The Breakfast Club: Is the 1985 Movie Based on the Lives of Real Teenagers?

‘The Breakfast Club’ is a teenage drama film that revolves around five teenagers – Brian Johnson, Andrew Clark, Allison Reynolds, Claire Standish, and John Bender – who are students of Sherman High School and are given detention for the entire day on a cloudy Saturday in March. Each of the students falls into one of the typical high school stereotypes; that of  “a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal” and don’t seem to have anything at all in common amongst them. Would the five be able to sit in the same room with each other until 4 pm in an otherwise empty school?

Directed by John Hughes, the 1985 film features the talents of Emilio Estevez, Paul Gleason, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy. Over the decades since its release, this coming-of-age film has been quite influential, mostly because of the relatable storyline that offers a realistic perspective on teenage angst and conflicts. But what inspired such a classic in the first place? If you find yourself asking the same question, fret not, for we have got you covered!

The Breakfast Club is Not a True Story

‘The Breakfast Club’ is not a true story. The screenplay is an original creation by director John Hughes but went through several rewrites because Universal Pictures reportedly refused to move forward with it as they didn’t believe that it was funny enough. “By the time we actually shot The Breakfast Club in 1984, he had re-written the script numerous times because the studio demanded it. There was a nude teacher swimming, scenes that were there just to insert nudity, to make the movie a little more like ‘Porky’s,’” said actress Molly Ringwald in an interview with The Atlantic.

She added, “The thinking was: if we’re going to make a teen movie, then it should be like ‘Porky’s’ because it was a hit.” Even after the film had been greenlit, the re-writes didn’t stop as the story had become something entirely different than what Hughes had pitched to the actors to get them on board. Ringwald explained how the director had called her a week before filming was meant to start and she had told him that she was apprehensive about the script because it was drastically different than what she’d read and agreed to initially.

“So the next day, at rehearsal, John brought in a stack of scripts, all his different versions of The Breakfast Club. He had us go through them, piecing together a script that was like the one I originally agreed to do. That’s unique for a writer-director,” the actress continued. A fresh take on a teen film in the 80s, ‘The Breakfast Club’ focused more on the characters and their various nuances rather than telling a hyperactive story about drugs, murder, cars, and sex like many other films that were being aimed at teenagers at that point in time.

Through the conversation between the students and their adventures across the empty school, each of them discovers the layers upon layers underneath what the others choose to project in public. Though there are certainly close-ups and individual shots, the five characters are always present on the screen in a way that all of them would be clearly visible – with their expressions and personalities clearly responding to the conversation and the situation – to the audience throughout the film.

The unique approach to the cinematography also establishes the fact that there is no central protagonist and that all of them are equally important regardless of their social standing in school. But casting for such a unique bunch of characters proved quite difficult for director John Hughes. In an interview with the American Film Institute, he revealed – “’The Breakfast Club’ was cast when I was doing ’16 Candles.’ I wanted Michael, I wanted Molly and I wanted Ali Sheedy, and Emilio came in to read for John Bender but I was looking for a character whose motivation in life is to be like everybody else…”

The iconic filmmaker continued, “…and I was having a hard time finding someone who could play the looks right; forever opening his mouth.” Hughes went on to add that he had based the character of John Bender on a kid he knew in high school who was horrible to hang around with as he would continuously bad mouth everybody, but people still wanted to be around him for some inexplicable reason.

‘The Breakfast Club’ may not be a true story, but it is steeped in reality with its accurate portrayal of high school life and the kind of challenges kids face both at home and in school. It shows the ways in which they sometimes create an unapproachable persona around them or become overly aggressive as a defense mechanism but are vilified by the adults for it instead and put into neat little boxes, instead of being treated like individuals with their own personalities.

Read More: Movies Like The Breakfast Club