Study Guide

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club Summary

Five students meet for detention on a Saturday at Shermer High School outside Chicago.

Meet Brian Johnson, Andrew Clark, Allison Reynolds, Claire Standish, and John Bender—respectively, "a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal."

The smug supervising teacher, Richard Vernon, assigns them an essay on "who you think you are," and verbally spars with Bender. Yeah, this is gonna be a verbally sparring kind of a flick. As soon as Vernon leaves, the teen drama begins: Bender bothers Claire with inappropriate sexual jokes, majorly gets on Andrew's nerves, and casually insults Brian, to boot.

This is sure to be a fun day.

The bickering goes back and forth for a surprisingly long time—like, a significant chunk of the movie. Bender continues the shenanigans: He pulls a switchblade on Andrew, removes a screw that keeps the library door open, and gets himself into more detentions after he tells Vernon to "eat my shorts."

Don't you just love the '80s?

Around lunchtime, things start to change. Instead of viewing each other as stereotypes, they begin to... listen.

  • Bender reveals that he's abused at home, showing Andrew the scar from where his dad burned him with a cigar. (He leads them all out into the hall, where he recovers a bag of marijuana from his locker. After stashing it in Brian's underwear, Bender gets caught in the hall by Vernon, who locks him in a closet for the rest of detention. Bender escapes and returns to the library, where he smokes with all the other students, except for Allison.)
  • It comes out that Allison's parents ignore her.
  • Andrew's in detention for bullying a kid by taping his butt cheeks together—something he deeply regrets. 
  • Brian's in detention because he brought a flare gun into school, and he was thinking of shooting himself with it after failing shop class.

Oh hey, turns out they're going through something tough. Whodathunk?

In the end, Andrew winds up with Allison, and Bender and Claire get together. 

Brian alone writes the essay on "who you think you are," explaining that they've all learned to identify with each other. Each one of them is, all together, a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. 

And in one of the most iconic images from '80s cinema, Bender raises his fist in triumph as he walks across the football field.

  • Scene 1

    Scene 1

    • After a David Bowie quote from "Changes" appears on the screen, we hear a voice (Brian Johnson's) reading from an essay assigned by a teacher, Mr. Vernon.
    • The voice says that all five of the students who arrived for detention that day saw themselves in terms of stereotypes—nerd, jock, weird girl, rich girl, and delinquent. They were brainwashed…
    • As the voice reads, we see images from around Shermer High School. Then we see a group of students arriving for detention.
    • As Claire Standish's father drops her off, he coddles her for having detention, saying that skipping school to shop isn't a big deal.
    • Brian Johnson's mother drops him off, badgering him to study during detention, while Andrew Clark's dad chides him for putting his scholarship at risk, before letting him out of the car.
    • Finally, we see John Bender walking into school, while Allison Reynolds gets dropped off by a parent who almost hits Bender and then speeds away without looking at Allison.
    • They all arrive in the library, assuming different seats.
    • Vernon enters and assigns them to write an essay on "who they think they are," while also telling Bender not to sleep.
    • When Bender sasses him, Vernon sentences Bender to another Saturday detention.
  • Scene 2

    Scene 2

    • The kids sit in the library, awkwardly.
    • Suddenly, Bender acts worried—where are they supposed to pee if they can't leave the library? He acts like he's unzipping his fly and preparing to urinate under the table where he's sitting.
    • Andrew yells at him not to. Bender back-talks him and then says to Brian that they should close the door and "impregnate the prom queen," Claire.
    • Andrew and Claire react by yelling at Bender some more. Andrew threatens to beat him up. Brian tries to diffuse things but no one listens.
    • We cut to Vernon who can hear the voices from his office.
    • Back in the library, they continue arguing, with Andrew saying Bender doesn't count and Bender mocking wrestlers (like Andrew) for supposedly being dumb.
    • Bender argues with Andrew and Claire about joining school activities, with Claire claiming he's afraid to participate.
    • Brian says he's in the physics club and Bender asks him about its social element.
    • Brian explains that he and the other physics club kids have a banquet at the end of the year, and talks about how his cousin got high on pot and acted weird (after Bender asks him if he gets high at the banquets).
    • Bender and Andrew argue more about wrestling, and Bender makes fun of him for wearing tights when he wrestles.
  • Scene 3

    Scene 3

    • Bender gets up and removes a screw that's keeping the library door from closing. It closes and Vernon comes to check out what's going on.
    • He asks them what happened, and they all claim it just closed—no one rats on Bender.
    • Vernon yells at Bender to give him the screw, but he denies having it.
    • Vernon tries to prop the door with a folding chair, which doesn't work. Then he tries to prop it with a magazine rack with Andrew's help.
    • Bender claims it's a fire escape hazard, and Vernon reconsiders and they move the magazine rack out of the door.
    • When Vernon's leaving, he reprimands Bender and Bender tells him to "Eat my shorts."
    • This fires off a verbal exchange, in which Vernon keeps piling on detentions as Bender refuses to stop back-talking him.
    • They get up to two months' of Saturday detentions, and finally stop. Vernon gloats and tells Bender to try less to impress people.
    • Vernon leaves and Bender shouts a loud obscenity after him.
  • Scene 4

    Scene 4

    • As detention drags on, the kids screw around and do basically nothing—for instance, Allison draws a picture and uses her dandruff as snow.
    • They all fall asleep (or seem to), but all raise their hands when Vernon asks them if they need to use the bathroom.
    • Back in the library, Bender tears pages out of a library book, heedlessly.
    • Andrew invites Claire to a party at some kid's house, but Claire says she won't go because she wants to avoid the parental conflict that ensues, with her parents blaming each other for the things she does.
    • Andrew and Allison (who just yells "Ha!") both say Claire's feeling sorry for herself.
    • Bender asks Andrew if he gets along with his own parents—which almost starts another fight. Brian tries to break it up but they ignore him.
    • Bender insults Brian, and Andrew chastens him for this. They learn Brian's name in the process, and Bender learns Claire's. He claims it's "a fat girl's name," insulting her further.
    • Claire flips him off, and Bender continues bothering her, asking her if she's a virgin and fantasizing about her having sex on a date in a car.
    • Bender moves toward Andrew, who knocks him away with a wrestling move.
    • Andrew calls him a coward, and Bender pulls out a switchblade. He ends up just stabbing it in one of the tables and leaving it there.
  • Scene 5

    Scene 5

    • Carl the janitor enters and Bender asks him how one becomes a janitor. Carl says that he's not just some peon—he listens to all their conversations and is the "eyes and ears of this institution."
    • After he leaves, Vernon comes in and tells them it's lunchtime. After they say they're thirsty, he leads Andrew and Allison to a soft drink machine in the teacher's lounge to get Cokes for everyone.
    • On the way, Andrew and Allison talk about what they like to drink—Allison claims vodka—and Andrew says he's doing detention as a way of avoiding losing his scholarship. Allison's not buying it.
    • Back in the library, Claire, Bender, and Brian are waiting.
    • Bender's bothering Claire some more, threatening to show her medical pictures of a guy with "elephantiasus of the nuts" and asking if she'd date a guy like that.
    • Bender accuses Brian of being a virgin and he claims he's not. Bender thinks Brian's gesturing to Claire, claiming he had sex with her. But Brian says he just didn't want Claire to know.
    • Claire says it's fine.
  • Scene 6

    Scene 6

    • After Andrew and Allison return, they eat.
    • Allison makes a sandwich with sugar cereal and pixie sticks, while Claire eats sushi and Andrew eats a huge lunch.
    • Bender makes fun of Brian's nutritious lunch and mimics his family life at home as being like some idyllic sitcom. Brian stops finding this so funny.
    • Andrew tells Bender to imitate his own family, and he does, imitating his father yelling at him, yelling at his mother, and then getting into an exchange where Bender yells at him while his dad repeatedly curses him out.
    • At the end, he mimes his dad hitting him.
    • Andrew says he doesn't believe him, and Bender angrily shows him a scar on his arm where he says his dad burned him with a cigar for spilling paint in the garage.
    • He angrily storms up to the second floor of the library.
  • Scene 7

    Scene 7

    • Vernon spills coffee in his office and leaves to get more.
    • Bender leads the others out into the hall, not telling them why. They know Vernon's temporarily gone.
    • At Bender's locker they stop, and Bender removes a bag of pot.
    • They try to escape through the halls, but keep almost running into Vernon.
    • Following Andrew's lead, they run into a dead end. Bender decides to distract Vernon, loudly singing as he runs away, after stuffing the pot in Brian's undies, allowing the others to get back to the library in time.
    • Vernon catches Bender in the gym, where he's goofing around with a basketball.
    • He drags Bender to the library, where he yells at him in front of the other kids.
    • He then takes Bender to a closet, where he says he's putting him for the rest of detention. Vernon tries to get Bender to take a swing at him so he can beat Bender up without getting fired. Bender looks perturbed and won't do it.
    • After Vernon leaves, Bender escapes through a heat duct, telling a joke to himself. Before he reaches the punch line, he falls through the ceiling into the library.
  • Scene 8

    Scene 8

    • Vernon busts in wanting to know what's going on.
    • But Bender's hiding under the table where he can look up Claire's skirt. They won't rat him out, and Vernon leaves.
    • Bender takes his marijuana from Brian and goes off to smoke it. Andrew resists, but then follows Claire and Brian to go smoke with Bender.
    • Excepting Allison, they get high together and joke around. Andrew ends up dancing by himself and then shattering the glass of a room by yelling really loud (Vernon doesn't hear this).
    • We cut to Vernon, down in the basement, looking through confidential student files he's not supposed to see. Carl catches him and asks for fifty bucks in exchange for not ratting him out.
    • Back in the library, Andrew and Brian are chatting.
    • Suddenly, Allison starts talking and reveals she knows all this stuff about Brian—it turns out it's because she stole his wallet (which contains a nudie picture). She gives it back.
    • In another part of the library, Claire is looking at Bender's wallet and she asks him about all the pictures of girls in it.
    • Apparently, she and Bender have differing ideas about romance: Claire is monogamous, Bender isn't.
    • Back with Andrew, Brian, and Allison, they're discussing Brian's fake ID. Allison shows them what's in her purse—a ton of stuff.
    • She says she wants to run away from home, and they ask why. Allison walks away.
    • Andrew follows her and asks her what's wrong. Allison tells him that her parents ignore her, and he empathizes.
  • Scene 9

    Scene 9

    • Vernon and Carl are still in the basement, and Vernon's telling Carl that the kids don't respect him anymore. They get more arrogant every year.
    • Carl says that's wrong—Vernon's the one who's changed. He doesn't really like being a teacher, fundamentally.
    • Vernon's not buying it—he still says it's the kids who are different.
    • In the library, the kids are all sitting in a circle. They're discussing what they'd do for a million bucks.
    • This leads Allison to claim she's a nymphomaniac, which leads Claire to diss her, which leads everyone to diss Claire, who ends up breaking down and admitting she's a virgin. Allison says she is too, and the nymphomaniac thing was a lie.
    • Now, it's confession time: Andrew ends up admitting why he's in detention. He taped a geeky kid's butt cheeks together, and hair and some skin came off when the tape was torn away.
    • He feels really guilty about this, and he rages against his dad for forcing him to compete and encouraging him to do stuff like that.
    • He says he wishes he would get injured so he could quit wrestling entirely.
  • Scene 10

    Scene 10

    • Next, Brian says that he relates—he doesn't like himself either, the way he is with his grades.
    • He talks about how he failed shop class, because he built an elephant-shaped lamp that ended up not working.
    • But he and Bender argue about shop class—Bender's good at it—and they go on to other things.
    • Claire shows them how she can put on lipstick using her cleavage to hold the stick.
    • Bender makes fun of her, which blows up into a big argument. He makes fun of her expensive diamond earrings and talks about how he got a carton of cigarettes for Christmas.
    • They worry that they're going to end up like their parents.
    • Then, they worry that they won't be friends when they go back to school the next Monday.
    • Claire says they probably won't be—her friends put too much pressure on her. The others all object, vehemently.
    • Claire claims that people like Brian and Allison look up to the popular kids, and Brian says she's conceited.
    • He says that she thinks she understands pressure—but he knows pressure.
    • He was thinking of killing himself after ruining his GPA with the elephant lamp. He brought a gun into school and it went off in his locker, which is why he's in detention.
    • When he reveals it was a flare gun, everyone—including Brian—finds this sort of funny.
    • Allison reveals why she came to detention: no reason. She didn't have anything better to do.
  • Scene 11

    Scene 11

    • Next, there's a dance sequence. Afterwards, Bender goes back to the closet where he's supposed to be.
    • Claire coaxes Brian into writing their essays for them (as one essay) and then drags Allison off to give her a makeover, removing her black eye liner and pulling her hair back.
    • Claire sneaks off to Bender's closet, while Allison walks back to Andrew and Brian, stunning them both with her new appearance.
    • In the closet, Claire and Bender kiss, and Bender says he wasn't really disgusted by the lipstick trick.
    • Back in the library, Andrew compliments Allison on her new appearance, saying her can see her face now.
    • Finally, they're all leaving detention. Andrew and Allison kiss, and she takes his athletic patch as a memento.
    • Claire gives Bender one of her earrings and he puts it in his ear.
    • Everyone gets into their parents' cars and leaves, except Bender, who walks.
    • Vernon picks up Brian's essay and starts to read.
    • We hear Brian in the voiceover reading, explaining how they realized that they all share a common experience.
    • As this happens, we see Bender walk toward us across a football field. When Brian's voiceover ends, we hear "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds playing, as Bender pumps his fist in the air in triumph. He freezes, fist up, in the movie's final frame.