Fast Times at Ridgemont High [1982]

Before he became an overrated filmmaker, Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire) was a reporter for Rolling Stone who was so youthful looking that he could go undercover for a year at a California high school and write a book about it. He wrote the script for this film, based on that book, and it launched the careers of several young actors, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, and, above all, Sean Penn. The story line is episodic, dealing with the lives of iconic teen types: one of the school's cool kids, a nerd, a teen queen, and, most enjoyably, the class stoner (Penn), who finds himself at odds with a strict history teacher (a wonderfully spiky Ray Walston). This is not a great movie but very entertaining and, for a certain age group, a seminal movie experience. --Marshall Fine

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