The 80’s were a time for many things – big hair, bigger shoulder pads, jazzercise. But one of the things that decade did best was high school movies. John Hughes pretty much invented the genre, giving us classics like National Lampoon’s Class Reunion, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and Weird Science.
One of his crowning glories, however, is The Breakfast Club. Released in 1985, it stands as one of the most iconic teen movies of all time. Here are all the reasons why we think it’s the best teen high school movie ever made.
It’s endlessly relatable. A lot of the lines are ad-libbed (such as the scene where they go around talking about why they were in detention).
Ally Sheedy said of her character, “Allison is a part of me. She didn’t have to come from anywhere, I didn’t have to find her.” She’s based on Sheedy’s own high school experience, making it feel very real. She also gave us this beautiful, if slightly nerve-wracking line: “When you grow up, your heart dies.”
We love this movie because of how much it speaks to us.
This movie grows with you. The first time I watched it I was quite young – probably 12 or so – and was in awe of these older kids, with their independence and maturity. Over the years I re-watched it several times, and each time, found myself empathizing with a different character.
In my weirder, angsty teen years, Brian and Allison appealed to me, as did Bender, with his bad-boy charm, and since hitting my 20’s, I can relate to Richard Vernon and Carl a little bit more.
Could this movie have influenced a generation of parent-child relationships? See next for the interesting correlation between the two!
In this movie, a central theme is the teens not liking, and not relating to their parents. At the time – the mid 80s – that was very much the case. People were getting divorced at unprecedented rates, and home life wasn’t seen as much of a priority.
Interestingly, the 80s kids who grew up and became parents themselves are quite the opposite, with lower divorce rates and better relationships with their kids. 75% of parents of this generation say they have a good relationship with their kids, as opposed to 25% of the previous generation. Makes you wonder if this movie – which offers a glimpse into the mind of young adults that is timeless – influenced the way adults and teens related to each other.
Which famous scene was ad-libbed?
That iconic closing scene, with Bender/Judd Nelson punching the air? Totally ad-libbed, too. The movie was supposed to end with him walking into the sunset, and during filming, they played with a few versions. At the end, he threw his fist in the air, with no prompting, everyone loved it, and it became an iconic symbol of the 80’s.
What were other suggested names for the movie?
The movie is called The Breakfast Club because that’s what students at New Trier High School, attended by the son of one of John Hughes’ friends, called Sunday detention. Other titles for the film that were suggested include “The Lunch Bunch” and “Library Revolution.”
Whose parents made a cameo on-screen?
Anthony Michael Hall plays “The Brain”. His real-life mother and sister appear in the movie as well, as his on-screen mother and sister. In the car that they drop him off with, the license plate says “E=MC2”. Looks like smarts run in his family.
Who was supposed to play Bender?
Emilio Estevez, who plays jock Andy Clark, was originally cast in Bender’s role. However, John Hughes was having a hard time finding someone who could play the athletic Andy. Estevez was persuaded to play that role, and Judd Nelson got the role of Bender, beating out John Cusack and Nicolas Cage (who probably would have charged too much, anyway).
Was Judd Nelson easy to work with?
Speaking of Judd, it sounds like he was quite the handful to work with. John Hughes allegedly refused to work with him ever again, and he had to be told off for his on-screen bullying of Molly Ringwald. He claims it was to stay in character, but who knows.
He also had his own switchblade that he carried (it made a cameo on-screen) and was so rowdy in the waiting room at the audition that he was nearly kicked out.
Why was parmesan cheese an essential part of filming?
Ally Sheedy’s Allison was weird and wonderful. She doesn’t speak for the first 33 minutes of the film, and the dandruff she sprinkles from her head on to the drawing she makes? Parmesan cheese.
Ever wonder how that joke ended?
Judd Nelson may have been a pain to work with, but is a really excellent actor. He brought life into the bad-boy character of Bender, and was a flawless ad-libber.
The joke he tells, “A naked blonde walks into a bar, carrying a poodle under one arm and a 6 foot salami under the other. The bartender says, ‘So, I don’t suppose you’d be needing a drink?’ The blonde says…” was totally ad-libbed and has no ending. Well, not unless you look at this Reddit thread, which has some great suggestions.
How old were the actors at the time of filming? The answer may surprise you!
Some of the actors were totally in the right age range to be playing high school kids – Molly Ringwald was 16, and Anthony Michael Hall was 16, but Ally Sheedy and Emilio Estevez were both 22, and Judd Nelson was the oldest by quite a bit, at 26 years old! Maybe that’s why he teased Ringwald mercilessly.
Who’s in the Brat Pack?
Remember the Brat Pack? This movie features a lot of the members – Emilio Estevez (the “leader” of the Brat Pack), Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson and Anthony Michael Hall.
The others in the so-called “official” pack are Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy and Demi Moore. Other actors were often lumped together with them, including Robert Downey, Jr., Mare Winningham, James Spader, and John Cusack.
How long did it take John Hughes to write the script?
John Hughes wrote the first draft for this movie pretty quickly! He apparently finished it over a weekend and left it sitting in a drawer for a while. He wrote several drafts, which Estevez and Nelson read, incorporating all the different bits into the final ending.
Hughes also wanted to create this movie to be a franchise, with subsequent films “checking in” on the students, every ten years or so. He scrapped the idea in the end, allegedly because working with Nelson was so difficult.
How did the Bowie song at the beginning get chosen?
Ally Sheedy was the one who suggested the lyrics to David Bowie’s “Changes” for the opening credits. She mentioned it to John Hughes and assumed he’d forgotten about it. She was surprised as everyone else was when she saw the film, with those lyrics on-screen.
Where else have you seen that high-school library?
The movie was shot in a real high school gymnasium that had been turned into a library. It’s the same school seen in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The high school football team had to practice outside for the duration of the filming. Judd Nelson would occasionally go outside during breaks and play with the team.
How did the cast prepare for the role?
Before filming, the actors went to real high schools to try to blend in and get a feel for what high school life could be like – sort of like in Never Been Kissed, no one knew they were actors preparing for a role. Nelson recalled that the school he went to had different hallways for “Jocks” and “Freaks”, which is apt, given that much of The Breakfast Club concerns itself with the taxonomy of American high school social cliques.
What funny thing happened during filming?
Anthony Michael Hall was only 17 at the time of filming, and Judd Nelson joked that he “grew seven feet” during filming. At the time of their audition, he was a few inches taller than Hall, at the beginning of filming he was about half an inch taller, and by the end of filming, Hall was taller than Nelson.
What would Judd Nelson do to tease people who were on-set?
Remember the gate at the end of the hallway? It was really there! It was a section for “problem kids” who, like the cast of The Breakfast Club, had to be there on Sundays. Judd Nelson used to go down and taunt them – “Hey, you wanna go smoke? Oh yeah, you can’t!”
How did John Hughes manage to create such a relatable film?
John Hughes obviously was able to tap into the mind of a teenager, with all the teen movies he made. He has said that each character in The Breakfast Club was a different version of himself. John Kapelos, who played Carl said that “John wasn’t too far from the teenage years. He had a pulse on teens.”
We have a great video from a reunion of theirs – see what the stars look like today!
Finally, see how they all grew up! This great video shows the cast, 25 years later.
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