It's been three decades since The Breakfast Club was released, but the coming-of-age film is still as relevant as it ever was. In fact, no other movie has managed to capture the uncertain years of high school as honestly as this classic, which will return to the big screen in select theaters on March 26 and March 31 for its 30th anniversary.
One of John Hughes' best-known works, the film centers on five teenagers from different social cliques who have to spend a Saturday together in detention. As the day progresses, the students discover they are not so different from one another and that they each struggle with a strained home life and peer pressure, perennial issues that still affect teenagers today. In fact, it would appear that not much has changed about high school since 1985.
"I mean, the technology is there, but what people are doing with the technology is basically still the same," Molly Ringwald told BuzzFeed News at the South By Southwest film festival. "They're still bullying. They're still worried about being liked. It's the same issues." There's no denying Ringwald's observation, but that's not to say The Breakfast Club is a perfect film. It has some flaws, including an obvious lack of diversity, which Ally Sheedy addressed directly.
"My daughter identifies broadly and out in public happily with being genderqueer. And so, you know, I'll look at the movie and think, OK, there are some stuff that's missing from this movie," she said, also acknowledging that absence as a consequence of the film's time.
While The Breakfast Club doesn't account for every individual's high school experience, its characters are still relatable. "Even with this distance of years, I feel that it really touches on a nerve," Sheedy said. "There's something really honest, and there's something that is just right about the way that everyone speaks and connects and the feelings that you get."
Such a moment happens when Claire, the "princess" of the film, reluctantly admits that she is still a virgin after being pressured into the admission by Allison, whose character starts the film as the biggest mystery, clearly the kookiest one of the five, quiet to the point of seeming silent — save for a few random outbursts. But towards the end of the film, even she opens up about her strained relationship with her parents.
Though The Breakfast Club explores themes common to those of today's teen-focused films and TV shows, none has done it as well as the 1985 classic. "There really hasn't been much to replace it with," Ringwald said. "The project that comes closest, which wasn't a movie but a series, was Freaks and Geeks."
Unlike contemporary movies, many of which feature teenagers who are also vampires and werewolves (or have some other supernatural ability) and highly sexualize its female characters, The Breakfast Club presented an unidealized portrayal of teens. "I have an 11-year-old, and I'm horrified by what's being offered to her — and also how incredibly sexualized the girls [on screen] are," Ringwald said. "That's another thing that makes me really proud of us. In that time ... it wasn't about that, and now it is."
The permanence of the film, which has a special 30th anniversary edition out on Blu-ray and DVD, is no doubt a testament to both Hughes' vision as well as the five actors' chemistry and portrayals. "It had everything to do with John's love and joy with doing the movie," said Sheedy. "We ended up lucking out with the five of us, who just, you know, meshed." Ringwald added, "It's kind of rare [that] everything just sort of comes together. And I think that was really the case with The Breakfast Club: It just all came together so well."
Reporting by Adam B. Vary.