La Bamba (1987) - Rotten Tomatoes

La Bamba (1987)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Lou Diamond Phillips plays legendary 1950s rocker Ritchie Valens (born Ricardo Valenzuela), in this musical biography. Before scoring radio and concert success with hits like "La Bamba", "C'mon Let's Go", and "Donna", Valens was a 15-year-old migrant worker who worked with his mother Connie (Rosana De Soto). Valens' half-brother Bob Morales (Esai Morales) is a vitriolic ex-con who roars into the migrant camp on his Harley after his release from jail. Valens' musical talents are encouraged by his family -- though later various members of his family react to his fame with varying degrees of pride and envy -- and he soon earns an audition with legendary record producer and former Artie Shaw clarinet player Bob Keane (Joe Pantoliano). Valens soon appears in an Alan Freed rock n' roll teen exploitation film, lip-synching his blistering recorded version of "Ooh, My Head". When a romance with Donna Ludwig (Danielle von Zerneck) is forbidden by her conservative father, Valens pens the famous ballad that bears her name. Tours follow his chart success until the fatal plane crash that claimed the lives of Valens, The Big Bopper (aka J.P. Richardson), and Buddy Holly on February 3rd, 1959. The supporting cast is excellent with power-pop icon Marshall Crenshaw playing Buddy Holly singing "Crying, Waiting, Hoping". Brian Setzer accurately portrays rocker Eddie Cochran, and Howard Hunstberry plays Jackie Wilson and sings "Lonely Teardrops". Additional music is provided by Los Lobos, a band who traces their musical roots directly to Valens and other Mexican influences. Also making cameo appearances are the real-life Mrs. Connie Valenzuela and Bob Morales. Although not 100% historically accurate, La Bamba is much more accurate than 1978s The Buddy Holly Story. The feature turned a new generation on to the influential Tex-Mex rock that was an inspiration to such later rockers as The Bobby Fuller Four as well as Los Lobos.more
Rating: PG-13 (adult situations/language, violence)
Genre: Musical & Performing Arts, Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Luis Valdez
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 6, 1999
Columbia Pictures


Lou Diamond Phillips
as Ritchie Valens
Esai Morales
as Bob Morales
Rosanna de Soto
as Connie Valezuela
Elizabeth Peņa
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 Valenzue...
as Elderly lady at part...
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
Connie Alvarez
as Farm Worker
Dyana Ortelli
as Donna's Girlfriend
Tony Genaro
as Mr. Caballero
Irma Valcorta
as Farm Worker
Allison Robinson
as Girl at Party
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for La Bamba

Critic Reviews for La Bamba

All Critics (26) | 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

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

La Bamba is engrossing throughout and boasts numerous fine performances.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
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.

Full Review… | June 12, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for La Bamba


A refreshing biopic about a short-lived star that met a tragic death (and also ironic, considering his fear of flying and how his fate was decided by the flip of a coin), and it is so involving that it offers a heartbreaking conclusion even if we know from the get-go how it all ends.

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

Super Reviewer

La Bamba Quotes

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