Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1981)


Fast Times at Ridgemont High – 1981

Director – Amy Heckerling

Starring – Judge Reinhold, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Penn, and Phoebe Cates

So now we start getting into some of the movies that could be considered fluff.  Potentially not worthy of being on the list of 1001 movies that you MUST see, but possibly being on the list of 1001 movies you might think about checking out sometime if you aren’t busy.  Does that mean it’s bad?  Not at all.  Does it mean that this space could have been better used for something else (like the Big Lebowski or The Blues Brothers for example?) in the comedy genre? Yup.

This isn’t at all an indictment of The Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but as it didn’t really do anything particularly revolutionary for film as a whole (aside from including a lot of young and up-and-coming actors and actresses), it more than likely was pulled from a hat with a list of movies meant to pad out the numbers to 1001.

That aside, Fast Times was a very fun movie.  I particularly liked Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, and Jennifer Jason Leigh.  Each reminded me of people that I went to high school with, but not in a sappy or sentimental way.  Everyone knows, or knew a Judge Reinhold.  Everyone saw the Phoebe Cates character walking down the hall.  And everyone was friends with or dated a girl like Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character.  These characters make the movie relatable for people, at least for someone who grew up in the relatively safe suburbs, like me.

Unfortunately I don’t have a whole lot of analyzing to do for this film.  It was great fun to watch, but I haven’t really thought about it too much since.  Some quick things to say about the film…It did strike me that there was an awful lot of nudity from a character that was supposed to be 14 years old, and the subject of abortion was dealt with in a pretty straight forward and un-dramatized way.  So much so, that I have to imagine that it would have sparked some controversy on it’s initial release (it certainly would today at any rate).   Next, I think I can appreciate Sean Penn in this movie more than anything else that I’ve seen him in (that is of course without seeing Milk yet).   Lastly I have to say that there is a similar thread going through all of the movies that Cameron Crowe has had a hand in (aside from the dominance of music), each one seems like a close relative of the others, different, but only by a little.

So…watch it, enjoy it, but don’t expect too much.

8 thoughts on “Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1981)

  1. Pingback: 1001 Movies – The Complete List « 1001 Movies I Must Comment On Before I Die!

  2. Nobody but nobody ever remembers that Sean Penn can do comedy. This is a constant point of frustration for me. When people tell me Sean Penn is “too serious,” I immediately point them to “Fast Times,” and they come back amazed. (Or I point them to his indecipherable cameo in “Before Night Falls” with Javier Bardem, or that guest spot on “Two and a Half Men.”) Penn is certainly intense, maybe even a little fanatically devoted to the art of acting, but he never takes himself too seriously. It makes me happy to see someone else (i.e., you) who remembers that Penn can do funny, and well.

    M. Carter at the Movies

    • I don’t even remember him in Before Night Falls! I remember Johnny Depp being in it twice, as two different characters, which I thought was strange, but not Sean Penn. I’ll have to watch that flick again! I liked your blog quite a bit. Keep up the good work!


  3. Nobody remembers Sean Penn in “Before Night Falls.” Do you recall that scene where the young Reinaldo hops in a horse-drawn cart driven by a weird-looking guy with weirder-looking eyes? THAT is Sean Penn! His character name is something like Cuco Sanchez, and the first time I watched the movie I said: “That guy looks a lot like Sean Penn.” Lo and behold, he was. Johnny Depp also has interesting cameos as Bon Bon/Lt. Victor. They sneak up on you.

    M. Carter

    • I do vaguely remember the character, and now that I’ve been told about it again, I do remember it being Sean Penn, but I had completely forgot about that. Good memory! I have to say that I think Sean Penn was probably at his best (for my money) in Carlito’s Way. He was more fun to watch than Pacino.

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