Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a 1982 American coming-of-age teen comedy film written by Cameron Crowe, adapted from his 1981 book of the same name. As a freelance writer for Rolling Stone magazine, Crowe went undercover at Clairemont High School in San Diego, California, and wrote about his experiences.
The film was directed by Amy Heckerling (in her feature film directorial debut) and chronicles a school year in the lives of sophomores Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Mark Ratner (Brian Backer), and their respective older friends Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates) and Mike Damone (Robert Romanus), both of whom believe themselves wiser in the ways of romance than their younger counterparts. The ensemble cast of characters form two subplots with Jeff Spicoli, (Sean Penn), a senior, carefree stoned surfer, facing off against uptight history teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), and Stacy’s brother, Brad (Judge Reinhold), a senior who works at a series of entry-level jobs in order to pay off his car, and who is pondering easing out of his relationship with his girlfriend, until she herself dumps him.
In addition to Penn, Reinhold, Cates, and Leigh, the film marks early appearances by several actors who later became stars, including Nicolas Cage (then billing himself as Nicolas Coppola), Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, and Anthony Edwards. Among the actors listed, Penn, Cage, and Whitaker would later on in their careers win the Academy Award for Best Actor, with Penn winning twice.
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”.
Several of the movie’s songs were released as singles, including Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby”, which reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Other singles were the title track by Sammy Hagar, a cover of The Tymes’ “So Much in Love” by Timothy B. Schmit, “Raised on the Radio” by the Ravyns and “Waffle Stomp” by Joe Walsh. In addition to Schmit and Walsh, the album features solo tracks by two other members of the Eagles, Don Henley and Don Felder. The soundtrack also included “I Don’t Know (Spicoli’s Theme)” by Jimmy Buffett.
Five tracks in the film, but not included on the soundtrack, are: “Moving in Stereo” by the Cars, “American Girl” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “We Got the Beat” by the Go Go’s, which is the movie’s opening theme; Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”, and “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms. In addition, the live band at the prom dance during the end of the film played two songs also not on the soundtrack: The Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane” and Sam the Sham’s “Wooly Bully”.
The Donna Summer track, “Highway Runner”, was initially recorded in 1981 for her double album entitled I’m a Rainbow; however, the album was shelved by Summer’s then-label, Geffen Records, but ultimately released in 1996 by Mercury Records. The album is once again out of print.
Todd Rundgren also recorded the song, “Attitude”, for the film at Crowe’s request. It was not included in the film, but was later released on Rundgren’s Demos and Lost Albums in 2001.
In some countries, the album was (also) released as a single LP with ten tracks.
Heckerling, in the DVD audio commentary, states that the 1970s “classic rock” artists, like the Eagles, were introduced by one of the film’s producers. Coincidentally, Irving Azoff, one of the film’s producers, was the personal manager for the Eagles.