This Dark ‘The Breakfast Club’ Theory Will Change The Way You Think About The Movie

After nearly 40 years, you’d think we’d know everything there is to know about John Hughes’ classic detention movie, The Breakfast Club. The plot seems so simple. Taking place during just one day, it follows five very different high school students as they suffer through a day of Saturday detention. They fight, they get high together, they talk about their trauma, and they leave as close friends.

Simple right? I thought so too until I recently re-watched the Brat Pack classic almost 40 years after it first came out. And I noticed something DARK that I never saw before. Stay with me, because I have a creepy theory about Claire, played by Molly Ringwald, that might change the way you think about The Breakfast Club.

Claire has a very creepy dad.

Universal Pictures

My theory starts at the very beginning of my re-watch. The movie begins with the teens being dropped off at their high school, Shermer High, on Saturday morning. We start with Claire (Molly Ringwald), dropped off by her dad. Watching as an adult in 2024, I couldn’t help but notice how creepy her dad was. The way he gazed at her, especially down at her chest. The way he turned his full body toward her, boxing her in. The way his voice was too sugary sweet. It made me uncomfortable in that gut instinct kind of way you can’t quite explain to someone who doesn’t get it.

Claire is the only one not to share her trauma. Why?

Universal Pictures

Toward the end of the movie, after the kids have fought with each other, gotten high, and bonded, they start to open up about why they’re in detention and what drove them to do what they did. We hear some tough stuff about being a compulsive liar, pressure to be someone you’re not, and even self-harm. When it’s Claire’s turn, she’s silent. Bender (Judd Nelson) antagonizes her in a way that brings up her relationship with her father:

Bender: God! You’re so pathetic. Don’t you ever, ever compare yourself to me, okay. You got everything, and I got shit. Fuckin’ Rapunzel, right? School would probably fuckin’ shut down if you didn’t show up. Queenie isn’t here. I like those earrings, Claire.

Claire: Shut up.

Bender: Are those real diamonds Claire?

Claire: Shut up.

Bender: I bet they are. Did you work for the money for those earrings?

Claire: Shut your mouth.

Bender: Or did your daddy buy those for you?

Claire is the most emotional and upset of the whole movie by the end of this exchange. But why? And why doesn’t she open up about it like everyone else? Clearly something’s going on with her dad. Maybe she’s more like Bender than he realizes? And we can go back to an earlier scene for some answers.

Toward the beginning of the movie, the kids are having lunch and Bender decides to act out what it’s like in his household, the one-man-show culminating in an allusion to his father hitting him. When he’s done, the first reaction is Andy (Emilio Estevez) saying that Bender must be lying. Bender shows proof of a cigar burn on his arm, but it’s too late. Andy didn’t believe him, and the mood turns dark.

Universal Pictures

So, if Claire has a similar experience at home with an abusive father, she would worry that no one would believe her if she said anything, hence her later silence. If her dad was sexually abusive, which is my theory here, she’d be too afraid to say anything even after everyone else has been so open. Why would anyone believe her? They didn’t believe Bender. And perhaps she’s the most upset about the comment about her diamond earrings because Bender is right: They’re a twisted, creepily romantic gift from her abuser: Her father.

John Bender as the ultimate protector.

After the emotional standoff about her earrings, the teens get lighthearted again, dancing around the Shermer High library before taking their original positions: Everyone at their tables aside from Bender as he heads back to the closet he’s supposed to be locked inside. Soon after, Claire joins him and they share a kiss. He suggests that he’d be a good person for her to be with if she wants to stick it to her parents, and that’s exactly what happens next.

Saturday detention ends and everything has changed. Andy is with Allison (Ally Sheedy), Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) has a bunch of cool new friends, and Claire and Bender walk out hand-in-hand. As they say goodbye, Claire takes out one of her diamond earrings and hands it to Bender. They lean up against the hood of a car and share a passionate kiss.

Universal Pictures

It’s only after the makeout session and Claire gets into the car that you realize she’d been kissing the town bad boy against her parents’ car while they watched. And, since he’s the one who dropped her off, it’s highly likely that it was her dad watching the exchange. How much do you want to bet that Claire orchestrated this display as a warning to her creep of a father that she’s with Bender now? Her dad now knows that Bender has one of her fabled diamond earrings, and he’d do anything to protect her if a certain someone got out of line.

Watch this TikTok for example clips.

If you’re still on the fence about my dark The Breakfast Club fan theory–that Claire is hiding the secret that she’s being abused by her father and that she’s dating Bender in part for his protection–I delve into it with examples of scenes from the movie in this TikTok:


did I just discover a dark subplot in The Breakfast Club? #thebreakfastclub #fantheory #filmtheory #fypage #johnhughes #bratpack

♬ original sound – Trisha Bartle

What do you think? Is this theory a stretch? You can sound off in the comments of the TikTok. And if you’re still not convince, you can watch The Breakfast Club on Netflix.

About the author

Trisha Bartle

Trisha’s your resident tarot reader, rom-com lover, and horror connoisseur. In addition to using her vast knowledge of all things cinema for Thought Catalog’s TV + Movies entertainment section, she also offers her astrological and tarot expertise to Collective World. Trisha splits her time between making art and being awesome.