Where do you start with a movie like this? Let’s go with the fact that Fast Times served as an incubator for many of today’s great actors and actresses: Sean Penn (one of my personal favorites), Anthony Edwards, Eric Stoltz, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, a young Nicolas Cage performing under his real name “Copolla,” Judge Rienhold, James Russo and Forrest Whitaker each appeared in this film early in their careers. The cast was not solely composed of soon to be stars; Fast Times also had some more seasoned actors in it like Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian) who played Mr. Hand, the history teacher and the dearly departed Vincent Schiavelli who played the biology teacher, Mr. Vargas. Fast Times was a launching pad for many of these major movie and T.V. stars.
Next is the movie’s great soundtrack. Songs like “Speeding” by The Go Go’s, “Somebody’s Baby” by Jackson Browne—on a side note, this song reached #7 on the Hot 100 and became Browne’s highest charting single, interestingly “Somebody’s Baby” was not included in a Jackson Browne album until 15 years later when his first “best of” collection was released. Other great songs include “Love Rules” by Don Henley, “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” by Sammy Hagar, “I Don’t Know” by Jimmy Buffett, “Goodbye, Goodbye” by Oingo Boingo, “Fast Times (The Best Years Of Our Lives)” by Billy Squier, and “Raised On The Radio” by The Ravyns. The Fast Times soundtrack reads like a Who’s Who of 1980s top bands and music for the decade.
Now the story of Fast Times: the movie portrays teenage life but is virtually plotless, it simply chronicles a group of teenagers as they stumble their way through high school. Typical of so many 1980s teen movies, much of it (rightfully so) takes place at the local mall giving the viewer the opportunity to reminisce about all those timeless 80s arcade games. Though virtually plotless, the basic storyline involves Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), the ideal slang-talking emptyheaded surfer sporting Hawaiian shirts. Spicoli has a hard time with the formality of school, especially as it is personified by his history teacher, Mr. Hand (Ray Walston). The two begin to have a battle of wills which surprisingly evens out in the end. Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold) is a senior who hops from one fast-food job to the next but has no idea what he is supposed to do in life even though everyone, including his guidance counselor, expects a lot from him. Stacy Hamilton is a guy-crazy chick who is sensitive, but always wants sex and attention, leading her first into the arms of an older man, and eventually into those of Mike Damone, a cocky hustler, when the only guy who genuinely cares for her is nerdy Mark Ratner. Damone is a shady character, a charming sweet-talker who scalps tickets with his piano scarf and does what he can to make a quick buck. He tries to help Ratner score with Stacy, then steals the girl right out from under him. Ratner is an insecure nerd-type who has a good heart and just wants his shot with Stacy. He finds himself brokenhearted when he uncovers Damone’s betrayal. Linda Barrett is Stacy’s best friend and confidante, a very sexy, confident girl who is constantly moving from one guy to the next and sort of becomes a quasi role model for Stacy. That’s essentially the basic foundation for what goes on.
In conclusion, this is the best 80s teen movie. Fast Times separates itself from “Brat Pack” films (the group of young actors and actresses who frequently appeared together typically in John Hughes’ films like The Breakfast Club) due in part to a much stronger cast. Think of where the actors and actresses from Fast Times are now versus members of the Brat Pack. Fast Times is required viewing for teens, adults and anyone with a fondness for 80s culture.