John Hughes’ most beloved film, The Breakfast Club (and I feel pretty confident making a sweeping statement like that), gave teen audiences five iconic characters that defied their stereotypes, and gave the film’s stars instant visibility. Starring Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, these teen stars have since gone on to varying levels of commercial and critical success. (Film Editor’s note- you should listen to this as you read this piece)
In The Breakfast Club, Emilio Estevez played school-jock-with-daddy-issues Andrew Clark. The eldest child of actor Martin Sheen, Estevez got his first big break in cult-classic Repo Man. He then starred in The Breakfast Club and 80s Brat Pack vehicle St. Elmo’s Fire, establishing his celebrity. In 1992 he starred as Coach Gordon Bombay in The Mighty Ducks – a staple video rental for youths the Western World over – and its two sequels. Estevez got his directorial debut with the 1986 Wisdom, which he also wrote and starred in, along with Demi Moore. He has since gone on to direct the films Men at Work (1990, a comedy about two garbage truck drivers), The War at Home (1996, a drama about post-traumatic stress disorder), and Bobby (2007, a character-driven story that takes place the morning of Robert F Kennedy’s assassination in 1968). His next film, The Way, stars father Martin Sheen as an American man who must travel to France to collect the body of his dead son.
Anthony Michael Hall
Anthony Michael Hall (whose name is actually Michael Anthony Hall) was the loveable geek, struggling with his own high expectations in The Breakfast Club. Hall got his start in 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation, as Chevy Chase’s son. He really established himself as an (always geeky) actor, when he starred in the John Hughes film Sixteen Candles in 1984, before starring in both The Breakfast Club and Weird Science in 1985. After these films Hall was stereotyped as a geek (which probably wasn’t helped by his, well, geeky looks). He joined the cast of Saturday Night Live for one year in 1985, and is the youngest cast member of SNL to this day. After his 1988 film Johnny Be Good flopped, Hall took a two years off acting due to a drinking problem, before returning in Edward Scissorhands, this time as a villain. He then starred as billionaire Bill Gates in 1999’s Pirates of Silicon Valley. From 2002-2007 he starred in the hugely successful television series Dead Zone, based on the novel by Stephen King. His most recent film role was as a reporter in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.
Judd Nelson’s character in The Breakfast Club, John Bender, was the bad boy with a questionable heart of gold. Nelson dropped out of college in his second year to study acting with Stella Adler in Manhattan. Despite earning himself a position as a member of the Brat Pack after starring in The Breakfast Club, and then St. Elmo’s Fire in 1985, Nelson failed to utilize this popularity, unlike co-stars Estevez and Hall. He starred alongside a young Kevin Costner in the road-trip film Fandango, but his next films Blue City and From the Hip gained Nelson Razzie nominations. He did, however, also voice the character of Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime in the animated Transformers: The Movie – making him beloved to a generation of nerds, like Breakfast Club co-star Hall. He starred in a number of films through the 90s, that did not gain the actor much attention, before landing a starring role on the four season-long Suddenly Susan sitcom in 1996. Nelson made a cameo appearance in Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but since 2001 he has made mostly cameo television appearances.
In The Breakfast Club Molly Ringwald plays the beauty queen Claire, struggling with her parent’s failing relationship. Fittingly for an actress with such luscious red locks, Ringwald got her start in a production of Annie, before being cast in 1979 in the television series Diff’rent Strokes (also starring tragic 80s teen star Gary Coleman). Ringwald owes a lot (or possibly, all) of her enduring popularity to director John Hughes. He cast her in starring roles in 1984’s Sixteen Candles, 1985’s The Breakfast Club, and 1986’s Pretty in Pink. During the 1990s she turned down roles in Pretty Woman and Ghost, and had a cameo in 2001’s Not Another Teen Movie, spoofing the types of roles that she starred in throughout her teens. Since 2008, she has been acting in the pro-abstinence anti-sex themed The Secret Life of the American Teenager, playing the mother of the main character. Earlier this year Ringwald published her first book, Getting the Pretty Back.
Ally Sheedy’s character in The Breakfast Club, the pseudo-goth pretend-compulsive liar (and, in one memorable scene, dandruff-haired) Alison Reynolds was the definition of “outcast.” Sure, at the end of the film Claire makes over her character, and it is revealed that beneath that scruffy ‘do and blank stare’ she is (shock! horror!) quite pretty, but it’s the pre-transformation Sheedy that stays in the mind. When twelve-years-old Sheedy published a children’s book (precocious!), She Was Nice To Mice, but her first silver screen role was alongside Sean Penn in Bad Boys (1983). The 80s were Sheedy’s most prolific acting years, and as well as The Breakfast Club she starred in St. Elmo’s Fire with Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez, Short Circuit and Maid to Order. In 1991 she published a book of poems, Yesterday I Saw The Sun, and in 1999 starred in an off-Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and was the first female to play the role of the title transsexual.