The final shot in John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club (1985) is an iconic paean to the spirit of youth, rebellion and hope.
Having bonded over a day in detention the five teenage stereotypes – the Jock, the Freak, the Geek, the Rebel and the Princess – go their separate ways, unsure whether their temporary friendship is lasting or a fleeting flash in the pan. However, the virginal Princess Claire (Molly Ringwald) kisses the Rebel John (Judd Nelson), and gives him one of her diamond earrings, which he puts on.
As the Simple Minds’ ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ plays on the soundtrack (their biggest hit, although actually written by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff for the movie), John walks across the school football pitch towards the camera and punches the air. The picture freezes with his fist raised high, and the credits roll over the golden skyline, heightening the stance of the rebel as a dark silhouette.
The freeze frame was a popular graphic ending in Eighties Hollywood, especially popularised by uber-producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop, Top Gun), who felt movies should end on an upbeat moment of exultation. Although John Hughes was pretty much the antithesis of such coke-fulled machismo, his high school dramedy is encapsulated perfectly in that final moment. The air punch is one of defiance, joy and hope for a better life. After all, if the delinquent from the wrong side of the tracks has a chance with the high class girl from the other side, don’t we all?
John Hughes is still most famous for his incredibly successful run of Eighties coming of age flicks (Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), which were a stark antidote to the crude sex-based comedies that flooded the screens in the early part of the decade. They didn’t talk down or belittle the youthful protagonists, instead treating their problems, trials and tribulations with genuine compassion and humour.
For Hughes, teenagers were not lesser beings to be derided or condescended to. He took them seriously – after all isn’t the next generation more important than the last? Although Hughes tragically died in 2009 from a sudden heart attack, his far reaching influence can be felt in countless imitations and pop culture references, as new generations still respond to the warmth and open honesty of such an approach.
Thankfully, especially given Hollywood’s love of regurgitation and franchising, there was never a Lunch or Supper Club, just as we really didn’t need Ferris Bueller’s Day After. Not knowing what happens next is the beauty of youth, the joy of living in the moment and makes the future a wondrous, scary adventure into the unknown.