“You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.”
There are teen movies that are simply about teenagers, and there are teen movies that define universal teenage experiences. The Breakfast Club, directing by John Hughes (Home Alone, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and starring a host of 80s teen stars, is one of the latter. This movie not only defines and portrays universal teenage experiences, but it shows teenagers discovering that many of the things they thought were unique to them are, in fact, shared amongst all of them. Admittedly, this movie will probably not be mind-blowing for anyone over 30; but younger folks, especially those in high school and college, may walk away with some new insight into life. It shows that, no matter who you are, there are no good guys or bad guys in life—there are only people with different experiences, different outlooks, with probably a lot more in common with you than you think, and anyone can choose to be good or bad no matter where they are in life.
The movie takes place over nine hours during a Saturday school detention with five very different high school students: an athlete, a princess, a brainy kid, a bad boy, and a quirky girl who may or may not have mental issues. At the beginning of the day, none of them know each other. The plot itself is simple: they just serve their detention and get out at the end of the day. But the relationships that emerge between the characters are something special. Five students from completely different walks of life become best friends in the span of nine hours, and each of them grows or changes in some way.
My God, are we gonna be like our parents?
The characters are what make this movie. Each of the students, and even the mean principal, gets solid character development and becomes a very sympathetic character. At the start, the bad boy character seems to just be a jerk to everyone, but we eventually find out his heartbreaking reasons for being the way he is. The brainy kid seems to have the life that everyone wants, but we come to realize that his life is just as hard as anyone else’s. This is an entertaining movie, but it could easily serve as a primer for empathy in high school and beyond. No one just is they way they are—everyone has complex reasons for turning out the way they do, and everyone is fighting a difficult battle of their own.
This movie is great at putting you right there with the characters, feeling everything that they feel. When they’re having fun being teenagers, it’s a very fun movie; when they’re breaking down and talking about their parents, those are some really sad and intense moments. This is a movie that really runs the full gamut of human emotions, and none of it feels forced or artificial—it all happens naturally, and I really loved each of the five students by the end of the movie.
This is a great movie, and one that I think everyone needs to see while in high school or college. Past that, you’ll probably still enjoy it, but it’s not quite as relevant or magical. I’m currently 36 and still love it, but I just watched it with my son, who just started high school, and it was very meaningful for him. This is probably one of the best teen movies of all time, but it captures thoughts that we face throughout our entire lives. For that reason, this is an enduring classic that I think will be popular for decades to come.
View my complete list of classic, essential, or just plain good movies!
Director: John Hughes
Genres: comedy, drama, teen