In the pantheon of teen movies, few stand as tall as The Breakfast Club. The idea of the movie is simple; five high school kids all get Saturday detention for various broken rules. The five students each represent a different clique– the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, and the criminal– and during their hours stuck in the school library together they come to see each other as more than just the labels they have been given.
The movie, released in 1985, has become a must-see film for every generation of teenagers, shown at endless sleepovers and rainy Sunday afternoons. While the music and clothes are dated, and the cast is about as white as baby powder, the concept still holds up as true. We all tend to fail to look at the lives of others and understand that they have problems of their own.
Still, the cast, made of just seven characters, have all become iconic for their roles in the movie. At the time, each of them was an up and coming star. Today, some of them have all but faded away, some continue to be a presence in film and television, and some, sadly, have passed away.
So get your favorite 80’s mix going, put on your leg warmers and gel your hair as we get ready to travel back thirty-two years and see what the cast of The Breakfast Club was like then and what they’re up to now.
15. Molly Ringwald (1985)
Molly Ringwald‘s career started when a casting director saw her playing an orphan in a stage version of Annie. She was cast on the long-running sitcom The Facts of Life but was written out of the show after the first season. Soon after, she made her film debut in Tempest, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe.
In 1984 she appeared in the first of three movies she would make with John Hughes, Sixteen Candles. The movie about a girl whose entire family forgets her sixteenth birthday turned Ringwald into a teen icon as well as a box office star. Ringwald was the perfect relatable girl: cute, funny, and seemingly devoid of ego. She was exactly what the 1980’s was looking for after the rough and tumble movies of the 1970’s.
14. Molly Ringwald (2017)
The Breakfast Club was another big hit for Ringwald and Hughes, and they followed it up with their third and final movie together, Pretty in Pink. In this one, Ringwald was a poor girl who had fallen for a rich kid played by Andrew McCarthy. At the same time, Jon Cryer played Ringwald’s best friend Duckie who, as you can guess, was totally in love with her.
After Pretty in Pink, Ringwald turned down a fourth John Hughes movie, choosing instead to take on more mature films. She starred in The Pick-up Artist with Robert Downey Jr., and For Keeps. Both movies were moderate successes, but they didn’t have the draw of her films with Hughes.
For reasons we’ll never understand, Ringwald turned down the lead roles in Pretty Woman and Ghost. By the early 90’s, the girl of the 1980’s had left movies for TV, starring in the miniseries version of Stephen King‘s classic novel The Stand and making guest appearances on various shows.
13. Emilio Estevez (1985)
The oldest child of Janet Templeton and Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez started his acting career by making short films with his brother Carlos (better known as Charlie Sheen), and their friends Sean Penn, Chris Penn, Chad Lowe, and Rob Lowe. When he was 14, Estevez traveled to the Philippines with his father, spending his days on the set of Apocalypse Now, which had to be really crazy.
From an early age, Estevez showed an interest not just in acting, but in writing and directing. Along with writing the short films he and his friends made, Estevez wrote and starred in a play about the Vietnam War in high school. He had his breakout role in The Outsiders and his first lead role in the cult classic Repo Man with Harry Dean Stanton before signing on for The Breakfast Club to play the athlete, Andrew.
12. Emilio Estevez (2017)
After The Breakfast Club, Estevez starred in the “Brat Pack” film St. Elmo’s Fire. For his next film, That Was Then, This is Now, he didn’t just star in it, he wrote the screenplay based on the S. E. Hinton novel. After that, Estevez starred in the only movie Stephen King ever directed, Maximum Overdrive.
Estevez starred as Billy the Kid in Young Guns and its sequel before making his directorial debut with the underrated comedy Men at Work, which he also wrote and starred in alongside his brother. In 1992, Estevez had his biggest hit with the Disney movie The Mighty Ducks. Over the years, Estevez has appeared in a number of movies and TV shows. At the same time, he has expanded his directorial resume, earning a Golden Globe nomination for his 2006 movie Bobby. He is currently finishing up his latest directorial effort, The Public, starring Jena Malone, Christian Slater, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Taylor Schilling.
11. Anthony Michael Hall (1985)
By the time he was twelve, Anthony Michael Hall had acted on stage with Steve Allen and Woody Allen. In 1980, he made his debut in the Emmy-winning TV movie The Gold Bug where he played a young Edgar Allan Poe. Hall made his film debut in Six Pack with Kenny Rogers and Diane Lane. A year later, he played the first (and best) Rusty in National Lampoon’s Vacation, alongside Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. The hit comedy was written by John Hughes and based on his own childhood. Hughes was impressed with Hall’s acting ability and decided to cast Hall in his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles.
10. Anthony Michael Hall (2017)
After The Breakfast Club, Hall starred in the John Hughes scripted Weird Science, alongside Kelly Le Brock, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, and Bill Paxton. At just seventeen, Hall joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, making him the youngest member of the long-running series ever. He only lasted one season before being fired from the show.
Fearing being typecast, Hall turned down Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Pretty in Pink, choosing instead to star in Out of Bounds. The movie was a critical and commercial flop. Hall was offered the lead role in Stanley Kubrick‘s Full Metal Jacket, but he and the studio could not agree on his pay and the role went to Matthew Modine. He starred in Johnny Be Good with Uma Thurman. As with Out of Bounds, the movie was a critical and commercial failure.
Hall took two years off to deal with a drinking problem. When he made his return to the screen in Edward Scissorhands with Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder, most people didn’t even recognize him. He next appeared in Six Degrees of Separation with Will Smith. For six seasons, Hall starred on The Dead Zone. Since then, Hall has continued to appear in films and TV, including The Dark Knight, Community, and Murder in the First.
9. John Kapelos (1985)
John Kapelos made his screen debut as a mechanic in the critically acclaimed Michael Mann film Thief, starring James Caan. He followed it up by appearing
uncredited in the Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning film Tootsie, starring Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Bill Murray, and Teri Garr. Kapelos was on a roll, but his next film appearance, Dan Aykroyd‘s Dr. Detroit, was a critical and commercial bomb. Considering his role was “Rush Street Dude,” it probably didn’t slow his career down much.
In 1984, Kapelos worked with John Hughes for the first time when he played Rudy Ryszczyk is Sixteen Candles. This was also the first time Kapelos played a character with a name. Hughes must have liked him because he cast Kapelos as Carl the Janitor in The Breakfast Club. The role continues to be what Kapelos is best known for, and with good reason. Kapelos’ monologue about being a janitor is one of the best moments of the movie.
8. John Kapelos (2017)
Since The Breakfast Club, Kapelos has appeared in nearly two hundred movies and TV shows, including Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon and Luke Wilson, The X-Files with Gillian Anderson and Robert Patrick, Gilmore Girls, Modern Family, and the upcoming Guillermo del Toro film The Shape of Water with Michael Shannon, Sally Hawkins, and Octavia Spencer.
In 1999, Kapelos received special notice from critics for his work as George Karras in The Deep End of the Ocean, which starred Michelle Pfeiffer.
Kapelos played Picker in the fourth and fifth season of the critically acclaimed TV series Justified and has been an instructor at the Actors Studio. He created a four-part series on YouTube called Greek to Me and the now defunct independent record label, Carpuzi Records.
7. Paul Gleason (1985)
When he was just 16, Paul Gleason ran away from home. He made his way across the United States, heading east and playing baseball whenever he could. When he was twenty, Gleason signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians, but he only played two minor league games before he found his new love, acting.
While on the road with the team, Gleason met sitcom star Ozzie Nelson who offered him a role in an episode of his show Ozzie and Harriet. Gleason took the job and never looked back. For fourteen years, Gleason appeared on a number of shows before landing the role of Dr. David Thornton on the soap opera All My Children. It would be another decade before Gleason would land the role he will forever be remembered for: Assistant Principal Richard Vernon in The Breakfast Club.
6. Paul Gleason (2017)
After The Breakfast Club, Gleason found himself getting roles as the authoritative jerk. His second best-known film role, Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson in the Bruce Willis action flick Die Hard, solidified him as one of the ultimate 8’0s mean guys. He went on to appear on Boy Meets World as Dean Borak, and as Larry Newman, the angry B-movie studio chief on Dawson’s Creek.
Gleason reprised his role as Principal Richard “Dick” Vernon in the spoof Not Another Teen Movie and appeared as Professor McDougal in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder with Ryan Reynolds.
5. Judd Nelson (1985)
Unlike the other “teen” actors in The Breakfast Club, Judd Nelson didn’t have much of an acting resume when he was cast in the movie. The son of a court mediator and corporate legislator, Nelson was born in Maine and raised in New Hampshire. He attended Haverford College in Pennsylvania but left during his sophomore year to study acting with the iconic actress and teacher Stella Adler.
He had a role in the Rachel Sweet starring musical Rock ‘n Roll Hotel, a movie that never made it to theaters, and starred in Making the Grade, which is better remembered for introducing the world to Andrew “Dice” Clay. He had filmed Fandango with Kevin Costner, but the movie hadn’t been released yet when he got the role of criminal John Bender in The Breakfast Club. He was well on his way to twenty-five years old by then.
4. Judd Nelson (2017)
With The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire, which was released in the same year, Nelson became an instant movie star. In 1986 he lent his voice to Transformers: The Movie, playing Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime and to the critically-acclaimed documentary Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam.
In 1991, Nelson starred in The Dark Backward with Bill Paxton, Rob Lowe, and Lara Flynn Boyle. In the movie, he played the worst comedian in stand-up comedy history. He followed that up with the Mario Van Peebles urban gangster film New Jack City, starring Wesley Snipes, Ice-T, Vanessa A. Williams, and Chris Rock.
From 1996 to 2000, Nelson starred with Brooke Shields on the NBC sitcom Suddenly Susan and played the main bad guy in the Shaquille O’Neal superhero flop Steel. In 2009, Nelson returned to his role as Rodimus Prime for the cartoon series Transformers Animated and appeared in The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day with Norman Reedus. He also plays Billy Beretti on the hit series Empire.
3. Ally Sheedy (1985)
When she was just six, Ally Sheedy started dancing with the American Ballet Theatre. At twelve, she wrote the book She Was Nice to Mice, which became a national best-seller. The success of the book led to Sheedy’s first work in front of a camera when she appeared on the game show To Tell the Truth.
Sheedy began acting in made-for-TV movies in 1981 and landed her first major film role 1983 when she played Sean Penn’s girlfriend in Bad Boys. Sheedy then appeared in WarGames alongside Matthew Brodrick. In 1984, Sheedy starred in the comedy Oxford Blues with Rob Lowe. The movie, a remake of the 1938 film A Yank at Oxford, did not do well at all.
2. Ally Sheedy (2017)
As with Emilio Estevez and Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy followed up The Breakfast Club with St. Elmo’s Fire. She next appeared in Twice in a Lifetime with Gene Hackman and Ann-Margret, and the box office bomb Blue City (alongside Judd Nelson).
In 1986, Sheedy starred in the box office smash Short Circuit with Steve Guttenberg and Fisher Stevens. She also makes an uncredited voice cameo in Short Circuit 2. For the rest of the 80’s and most of the 1990’s, Sheedy’s film career was lacklustre. She appeared in films like Red Shoe Diaries 4: Auto Er*tica.
In 1998, Sheedy starred in the independent film High Art. The movie was a critical hit, winning awards from the Independent Spirit Awards, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and National Society of Film Critics. In 1999, Sheedy starred in an off-Broadway production of the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, becoming the first woman to play the role of Hedwig.
1. John Hughes
After dropping out of the University of Arizona, John Hughes began selling jokes to famous comedians, including Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers. Hughes turned his joke writing work into an advertising job. While working on ads for Virginia Slims, Hughes started to hang around the offices of the iconic magazine National Lampoon. He wrote an article for the magazine, “Vacation ’58”. That story would become the classic comedy, National Lampoon’s Vacation.
With the success of Vacation, Hughes was able to sell another script, Mr. Mom. The movie, which starred Michael Keaton, earned Hughes a three-movie deal with Universal Studios. This started Hughes’ career as one of the premiere comedy filmmakers. From 1984 to 2009, Hughes made thirty films, including Uncle Buck, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and Home Alone, not to mention the teen comedies and dramas that he is best remembered for.
On August 6, 2009, Hughes suffered a massive heart attack while in Manhattan. He was taken to Roosevelt Hospital where he was later pronounced dead. Hughes was buried on August 11 in Chicago, the city where many of his movies took place. He was just 59. While he may be gone, his films will live on forever.
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