The Breakfast Club – Final Analysis

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Picture Credit

Arguably the most iconic movie of all time, The Breakfast Club features five distinct teenagers; The Criminal – John Bender, The Athlete – Andrew Clarke, The Princess – Claire Standish, The Basket Case – Allison Reynolds, and The Brain – Brian Johnson. All from different high school cliques, this ragtag group of kids ended up together in detention one Saturday morning and changed the perspective of us all on what teenagers are truly like.

The movie handles a lot of different stereotypes about different “groups” or “cliques” of high schoolers. The opening scene begins with multiple clips, starting with the front of the school then going to different parts within the school. All while a voice over reads a letter from the teenagers (mainly Brian – who essentially wrote the letter himself). A wall with “Man of the year” and a bunch of pictures of guys in suits on it show right as the voice over goes into explaining how the principal (and possibly all the world) sees these kids – as shown in the next series of images.

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A computer lab – a brain,


A locker room – an athlete,

A guidance counselor desk – a basket case,


A prom queen poster – a princess,

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And the locker with the noose on it – a criminal.

The mise-en-scene (Looking, 36) of this part of the movie is all about settings/props showing the stereotypes. For example – the locker room captures the essence of Andrew’s stereotype, “the athlete.” There are clothes lying haphazardly all over the floor and bench, shoes not next to their pairs, lockers open, and just an overall “dirty” vibe – as most of us would expect from an “athlete.”

The next part of the opening scene is a clip of each of the teenagers getting out of their cars, going into the school. Each one gives you a little insight to their lives – and sets up more ‘mise-en-scene,’ with more settings and props.

The first to be shown is Claire, the typical preppy girl, obviously spoiled. The camera starts at the front of her dad’s BMW, going into the car where her dad talks about “making it up” to her. Saying that the fact she has to go to detention for skipping class, to go shopping, does not make her a defective. This shows her spoiled and bratty seeming demeanor, reinforcing her “Princess” (popular/spoiled girl) stereotype yet again.

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BMW Picture Credit

Brian is the second to be shown, his mom, sister, and him are all shoved together in the front seat (1) as his mom tells him to make time to study even though he isn’t allowed to. This gives the feeling that education is the most important thing to his family. As he gets out of the car, very briefly “EMC 2” is shown on the license plate – again reinforcing how the family is very education oriented (2). More than likely why his stereotype is “The Brain” (the nerd).

Here Are 19 Facts About 'The Breakfast Club' That You Had No Idea About


Here Are 19 Facts About 'The Breakfast Club' That You Had No Idea About


Brian’s Car – Picture(s) Credit.

The next is Andrew sitting in a truck with his father, and his father tells him that guys screw around but he got caught, going into a lecture about how he can miss a match and blow his ride to college. He presses the wrestling thing while Andrew angrily gets out of the car – implying a negative relationship between him and his father. This is part of the high school athlete stereotype that is often portrayed in movies. High School Musical is a good example, they feel they are or are forced into it by their parents, living their parents dream. This is all part of his “Jock” stereotype.

After that, it shows two characters around the same time – the basket case (Allison) and the criminal (John). John is walking across the street with a distinctive strut and sunglasses on, and then Allison’s car almost hits him as he just smoothly moves to the side, not even bothered (1). This feeds into his “bad boy” and “criminal” stereotype. As Allison gets out of the car, and tries to say bye, her family zooms off – implying they do not care about her too much (2), this does not show much about her stereotype though.

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1 – Picture Credit


2 – Picture Credit

Each teen also shows a small encapsulation of their intended stereotypes as the mise-en-scene of their costumes and makeup.

Claire is wearing a leather jacket, has a clean haircut, wearing makeup, a nice purse, and diamond earrings to bring in her “spoiled and preppy” princess stereotype.

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1 – Picture Credit

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2 – Picture Credit

Brian is wearing a beanie, a fleece jacket, and a sweater and basic pants. It seems like he doesn’t have many high fashion clothes. This goes with his “nerdy” stereotype.

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1 – Picture Credit

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2 – Picture Credit

Andrew is wearing a letterman jacket with a state champ patch on the arm – “jock.”

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Picture Credit

John is wearing sunglasses, mismatch shoes, a trench coat and a red bandanna tied around his ankle – a “criminal.”

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Picture Credit

Lastly, Allison is wearing ratty and baggy clothes, with her hair all disheveled – a “basket case.”

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Picture Credit

To me, the opening feels like a huge reference to how our culture views high schoolers as a whole. It sets up individual stereotypes for each teenager, trying to get us to feel a certain way about each student before we even enter the detention scene. What this does is it plays on our already preconceived idea of what teenagers are like, which is all part of the “setup” of this narrative film.

In the book, “Looking at Movies,” it discusses Narrative film structure. “Act 1” is all about setup, before the inciting incident. That’s another part of, what I feel, the opening scene is trying to do (besides the mise-en-scene of the teenagers). The setup includes; different shots of the school (1, 2, 3), shots of the teenagers in their cars (discussed above), and the outfits of the teenagers (discussed above), as well as the first shot of them in the room (4).

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1 – Picture Credit (With some non-diegetic elements – the date imposed over the image).

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2 – Picture Credit

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3 – Picture Credit


4 – Picture Credit

Although, the last part of the scene in the fourth picture is the inciting incident. What all of these different shots do, is, they set up not only a feel for the school, but the students themselves.

Overall, I feel as if The Breakfast Club’s opening shot is essential to understanding the movie as a whole. The introduction to stereotypes is huge. As the movie continues to play out, the students are then slowly breaking down their own stereotypes and gaining a lot of empathy from the audience. By the end, each teenager has broken down their own stereotype wall and learned to accept each other (giving each more of a round character – while they started out very flat) – giving the feeling that the movie was trying to indicate that stereotypes don’t make us (even though it made them at the beginning of the movie).

Sources Referenced:

All pictures cited underneath each picture.

Barsam, Richard, and Dave Monahan. Looking at Movies – An Introduction to Film. Fifth ed. New York: Norton, n.d. Print.

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