sean penn fast times at ridgemont high spicoli sean penn cover

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) remains one of my favorite teen / high school films of all time. It brilliantly captures the cultural touchstones of a generation, and the glory days of youth long gone by– before we were slaves to technology and all this social media bullshit.

A young Cameron Crowe, then a freelance writer for Rolling Stone magazine, went undercover as a student at Clairemont High School in San Diego, CA to write a book (of the same name), which he also adapted for the film. In Fast Times we get to witness a bevy of young Hollywood stars already in the making– Sean Penn (who totally stole the film, and birthed an army of Spicoli wannabes in high schools across the country), Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates and Jennifer Jason Leigh. There are also early appearances by relative unknowns at the time who would go on to major stardom– Nicolas Cage, (then Nicolas Coppola), Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, and Anthony (Goose) Edwards. Fast Times’ soundtrack was also groundbreaking, featuring a quintessential blend ’70s & ’80s rock & roll artists, that to me, will forever be connected with the film. I mean, who can hear “Moving in Stereo” by The Cars without instantly thinking of that hot, hormone-raging pool scene? Epic.

Haters gonna hate, but eat this– 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”. If you’re of this era it’s definitely a film that still resonates and makes you want to roll a fat one, throw on your Vans, hit the arcade, grab some tasty waves, and meet some babes.

First-time director Amy Heckerling said that for ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ she was seeking to make a comedy that was less structured than conventional ones, and more like ‘American Graffiti’ so that “if you woke up and found yourself living in the movie, you’d be happy. I wanted that kind of feel.” IMDB

fast times at ridgemont high mall

Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s mall scenes were filmed at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, after it closed at 9:30pm. The two kids who Damone scalps the tickets to were under 18, and due to labor laws couldn’t film past certain hours, so they only had a 10-minute window to shoot those scenes. The original mall was later damaged by an earthquake in 1994, and in 1998 it was renovated and extensively re-designed by the architectural firm of Gensler for developer Douglas Emmett. Other than the parking structure, nothing recognizable from the 1980s era mall remains, the building having been converted from an enclosed, multi-story space to an open, mostly single-story mall. IMDB


fast times at ridgemont high linda stacy pizza lobby card

“What do you mean, better in bed? Either you do it or you don’t.” Stacy works at Perry’s Pizza. Jennifer Jason Leigh actually worked at Perry’s Pizza for a month after she got the role of Stacy Hamilton before filming began. Jodie Foster was considered to play Stacy, but was not interested  due to her commitment at Yale. Also, Brooke Shields, Diane Lane, and Ellen Barkin reportedly also turned down offers to play the role of Stacy. IMDB



“Brad: ‘Hey, you guys had shirts on when you came in here.’ Spicoli: ‘Well, something must have happened to them.’ Brad: ‘You see that sign Spicoli?’ Spicoli and buds: ‘No Shirt, No Shoes, No Dice!’ Brad: Right. Learn it. Know it. Live it.’ Spicoli: ‘He’s the full hot orator.'” Eric Stoltz, Sean Penn, and Anthony Edwards in ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’. During shooting, Sean Penn got so into character that he extinguished a cigarette in the palm of his hand in order to better understand Jeff Spicoli, which was all he answered to. In fact, the door on his dressing room was even labeled ‘Spicoli’ instead of Sean Penn. IMDB


fast times at ridgemont high carrot blow job scene

“Stacy: ‘When a guy has an orgasm, how much comes out?’ Linda: ‘A quart or so.'” Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Linda (Phoebe Cates) in their famous cafeteria carrot scene for ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ filmed largely at Van Nuys High School in Van Nuys, California. The mascot of Ridgemont High is the Wolf, which is the same mascot as the real VNHS. Total filming lasted just five weeks. IMDB


fast times at ridgemont high stacy brad flowers

“Since when do you go bowling?” Nicolas Cage was originally considered for the role of Brad Hamilton, but after his audition the studio thought his performance was too dark and the role went instead to Judge Reinhold. Sean Penn was also originally asked to read for the part of Brad Hamilton, as well as Jeff Spicoli. In the scene where Brad is washing the Cruising Vessel, you can see he has a ‘Springsteen’ bumper sticker. Pamela Springsteen (Bruce’s sister), plays Dina (Brad’s girlfriend) in the film. Also in the Mi-T-Mart scene, Brad is wearing a Bruce Springsteen T-shirt. IMDB


Fast Times at ridgemont high spicoli surfer dream

“‘Hello everybody! I’m Stu Nahan, and I’d like you to meet this young man. His name, Jeff Spicoli. And Jeff, congratulations to you. Things looked kind of rough out there today’. Spicoli: ‘Well, I’ll tell you Stu, I did battle some humongous waves! But you know, just like I told the guy on ABC, Danger is my business!’ Stu Nahan: ‘You know, a lot of people expected maybe Mark “Cutback” Davis or Bob “Jungle Death” Gerrard would take the honors this year’. Spicoli: ‘Those guys are fags!'” Sean Penn asked out Pamela Springsteen (yep, Bruce’s sister), who played Dina Brad’s girlfriend), on the set of ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ and she accepted. Sean Penn improvised constantly during his takes and tried to find ways to aggravate actor Ray Walston, who played Mr. Hand, even off camera. He also did everything in his power to get genuinely shocked reactions from the extras who played  classmates in ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’. Eric Stoltz also auditioned for the role of surfer dude, Jeff Spicoli. IMDB


fast times at ridgemont high photo

Andy Rathbone was the student in ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ that Cameron Crowe based the character Mark “Rat” Ratner on. He became famous in his own right for writing many of the “…for Dummies” help books series. IMDB


fast times at ridgemont high forest whitaker

“Damone: Hey, Charles, how you doin’, buddy? Car looks great. I mean really terrific. You’re really keeping it up wonderfully.’ Jefferson: “Don’t fuck with it.'” I would KILL for a ‘KILL LINCOLN’ t-shirt from ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’. Forrest Whitaker made his feature film debut in ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’, alongside Nicolas Cage and Sean Penn.


fast times at ridgemont high phoebe cates pool scene

Justine Bateman was originally offered the role of Linda in ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ and turned it down. Instead, she chose to star in a TV pilot for the TV series ‘Family Ties’ which ran for 7 years. Lucky for Phoebe Cates. IMDB



“Hi Brad, you know how cute I always thought you were.” Thanks to ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’, there is an entire generation of men who can’t hear ‘Moving In Stereo’ by the Cars without thinking about Phoebe Cates’ tits.



“Jeez. Doesn’t anyone fucking knock any more?” For the famous ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ bathroom scene, Judge Reinhold brought a large dildo to work with, unbeknown to the rest of the cast. Phoebe Cates look of horror and disgust is very real. IMDB


Nancy Wilson Heart Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Nancy Wilson, guitarist for the rock band ‘Heart’ and  future wife of writer Cameron Crowe, has a cameo appearance as the hot woman in the car beside Brad’s, laughing at his pirate costume. IMDB


fast times at ridgemont high sean penn spicoli eric stoltz anthony edwards movie still

There are numerous references to rock & roll bands throughout ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ (shirts worn by characters, posters on walls, Damone is a ticket scalper, etc.). Screenwriter Cameron Crowe was a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, and that is in his blood, and how he came to fame. IMDB



“That was my skull! I’m so wasted!” In the tradition of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Reese’s Pieces, ‘Fast Times’ product-placed an obscure brand that went on to become famous: The checkerboard canvas decks Spicoli hammered himself with, Vans, became a popular national brand soon after ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ was released.


I love the old lobby cards that the studios used to make from movie stills, here are a bunch from Fast Times, and a few bonus images:


Fast Times at Ridgemont High on IMDB

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  1. I remember watching it right after I graduated high school, and much of it felt familiar if a bit over acted. Watching it now, it becomes a time capsule for those of us who lived it. Everyone tried to act cool while being scared, insecure kids inside. As a surfer and skater, my friends and I were already wearing checkered Vans and other radical for the day Vans patterns.

    • It’s very provincial and year-specific, so I’m sure it doesn’t exactly resonate unless you were there. It’s no Lawrence of Arabia, but it struck a chord with those in that era/lifestyle. Cheers, JP

  2. The eclectic aesthetic of TSY is why I subscribe. Not all culture is classical. “Fast Times” is exhibit ‘A’.

  3. “It brilliantly captures the cultural touchstones of a generation, and the glory days of youth long gone by– before we were slaves to technology and all this social media bullshit.”

    Amen JP !! I try and relate some of this to my 21 year-old son but he can’t even begin to fathom it… Sad…

    • Right, he won’t get the feeling, if he was not young at the time. Same as our parents, who did their best explaining a certain movie, from their era. It just did not go over. That’s life.

  4. wonderful stuff JP, so cool seeing where these guys started out to where they’ve come. Sean Penn didn’t act Spicoli, he was Spicoli!

  5. I find Fast Times a significant capsule for the time it was filmed. I still watch it about once a year, and I have it on VHS, haha. The Spicoli surf championship interview is my favorite scene in the movie.

    Interesting to note, Jackson Browne wrote “Somebody’s Baby” specifically for the movie. It was never available on any of his albums, save for some of his “greatest hits” collections later on. It was also Browne’s last “Top 10” hit as well.

    Hope you’re doing well, JP.

  6. This movie was great. My favorite scene (besides Phoebe of course) was when Spicoli had the pizza delivered to class. Classic!

  7. remember what damone taught us…………………”where-ever you’re at, act like its the place to be.”

  8. I’ve seen this movie at least 10x and I never noticed Nancy Wilson’sa cameo! Thanks for sharing. Also, Jodie Foster as Stacey?!?!

  9. There is something about babes of the 1980s that modern science has been unable to duplicate, and probably never will.

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