Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)

fast times at ridgemont high

“When it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV.”

The Scoop: 1982 R, directed by Amy Heckerling and starring Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Judge Reinhold

Tagline: Fast Cars, Fast Girls, Fast Carrots…Fast Carrots?

Summary Capsule: Amy Heckerling takes a hard look at teenage life, as she chronicles the (mis)adventures of teens’ lives at a high school.


Justin’s rating: About as fun as wedgies in gym class

Justin’s review: In every generation (since the ’60s, at least), teens are defined by certain, special movies. These movies often mean a great deal to that generation — they UNDERSTAND, man, what we’re going through — and are simultanteously incomprehensible to everyone else. Depending on who you talk to in Generation X, our defining “teen” movie would most likely be either The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Fast Times At Ridgemont High. (For the record, my defining teen film is Purple Rain)

I don’t think that Fast Times is a good pick for a defining film. It’s a very uneven balance of comedy and early ’80s teenage angst that did not hold up that well over time. Instead of having any progressing plot, so to speak, the film splits into several storylines that follow California teens over the course of a year. There’s Brad (Judge Reinhold) who is seeking a direction in his career. His sister, Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), has difficulties in her love life, ends up pregnant, and gets an abortion. Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), is the film’s only totally comic character, is largely there to spout surfer speak.

I suppose I’m not a huge fan of Fast Times because it strikes a little too close to home. I want to enjoy a movie, not rehash high school years of hell and torture. As I said previously, this movie is very uneven, and the drama and comedy just don’t balance out as well as they should. I feel bad for laughing at a character who gets shafted in the next scene. But there are moments of *fun*, at least, and when the film lets itself go, I enjoyed the ride.

For a teen movie, it contains a harsher light than most ’80s teen flicks. For one thing, the R rating is certainly deserved, with nudity, violence, and a whole lot of naughty language. It feels… like it’s trying to be edgy so that teens would watch it to feel rebellious? Does that make sense?

While I do love me a good ’80s teen movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one I’d rather forget.


  • This movie marks film debuts of Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, and Nicolas Cage (billed under his real name, Nicholas Coppola). In 1986, Fast Times At Ridgemont High was made into a TV series called (appropriately) “Fast Times.” Produced by the movie’s director, it starred Dean Cameron as Jeff Spicoli, and didn’t last past the first season.

Groovy Quotes:

Mike: First of all Rat, you never let on how much you like a girl. “Oh, Debbie. Hi.” Two, you always call the shots. “Kiss me. You won’t regret it.” Now three, act like wherever you are, that’s the place to be. “Isn’t this great?” Four, when ordering food, you find out what she wants, then order for the both of you. It’s a classy move. “Now, the lady will have the linguini and white clam sauce, and a Coke with no ice.” And five, now this is the most important, Rat. When it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV.

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