Study Guide

The Breakfast Club Quotes

  • Coming of Age

    And these children
    that you spit on
    as they try to change their worlds
    are immune to your consultations.
    They're quite aware
    of what they're going through. —David Bowie

    These lyrics from the Bowie song "Changes" appear on a black screen at the very beginning of the movie. It helps state part of the message of the movie—the idea that adults don't remember what it's like to be young, and that teenagers are capable of working out their own lives. They're "immune to your consultations" because they understand their lives better than the people giving the consultations do.

    BENDER: Were you or were you not motioning to Claire?

    BRIAN: Yeah, but it was only... was only because I didn't want her to know that I was a virgin, okay? Excuse me for being a virgin, I'm sorry...

    CLAIRE: Why didn't you want me to know you were a virgin?

    BRIAN: Because it's personal business, it's my personal, private business.

    Brian is a virgin—unlike Bender (presumably). It's another thing that divides them, and heightens their respective identities as Brain and Criminal. Unbeknownst to Brian, Claire's actually a virgin too (as, apparently, is Allison)—but she neglects to mention that detail here, probably for the same reason Brian doesn't want to admit it. But when the truth comes out, it's another point demonstrating that they're closer together than they all realized.

    ANDREW: Um, I'm here today... because uh, because my coach and my father don't want me to blow my ride. See I get treated differently because uh, Coach thinks I'm a winner. So does my old man. I'm not a winner because I wanna be one... I'm a winner because I got strength and speed. Kinda like a racehorse. That's about how involved I am in what's happening to me.

    Andrew is growing up and feels like he should have some control over his own life, naturally. But that's the exact opposite of what's happening to him—he feels "like a racehorse" because he feels like the property of the adults around him. Allison doesn't think this is an honest answer to the question she asked him (Why are you in detention?), which is true—but it is an honest revelation of a particular truth about him.

    EVERYONE: C'mon, answer the question. Come on. Answer it.

    BENDER: C'mon, it's easy. It's only one question.

    CLAIRE: No, I Never did it!

    ALLISON: I never did it either. I'm not a nymphomaniac, I'm a compulsive liar.

    This is the moment when Claire—like Brian, earlier—admits that she's never had sex. Then, Allison admits it too, despite having just said the reverse. Allison's Weird Girl powers grant her the magical ability to ferret truths out of people. Here, she helps break down the distance between herself, Claire, and Brian; they share something in common. It helps shatter Claire's mystique, too.

    ALLISON: When you grow up, your heart dies.

    BENDER: Who cares?

    ALLISON: I care...

    Why does Allison think that adults have dead hearts? Presumably, it's because they don't feel passionately about things once they're older. They've been numbed by their everyday lives. This is appealing to the teenagers in the movie, but numerous real-life adults would probably object to the notion that their hearts are dead.

    BRIAN: [...] But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...

    ANDREW (VO): ...and an athlete...

    ALLISON (VO): ...and a basket case...

    CLAIRE (VO): ...a princess...

    BENDER (VO): ...and a criminal...

    BRIAN (VO): Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.

    This is the big revelation they all receive at the end of the movie. The five students discover common ground between each other, and realize their experiences aren't actually so far apart. There are lots of points of contact between them: They experience pressures to conform, have issues with their parents, etc. It allows four of them to connect romantically, and allows Brian to—you know—write everyone else's essay for them.

  • Dissatisfaction

    BRIAN So you're saying you'd subject yourself to the violent dangers of the Chicago streets because your home-life is unsatisfying?

    ALLISON: I don't have to run away and live in the street... I can run away and, go to the ocean, I can go to the country, I can go to the mountains. I can go to Israel, Africa, Afghanistan...

    Allison hates her home life because her parents totally ignore her—as made evident when her dad drops her off without appearing to acknowledge her at all. So she fantasizes about escaping into some more exotic and adventurous life, though it's unclear if she really plans to act on her fantasy.

    BRIAN: Andy... you wanna get in on this? Allison here says, she wants to run away, because her home life is unsatisfying...

    ANDREW: Well everyone's home lives are unsatisfying. If it wasn't, people would live with there parents forever...

    BRIAN Yeah, yeah I understand. But I think that hers goes beyond, you know, what guys like you and me... consider normal unsatisfying...

    ALLISON Never mind... forget it, everything's cool!

    Andrew thinks that Allison's home life is unsatisfying in the same way that his is. But it's apparently a deeper issue. We're meant to get that Allison's parents are these toxically self-involved baby-boomers who don't care about their kid at all.

    CARL: Aw bullshit, man. Come on Vern, the kids haven't changed, you have! You took a teaching position, 'cause you thought it'd be fun, right? Thought you could have summer vacations off, and then you found out it was actually work, and that really bummed you out.

    VERNON: These kids turned on me. They think I'm a big fuckin' joke...

    Vernon doesn't get that he's the one who's out of touch. None of the kids act in a way that's entirely unexpected—Bender's the only one who's overtly disrespectful toward him. It's really Vernon's own forgetfulness about what it's like to be young that's making him so paranoid about what the kids think of him.

    BRIAN: It's like me, you know, with my grades... like, when I, when I step outside myself kinda, and when I, when I look in at myself you know? And I see me and I don't like what I see, I really don't.

    CLAIRE: What's wrong with you? Why don't you like yourself?

    BRIAN: 'Cause I'm stupid... 'cause I'm failing shop. See we had this assignment, to make this ceramic elephant, and um... and we had eight weeks to do it and we're supposed to, and it was like a lamp, and when you pull the trunk the light was supposed to go on... my light didn't go on, I got a F on it. Never got a F in my life...

    Brian's dissatisfied with himself, but it's not just because he values high grades. It's because his parents do and he has to buy into those values. He has to live up to a standard he isn't free to set for himself, which is why he feels like he doesn't like himself.

    BRIAN: I can't have an F, I can't have it and I know my parents can't have it! Even if I aced the rest of the semester, I'm still only a B. And everything's ruined for me!

    CLAIRE: Oh Brian...

    BRIAN: So I considered my options, you know?

    CLAIRE: No! Killing yourself is not an option!

    Brian doesn't actually try to kill himself. He brings in a flare gun—perhaps intending to shoot himself with it—but it goes off in his locker and is discovered. It makes Brian look sad—obviously—but the same technical incompetence that ruined his elephant lamp also ruins this half-cocked suicide attempt. Irony…

  • Family

    BENDER: You get along with your parents?

    ANDREW: Well if I say yes, I'm an idiot, right?

    BENDER: You're an idiot anyway... but if you say you get along with your parents well you're a liar too!

    Actually, as Andrew reveals later on, he doesn't get along with his parents—or to be more accurate, he gets along with his dad on the surface, but is discontent under the surface. Right now, he's still not ready to reveal this much about himself, which is why he implies that he does get along with them.

    BENDER: Ah. Here's my impression of life at Big Bri's house: "Son?" "Yeah, Dad?" "How was your day, pal?" "Great, Dad! How's yours?" "Super! Say, how would like to go fishing this weekend?" "Great, Dad! But I got homework to do." "That's okay, son! You can do it on the boat!" "Gee!" "Dear, isn't our son swell?" "Yes, dear. Isn't life swell?"

    ANDREW: All right, what about your family?

    BENDER: My family? Oh, that's easy. "Stupid, worthless, no good, goddamned, free loading son-of-a-bitch!" "Retarded, big mouth, know-it-all asshole jerk!" "You forgot ugly, lazy, and disrespectful!" "Shut up, bitch! Go fix me a turkey pot pie!" "What about you, Dad?" "Fuck you!" "No, Dad, what about you?" "Fuck you!" "No, Dad, what about you?!" "Fuck you!"

    Bender claims that this is what his family life really looks like—an abusive, profane, obnoxious dad (the "turkey pot pie" bit is particularly memorable). Andrew doesn't believe him, but Bender tries to prove it with the cigar burn his dad apparently gave him on the arm. This all provides a good psychological explanation for Bender's behavior—he constantly makes inappropriate and aggressive jokes in order to fight back against his dad and against the world, both of which he thinks are against him.

    BENDER: Do you believe this? Huh? It's about the size of a cigar. Do I stutter? You see, this is what you get in my house when you spill paint in the garage. See, I don't think that I need to sit here with you fuckin' dildos anymore!

    Bender doesn't think anyone else around him has suffered the way he's suffered, which is why he doesn't want to hang out with them anymore. He doesn't realize that Brian's nearly attempted suicide, and that Andrew's deeply conflicted about his own dad's competitive, athletic obsession. The cigar burn's a way worse example of physical abuse, but some of the other characters have still undergone serious mental, inner travails.

    ANDREW: […] And my friends, they just laughed and cheered me on. And, afterwards, when I was sittin' in Vernon's office, all I could think about was Larry's father. And Larry havin' to go home and… and explain what happened to him. And the humiliation… fucking humiliation he must've felt. It must've been unreal… I mean, I mean, how do you apologize for something like that? There's no way… it's all because of me and my old man. Oh, God, I fucking hate him! He's like this… he's like this mindless machine that I can't even relate to anymore. "Andrew, you've got to be number one! I won't tolerate any losers in this family…. Your intensity is for shit! Win. Win! Win!!" You son of a bitch! You know, sometimes, I wish my knee would give…and I wouldn't be able to wrestle anymore. And he could forget all about me.

    Andrew's dad has been driving him to compete—maybe because he wants to relive his own athletic glory days through his son's success. But it seems like success is more important to Andrew's dad than Andrew himself is.

    ANDREW: My God, are we gonna be like our parents?

    CLAIRE: Not me… ever

    ALLISON: It's unavoidable; it just happens.

    CLAIRE: What happens?

    ALLISON: When you grow up, your heart dies.

    JOHN: So, who cares?

    ALLISON: I care.

    Allison doesn't want her heart to die—she wants to remain the sensitive young woman she apparently is. Unlike Claire and Andrew, Allison has no friends and isn't popular—but she's way more accepting of different kinds of people. She has feelings of real empathy. But she sees adults as being totally insensitive, locked up in themselves, and not open to reality. Whether this is a fair judgment or not, it definitely represents a genuine mindset.

    ANDREW: Okay, fine... but I didn't dump my purse out on the couch and invite people into my problems... Did I? So what's wrong? What is it? Is it bad? Real bad? Parents?

    ALLISON: Yeah... (Andrew nods.)

    ANDREW: What do they do to you?

    ALLISON: They ignore me...

    Allison's parents ignore her. So, they're not abusing her like Bender's dad, or forcing her to compete against her will like Andrew's dad, or using her as a tool against each other like Claire's parents, or forcing her to get good grades like Brian's parents. They're just not paying any attention at all. So, this is part of why Allison seems so isolated and lonely—she's cut herself off from the world because she hasn't received the parental love she desires.

    BENDER: I bet he bought those for you! I bet those are a Christmas gift! Right? You know what I got for Christmas this year? It was a banner fuckin' year at the old Bender family! I got a carton of cigarettes. The old man grabbed me and said "Hey! Smoke up Johnny!" Okay, so go home and cry to your daddy, don't cry here, okay?

    Claire's parents gave her super-expensive diamond earrings, whereas Bender's dad gave him a carton of cigarettes—which is, admittedly, not an inexpensive gift in the present day, even if it's a toxic and parentally irresponsible one. Hughes wants to show how Bender's parents are warped and abusive—but maybe a better example of this would've been for Bender to get nothing for Christmas?

    BENDER: Remember how you said your parents use you to get back at each other? Wouldn't I be outstanding in that capacity?

    If Claire dates Bender, she's going with the archetypal "bad boy." Naturally, this is a great way for her to tick off her parents. They've been using her to get back at each other—but this allows her to get back at both of them, and throw a wrench into the whole machinery of how they relate to each other.

  • Friendship

    BRIAN: Um, I was just thinking, I mean. I know it's kind of a weird time, but I was just wondering, um, what is gonna happen to us on Monday? When we're all together again? I mean I consider you guys my friends, I'm not wrong, am I?

    ANDREW: No...

    BRIAN: So, so on Monday... what happens?

    This is the big question. Will Andrew, Claire, and even Bender still be willing to acknowledge friendship with lowly sorts like Brian and Allison? The whole problem is peer pressure—wanting to stay with the clique for security's sake. The movie leaves this question unanswered, but it seems to give hopefulness a stronger basis than it had originally.

    CLAIRE: Are we still friends, you mean? If we're friends now, that is?

    BRIAN: Yeah...

    CLAIRE: Do you want the truth?

    BRIAN: Yeah, I want the truth...

    CLAIRE: I don't think so.

    ALLISON: Well, do you mean all of us, or just John?

    CLAIRE: With all of you...

    ANDREW: That's a real nice attitude, Claire!

    CLAIRE: Oh, be honest, Andy... if Brian came walking up to you in the hall on Monday, what would you do? I mean picture this, you're there with all the sports. I know exactly what you'd do, you'd say hi to him and when he left you'd cut him all up so your friends wouldn't think you really liked him!

    ANDREW: No way!

    Claire answers Brian's question by claiming that they probably won't still be friends. She cynically thinks that the peer pressure will just be too much—she and Andrew won't be able to resist it. Interestingly, Brian's physics club friends apparently won't put any pressure on him to disavow any kind of friendship with Claire and Andrew. The need to ostracize so-called nerds and weirdos is a virus particular to Claire's and Andrew's cliques.

    BENDER: You are a bitch!

    CLAIRE: Why? 'Cause I'm telling the truth, that makes me a bitch?

    BENDER: No! 'Cause you know how shitty that is to do to someone! And you don't got the balls to stand up to your friends and tell 'em that you're gonna like who you want to like!

    Even though Bender was calling Brian a dork and a dweeb earlier, now he hotly contests the idea that he wouldn't want to hang out with Brian around his friends. Even though he's a bad boy, he sees himself as being more tolerant than Claire and Andrew. Maybe because he's technically lower down the scale of social status than them, he actually does feel more empathetic to someone like Brian.

    CLAIRE: Okay, what about you, you hypocrite! Why don't you take Allison to one of your heavy metal vomit parties? Or take Brian out to the parking lot at lunch to get high? What about Andy for that matter, what about me? What would your friends say if we were walking down the hall together? They'd laugh their asses off and you'd probably tell them you were doing it with me so they'd forgive you for being seen with me.

    BENDER: Don't you ever talk about my friends! You don't know any of my friends, you don't look at any of my friends, and you certainly wouldn't condescend to speak to any of my friends so you just stick to the things you know, shopping, nail polish, your father's BMW, and your poor—rich—drunk mother in the Caribbean.

    Claire assumes that Bender's friends are intolerant of difference. And maybe she's right? But Bender vigorously disputes her. But is this because Claire's genuinely wrong? Or is it because Bender just wants to prove that he's less exclusive than a Claire in order to win points against her?

    BRIAN: Then I assume Allison and I are better people than you guys, huh? Us weirdos... (to Allison) Do you, would you do that to me?

    ALLISON: I don't have any friends...

    BRIAN: Well if you did?

    ALLISON: No... I don't think the kind of friends I'd have would mind...

    Interestingly, not having friends has actually made Allison more tolerant. Even though she enjoys the exclusive company of one person—herself—she's not doing this because she thinks she's better than anyone else. She knows what it's like to feel isolated and different so she wouldn't want to force that feeling on anyone else.

    BRIAN: I just want to tell, each of you, that I wouldn't do that... I wouldn't and I will not! 'Cause I think that's real shitty...

    CLAIRE: Your friends wouldn't mind because they look up to us...

    BRIAN: You're so conceited, Claire. You're so conceited. You're so, like, full of yourself, why are you like that?

    Claire's conceited because she assumes that nerds secretly admire athletes and rich people. It's conceited because she's projecting her own self-regard onto other people, assuming that they share it, when, in reality, they don't. It's not that Brian and his friends necessarily dislike people like Claire: More likely, they're indifferent. They have other things to do, and can't waste time hating people who look down on them.

    CLAIRE: I'm not saying that to be conceited! I hate it! I hate having to go along with everything my friends say!

    BRIAN: Well then why do you do it?

    CLAIRE: I don't know, I don't... you don't understand—you don't. You're not friends with the same kind of people that Andy and I are friends with! You know, you just don't understand the pressure that they can put on you!

    But Claire claims that she's not conceited—even though what she said was probably incorrect and sort of conceited. She sees herself that way because of peer pressure—her excessive self-regard isn't something she came up with on her own. It's the way her clique needs to view themselves to maintain their dominance in the social hierarchy.

  • Identity

    BRIAN: Saturday, March 24, 1984. Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois, 60062. Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong. But we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us—in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed.

    They were brainwashed because they all made assumptions about each other—letting their respective cliques and stereotypes determine their judgments. The whole plot of the movie involves reversing those judgments.

    VERNON: All right people, we're going to try something a little different today. We are going to write an essay—of no less than a thousand words—describing to me who you think you are.

    BENDER: Is this a test?

    VERNON: And when I say essay, I mean essay. I do not mean a single word repeated a thousand times. Is that clear, Mr. Bender?

    BENDER: Crystal.

    Vernon is telling them to write an essay about who they think they are—but he already thinks he knows who Bender is: the kind of kid who makes a joke out of everything. Not that Bender doesn't do that, but, in a way, he's just fulfilling the expectations people like Vernon set for him. If they didn't have those expectations, maybe he would behave differently.

    BRIAN: Who do I think I am? Who are you? Who are you? I am a walrus.

    Brian is musing on the question Vernon's assigned them. It's possible that he's thinking of the first line from John Lennon's "I am the Walrus": "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together." That's basically what they all realize at the end of the movie: All the students identify with each other instead of with their personal stereotypes.

    BRIAN: I don't like my parents either, I don't... I don't get along with them... their idea of parental compassion is just, you know, wacko!

    BENDER: Dork...

    BRIAN: Yeah?

    BENDER: You are a parent's wet dream, okay?

    BRIAN: Well, that's a problem!

    It's a problem because it sets an unbearably high standard for Brian, just like Vernon's low expectations set an unbearably low standard for Bender. He has to live up a false and inhuman idea about himself that he ultimately can't manage—thanks to the elephant lamp he fails to make successfully in shop class.

    BENDER: Look, I can see you getting all bunged up for them making you wear these kind of clothes. But face it, you're a neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie! What would you be doing if you weren't out making yourself a better citizen?

    ANDREW: Why do you have to insult everybody?

    BENDER: I'm being honest, asshole! I would expect you... to know the difference!

    Bender claims he's not being a jerk—he's just assessing people accurately. But he's failing to look beneath the surface level. All of his judgments spring from what he thinks he knows, not from what he's actually perceived. Also, since Andrew is defending Brian, maybe it shows he's feeling guilty about how he bullied another kid who was sort of like Brian?

    CLAIRE: Claire... it's a family name!

    BENDER: No. It's a fat girl's name!

    CLAIRE: Well thank you...

    BENDER: You're welcome...

    CLAIRE: I'm not fat!

    Bender is razzing Claire up, telling her she has a "fat girl's name"—which obviously doesn't mean anything, since a name can't automatically be associated with anyone's weight one way or another. But it's effective, and Claire rises to the bait. This aggression on Bender's part lightly masks the sexual attraction he feels for Claire—he hides that attraction by being obnoxious.

    ANDREW: Um, I'm here today... because uh, because my coach and my father don't want me to blow my ride. See I get treated differently because uh, Coach thinks I'm a winner. So does my old man. I'm not a winner because I wanna be one... I'm a winner because I got strength and speed. Kinda like a racehorse. That's about how involved I am in what's happening to me.

    Andrew's not being dishonest, but he's also not telling the whole truth. That's how his father and his coach really do view him. Yet Allison wants him to tell her why he's really here, which he (at this point) refuses to do. The story about how he taped a kid's buttocks together is a little too embarrassing and repulsively bullying to trot out right now. He'll have to do it, tearfully, later.

    CLAIRE: You know why guys like you knock everything?

    BENDER: Oh, this should be stunning.

    CLAIRE: It's 'cause you're afraid.

    BENDER: Oh, God! You richies are so smart; that's exactly why I'm not heavy in activities!

    What does Claire think Bender's afraid of? Maybe she thinks he's afraid of failing, afraid of engaging with life on a serious level and not having it work out. Bender probably doesn't see it that way: To him, his behavior makes total sense, and it's what he needs to do to cope with the abuse he suffers from his dad.

    CLAIRE: You're a big coward.

    BRIAN: I'm in the math club.

    CLAIRE: See, you're afraid that they won't take you. You don't belong, so you just have to dump all over it.

    BENDER: Well, it wouldn't have anything to do with you activities people being assholes, now would it?

    CLAIRE: Well you wouldn't know; you don't even know any of us.

    BENDER: Well, I don't know any lepers, either, but I'm not gonna run out and join one of their fucking clubs.

    Claire assumes that she knows Bender's deal—which gets him to rise to the bait and stereotype her and insult her and Brian and other people who do school activities. He compares them all to lepers, which is clearly unfair. But he's just judging Claire because he's being judged. It's an equal and opposite reaction.

    BRIAN: Chicks, cannot hold their smoke! That's what it is!

    CLAIRE: Do you know how popular I am? I'm so popular, everybody loves me so much, at this school...

    BENDER: Poor baby.

    Brian is doing a Richard Pryor impression after smoking pot with Bender. Under the influence of the drug, Claire starts spouting her own high self-estimate—the kind of junk that's floating in her head is spontaneously manifesting itself. She doesn't realize that only the other "popular" kids hold this high estimate. She's not really popular with the Bender and Brian types.

    BRIAN (VO): Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you're crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...

    ANDREW (VO): ...and an athlete...

    ALLISON (VO): ...and a basket case...

    CLAIRE (VO): ...a princess...

    BENDER (VO): ...and a criminal...

    BRIAN (VO): Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.

    This is the big realization at the end of the movie. They've all been through so many emotional ups and downs with each other and revealed so much about themselves that they've finally discovered that their social identities are artificial. They're not really who people perceive them as being, or who they perceive themselves as being. They've actually had a lot of similar experiences, and there's no bar to prevent them from relating to each other on a deeper level.