Home » The Cars Of The Breakfast Club Tell The Whole Movie In The First Four Minutes

The Cars Of The Breakfast Club Tell The Whole Movie In The First Four Minutes

Breakfast Club Ts2

There are a lot of things about filmmaking that I don’t know. I can’t tell you what a “grip” or a “best boy” or “best boy grip” does, for example. I do, however, know an “establishing shot” is something at the beginning of a movie that sets the tone and lets the viewer know, at the very least, the time and place.

In the GenX touchstone 1985 film The Breakfast Club (TBC from here on), director John Hughes seems to understand what most Autopians already know: cars are windows into the soul. As such, Hughes uses vehicles to pretty much help tell you everything you need to know about the characters of the film in its first four minutes.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

For those that haven’t seen it, the movie centers around a diverse (by 1985 standards) group of teens all assigned to Saturday detention at the fictional Shermer High School in the suburbs of Chicago’s North Shore (TBC was filmed in the then-abandoned Maine North High School in Des Plaines, and the make-believe town of Shermer, Illinois is in the very real 60062 zip code for Northbrook – I should know, I live there). As the kids are dropped off one by one in front of Shermer High, the cars play a very prominent role in quickly establishing the characters’ identities. Let’s revisit them:

Breakfast Club 5 14 Labels Copy



The Jock
Parent’s Car: 1984 Ford Bronco II



Implied Stereotype: This was back before everyone drove an SUV; if a parent owned one, they likely really did take it off road to do outdoorsy things. Such an owner would be seen as a pocket-knife-and-clean-hanky kind of man’s man who likely hasn’t shown emotion since he was about four years old.

The Freak
Parent’s Car: 1984 Cadillac Bustleback Seville


Bustle Seville


Implied Stereotype: Here we have a kid that is totally rejecting the parent’s beliefs (and they are likely rejecting the kid, as proved by the fact that they peel away immediately after the kid has shut the car door). The Seville is to basically show that those beliefs are the importance of superficial appearances, just like the tinsel on this rather poorly built (and often diesel-powered) piece of crap she is dropped off in. You are left to imagine that the parent will drive back to a rather mid-sized house that nonetheless has an electric fountain in the center of the circular driveway, complete with concrete stone lions on each end.

The Brain
Parent’s Car: 1984 Dodge Aries K


Aries K

Implied Stereotype: This choice I have to take a bit of issue with. The parents here are the kind that put academics above all else, raising kids with perfect grades to get jobs with the government, academia, or at a corporation making some former D-student boss quite rich. While this type of parent doesn’t usually give a shit about material things, they’re so painfully research-focused that they’d know from Consumer Reports that the K-Car was garbage. No, they’d drive a metallic feces-brown 1982 Toyota Corona automatic station wagon like the one below:

1982 Corona 5 12
Source: Toyota

Of course, theirs will have a Nature Conservancy and local public radio station sticker on the back, seven college faculty parking stickers in the windshield (they won’t remove the old ones) and it hasn’t been washed since it left the dealer’s lot. It’s still running somewhere today, and the A/C works.


The Princess
Parent’s Car: 1983 Polaris Silver BMW e24 633csi (reportedly John Hughes’s actual car)


Bmw 633csi

Implied Stereotype: Like the Seville parents, this Dad believes the best things in life are very, very expensive, and his daughter follows suit. In Princess’s parents’ case, they likely spent some real bucks on admittedly rather tasteful and desirable things like Burberry scarfs and Nakamichi home stereos. BMWs were not a dime a dozen back then: that e24 was $39,000 new; adjusted for inflation is … who cares? [Ed Note: click here] That’s STILL a lot of cash – and they had to finance at like 14 percent in 1983). As a kid, they wouldn’t let me darken the door of the BMW showroom, which unfortunately resulted in me vowing that I needed to always have an expensive-to-fix German car in the future to “really show them.” Right.

That’s pretty much the entire movie right there. The rest is an hour and a half of we’re-all-OK that we 80s kids thought was a deep, introspective masterpiece as young teens. We were wrong about that, but using cars as a characterization tool is still a brilliant concept. In retrospect, even the “serious” films from Mr. Hughes were pretty silly, but he definitely got that part right.

Need I mention Uncle Buck’s Grand Marquis coupe?


Uncle Buck

Universal Pictures screenshots



The Movie Clueless Made A Boneheaded Mistake About Jeeps And I Have To Tell You About It Because I Just Can’t Take It Anymore – The Autopian


I’m Audi 5000! Cold Start – The Autopian

The Kid, And The Car, Stays In The Picture: Cold Start – The Autopian

Why Did ’80s Rockers love Mercedes So Much?: Cold Start – The Autopian

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23 days ago

K car was also a very common company car back in the day. A car thats free would appeal to the brain family more than anything else, even if it was better.

23 days ago

K-car would have been more respectable as an Omni/Horizon or first gen Caravan/Voyager, but was entirely believable as mom’s car for that character.

thanks for the disclaimer at the top, but yeah, even for ’85, not diverse.

JH definitely created a universe in the 80’s like Allen did for Manhattan in the 70’s. I hated these movies at the time (16, when this came out) for being so alien to my experiences (and everyone i knew) of school and family life: ignoring the pervasive racial tensions, or even that there were other races, (besides long duck dong); or muting the volume on mortgage rates, employment insecurity, substance abuse (harry dean stanton).

in the cities and neighborhoods i lived, “last hired, first fired” & “one day at a time” were on the bumper stickers, and ethnic insults in almost everyone’s mouth, no matter which color they were sporting themselves. i did grow to like his work as an adult when i got over my reverse snobbishness and realized people’s emotions are all the same, just the ecosystems are different. Teenagers and parents are going to be teenagers and parents.

Last edited 23 days ago by ES
Joseph Kadzban
Joseph Kadzban
23 days ago

yes, yes you needed to mention Uncle Bucks Grand Marquis. Thank you. I needed that.

24 days ago

Assuming I’ll see Ferris Bueller and Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari in here

24 days ago

I love most John Hughes movies so much along w/ John Candy…his Grand Marquis in Uncle Buck is so awesome and hilarious.
Bronco- Fix Or Repair Daily, the Blazer was way better
Bustleback- Yup, ugly piece of junk
Aries (see also: Plymouth Reliant) SO ugly and one of the worst cars ever made along w/ the Found On Road Dead Festiva, Geo Metro and Chevy Citation (My brother and I have made fun of these for decades)
Beemer- This one of course is great and looks amazing

23 days ago
Reply to  Freelivin2713

Metro might be a penalty box, but I just can’t call them “One of the worst cars ever made”. There are SO MANY metros still crawling around the Pacific Northwest. One guy I worked with used a metro with an oversized battery to power his off grid cabin.

Steve Schriefer
Steve Schriefer
24 days ago

I always took the Brain’s family K car as a symbol of someone trying to fit in, but falling short. The Brain was smart and very meek and because he didn’t have the right personality he would never be cool. His was a utilitarian life and as such, he would always be the ignored student for teachers, since he always did well and never made a scene. His life was a drab existence of possible success at some point in his future, but not today Brain, not today.

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