on March 28, 1984 and ended in May 1984.


The plot follows five students at fictional Shermer High School in the widely used John Hughes setting of Shermer, Illinois (a fictitious suburb of Chicago based on Hughes' hometown of Northbrook, Illinois, which was originally called Shermerville; Shermer is a street in Northbrook, and the school in Northbrook, Glenbrook North High School is on Shermer), as they report for Saturday detention on March 24, 1984. While not complete strangers, the five teenagers are all from a different clique or social group:

Name Actor (Age) Label Reason for Detention
Claire Standish Molly Ringwald (16) The Princess: a wealthy, popular and spoiled girl Skipping school to go shopping at a mall
John Bender Judd Nelson (26) The Criminal: a troublemaker who continually causes problems at school Pulling the fire alarm. It is implied that Bender is often in detention
Brian Johnson Anthony Michael Hall (16) The Brain: a nerd Bringing a flare gun to school (in a parasuicidal gesture) that accidentally discharged in his locker, causing minor property damage
Andrew Clark Emilio Estévez (21) The Athlete: a state champion wrestler Taping a fellow student's (Larry Lester's) buttocks together
Allison Reynolds Ally Sheedy (21) The Basket Case: a misfit, and self-described "compulsive liar" Nothing better to do (according to her)

The students pass the hours in a variety of ways: they dance, harass each other, tell stories, fight, smoke marijuana, and speak on a variety of subjects. Gradually they open up to each other and reveal their inner secrets (for example, Allison is a compulsive liar and Brian and Claire are ashamed of their virginity). They also discover that they all have strained relationships with their parents and are afraid of making the same mistakes as the adults around them. However, despite these developing friendships, the students are afraid that once the detention is over, they will return to their very different cliques and never speak to each other again.

At the request and consensus of the students, Brian is asked to write the essay Mr. Vernon assigned earlier (the subject of which was to be a synopsis by each student detailing "who you think you are"), which challenges Mr. Vernon and his preconceived judgments about all of them. Brian does so, but instead of writing about the actual topic he writes a very motivating letter that is in essence, the main point of the story. He signs the essay as "The Breakfast Club" and leaves it at the table for Mr. Vernon to read when they leave. There are two versions of this letter, one read at the beginning and one at the end, and they are slightly different; illustrating the change in the student's judgments of one another, and their realization that they truly have things in common.

The beginning letter is as follows:

Brian Johnson (although that is unknown at this point): Saturday, March 24, 1984. Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois. 60062.
Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that we did wrong. What we did WAS wrong. But 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 basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at seven o'clock this morning. We were brainwashed.

The end letter is as follows:

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: athlete...
Allison Reynolds: ...a basket case...
Claire Standish: ...a princess...
John Bender: ...and a criminal...
Brian Johnson: Does that answer your question?... Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.

The letter is the focal point of the film, as it demonstrates and illustrates the changes the students went through during the course of the day; their attitudes and perspectives have changed and are now completely different. The movie ends as the characters leave detention.

Main characters

  • Andrew Clark: (Emilio Estévez) Andrew is the film's athlete, in detention for beating a fellow student and taping his buttocks together. Andrew, like Claire, is ashamed of being in detention and is used to the better end of social life at school. Andrew hates his father for pushing him so hard to succeed and even wants his bum knee to give so his father could not drive him to be the best athlete.
  • Claire Standish: (Molly Ringwald) The princess of the group, in detention for skipping class to go shopping. She is used to being sheltered by her group of friends and doting parents who only pamper her in order to spite each other, a fact of which she is painfully aware. Claire is caught between her parents who seem to use her to get back at each other. Claire eats sushi for lunch.
  • John Bender: (Judd Nelson) The criminal of the group, in detention for pulling a false fire alarm. John Bender starts many of the events throughout the film. While he is hostile at first towards the others in the room with him, he defends Allison against Principal Vernon ("She doesn't talk, sir."). Despite Bender's constant needling of the others in detention, they lie to Vernon to protect John after he escaped his solitary confinement (exacted when he allowed himself to get caught in the gymnasium while the others ran for it) and snuck back into the library through a ceiling vent. At home, John is a victim of child abuse, particularly by his father, who (he says) administered a cigar burn to his arm for spilling paint in the garage. His antics and smart mouth wind up earning him an extra eight weeks of detention.
  • Allison Reynolds: (Ally Sheedy) The basket case of the group, in detention apparently because she had nothing better to do. She is the most socially isolated and claims to have no friends. She hides her face under her hair and the hood of her parka when frightened, and amuses herself by using her flakes of dandruff as snow on a picture she draws. For the first half of the film she is quiet, save for occasional squeaks of fear and a few random outbursts, but later on she opens up, particularly to Andrew. Allison's lunch consists of a sandwich made with Pixie Stix powder and Cap'n Crunch cereal. She disgusts the others while making and eating it. She is the least hesitant to talk openly about her home life and is not afraid of being different. At home, Allison is a victim of child neglect by her workaholic parents, and as a result carries a large bag with her to school every day in case she feels like running away. She claims to be in therapy, but because of her compulsive lying it is unknown if her claim is true (considering that she had previously convinced Claire that she was a nymphomaniac who was sleeping with said therapist).
  • Brian Johnson: (Anthony Michael Hall) The group's brain, in detention for bringing a flare gun to school. He tries to keep the peace. At home, Brian is pressured by his parents to be a perfect academic. Every grade has to be an A, regardless of what the subject is. In an effort to get some relief, he takes shop on the mistaken assumption it will be easy. Brian, assigned to create a ceramic elephant lamp that will light when the trunk is pulled, receives an F when the lamp fails to light. In despair, he brings a gun to school with suicidal intent. It turns out to be a flare gun, which goes off in Brian's locker, destroying the locker and the elephant, and landing Brian in Saturday detention. Brian uses the standard 'girl from Canada' story to escape ridicule for being a virgin.
  • Principal Richard "Dick" Vernon: (Paul Gleason) The aggravated principal who mainly dislikes Bender because of his smart mouth and threats. In the movie, he is seen reading the private school files, for which Carl the janitor blackmails him $50. Despite this, he bonds with Carl, confessing various fears about the current generation. "Someday these kids are gonna be running' the country. This is the thought that wakes me up every night."
  • Carl Reed: (John Kapelos) The school janitor who tells the kids he is the eyes and ears of the school. He hears all of their conversations. A brief shot at the beginning of the movie reveals he was once voted "Man of the Year" when he attended the high school years before. Although Bender mocks Carl a bit (as he does with everybody), they end the day on a friendly note, Bender mentioning that he'll see him next week. Carl seems, however, to be on friendly terms with Brian from the beginning.


Each of the film's young stars became part of the Brat Pack (whose other members include Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy and Demi Moore), a group of actors who all hit stardom at the same time and tended to star in movies together. John Hughes appeared in an uncredited role as Brian's father. Of the entire cast, only Hall and Ringwald were actually high school age upon the movie's release; Nelson was twenty-six while Sheedy and Estévez were both twenty-one years old.

Judd Nelson’s performance was influenced by his method style technique of staying in character off set. He was accused of bullying Molly Ringwald off camera due to his insistence on remaining in character off-camera. This behavior nearly forced Hughes to fire Nelson, but Nelson was defended by Paul Gleason, his on-screen nemesis, who stated that Nelson was just trying to stay in character and did not mean anything by it.

Ringwald and Hall dated briefly after filming ended.

The school used in the filming of The Breakfast Club was also used for some of the school-based scenes in John Hughes' Ferris Bueller's Day Off, which was released just a year after The Breakfast Club. Some of the posters on the walls during filming of The Breakfast Club were still there when Ferris Bueller was filmed. The giveaway is that the sign on the front of the school reads "Shermer High School" in both films. On the Ferris Bueller's Day Off DVD commentary (featured on the 2004 DVD version) John Hughes reveals that he filmed the two movies back to back to save time and money, and some outtakes of both films feature elements of the film crews working on the other film in each case. Hughes has never disclosed, however, whether Ferris Bueller was implied to be a student at the same school as The Breakfast Club students a year later. In 2005, MTV announced that the film would be rewarded with the Silver Bucket of Excellence Award in honor of its twentieth Anniversary at the MTV Movie Awards. To coincide with the event, MTV attempted to reunite the original cast. Sheedy, Ringwald, and Hall appeared together on stage, with Kapelos in the audience, and Gleason personally gave the award to his former castmates. Estévez could not attend the reunion because of other commitments, and Nelson appeared earlier in the show but left before the on-stage reunion for reasons unknown, prompting Hall to joke that the two were "in Africa with Dave Chappelle." This show was taped on May 28, 2005 and aired on June 9.

Deleted Scenes

John Hughes' first draft of the film was originally scripted out to be a 2-1/2 hour movie. However, many of the scenes were cut out and the negatives destroyed. John Hughes has stated that he has the only complete copy of The Breakfast Club on film. Among the cut scenes from the movie (some filmed, some only written)

  • Carl predicts where the five kids will be in 30 years. Bender will have killed himself, Claire will have had "2 boob jobs and a face lift," Brian will have become very successful but die of a heart attack due to the stress of the high paying job. Allison will be a great poet but no one will care, and Andrew will marry a gorgeous airline stewardess who will become fat after having kids.
  • In a dream sequence, Allison imagines Andrew as a gluttonous Viking, Bender as a prisoner, Claire as a bride, Brian as an astronaut, and herself as a vampire. In an unfilmed alternative to this dream sequence, all five kids imagine random things, including cars, naked women, Godzilla, beer, and fighter planes, and these things end up filling the room until Vernon interrupts.
  • John Bender was not going to walk to school in the original script. He was going to be driven by his dad in a rusty tow truck, and have a brief fight with him before his dad drives off. Bender is also tossed a bagged lunch, his father saying "You are a waste of lunchmeat!"
  • After Bender demonstrates "Life at Big Bri's house" Brian stops Bender and corrects him with a much more pessimistic version of the skit. Claire then proceeds to act out her life before asking Bender to demonstrate his version. Bender's routine changes as well here. After Bender mimics his mom, he stops, commenting that "then they make me work to pay off the dentist for the teeth HE busts."
  • The scene with Andrew and Allison walking to get the sodas is extended to a point where Allison pulls out a pack of cigarettes and smokes one.
  • After getting the sodas, Bender shakes his can violently and places it among the five to see who gets the rigged one. Allison ends up getting it, and when she opens the can, all the soda squirts directly into her mouth.
  • After Vernon asks who has to use the lavatory, the five go to the bathroom. Vernon gives the boys 2 minutes and the girls 3 minutes. Claire catches Allison in a stall eating a bag of chips, repulsing her. Bender mocks Brian for sitting down to pee instead of using a urinal.
  • Several staff members were cut out of the script before filming. Dr. Lange, a social studies teacher who dresses oddly, and Robin, a gym teacher. Robin helps Vernon on a few workout machines until Vernon injures his back, and she eventually visits the students while they are in their circle in the library. Robin initially replaced many of Carl's scenes and Carl was originally set to be a minor character with only 2 scenes.

Cultural impact

"The Breakfast Club" was ranked number 1 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies and has had a tremendous impact on both the teen film genre and on popular culture since the 1980s.

In addition, its theme song titled "Don't You (Forget About Me)", performed by Simple Minds, reached #1 on the U.S. Hot 100 in 1985, where it stayed for one week, and has since then become a symbol of teen films. Yellowcard performed a cover of the song during a special tribute to the movie The Breakfast Club at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards. It has also been repeatedly used in several teen films as well as television programs and in a 2008 back to school commercial for the clothing store JC Penney.

The Breakfast Club has been spoofed by Swedish pop group, A*Teens, in their video remake of Dancing Queen.

The Breakfast Club is referenced many times in television shows created by cartoonist Matt Groening. The phrase "eat my shorts" originates from the film and was later popularized by Bart Simpson of The Simpsons. The character "Bender" in Futurama is named after Judd Nelson's Breakfast Club character, John Bender. An LP record of the film's soundtrack appears in the Futurama episode "The Luck of the Fryrish," and "Don't You (Forget About Me)" is played over the same episode's end credits.

In the Family Guy episode "Let's Go to the Hop," direct and indirect references to the movie are made, i.e. when Peter walks into the cafeteria and sees "The Breakfast Club," which literally is a club of cereal box characters: Tony the Tiger, the Cocoa Puffs cuckoo, the Trix rabbit, Toucan Sam, and the Lucky Charms leprechaun. The final scene in the episode also features the song "Don't You (Forget About Me)."

The Degrassi: The Next Generation episode "Take On Me" follows the exact same premise with five similar characters from their respective cliques––jock/athlete (Jimmy), outcast/goth (Ellie), criminal/bad boy (Sean), princess/girly girl (Hazel), and nerd/brain (Toby).

In the episode of Disney's The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, First Day of High School, while serving detention, Cody asks a fellow male detention inmate on why he was in detention. The male student tells him, He had nothing better to do, a similar reason for Allison Reynolds, gives for being in detention.

Nickelodeon's As Told by Ginger referenced extensively to the movie in the first half of the episode "Detention", Disney's Lizzie McGuire did the same in "She Said, He Said, She Said". The latter one also had references to Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

The promotional poster for the 2008 documentary American Teen has its cast members in the same poses as The Breakfast Club. and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 promotional poster spoofed the "Breakfast Club" poster.

G4TV's X-Play had a retro themed episode where various G4 personalities played out roles from The Breakfast Club (Kevin Pereira as John Bender, etc.). However, the ending letter was revealed to be a suicide note as they all come to be involved in a Suicide pact.

The second episode of the third season of Psych (Murder?... Murder?... Anyone?... Bueller?) had multiple references to The Breakfast Club. Such as Shawn wearing a picture of Judd Nelson instead of his senior picture, him referring to Howie Tolkin and his wife as Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, and, later on, asking if Tolkin would "have time to tape Larry Lester's buttocks together?"

A JC Penney commercial aired on TV and in theaters beginning in June 2008 pays homage the film. Several scenes are reenacted at a similar library by the commercial's actors, to the tune of a cover of "Don't You" by New Found Glory The commercial shows a shot of the school with the name Shermer High School on the exterior of the building.


  1. "Don't You (Forget About Me)" — Simple Minds
  2. "Waiting" — E.G. Daily
  3. "Fire in the Twilight" — Wang Chung
  4. "I'm the Dude" (instrumental) — Keith Forsey
  5. "Heart Too Hot to Hold" — Jesse Johnson, Stephanie Spruill
  6. "Dream Montage" (instrumental) — Keith Forsey
  7. "We are not Alone" — Karla DeVito
  8. "Reggae"(instrumental) — Keith Forsey
  9. "Didn't I Tell You?" — Joyce Kennedy
  10. "Love Theme" (instrumental) — Keith Forsey

Regarding a potential sequel to The Breakfact Club, stated in 2008 that he was against it, saying:

I thought about it. I could do it in prose. I know what will happen to them. I know them. But to do it with real actors ... they'd never come back together again. There's no excuse that could ever put them in the same room ever again. There isn't anything in their lives after high school relevant to that day.

In 2005, however, Emilio Estévez stated that Hughes has an idea for a Breakfast Club 2, with the characters now attending college and "doing time again." Estévez looked forward to the project at the time, saying "If it happens, I'm there." .

Shortly thereafter, however, it was reported that Estévez had dropped out of the project. As a result, "there is no longer a project, but there will be a sequel starring John Hughes himself, playing the high school version of himself in detention, coming up with the idea for the movie. It's less of a sequel and more of a remake/prequel."


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