Fast Times at Ridgemont High
is a 1982 American coming-of-age teen
written by Cameron Crowe
(adapted from his book) and directed by Amy Heckerling
. The film follows a school year in the lives of freshman Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh
), freshman Mark Ratner (Brian Backer
) and their respective friends Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates
) and Mike Damone (Robert Romanus
) who believe themselves wise in the ways of romance and counsel their younger counterparts. The ensemble cast of characters also includes 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." Stacy's brother, Brad (Judge Reinhold
), is a popular senior who works at a local hangout, All-American Burger.
It includes early appearances by several actors who would later become stars, including Sean Penn, Eric Stoltz, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nicolas Cage, Anthony Edwards, Phoebe Cates, Forest Whitaker, and Judge Reinhold. Notably, three of the actors who appeared in the film — Cage, Penn, and Whitaker — would win an Academy Award for Best Actor later on in their careers.
Crowe himself would soon become a celebrated Hollywood director and screenwriter, eventually winning an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his movie Almost Famous.
Stacy Hamilton (Leigh) is a high school freshman who works at Perry's pizza parlor with the more sexually experienced Linda Barrett (Cates). Mark Ratner (Backer) also works in the mall, as "assistant to the assistant manager" of the movie theater. His friend Mike Damone (Romanus), who also hangs out at the mall scalping rock concert tickets, believes himself to be both worldly and wise in the ways of women. Stacy's brother Brad (Reinhold) is a relatively popular, if a bit dorky, senior who works at All-American Burger to buy a blue 1960 Buick LeSabre and only has six more payments left ("Six more payments gentlemen, and this beautiful, blue, four-door, luxury sedan is all mine.") . Surfer Jeff Spicoli (Penn) hotboxes in a Volkswagen Microbus before the final bell rings for the start of a new school year.
The sexually-curious Stacy initially hooks up with a much older home stereo salesman, Ron Johnson of Pacific Stereo — an electronics retailer at the mall. He provides her first sexual experiences, but dumps her a few months later, and then Stacy seeks other relationships.
Stacy and nerdy Mark Ratner end up sharing a biology class. Eventually Ratner asks Stacy out and receives pointers from his friend Damone, the scalper. One of many romance tips is to play side one of Led Zeppelin IV, but we soon hear "Kashmir" from the band's 1975 double album Physical Graffiti as Ratner and Stacy drive to a restaurant. (Due to a licensing snafu, the producers were unable to gain clearances to use songs from Led Zeppelin IV.) The date goes well despite Ratner forgetting his wallet at home and the tape deck being stolen from his sister's vehicle during their dinner "at such a fancy place." They go back to her house where she comes on to him in a major way (as "Love Rules" plays), and he chickens out, leaving her there — with nothing but a robe on. He makes the excuse that he must get his sister's Mazda GLC station wagon back because her car is "her baby" and "she gets crazy when it comes to her car."
Brad loses his cherished job at All American Burger in a dispute with an unsatisfied customer ("Mister, if you don't shut up, I'm gonna kick 100 percent of your ass!") and is forced to take a new job at "Captain Hook Fish and Chips," a Long John Silvers-styled fish restaurant. Employees are forced to wear ridiculous-looking pirate costumes, and, after being laughed at by an beautiful woman (who happens to be Nancy Wilson of the band, Heart) while on a delivery to "the boys at IBM," Brad quits this job in disgust while tossing all the "Catch of the Day boxes" into the street out of the "cruising vessel."
Meanwhile, Spicoli drinks beer and smokes marijuana as he joyrides ("People on ludes should not drive!") in a 1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 owned by Charles Jefferson (Whitaker), star of the football team as "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" by Sammy Hagar plays. The car is a gift from a grateful alumnus, and Jefferson's little brother, along for the ride, is concerned about its well-being ("You gonna scratch my brotha's car"). Of course, Spicoli manages to wreck the car ("Hey mon, just be glad I had fast reflexes"); but promises he can fix it — "Relax! Alright? My old man is a television repairman. He's got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it!" The next day at school, a large crowd gathers around the front entrance where Jefferson's totaled car is covered in graffiti making it look as if the rival high school, Lincoln, destroyed it as a prank. Jefferson vents his anger out on the Lincoln football team that night, winning the game and sending Lincoln's quarterback out of the game on a stretcher.
Spicoli manages to annoy Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), his American History teacher, in a series of amusing sketches, including one in which Spicoli arranges for a pizza delivery in the middle of class by a less-than-thrilled "Pizza Guy" delivery man played by Taylor Negron only to have Mr. Hand take the double-cheese and sausage pizza and distribute its slices to his favored students. In the end, Mr. Hand takes some revenge by visiting Spicoli at his home on the night of the senior prom and administering an impromptu History lesson — long enough to delay Spicoli until well after the prom has started. Still, the teacher relents on the question of whether or not he will flunk Spicoli, telling the stoned surfer that he'll probably "squeak by." This is good enough for Spicoli, who, as we learn at the end of the movie, only needs "a cool buzz and some tasty waves" and he's fine.
Stacy meets and grows attracted to Ratner's friend, Damone. Stacy invites Damone into her house and asks if he wants to go for a swim. She brings him into the changing booth near the pool. Instead of them swimming as planned, the two have sex in the changing booth. Later, Stacy discovers that she is pregnant with Damone's child. Damone is unable to come up with half the money to pay for an abortion (Stacy: "$150 at the free clinic."; Damone: "Doesn't sound free to me. I suppose you want me to pay for it?"; Stacy: "Half...OK? And a ride to the clinic."; Damone: "$75 and a ride...OK."). That night, Damone desperately tries to gather debt from a client who he sold tickets in his scalping but fails. Ashamed, Damone cannot give Stacy the money and doesn't even give Stacy her promised ride to the clinic. After Damone doesn't show up, Stacy catches a ride with Brad to a nearby bowling alley under false pretenses. Brad sees Stacy leave the bowling alley and enter the clinic. After the procedure is finished, Brad waits for Stacy outside and talks to her about what happened, though Stacy will not tell him the identity of the father. Linda goes after Damone by scrawling "Prick" in spray paint on his car door and "Little Prick" in marker on his school locker.
Damone and Ratner get into a nasty fight over Stacy after Ratner hears about the relationship and they stop talking. They speak to each other at the prom, however, and their relationship is somewhat repaired. Stacy gives a demure photo of herself to Ratner and makes it clear that she'd like to begin seeing him again. Then we see Brad at his new job at a 7-Eleven-type store, Mi-T-Mart. Spicoli walks in wearing a Colt-45 T-shirt and tries to makes a purchase while fumbling with pocket change, saying the famous line "All I need is some tasty waves, a cool buzz and I'm fine." He then asks to use the bathroom. A thief pulls up, walks in the door, sprays the security camera, pulls out a pistol and tells Brad to give him the money "NOW! In the safe! Behind the doughnuts!" Spicoli walks out of the bathroom, and inadvertently distracts the thief ("Hey, no towels, mon.") just long enough for Brad to throw hot coffee in the robber's face and capture him ("I got you, you son of a bitch!...There goes your ride home!" as the getaway car speeds off), becoming a local hero. Spicoli says, after standing slack-jawed, "Awesome! Totally awesome! Alright Hamilton!" Then breaking into the credits, we see what happens to the students in the future:
- Brad Hamilton - Made manager of Mi-T-Mart June 12.
- Mike Damone - Busted for scalping Ozzy Osbourne tickets. Now working at 7-Eleven.
- Mr. Vargas - Switched back to coffee.
- Linda Barrett - Attending college in Riverside. Now living with her Abnormal Psych professor.
- Rat & Stacy - Having a passionate love affair. But still haven't gone all the way.
- Mr. Hand - Convinced everyone is on dope.
- Jeff Spicoli - Saved Brooke Shields from drowning. Blows reward money hiring Van Halen to play his birthday party.
There are several extra scenes only shown on the cable versions. They include:
- A scene during class registration in the gym, where Brad's friends warn Stacy about Mr. Hand before school starts.
- An extended scene with Stacy and Linda in the mall with a girl (Hallie Todd) approaching Linda asking her about different ways of safe sex because she doesn't have protection.
- Brad throwing away an old batch of fries ("I shall serve no fries before their time") and is questioned by his boss, Dennis Taylor.
- Stacy in the abortion clinic. She is shown lying on the table, and asking if this will be as painful as having the baby.
- Damone and Ratner talk about what to do on a date and Damone telling Rat to play Led Zeppelin IV. This scene is followed by a scene in which Linda and Stacy are talking on the phone and they are in their bra and panties. In this conversation Linda warns Stacy about the Led Zeppelin IV seduction technique.
- Brad talking with a guidance counselor about his life.
- Brad ripping down a Coca-Cola poster in his bedroom after getting fired from All American Burger.
- Mr. Hand signing students' yearbooks at the school dance.
- Extended dialog in the "no shirt, no shoes, no dice" scene, in which Spicoli says "I have uno nickel-ette ... and a pick" and makes up a story of how Mick Jagger gave him that pick.
- An extra scene of Linda comforting Stacy after she tells Linda that she might be pregnant after her shag with Damone.
- In the Boy's restroom, Spicoli is telling his buddies an exaggerated version of his run-in with Mr. Hand ("I went up, snatched his nose..."). In reality, Spicoli just called him a "dick" and walked out.
- Spicoli's speech to Jefferson's younger brother at the arcade, "life is like Pacman. You have to decimate or be decimated."
- Brad cleaning the men's restroom mirror and rehearsing a speech he plans to say to his girlfriend that they begin seeing other people. The mirror has graffiti of "Big Hairy Pussy" (The mirror has graffiti of "EAT IT" in TV versions)
The soundtrack album, Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Music from the Motion Picture, was a hit, selling more than a million copies. It peaked at #54 on the Billboard album chart. Several songs were released as singles, including Jackson Browne's "Somebody's Baby", which reached #7 on the Billboard Top 40 pop singles chart. 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 The Eagles, Don Henley and Don Felder. The soundtrack also included a track called "I Don't Know" A.K.A "Spicolli's Theme" by Jimmy Buffett.
Amy Heckerling, in the DVD audio commentary, states that the '70s "classic rock" artists like the Eagles were the idea of one of the film's producers. Though she does not mention him by name, that was clearly Irving Azoff, who in addition to producing the film was also a rock artist manager; having managed the Eagles during the '70s and, by 1982, continuing to manage the now broken-up band members' solo careers, Azoff had a vested interest in loading the hit soundtrack with songs that would generate money for his clients (there is even a cover version of the Eagles' 1977 hit "Life in the Fast Lane" played, somewhat incongruously, by the film's cover band in the high-school dance scene). For her part, Heckerling was more interested in the L.A. New Wave sounds of Oingo Boingo and the Go-Go's, which she felt were more popular among kids of that era.
Among the songs in the film that do not appear on the album include The Cars' "Moving in Stereo", Tom Petty's "American Girl", "We Got the Beat" by The Go-Go's, and a piano version of "Strangers in the Night" which plays in the background at the German restaurant.
Another song not on the album is "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin, a band that is highly selective in licensing its songs for use in films. Crowe was later able to use several Zeppelin tracks in Almost Famous, including "The Rain Song" and "That's the Way."
Also missing from the soundtrack are the Cinch songs from the graduation dance at the end of the film, "Life in the Fast Lane" and "Wooly Bully".
- "Somebody's Baby" (Jackson Browne) - 4:05
- "Waffle Stomp" (Joe Walsh) - 3:40
- "Love Rules" (Don Henley) - 4:05
- "Uptown Boys" (Louise Goffin) - 2:45
- "So Much in Love" (Timothy B. Schmit) - 2:25
- "Raised on the Radio" (The Ravyns) - 3:43
- "The Look in Your Eyes" (Gerard McMahon) - 4:00
- "Speeding" (Go-Go's) - 2:11
- "Don't Be Lonely" (Quarterflash) - 3:18
- "Never Surrender" (Don Felder) - 4:15
- "Fast Times (The Best Years of Our Lives)" (Billy Squier) - 3:41
- "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (Sammy Hagar) - 3:36
- "I Don't Know (Spicoli's Theme)" (Jimmy Buffett) - 3:00
- "Love Is the Reason" (Graham Nash) - 3:31
- "I'll Leave It up to You" (Poco) - 2:55
- "Highway Runner" (Donna Summer) - 3:18
"Sleeping Angel" (Stevie Nicks) - 3:55
"She's My Baby (And She's Outta Control)" (Jost Palmer) - 2:53
"Goodbye, Goodbye" (Oingo Boingo) - 4:34
"Everybody's Girl" (Rick Springfield)
- Was to be featured on Summer's album, I'm a Rainbow, but was shelved by her record label at the time. Its appearance on this soundtrack was an exclusive for Summer fans.
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.
Heckerling shepherded the young cast, which included Nicolas Cage in his first feature-film role. He was credited as Nicolas Coppola for the first and 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
, has a cameo as "Beautiful girl in Corvette".
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 no California community by that name. 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 (in San Fernando Valley) because she thought the neighbors might be spying on the set from the surrounding rooftops.
gave it a limited theatrical release on August 13
, 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, six times its $4.5 million budget, gaining popularity through television showings and home video releases, leading to somewhat of a cult following.
The film has an 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes
. 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. Janet Maslin
wrote that it was "a jumbled but appealing teen-age comedy with something of a fresh perspective on the subject.
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 and is #2 on Entertainment Weekly's
list of the "50 Best High School Movies".
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 high school at the time and had a much better grasp of then-current high school behavior than the writers.
Pop culture references
- The fantasy sequence involving Cates removing her red bikini top has been parodied several times. Jimmy Kimmel played the part of Cates to Adam Carolla's Brad on The Man Show. It was also re-enacted in the movie, Kids in America (2005) in a sequence in which the teenage couple, Holden Donovan (Gregory Smith) and Charlotte Pratt (Stephanie Sherrin) attempt to recreate a number of ‘Greatest On-screen Kisses’. Fountains of Wayne paid tribute by casting Rachel Hunter in the Cates role for the video of their single "Stacy's Mom." Pop-punk band Fenix*TX performs a song called "Phoebe Cates" with the lyrics: "I've been in love since the day I saw 'Fast Times,'/It's on a permanent rewind and can you guess my favorite part?" According to the DVD extras, many video store owners reported that VHS copies of the film had tracking errors during Cates's famous scene. The sequence ranked No. 1 on a list of the top 100 nude scenes compiled by Mrskin.com. The scene is also parodied in the season 2 episode of Alias called Double Agent. The bikini sequence was also referenced in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when Clark W. Griswold is daydreaming out of the window about his soon-to-be-installed swimming pool.
- The film's title inspired Vernor Vinge's Hugo Award-winning short story "Fast Times at Fairmont High."
- The animated comedy TV series Family Guy has lampooned the film in several episodes. The Season 3 episode "The Kiss Seen Around the World" was loosely based on the film, including a teacher named Mr. Vargas and a parody of the Phoebe Cates sequence with Tom Tucker playing the role of Linda and Meg Griffin playing Brad's role. Also, in "Let's Go to the Hop", Peter sneaks out of his bedroom in the same manner (and to the same music) as Stacy did when going on her date with Ron. A later episode was named "Fast Times at Buddy Cianci Jr. High", a parody of the movie's title. Another episode, "Brian The Bachelor" features a cut to Spicoli after Mort Goldman throws coffee into Peter Griffin's face, saying "Awesome, Totally awesome! Alright, Goldman!" a slightly altered version of the film's last line.
- In the sitcom Scrubs, series protagonist JD has a fantasy about an attractive nurse walking down the hall in a way similar to that of the bikini scene.
- At the conclusion of the fourth episode of Clerks: The Animated Series, there is a scene where Judge Reinhold throws coffee in a robber's face, and is threatened with a lawsuit - a parody of the film's ending. Also referenced in Clerks II is "Train Wreck!" - making-of video "The 80's Ending."
- In the Season Two finale of the animated comedy TV series The Venture Brothers, Showdown at Cremation Creek (Part II), during the coup attempt by the character Phantom Limb, rock star Iggy Pop, who is attending the wedding as a bodyguard for David Bowie, is referred to by The Monarch as "Spicoli" in reference to his resemblance to the character
- The song "Fast Times at Drop-Out High" from the album End Is Forever by The Ataris plays off the title.
- The Academy Is...'s third album "Fast Times at Barrington High" also plays off the title.
- In the TV show Viva La Bam (Episode 5, Season 5), when Ryan Dunn realizes that his limousine is wrecked, Jared 'Evil' Hasselhoff consoles him by saying Jeff Spicoli's line "My old man is a television repairman, he's got this ultimate set of tools."
- Near the beginning of the movie, right after Mr. Hand sends Spicoli to the front office for being late to class, he passes out the class schedule of quizzes. After the paper is passed out, the students put the page up to their noses and deeply inhale. This was a popular school ritual of the '60s, '70s and early '80s as photocopying machines were very expensive, so spirit duplicators, more commonly referred to as "ditto machines," were used. The spirit duplicators used a colored wax as the "ink" and an alcohol-based solvent as a transfer agent to impress the ink on the paper. These solvents sometimes took a long time to dry, hence the students' use of these solvents as a short-term "high."''
- In each scene which takes place in Mr. Hand's history class, he is attempting to teach the students about the Platt Amendment.
- Although Jennifer Jason Leigh played the younger high school student taken under the wing of Phoebe Cates' high school veteran character, in real life, Leigh is actually a year older than Cates.
- The movie was originally rated X by the motion picture association of America but in order to lower that rating, some of the sex and nudity scenes were cut- it was then re-rated as a R by the MPAA
- There is a line in the Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip song 'Rappers Battle' "Sean Penn could win ten Oscars and still be Spicoli."
Brad Hamilton's line "I will serve no fries until their time" is a reference to the popular Paul Masson Wine commercial from the era, starring Orson Welles. His trademark "We will sell no wine...before it's time" was a part of pop culture for awhile.== References ==
- Fast Times at Ridgemont High DVD commentary