The plot follows five students at fictional Shermer High School in the widely used John Hughes setting of Shermer, Illinois 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: John Bender (Judd Nelson) "The Criminal"; Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) "The Princess"; Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) "The Brain"; Andy Clark (Emilio Estévez) "The Athlete"; and Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) "The Basket Case".
At the start of detention the students are given an assignment by the principal, Mr. Vernon. They are each asked to write a 1000 word essay detailing "who you think you are". Starting out the day the students are mostly silent, as the day progresses they gradually open up to each other and pass the hours in a variety of ways: they dance, harass each other, harass the principal, Mr. Vernon, tell personal stories, argue, draw, smoke marijuana, and put on makeup. Their deep conversations reveal their inner secrets (for example, that Allison is a compulsive liar and Brian and Claire are ashamed of their virginity). They also discover something that they all have in common - strained relationships with their parents and are all afraid of making the same mistakes as the adults around them. However, despite these developing friendships, the students are afraid that back in school on Monday, 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 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 on the table for Mr. Vernon to read when they leave.
It is commonly believed that there are two "versions" of the letter, because the voice over is different between the beginning of the movie and the end. However, this is not the case. It's just the voice over at the beginning of the movie leaves out the ending of the letter, and the ending voice over simply skips over the middle of the letter to get to the point. Over all it's still the same one letter. The beginning of the letter acknowledges that each student also saw themselves as they know the vice principal sees them, and this is refered to as being "brainwashed". The end of the letter informs Mr. Vernon that the students have now realized, over the course of spending this day together, that they each have something of the others in them. Their attitudes and perspectives have changed and are now completely different.
The movie ends as the characters leave detention.
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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”
There’s no better way to sum up John Hughes’ seminal teen movie The Breakfast Club than with the voiced-over letter at the end. Released in 1985, The Breakfast Club turns 30 on February 15 and, amazingly, remains incredibly relevant today.
A quick refresher for those who’ve never seen the film (such people exist, we’ve heard): On a Saturday morning, five high school students in Shermer, Illinois, assemble in their school’s library for eight hours of detention. All the typical high school clique archetypes are present and accounted for: the popular girl, Claire (Molly Ringwald); the jock, Andrew (Emilio Estevez); the rebel, John (Judd Nelson); the outcast, Allison (Ally Sheedy); and the geek, Brian (Anthony Michael Hall). But time together eventually erodes the barriers separating them. It’s unclear if that will stick, but for now everyone gains new perspectives on the lot peers and parents have handed to them.
And, yes, this is an ’80s movie we’re talking about here–which means there is the obligatory dance break and the freak-to-chic makeover (why can’t you love Ally as she is, Andrew?!) However, The Breakfast Club is sneaky with its deep emotional truths–and rooted in ideas that teens and adults are, and will always be, grappling with.
Here are five of the most powerful scenes:
1) The catalyst for bonding is always finding a common enemy: in this case, it’s assistant principal Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason). Even though Bender grinds hard on the nerves of anything with a pulse, the crew covers for him when he closes the library doors and when he sneaks back in from solitary confinement.
2) So why is Bender such a grade-A asshole? The same reason many of us struggle: parents. But it’s a little different with Bender. His relentless antagonization is part of the facade he uses to keep people at an emotional arm’s length. Here’s the first time we see a beneath his hardened exterior:
3) There is no way to rank one Breakfast Clubber’s confessional moment over another, but this single take of Brian’s explanation for why he’s in detention is just heartbreaking.
4) There’s a big elephant in that library: What happens come Monday morning? Over the course of their detention, the group forms an undeniable bond, but the question is whether or not that bond will hold up against their respective social cliques. Claire’s honesty may make her sound conceited but it’s honesty, nonetheless.
5) And of course there’s the ending that hearkens back to the question above: Will everyone forget about everyone once the weekend is up? Judging by Brian’s poignantly penned letter to Vernon, Monday might just work out, after all.