Retrospective: 40 Years of ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ By Jesse Striewski

There was never any shortage of teen flicks to choose from while channel surfing on cable TV back in the day. But 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High was one I would nearly stop on each and every time it passed by my radar (I can even clearly recall watching the film as a teenager after working the very first day of my very first job at my father’s roofing company).

When originally released on August 13 of 1982, something about its honest portrayal of American youth during that time period just struck a nerve like never before with audiences, made all the more authentic thanks to screenwritter Cameron Crowe’s ability to go undercover as a student at a San Diego, CA high school to get his story prior. The result, helmed by future Clueless Director Amy Heckerling, was nothing short of a fun, original ride.

Rounded out by a cast of talented young up and comers that centered around all-American brother and sister Brad (Judge Reinhold) and Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) Hamilton, it touches on various comedic and dramatic subplots of relatable teenaged woes that affect the two siblings and their numerous classmates. Other standout performances include Brian Backer as the nerdy Mark Ratner, and of course Sean Penn as the legendary stoner Jeff Spicoli.

And then there was Phoebe Cates as Stacy’s best friend Linda Barrett. No conversation about Fast Times at Ridemont High could ever possibly be complete without discussing that slow mo pool scene of Phoebe Cates in that red bikini with The Cars’ “Moving in Stereo” playing over it, hands down one of the most iconic and duplicated frames in any ’80s film. I had long since fallen in love with Cates when I first saw her in 1984’s Gremlins. But to see, that much of her, was simply overwhelming for me, and confirmed there was no doubt that I was one-hundred percent girl crazy from that moment on.

Many homages in pop culture and even a spinoff television series titled simply Fast Times briefly appeared in 1986 (featuring both Ray Walston and Vincent Schiavelli reprising their roles of teachers Mr. Hand and Mr. Vargas from the film, respectively). All these years later, the legacy of the film itself remains a staple of American cinema that continues to embrace the highs and lows of those awkward teenaged years we must all endure, like it or not. Kudos to the flimmakers for hitting the nail on the head so perfectly. And thank you once again to Phoebe Cates.