In 1982, a film was released that would go on to become one of the definitive depictions of life as a teenager during the early 80s. To this day, it remains one of the most realistic views of high school ever put on film ("Valley Girl" comes to mind as well..). What makes "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" so unique is that there really is no plot- we are basically just watching a bunch of high schoolers dealing with love and sex at the mall in southern California. And it's witty, unflinching, and downright hilarious.
This film was the directorial debut of Amy Heckerling, and Cameron Crowe's first screenplay (based on his non-fiction book). The talent involved is quite obvious here. Basically set around a group of friends who work at the mall, "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" is chock full of familiar faces, including one little actor by the name of Sean Penn. Penn's performance as terminal stoner surfer Jeff Spiccoli alone is worth watching - he steals just about every scene he's in and that performance has been imitated many times since.
A slew of 80s icons appear as well- Phoebe Cates ("Lace", "Gremlins"), Jennifer Jason-Leigh (Eyes Of A Stranger"), Judge Reinhold ("Beverly Hills Cop", "Ruthless People"), Brian Backer ("The Burning", "Meatballs"), and appearances by such actors as Anthony Edwards, Nicholas Cage, Eric Stoltz, and Forest Whitaker. Having such classics as the Go-Go's "We Got The Beat" and Tom Petty's "American Girl" on the soundtrack certainly doesn't hurt the film, either, but "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" is most famous for one particular scene involving Phoebe Cates and the sizzling Cars classic "Moving In Stereo". This scene has achieved an almost mythical quality- the music, the slow motion- it all makes for an iconic 80's scene, for sure.
It's simply one of the greatest and most influential teen comedies of all time. "Fast Times", along with "Porky's", ushered in a whole slew of teen sex comedies. Even though it's basically a group of teens out looking for either love, sex, or just a good buzz- we care about these characters. And that's a testament to the writing of Cameron Crowe- that, with the wonderful actors involved, make this a step above most raunchy teen sex comedies. "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" is one of the most beloved films of the 1980s, and will forever take us back to a certain time and place. In 2005, this film was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. I'll say. This was my youth.