Progress on this series had hit a noticeable standstill, but happenstance has intervened and given me motivation to move forward. Coinciding with the untimely death of director/producer/writer John Hughes, the next film in the countdown is actually three films, because I just couldn’t leave one out and also because the three share so much common ground. Hughes directed two out of three.
Anyone who came of age in the 80’s is familiar with John Hughes and The Brat Pack (Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Andrew McCarthy, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, and Emilio Estevez). Hughes was the master of capturing teen angst on film, and those 8 actors were apparently his muses. Hughes did a lot of other great stuff, and including his two films we’ll discuss here, nine of his films appear in my Top 100. But it’s the teen stuff, the Brat Pack movies, that he is most remembered for creating. All 8 Packers appear in this three pack.
Specifically I am talking about Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and St. Elmo’s Fire. Those were the three Brat Pack films that most resonated with my sensibilities.
Sixteen Candles is obviously aimed at a more female demographic. That’s okay…..I’m in touch with my feminine side I guess. Molly Ringwald stars as a teenager whose entire family forgets her 16th birthday because they are gearing up for her older sister’s wedding. The grandparents are hilarious, and even better is the exchange student one set of grandparents bring along. This exchange student, Long Duk Dong, takes Sixteen Candles over the top in my opinion. Anthony Michael Hall is also amusing as a total geek trying to win a bet involving a a pair of panties and a dozen floppy disks (wow…what an outdated reference lol).
The Breakfast Club is classic 80’s, prototypical John Hughes, quintessential Brat Pack. It epitomizes the zeitgeist of teen angst on film. Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Does it really matter? The story involves 5 high schoolers (Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, & Judd Nelson) serving detention in the school library on a Saturday. The characters encompass archetypal high school clichés…..nerds, jocks, rebels, WASPS, and loners. The genius of the film is that it takes those clichés and makes us truly understand. It’s a deep message wrapped in an easily digestible and fun movie. And I’m not sure any song has ever been so closely associated with a movie as Simple Minds’ Don’t You Forget About Me.
St. Elmo’s Fire could have been a sequel to The Breakfast Club. It stars 3 of the 5 Clubbers (Nelson, Estevez, & Sheedy), as well as Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, and Andrew McCarthy. This time the setting isn’t high school but college, where the group has just graduated and now needs to figure out what’s next. I’ve been there, done that. Actually, 14 years later and I’m still searching for answers, but that’s a whole other issue. The title alludes to an electrical phenomenon that appears to sailors. I’ve never really understood what exactly that had to do with events in the movie, but atleast the title is creative and easily remembered. St. Elmo’s Fire is understandably heavier and more intense than The Breakfast Club, but it’s also intended for a slightly older audience. It is often lost in the shuffle amongst more lighthearted and ostensibly better 80’s/Pack flicks, but I think it deserves to be recognized right up at the top of the list.
As an amusing aside, I will say that I literally just now noticed that this is number 85 in the countdown and that both St. Elmo’s Fire and The Breakfast Club came out in 1985. I’m good.
I toyed with the idea of doing a standalone tribute to John Hughes, but the timing of this entry (and the order of this list has been rock solid for months, so it really was coincidental) combined with the fact that a half dozen other Hughes films appear in the list will serve as a proper testament to the man’s pop culture influence and my enjoyment of his contributions.
- What’s the Best Brat Pack Movie? (media.gunaxin.com)
- 6 reviews of 01. The Breakfast Club No. 1 (rateitall.com)
- St. Elmo’s Fire cast career scorecards: Who’s on top? (thestar.com)
- Did We Stutter? Film Society to Pay Tribute to John Hughes (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)
- 89 reviews of The Breakfast Club (rateitall.com)