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Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Original movie poster.
Directed by Amy Heckerling
Produced by Irving Azoff
Art Linson
Written by Cameron Crowe
Starring Sean Penn
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Judge Reinhold
Phoebe Cates
Brian Backer
Robert Romanus
Lana Clarkson
Ray Walston
Forest Whitaker
Nicolas Cage
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography Matthew F. Leonetti
Editing by Eric Jenkins
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) August 13, 1982
Running time 90 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4,500,000 (estimated)
Gross revenue $27,092,880 (USA) (sub-total)
Followed by Fast Times

Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a 1982 American coming-of-age teen comedy film written by Cameron Crowe. It was adapted from Crowe's 1981 book where, as a freelance writer for Rolling Stone magazine, he went undercover at a California high school and wrote about his experiences. It was directed by Amy Heckerling.

The film follows a school year in the fictional lives of sophomores Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Mark Ratner (Brian Backer) with their respective older friends Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates) and Mike Damone (Robert Romanus), both of whom believe themselves wiser in the ways of romance than their younger counterparts. The ensemble cast of characters form two subplots with Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), a perpetually stoned surfer, who faces off against uptight history teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), who is convinced that all of his students are on "dope" and Stacy's brother, Brad (Judge Reinhold), is a senior popular for working at a favorite burger joint who obsesses about paying off his car and easing out of his relationship with his girlfriend.

In addition to Penn, Reinhold, Cates and Leigh, this movie marks the early appearances by several actors who later became stars as well, including Eric Stoltz, Nicolas Cage, Anthony Edwards and Forest Whitaker. Three of the actors who appeared in the film – Cage, Penn, and Whitaker – won the Academy Award for Best Actor later on in their careers, with Penn winning twice.

Crowe later became a celebrated Hollywood director and screenwriter, winning an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his movie Almost Famous.



The film follows the lives of several students at the fictional Ridgemont High School, apparently somewhere in the Greater Los Angeles Area, over the course of one academic year.

Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold) is a senior who appears to have it made. He is looking forward to summer vacation and almost has his car paid off. He is popular, in large part because of his part-time job at a burger joint that is a favorite after-school hangout, where his girlfriend, Lisa (Amanda Wyss), also works. Brad is obsessing about how to end his long-time relationship with Lisa so he can play the field over the summer. However, he is fired from the burger joint for insulting a customer, and quits his next job because of the humiliation of having to wear a pirate costume when delivering food. As Brad's life is spiraling out of control, he tries to tell Lisa how much he needs her at a school rally before a big football game. However, Lisa tells Brad that she is dumping him to see other guys over the summer. Brad gets a third job at a convenience store. He successfully thwarts an attempted robbery when Spicoli distracts the crook, and is promoted to store manager.

Brad's younger sister Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is 15, is eager to have sex, but her first time, with a 26-year-old man who believes she is 19, is unsatisfying. Stacy works at the mall across from the movie theater where Mark "Rat" Ratner (Brian Backer) works. Mark's friend Damone (Robert Romanus), who earns money scalping tickets and fancies himself a suave ladies' man, lets Rat in on his secrets of picking up women and convinces Rat to ask Stacy out on a date when he sees that Rat has a big crush on Stacy. Stacy invites Rat into her bedroom after the date, but he quickly leaves when Stacy tries to initiate sex with him. Later Damone takes Stacy home after school and asks to come into her house. Damone has a premature ejaculation when having sex with Stacy and then flees in embarrassment. When Stacy tells Damone she is pregnant, he first agrees to pay half the fee for an abortion and to drive her to the abortion clinic, but reneges when he is unable to come up with the money. Desperate, Stacy tells Brad she needs a ride to go bowling with her friends. Brad suspects Stacy is lying and he sees her go into the to the clinic. Brad waits for Stacy to come out and she makes him promise not to tell their parents. Stacy tells her friend Linda (Phoebe Cates) how Damone blew her off. Linda flies into a rage and spray paints obscenities on Damone's car and school locker. At the end of the film, the viewer is informed that Stacy and Rat are having a passionate love affair, but have still not "gone all the way".

Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) is a surfer and habitual marijuana user in Stacy's American history class. The strict teacher, Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), has no patience with Spicoli's carefree attitude and especially not with Spicoli's wasting of class time. Finally, on the evening of the prom, Mr. Hand shows up at Spicoli's house and informs him that since he has wasted eight hours of class time over the past year, Mr. Hand intends to make up for that time now. They proceed to have a one-on-one tutoring session that lasts until Mr. Hand is satisfied that Spicoli has understood the lesson. Outside of class, Spicoli wrecks a car belonging to Ridgemont's star football player Charles Jefferson (Forrest Whitaker). To avoid being beaten up, Spicoli puts the car in Ridgemont's front lawn and paints the car with slurs supposedly written by Ridgemont's rival high school, Lincoln. An epilogue reveals that Spicoli saves Brooke Shields from drowning and then blows the reward money hiring Van Halen to play at his birthday party.



Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack by various artists
Released July 30, 1982
Genre Rock, Pop
Length 65:50
Label Elektra
Professional reviews

The soundtrack album, Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Music from the Motion Picture, peaked at #54 on the Billboard album chart. The soundtrack contains many quintessential 1980s rock artists.

Several of the movie's songs were released as singles, including Jackson Browne's "Somebody's Baby", which reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.[1] Other singles were the title track by Sammy Hagar, "So Much in Love" by Timothy B. Schmit and "Waffle Stomp" by Joe Walsh. In addition to Schmit and Walsh, the album features solo tracks by two other members of the Eagles, Don Henley and Don Felder. The soundtrack also included "I Don't Know (Spicoli's Theme)" by Jimmy Buffett.

Four tracks in the film, but not included on the soundtrack are "Moving in Stereo" by The Cars, "American Girl" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "We Got The Beat" by The Go Go's and Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir". In addition, the live band at the prom dance during the end of the film played two songs also not on the soundtrack: "Life in the Fast Lane" by the Eagles and "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs.

Amy Heckerling, in the DVD audio commentary, states that the 1970s "classic rock" artists like the Eagles were the idea of one of the film's producers. In fact, Irving Azoff, one of the movie's producers, was the personal manager for the Eagles.

Track listing

  1. "Somebody's Baby" (Jackson Browne) - 4:05
  2. "Waffle Stomp" (Joe Walsh) - 3:40
  3. "Love Rules" (Don Henley) - 4:05
  4. "Uptown Boys" (Louise Goffin) - 2:45
  5. "So Much in Love" (Timothy B. Schmit) - 2:25
  6. "Raised on the Radio" (The Ravyns) - 3:43
  7. "The Look in Your Eyes" (Gerard McMahon) - 4:00
  8. "Speeding" (The Go-Go's) - 2:11
  9. "Don't Be Lonely" (Quarterflash) - 3:18
  10. "Never Surrender" (Don Felder) - 4:15
  11. "Fast Times (The Best Years of Our Lives)" (Billy Squier) - 3:41
  12. "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (Sammy Hagar) - 3:36
  13. "I Don't Know (Spicoli's Theme)" (Jimmy Buffett) - 3:00
  14. "Love Is the Reason" (Graham Nash) - 3:31
  15. "I'll Leave It up to You" (Poco) - 2:55
  16. "Highway Runner" (Donna Summer) - 3:18
  17. "Sleeping Angel" (Stevie Nicks) - 3:55
  18. "She's My Baby (And She's Outta Control)" (Jost Palmer) - 2:53
  19. "Goodbye, Goodbye" (Oingo Boingo) - 4:34

The video and song for Stacy's Mom by Fountains of Wayne was inspired by the image in the movie of a boy masturbating in the bathroom to Stacy's mom in this movie.

Origins and production

The film is adapted from a book Crowe wrote after a year spent at Clairemont High School in San Diego, California. He went undercover to do research for his 1981 book Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story, about his observations of the high school and the students he befriended there.[2] Heckerling shepherded the young cast, which included Nicolas Cage in his first feature-film role. He was credited as Nicolas Coppola for the only time. It was also the film debut for Eric Stoltz and provided early roles for Anthony Edwards and Forest Whitaker. Crowe's girlfriend at the time, and later, wife, Nancy Wilson of Heart, has a cameo as "Beautiful Girl in Corvette".

Filming locations

Fast Times was filmed in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles (although it is never explicitly mentioned as such in the film), and many people identify the movie with that area and the teen culture that existed there, or was perceived to exist there, in the early 1980s. "Ridgemont" is a fictional name. (There is a small suburban community named Ridgemont in northern California near Hollister.) Crowe likely named it after Clairemont High School in San Diego. (Spicoli mentions surfing at Sunset Cliffs, a genuine surf spot near San Diego.) Most of the exteriors of Ridgemont High School were shot at Van Nuys High School, and other scenes were shot at Canoga Park High School and Torrance High. The "Ridgemont Mall" shown in the film was actually the Sherman Oaks Galleria, with its exterior shot at Santa Monica Place. The actual mall has since been converted to an open-air mall. Santa Monica Place was also recently closed and the entrance that was used in the film will be renovated. "The Point" was filmed at the Encino Little League Field in Encino.

In the DVD commentary, director Amy Heckerling tells of how Phoebe Cates was initially reluctant to carry out her character's poolside topless scene at the house (on Welby Way in West Hills) because she thought the neighbors might be spying on the set from the surrounding rooftops.


Box office

Universal Pictures gave it a limited theatrical release on August 13, 1982, opening in 498 theaters. It earned $2.5 million in its opening weekend. The release was later widened to 713 theaters, earning $3.25 million and ranking 29th among US releases in 1982. The movie has since earned more than $27 million,[3] six times its $4.5 million budget, gaining popularity through television and home video releases.

Critical reception

The film has an 80 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[4] However, it was panned by critics at the time. Roger Ebert called it a "scuz-pit of a movie", though he praised the performances by Leigh, Penn, Cates and Reinhold.[5] Janet Maslin wrote that it was "a jumbled but appealing teen-age comedy with something of a fresh perspective on the subject."[6]

Nominations, listings

Crowe's screenplay was nominated for a WGA Award for best comedy adapted from another medium. In 2005, Fast Times at Ridgemont High was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The film ranks #87 on the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs list, is #15 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies"[7] and is #2 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the "50 Best High School Movies".[8]

American Film Institute recognition

Television spinoff

The movie inspired a short-lived 1986 television series called Fast Times. Ray Walston and Vincent Schiavelli reprised their roles, respectively as Mr. Hand and Mr. Vargas, the biology teacher. Other cast members were Courtney Thorne-Smith as Stacey, Wally Ward as Mark, Claudia Wells as Linda, Patrick Dempsey as Mike, Dean Cameron as Spicoli and James Nardini as Brad.

Moon Unit Zappa provided "teenage consultation" for this TV series. She was hired in order to research slang terms and mannerisms of teenagers, as she had just graduated from high school at the time and had a much better grasp of then-current high school behavior than the writers.



  1. ^ Charts and Awards, Allmusic.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Fast Times at Ridgemont High at Box Office Mojo (retrieved on December 6, 2006).
  4. ^ Fast Times at Ridgemont High at Rotten Tomatoes (retrieved on December 6, 1982).
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger. 1982. Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Chicago Sun-Times (retrieved on December 6, 2006).
  6. ^ Maslin, Janet. September 3, 1982. "Ridgemont High", New York Times (retrieved via registered-user account on December 6, 2006).
  7. ^ "Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies List is Laughable",, June 2, 2006.
  8. ^ [1], Entertainment Weekly.

External links

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