La Bamba


La Bamba (1987)


Critic Consensus: Elevated by a perceptive performance by a perfectly cast Lou Diamond Phillips, La Bamba distills its subject's creative energy -- and reflects his music's enduring appeal.


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Movie Info

La Bamba is the story of 1950s rock 'n' roll rage Ritchie Valens (born Ricardo Valenzuela), played herein with gusto and credibility by Lou Diamond Phillips. The film follows 17-year-old Ritchie as he strolls from one end of his California barrio to the other, guitar in hand. We meet Ritchie's colorful Mexican/American family, who react to his fame with varying degrees of pride and envy. And we meet the ladies in his life: his ambitious mother Connie Valenzuela (Rosana De Soto), his half-sister Rosie Morales (Elizabeth Pena), and blonde classmate Donna Ludwig (Danielle von Zerneck), who inspired Ritchie's first hit "Donna." Both this song and "La Bamba" are given con brio interpretations by Lou Diamond Philips and by the contemporary group Los Lobos, who appear in the film as the Tijuana band. Also making cameo appearances are the real-life Mrs. Connie Valenzuela and Bob Morales, Richie's half- brother (played in the film by Esai Morales). Those familiar with The Buddy Holly Story (1978) don't need to be reminded what happens after Ritchie, Holly (Marshall Crenshaw) and The Big Bopper board that plane on February 3, 1959. The tragic coda of La Bamba is not unduly emphasized; this is a celebration of Ritchie Valens' life, not a eulogy.

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Lou Diamond Phillips
as Ritchie Valens
Esai Morales
as Bob Morales
Rosanna DeSoto
as Connie Valezuela
Elizabeth Peña
as Rosie Morales
Joe Pantoliano
as Bob Keane
Marshall Crenshaw
as Buddy Holly
Brian Setzer
as Eddie Cochran
Howard Huntsberry
as Jackie WIlson
Rick Dees
as Ted Quillin
Sam Anderson
as Mr. Ludwig
Maggie Gwinn
as Mrs. Ludwig
Mrs. Connie Valenzuela
as Elderly lady at party
Mike Moroff
as Mexican Ed
Stephen Lee
as Big Bopper
John Quade
as Bartender
Diane Rodriguez
as Ernestine
Ernesto Hernandez
as Garbage Man
Kim Sebastian
as Donna's Girlfriend
Dyana Ortelli
as Donna's Girlfriend
Connie Alvarez
as Farm Worker
Tony Genaro
as Mr. Caballero
Irma Valcorta
as Farm Worker
Allison Robinson
as Girl at Party
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News & Interviews for La Bamba

Critic Reviews for La Bamba

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (6)

An enjoyable if slightly innocuous biopic based on the brief life and short-lived fame of teen rock'n'roll idol Richie Valens

Jul 7, 2010 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

La Bamba is engrossing throughout and boasts numerous fine performances.

Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…
Top Critic

As Valens, Lou Diamond Phillips has a sweetness and sincerity that in no way diminish the toughness of his onstage persona. The role is blandly written, but Mr. Phillips gives Valens backbone.

Jun 12, 2003

Predictably, there isn't a Ritchie blemish in sight. But the circumstances of Valens' life seem to beg this golden portrait.

Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…

This is a sincere, well-acted movie about the short life of a minor rock 'n' roll star, and by the time it's over we almost have the feeling Valens would have been surprised not to have died in a crash.

Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Basically, it's a load of corn -- an up-from-the-basement account of a pop comet -- but the movie has an energetic, almost naive spirit.

Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for La Bamba


A refreshing biopic about a short-lived star who met with a tragic death (tragic and also ironic considering his fear of flying and how his fate was decided by the flip of a coin), and it is so engaging that it breaks our hearts even if we know from the get-go how everything ends.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Siblings and I loved this movie when we were kids... I distinctly remember us rocking around the room playing air guitar and belting out his songs :)

Letitia Lew
Letitia Lew

Super Reviewer


Lou Diamond Philips effectively portrays the late Ritchie Valens. Esai Morales is also a gem as the conflicted drunkard brother.

Wildaly M
Wildaly M

Super Reviewer


"La Bamba" is the best biographical movie I've ever seen. It's the story of Ritchie Valens, the famous singer that sung some famous songs such as "La Bamba" and "Oh Donna." The movie tells the story of how Ritchie Valens achieved the fame as a singer and of how he dealt with it while he was doing it. It also shows how his becoming rich didn't go well with his brother and how he met the girl of his dreams, Donna. All the great songs that Ritchie Valens recorded are in this movie, and sung to perfection. Even if you're not crazy about biographical movies, I still recommend seeing "La Bamba." It's just a great all-around movie and all the actors and actresses do a great job to make this movie a classic. NOTE: That was my Amazon review from the year 2000. Wow, this only averages 3 stars on Flixster? Crazy people! This is one of the best biographical movies ever, I've seen it several times.

Jason Owens
Jason Owens

Super Reviewer

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