People who weren’t alive in the ’80s just don’t understand the brilliance behind the John Hughes’ hit, “The Breakfast Club.” Starring some of the biggest acting names of the era and harnessing the spirit of rebellion, it made major waves on screen and in real life. These five quotes from the film became common verbiage for over a decade.
“Eat my shorts.”
With rebellious swagger, bad boy John Bender (Judd Nelson, “Bad Kids Go to Hell”) spewed this gem at the movie’s overzealous principal, Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason, “The Book of Caleb”). Kids everywhere cheered, girls everywhere swooned, and a voice actress named Nancy Cartwright would later go on to ad-lib it into a recording for a cartoon short called “The Simpsons.” It would be several years until the animated family would leave Tracy Ulman’s famous variety show for their own spot on Fox, but the catch phrase would stick with Bart Simpson and, unfortunately, inspire a generation of children to use it regularly.
“You’re a neo maxi zoom dweebie.”
Judd Nelson was fortunate enough to speak some of the more memorable lines in the film. In his particular role, he could swear, shout, and use crazy, off-the-wall insults without anyone saying anything about it. There isn’t one kid who watched this movie that didn’t wind up flinging this far-out jab at somebody. Of course, it may have been followed up by a generous amount of teasing that they were stealing insults from “The Breakfast Club,” but it was worth it to feel the words roll out of your mouth.
“Two hits. Me hitting you. You hitting the floor.”
People who weren’t a young child with an older sibling in the ’80s don’t remember how many times this phrase got thrown around. It was okay, too, because they weren’t just being jerks; they were reminding you of a great movie in the process. It was also liberally used in schools across the nation between kids who were tempted to fight one another.
In “The Breakfast Club,” Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez, “Judgment Night”) was the shining star of the school’s football program and wouldn’t have wound up in detention, spending his Saturday with the school’s riff-raff, if his dad wasn’t an emotionally abusive bully. We later learn that Andrew supposedly cracked under the intense pressure to be perfect by attacking some poor nerd after gym class and duct taping his buttocks together. When someone on the playground uttered this phrase, there was always an underlying threat conveyed that you really needed to watch your behind.
“C’mon, answer the question.”
Flooded with questions about her sex life, Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald, “Sixteen Candles”) reveals much too much, to the amusement of her classmates. It worked on cool, collected Claire, just like it worked on almost anyone it was used on over the next ten years. This exchange also did a great job of examining an entire generation’s attitude toward sex at the time. Among teenagers, it wasn’t necessarily considered “cool” to be a virgin, but it wasn’t “cool” to not be one, either.
“We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”
Truer words were never spoken and never fit a movie better than this one. “The Breakfast Club” takes place over one day of Saturday detention in a big high school with cliques of kids as different as day and night. Each of these typical groups is represented in that classroom by one of the students. As the day wears on, the stories behind why each student has been sentenced to detention exposes who they truly are. Whether they’re preps, nerds, or freaks, the audience sees each teen’s character flaws laid bare. Each person is “strange” in their own way. None of them are truly perfect, which is why it resonates so well with young adults who are still trying to figure out who they are while making mistakes in the process.
Not only was “The Breakfast Club” a memorable movie that audiences remembered, it was also a tremendous financial success. With a budget of just $1 million, it grossed fifty times as much at the box office. John Hughes’ reputation as a writer and director was firmly established as a result, and the young actors involved would go on to other lucrative roles. However, what people remember most about “The Breakfast Club” isn’t the star-studded cast or the hilarious, often tension-driven lines. What audiences took away was the feeling of belonging to a group where no one belongs.