Why did The Breakfast Club become a much-loved classic? Stars Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy discuss their thoughts as part of the film’s 30th anniversary celebrations…
In a recent interview with the Toronto Sun to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Breakfast Club, two of the film’s stars Ally Sheedy and Molly Ringwald were asked why John Hughes’ 1980s teen drama became such a classic.
They both agreed that its success was down to its unique nature, that a film of its ilk had not been done before. “It’s a very particular movie that hasn’t been repeated,” said Sheedy. “I don’t know if you could get away with doing that movie today.”
That’s because there isn’t an element of the supernatural or superhero, remarks Ringwald. “Any movie with teenagers now has to have a vampire, a zombie or a werewolf. I think that’s one of the reasons it has this lasting quality, because they haven’t been able to replicate it. It’s not for lack of trying.”
I think both actors are right but they forget to add that The Breakfast Club struck a nerve with its audience. It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time, when teenage audiences were crying out for films about them rather than simply “for” them. As Neal Damiano wrote in his article and I discuss in my top 10 films of John Hughes, the writer-director made the trials and tribulations of adolescence relevant, he took teenagers seriously and gave us a voice, intimately highlighting our hopes and fears through the five characters that become the “Breakfast Club”.
Sheedy and Ringwald are also right in that this film couldn’t be made today because it doesn’t have that sensationalist hook. Like they say, there are no werewolves or vampires with franchise potential or, in addition, an abundance of sex (like seen in, for example, American Pie). Teenage audiences today simply aren’t interested without that hook.
But the film is more than just a teen film. Indeed, the audiences that were teens when the film came out still love it today, while adults can gain as much as their younger counterparts from its sense of nostalgia and familiarity. The Breakfast Club even remains relevant today, 30 years after release, showing that high school life hasn’t changed too much.
Hughes also deserves plaudits for the fact that while setting his story specifically in the confines of Shermer High School in Illinois, the film’s idiosyncrasies work just as well outside the United States. Attending an English high school, I could still relate to these characters – a Brain, an Athlete, a Basket Case, a Princess, and a Criminal.