Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

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.

Mike Damone, on his "five-point" plan

Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a 1982 Coming of Age film written by Cameron Crowe and directed by Amy Heckerling. It follows the lives of a handful of high school students over the course of a school year, focusing mostly on Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and her eventual boyfriend, Mark "Rat" Ratner (Brian Backer). The other main characters are Stacy's brother, Brad (Judge Reinhold); her best friend, Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates); Rat's best friend, Mike Damone (Robert Romanus); Jeff Spicoli, a perpetual stoner in Stacy's history class (Sean Penn); and Mr. Arnold Hand, the history teacher who is frequently put upon by Spicoli's antics (Ray Walston).

Tropes used in Fast Times at Ridgemont High include:
  • Adaptation Distillation: The film narrows its focus from the novel, dropping some peripheral characters completely, combining some (Damone and the ticket scalper character, for example) and simplifying some plot threads (Brad's journey down the fast-food prestige chain starts when he gets buffaloed into quitting his much-desired position at Carl's Jr., for instance, which was dropped from the film).
  • Burger Fool: Brad works at two of these, with varying levels of horribleness. He is fired from the first due to an Unsatisfiable Customer and quits the second. There is another fast food joint which manages to be even worse; mostly mentioned only in dialogue, it is shown at the beginning of the film when one of its employees, Arnold, tries to operate a soda machine, only to have the soda splash back in his face.
  • The Casanova: Damone sees himself this way, but we only actually see him with Stacy.
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Brad masturbates while daydreaming about Linda getting out of the pool and taking her top off. Unfortunately, the real Linda opens the door on him. He complains: "Doesn't anyone fucking knock anymore?"
  • Characterization Marches On: After seeing him play deeply intense roles in Dead Man Walking and 21 Grams, it is something of a shock to see Sean Penn in such a lighthearted role.
    • Funny enough, he was immersed in Enforced Method Acting even with this role back in the day; he refused to respond off-set when not referred to as Spicoli.
  • The Cheerleader: Averted. The cheerleaders at Ridgemont are mocked openly at pep rallies due to the school's poor performance at athletic events.
  • Composite Character: Damone's business as a ticket scalper was handled by a separate character in the novel.
  • Dress Code

Stoners: "No shirt, no shoes, no dice! Ohhhh."
Brad Hamilton: "Right. Learn it. Know it. Live it."

  • Erotic Dream: One of the most famous in film, at the Pool Scene.
  • Ethical Slut: Linda is both sexually liberated and experienced. She's also also known also known as a sexual sage who gives advice to the less experienced girls.
  • Film of the Book: While many people think the film was original, it was actually based on a novel written by Crowe two years earlier, which was in turn based on a year he spent undercover as a student at Clairemont Union High School in San Diego, California, his way of making it up to himself for missing so much of his real high school years to do rock interviews.
  • High School Dance: The film features one of these at the end, with considerably few of the cornier aspects.
  • Make-Out Point: It's even called "the point".
  • "Mister Sandman" Sequence: Time has turned the opening scenes of kids in the mall to the tune of "We Got The Beat" into one of these.
  • Mood Whiplash: The scenes dealing with Stacy tend to invoke this trope.
  • Name's the Same: A minor character from the novel (and unseen in the movie as it's only being mentioned before the end credits as being saved from drowning by Jeff Spicoli) is named Brooke Shields, who, coincidentially, has the same name as the actress, socialite and one-time supermodel. This Brooke Shields, however, was actually named after one of Cameron Crowe's childhood classmates.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer makes Forest Whitaker's character out to be much bigger than it is.
  • Pool Scene: leading to Erotic Dream, A Date with Rosie Palms, and Caught with Your Pants Down.
  • The Precious, Precious Car: Jefferson gets a slick sports car as a gift for returning to play football for Ridgemont. Spicoli takes it for a spin with Jefferson's little brother and trashes it, activating Jefferson's Berserk Button. Luckily he was able to frame their rival high school. Later, we see Jefferson leading the football team to a major lopsided victory and reversing the school's poor athletic performance in the process.
  • Sensei for Scoundrels: Damone gives Rat plenty of sleazy advice on how to appear cool and pick up the girl he likes, then uses Rat's awkwardness to make himself look better in her eyes. Rat eventually calls him out on it and gets the girl.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Stacy's story, leading to an aversion of Good Girls Avoid Abortion.
  • Spin-Off: The short lived CBS series "Fast Times".
  • Star-Making Role: Spicoli, for Sean Penn. Before this film no one knew who he was. After it...
  • Stern Teacher: Mr. Hand is pretty unforgiving to his students, and especially Spicoli, who arguably deserves it. In the end he gives him a chance at redemption. Some of his comments lean towards Sadist Teacher territory but he seems to be a genuinely decent guy, just very strict.
    • The novel says that "even some of the hardcore truants" respected his approach.
  • The Stoner: Spicoli and his buddies.
  • Surfer Dude: Spicoli, again.
  • Unlucky Everydude: Rat seems like this for most of the film, an awkward, shy dude with no idea how to get a girl's attention, and going to the worst person for advice. He wises up a bit.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: As noted above, the film is an adaptation of Cameron Crowe's 1981 book about his experiences going undercover in a California high school -- and all the characters in it are disguised versions of real people.
  • Waxing Lyrical: Mike is such a fan of Cheap Trick, he uses their lyrics to make passes at girls.
  • Where Are They Now? Epilogue