This Famous Breakfast Club Scene Was Actually Improvised

For many of us, high school was (and perhaps is) a total drag. There's just something about being old enough to potentially drive a car or legally vote but still having to ask permission to go to the bathroom that really does something to a person's psyche. Plus, there are all sorts of punishments looming over high schoolers' heads if they dare to do anything out of line, and the threat of detention is probably the most common. It's talked about in nearly every show or movie about teenagers in high school (unless this is Euphoria High in which case I'm pretty sure "detention" is just code for doing drugs in the teacher's lounge), and this is probably because it is such a universal experience for high schoolers. 

One of my absolute favorite detention-centric high school drama television episodes is that one episode of "Dawson's Creek" where Pacey, Joey, Dawson, Jen, and Abby (ugh) all miraculously get detention at the same time, so it's really more of a quirky weekend hang out than actual punishment. It's such a stupidly great episode, but what makes it great is the inspiration behind it. It's basically a given now that when you put a group of angsty teens in a library on the weekend to punish them for their petty wrongdoings, audiences will immediately be reminded of the OG detention film, "The Breakfast Club." 

Written and directed by John Hughes, "The Breakfast Club" tells the story of five distinctly different students as they bond and come together over an all-day weekend detention. It's a classic film that is quoted and referenced continually, and it's easily one of the most influential high school films of all time. Obviously, a lot of the movie's charm comes from Hughes' brilliance on the page, but there is one extremely famous moment in the film that was actually improvised.   

The making of an iconic moment

At the end of "The Breakfast Club," all five of the students serving detention leave the school profoundly changed in some way. Weirdly, a few of them even share passionate kisses outside of the school as their parents pull in to pick them up. Eventually, Brian "The Brain" Johnson begins a voiceover as we watch Vice Principal Vernon read the letter they have left for him in lieu of completing their "assignment." It's a tender scene that makes us want to stick it to the man too. As we watch John Bender (Judd Nelson) make his way across the football field (after just having received the precious diamond earring of one Princess Claire Standish), we listen to the letter's final lines and feel our emotions swell as a vindicated Bender thrusts his fist into the air right as the camera freezes on his triumphant frame. 

It's very possible that many fans of "The Breakfast Club" cannot listen to Simple Minds's "Don't You (Forget About Me)" without throwing in a fist pump or two for good measure, and that famous scene definitely solidified Bender as one of the coolest and most bad ass characters in the entire film. What makes it even cooler is that Bender  improvised that now-iconic fist pump himself. 

Many of the scenes in the film were improvised because Hughes was apparently a big fan of collaboration, as confirmed in an interview with cinematographer Thomas Del Ruth in The Huffington Post. In the film's last shot, Bender was always supposed to be walking across the football field at dusk, but Hughes had written a note in the script "to experiment with doing some random actions." Nelson tried out some different options and eventually landed on the iconic first pump. Thankfully, Hughes and the rest of the cast loved it, and it became the movie's final shot. Because of the way it encompasses both the emotions of Bender at that moment in time and the triumphant feelings of the group as a whole after they have come to understand one another better, it solidified itself as the perfect ending to an unforgettable film.