The Breakfast Club is a 1985 American teen drama film written and directed by John Hughes. The storyline follows five teenagers (each a member of a different high school clique) as they spend a Saturday in detention together and come to realize that they are all deeper than their respective stereotypes.
Critics and fans consider it to be the greatest high school-teen film of all time, as well as one of Hughes’ most memorable and recognizable works.
The plot follows five students at fictional Shermer High School in the fictitious Chicago suburb of Shermer, Illinois as they report for Saturday detention on March 24, 1984. While not complete strangers, the five teenagers are each from a different clique or social group.
The five students—Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), John Bender (Judd Nelson), Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), and Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald)—who seem to have nothing in common at first, come together at the high school library, where they are harangued and ordered not to speak or move from their seats or sleep by the antagonistic principal, Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason), supervising them. They are to remain for a period of eight hours, fifty-four minutes (from 7:06 A.M. to 4 P.M., the only indication of time being on a clock that is 20 minutes fast). He assigns a 1,000 word essay (in which each student must write about who he or she thinks they are) and then leaves them mostly unsupervised, returning only occasionally to check on them. Bender, who has a particularly negative relationship with Mr. Vernon, disregards the rules and riles the other students; mocking Brian and Andrew, and sexually harassing Claire. Allison remains oddly quiet except for the occasional random outburst.
The students pass the hours in a variety of ways. Gradually they open up to each other and reveal their inner secrets (for example, Allison is a compulsive liar, Bender comes from an abusive household 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 assigned topic, he writes a very motivating letter that is, in essence, the main point of the story: that each of them (or any person, in that matter) is a bit of everything and not the whole of what people see in them. 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, which are slightly different; illustrating the change in the students’ judgments of one another and their realization that they truly have things in common.
The beginning letter is as follows:
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…and 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.
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, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question?
The Breakfast Club.