La Bamba

July 24th, 1987


La Bamba

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Biographical story of the rise from nowhere of singer Ritchie Valens whose life was cut short by a plane crash.

Release Year: 1987

Rating: 6.6/10 (10,349 voted)

Director: Luis Valdez

Stars: Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales, Rosanna DeSoto

This is the true story of Ritchie Valens, a young rock & roll singer who tragically died in a plane crash at the age of 17. The film follows Ritchie from his days in Pacoima, California where he and his family make a meager living working on farms to his rise as a star. The film also focuses on Richie's friendship and rivalry with his older brother Bob and his relationship with Donna, his girlfriend.

Lou Diamond Phillips - Ritchie Valens
Esai Morales - Bob Morales
Rosanna DeSoto - Connie Valenzuela (as Rosana De Soto)
Elizabeth Peña - Rosie Morales
Danielle von Zerneck - Donna Ludwig
Joe Pantoliano - Bob Keane
Rick Dees - Ted Quillin
Marshall Crenshaw - Buddy Holly
Howard Huntsberry - Jackie Wilson
Brian Setzer - Eddie Cochran
Daniel Valdez - Lelo
Felipe Cantu - Curandero
Eddie Frias - Chino
Mike Moroff - Mexican Ed
Geoffrey Rivas - Rudy

Taglines: Born to poverty. Destined for stardom. He Lived the American Dream.

Release Date: 24 July 1987

Filming Locations: Cowboy Palace Saloon - 21635 Devonshire St, Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $6,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $5,651,990 (USA) (24 July 1987)

Gross: $54,215,416 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

According to Lou Diamond Phillips in the VH1 documentary "Behind The Music: The Day The Music Died" (1990), Ritchie Valens' sister was on the set the day they filmed the "coin toss" scene where Ritchie wins (or rather, loses) the chance to fly on the plane with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. As the scenes were being shot, Ritchie's sister began to weep uncontrollably and when Phillips tried to console her, she hugged him and sobbed, "Why Ritchie? Why did you get on the plane?"

Factual errors: There was never a "love triangle" between Ritchie, Bob, and Rosie. This was actually based on a situation the director, Luis Valdez and a brother of his.

Ritchie Valens: My mom reckons I'm going to be a star. And stars don't fall from the sky.

User Review

A terrific film about the importance of family and realizing your dreams.

Rating: 9/10

La Bamba which stars Lou Diamond Phillips as tragic 50's rocker Ritchie Valens(real name Richard Valenzuela) is my favorite rock bio film. The film covers the Mexican American Valens' rise from poverty in California to becoming a rock n roll superstar at the young age of 17 only to lose it all within 8 months on the "Day the Music Died".

In addition to focusing on Valens' music career, writer/director Luis Valdez spends time showing the tense relationship between Ritchie and his older brother Bob who is played excellently by Esai Morales. As Ritchie becomes famous Bob begins to resent him and that provides the film with some of its most powerful and heartbreaking scenes.

The film's other effective moments come between Ritchie and his girlfriend Donna. During their scenes together I felt that Valdez did a good job in showing what teenage romances must've been like back in the more innocent 1950's and how parents prejudices could interfere.

Last but not least is the film's great soundtrack. Ritchie Valens songs were redone for the film by the group Los Lobos. All of the instrumental music was provided by Carlos Santana and Miles Goodman. Also included are many other classic songs from the 50's.

The only small criticism I have of the film is that Valdez spends too much time in foreshadowing Valens' fate through dream sequences and references to his fear of flying. While it is documented that Ritchie did have a fear of flying I would imagine that he didn't talk about it as frequently as he does in the film.

Overall I think that La Bamba is a film about sticking to your dreams and the importance of family. I give this film a pretty strong recommendation. You don't even necessarily have to be a fan of 50's music to enjoy it. This is for those who enjoy small films that deal with the triumphs and struggles of everyday people.


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